Assembly Dem-Sponsored Bills Protecting Internet Users' Privacy Clears Assembly Panel

Prime Sponsor Andrew Zwicker Introduced Bill in Response to Trump Repeal of Federal Broadband Confidentiality Rules Last Year

(TRENTON) Two consumer protections bills sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Daniel Benson, Paul Moriarty, Joann Downey, and Wayne DeAngelo to prohibit Internet service providers from selling or otherwise disclosing a subscriber's online browsing history and personal information and requiring commercial websites and online service operators to post privacy policy advanced in the Assembly on Thursday.

"In today's world, using the Internet is essential to everyday life, which means that Internet service providers have unparalleled access to a great deal of information about their subscribers' highly personal habits, preferences, even medical issues," said Zwicker. (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset) "That private data should not be up for sale to the highest bidder without subscribers' knowledge or consent.¨

The bill (A-1527) would require internet service providers (ISPs) like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T to keep their subscribers' personally identifiable information confidential, unless a subscriber expressly authorizes the ISP to disclose the information. The legislation comes after President Donald Trump signed legislation last May rescinding Federal Communications Commission protections intended to prohibit ISPs from selling their subscribers' personal data.

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Mukherji and Zwicker Bill Providing Protections to Elephants and other Exotic Animals Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Raj Mukherji and Andrew Zwicker prohibiting the use of elephants and other exotic animals in traveling animal acts, such as fairