TRENTON, NJ – With loneliness affecting three out of four Americans, a bill that would create a task force to study how social isolation and loneliness impact certain populations was passed by the full Assembly Thursday, 74-0-0.
Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Matthew Milam and Vincent Mazzeo are the sponsors of this legislation.
The measure (A-5314) would establish the New Jersey Task Force to Prevent Loneliness and Social Isolation to assess and report on the nature and frequency of social isolation in New Jersey, specifically among people aged 65 and older, individuals with disabilities, and individuals with mental illness. Other vulnerable populations, including military service members, would be included in the study as deemed appropriate.
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Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon) on the final passage, 68-0-4, of his bill:
“I thank Governor Murphy for his willingness to work cooperatively with us. This is, above all, a good government bill. The people of New Jersey deserve to know the origin of the money used to influence our political process. Transparency is critical if we are to ensure the trust of the public. This bill goes a long way to achieving that goal.”
KENNEDY, JOHNSON, ZWICKER & BENSON BILL TO ENCOURAGE MUNICIPALITIES TO PLAN FOR, BUILD ELECTRIC CAR CHARGING STATIONS HEADS TO SENATE
Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen James Kennedy, Gordon Johnson, Andrew Zwicker and Daniel Benson to encourage municipalities to plan for the development of electric vehicle charging infrastructure at appropriate locations was approved 65-4 in the full General Assembly on Monday.
A report by the New Jersey Energy Master Plan Alternative Fuels Work Group identified the development, installation, and maintenance of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, both at home and at strategically selected public places, as one of the most significant opportunities for, and barriers to, advancing the deployment and use of EVs in New Jersey.
“Including charging systems in municipal land planning not only benefits the environment and environmentally conscious consumers, but the economy as well,” said Kennedy (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union). “Planning for and developing this infrastructure can help create jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce our reliance on foreign fuels.”
The bill (A-1371) would help improve and expand the state’s EV charging infrastructure by encouraging each municipality, at the time of the reexamination of its master plan, pursuant to the “Municipal Land Use Law,” to identify existing sites of public EV charging infrastructure, and propose locations for future development of public EV charging infrastructure.
The bill would also amend the “Local Redevelopment and Housing Law” to provide that the development of public electric vehicle charging infrastructure in appropriate locations be considered for inclusion in local redevelopment plans.
“The lack of charging infrastructure can discourage people who are interested in electric vehicles, but are concerned about their recharging options,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “No one wants to get stuck on the side of the road. Ensuring there is sufficient charging stations can help alleviate these consumer fears and encourage more people to invest in environmentally-friendlier vehicles.”
“Although most EV charging occurs at home, drivers still rely on publicly available charging,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “Planning ahead can help ensure that EV owners or consumers interested in electric vehicles will have the supporting infrastructure to meet their needs.”
“Limited driving distance between battery charges is a fundamental disadvantage and obstacle to broad consumer adoption of vehicles powered by electricity,” said Zwicker (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon). “If we want to encourage more people to buy these vehicles, it is essential that a network of convenient electric vehicle charging opportunities be developed.”
The bill now heads to the Senate President for further consideration.
ZWICKER, FREIMAN, DOWNEY MEASURE REQUIRING DOH TO LICENSE QUALIFYING HOSPITALS AS FULL SERVICE DIAGNOSTIC CARDIAC CATHETERIZATION PROVIDERS CLEARS ASSEMBLY
Looking to increase patients’ access to full-service, adult diagnostic cardiac catheterization services, a bill that would enable the Department of Health to license qualifying hospitals to provide these services was approved 69-3-5 Thursday by the full Assembly.
The measure (A-3769) is sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Roy Freiman (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset), and Joann Downey (D-Monmouth) who released the following joint statement:
“This piece of legislation will help to give patients increased access to high-quality cardiac care services. This bill institutes quality and safety standards for more hospitals in our state and, by allowing them to perform elective angioplasty procedures, we are ensuring all of our residents are getting the highest level of care.”
Task Force Will Examine Impact on 65+, Disabled, Mentally Ill and Military
With loneliness affecting 3 out of 4 Americans, a bill that would create a task force to study how social isolation and loneliness impact certain population groups cleared the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee recently.
Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset), Matthew Milam (D-Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland) and Vincent Mazzeo
(D-Atlantic) are sponsors of the legislation.
The measure (A-5314) would establish the New Jersey Task Force to Prevent Loneliness and Social Isolation and be responsible for assessing and reporting on the nature and frequency of social isolation in New Jersey, specifically among people aged 65 and older, individuals with disabilities, and the mentally ill. Other vulnerable populations, including military service members, would be a part of the study that determined available resources for combatting social isolation in the state.
“Social isolation is not just a social issue, but a public health concern. For elderly and other vulnerable and special populations, isolation can negatively impact health outcomes and lead to premature death. This task force will have the critically important work of studying this issue and how it impacts certain populations. With the research and evidence discovered as a result, we can begin to effectively address social isolation.”
The taskforce would consist of the following 11 members:
- the Commissioner of Health, or designee;
- the Commissioner of Human Services, or a designee; and
- Nine public members: three appointed by the Governor, three appointed by the Senate President, and three appointed by the Assembly Speaker
“The task force will uncover how often the people in these groups feel isolated, the number and percentage of people in the groups who feel isolated, and the number of people in the group who are more prone to feeling isolated,” said Milam. “We also need to understand the triggers that contribute to such isolation.”
The appointed public members would be professionals working in or representing organizations and agencies that provide counseling, health care, mental health care, support care, or other social or daily living assistance to members of the vulnerable populations and their caregivers.
‘Many people don’t realize that loneliness really does impact health and wellness,” said Mazzeo. “It’s actually a public health issue that is linked to smoking, obesity and the risk of death in older adults.”
The task force would also identify demographic and other characteristics of the groups; symptoms and indicators of social isolation; circumstances and situations that contribute to isolation; available State resources to help the socially isolated; and trends among the socially isolated.
The bill would become effective immediately. Upon enactment, the task force would be required to prepare and submit a report to the Governor and Legislature within 12 months of being established. It would consist of findings and recommendations to be published on the Department of Human Services’ website.
The bill was introduced on May 13 and now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for consideration.
In an effort to maintain a fair election process in New Jersey, legislation promoting voting transparency sponsored by Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker was approved by the full General Assembly by a vote of 76-0 on Thursday.
The “Voting Precinct Transparency Act,” (A-4564) requires the filing of election district, county district and municipal ward boundary data with the Secretary of State for posting and downloading online.
The bill also requires the Secretary to post a table or database containing the election results per election district in a format that matches the election districts boundary data.
“Some states do a great job of providing precinct-level election results, others do a great job of providing precinct geographies,” said Zwicker (D-Somerset/Mercer/Middlesex/Hunterdon). “However, most states don’t compile either, and the few that do, don’t do so in a way that is standardized. Currently, New Jersey is one of the states that doesn’t compile and release them all. This bill would change that and indeed, would make New Jersey a leader in transparency about election data.”
Currently, all municipalities in New Jersey are divided into election districts for the purposes of election administration and voting. Essex, Atlantic and Hudson counties are divided into county districts from which voters elect some or all of the members of the county governing body. Sixty-four municipalities in New Jersey have established municipal wards from which voters elect some or all of the members of their respective municipal governing bodies.
Under the bill, The Secretary of State must make this data available on the official website of the Division of Elections for the public to download free of charge.
It is important to have high-quality data indicating the boundaries of precincts. According to the sponsor, other benefits would include:
• establishing a precedent of releasing high quality, usable data for use by all New Jerseyans;
• possibly making election administration and ballot assignment easier; and
• making it easier for municipalities and counties to comply with federal mandates such as the Voting Rights Act.
The bill awaits action in the Senate.
ASSEMBLY DEMOCRAT-SPONSORED BILL EXPANDING NJ MEDICAL MARIJUANA PROGRAM, INCREASING ACCESS FOR NJ PATIENTS ADVANCES
Legislation Bolstered to Provide Support to Medical Needs of More NJ Residents, Broadens Regulation & Strengthens Job Creation and Business Opportunities in the State
Legislation to improve access to medical marijuana for more New Jersey patients who could benefit now heads to the Senate for further consideration. The full Assembly approved the measure 65-5-6.
The measure is sponsored by Assembly Democrats Joann Downey, Joseph Danielsen, Eliana Pintor Marin, Andrew Zwicker, Eric Houghtaling and Carol Murphy.
“I am proud to see the legislature moved to provide patients with access to proven effective treatments based on medicinal marijuana,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “Movement of this legislation is in honor of residents who are suffering from a life-threatening medical condition and looking for viable medical answers to improve their quality.”
The bill (A-10-3740-3437) would establish the Cannabis Regulatory Commission to oversee the implementation and regulation of medical cannabis in the state. Among the commission’s directives will be to expand access to medical marijuana for patients with a diagnosed medical condition; regulate the cultivation, wholesale and dispensary businesses aspects; develop a new category of designated caregiver for patients who require assistance such as seniors; and broaden the list of approved forms for medical cannabis.
“Any step that removes the many bureaucratic hurdles a patient and their families have to jump through to get access to the medicine they need is a step in the right direction,” said Danielsen (D-Middlesex, Somerset). “Now the medicinal marijuana program can begin to meet the current demand for this type of treatment where in the past they were rendered incapable and ineffective under previous unfairly, strict regulations. This is the way to go for New Jersey improving access and supporting the access with opportunity.”
“This legislation will impact New Jersey residents in two significant ways. We’re helping patients gain access to new treatments that will help them to live better with an illness,” said Pintor Marin (D-Essex). “And, through the expansion of the medical marijuana program, we’re creating new opportunities for business and career growth in a burgeoning industry.”
“Once enacted, this legislation will provide patients with another treatment modality which can give them relief from debilitating symptoms as a result of their medical conditions,” said Zwicker (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon). “New Jersey will be taking a significant step forward in how we improve patients’ quality of life and treat the symptoms of severe and chronic illnesses.”
“Too many restrictions have weakened this program and patients have suffered for it for way too long. Medical marijuana has proven to be an effective treatment for some medical conditions,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “The goal here was to really help people who are dealing with life-changing, long-term medical conditions. We have to make this treatment even more accessible and more versatile- to help residents live their best lives for themselves and their families.”
“We want to put patients and doctors back in charge of a patient’s medical care plan,” said Murphy (D-Burlington). “These are the reasonable changes to the current system we need to make patient care and their individual needs a priority and support them wherever they are in their lives.”
HILLSBOROUGH, NJ – Inevitability could be catching up with members of the Hillsborough Education Association.
No progress was made trying to save the jobs of 51 teachers at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting, and with just one more board meeting left before the union teachers’ contract expires June 30, HEA president Henry Goodhue said members seem to be moving on.
The Board of Education at last month’s meeting announced the job cuts; 37 teachers were fired, with the balance of the jobs eliminated through retirements.
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ASSEMBLY BILLS DESIGNED TO INCREASE SENIOR PARTICIPATION IN STATE NUTRITION PROGRAM CLEAR ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE
Looking to simplify and streamline seniors’ access to New Jersey Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) programs, a three-bill legislative package cleared the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee Monday.
One bill (A-5311) would establish a $140 standard medical deduction for qualifying seniors under the SNAP Program. It is sponsored by Assembly Democrats John Armato (D-Atlantic), Andrew Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset) and Matthew Milam (Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland).
The other legislative effort, (A-5312), would require the Commissioner of Human Services to review and streamline the SNAP application process for seniors and conduct outreach regarding their participation. It is sponsored by Assemblymen John Armato (D-Atlantic), Roy Freiman (D- Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset) and R. Bruce Land (A- Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland).
The third measure (A-5313) would permit self-verification of shelter expenses, utility expenses, childcare expenses, and adult dependent care expenses, unless the information is questionable, on the SNAP application for qualifying seniors. Assemblymen Land, Armato and Freiman are the bill’s sponsors.
The legislators released the following joint statement:
“Less than half of New Jersey residents 60 and older who are eligible for SNAP benefits use them. These bills look to increase senior participation by simplifying the application process, allowing seniors to apply for SNAP through multiple points of entry, and utilizing a comprehensive community outreach and public awareness campaign.
“Taking these steps will make seniors more likely to take advantage of the SNAP benefits which can help them maintain a healthy diet.”
The bills were introduced on May 13 and complement an anti-hunger bill package introduced by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin last fall. They now await further Assembly consideration.
ZWICKER MEASURE ESTABLISHING “ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP ACT” CLEARS ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE
A measure sponsored by Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset) to establish the “Energy Infrastructure Public-Private Partnership Act” cleared the Assembly Science and Technology Committee Thursday.
The bill (A-4535) would allow private entities to propose energy-related projects to government entities, at government facilities, as part of a public-private partnership. The measure would create an Energy Public-Private Partnership Unit, known as the Energy P3 Unit, within the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA). The unit would be responsible for formulating and executing comprehensive, statewide policy for public-private partnership agreements.
Assemblyman Zwicker, chair of the Committee, issued the following statement:
“The benefit of this bill is that it will allow government entities to leverage the expertise and financial resources of the private sector to develop a number of energy-related projects. The Energy EP3 Unit would be fully engaged in this process by evaluating the private entity’s qualifications, financial strength, adequacy and other pertinent parameters deemed necessary by the unit.
“With collaborations being a key component of sound energy infrastructures, this legislation will help government entities partner with the private sector to develop crucial state-of-the art, energy-related projects that can help improve the reliability, efficiency and lower the cost of energy services provided to government facilities.”
The bill is now poised for a vote by the full Assembly.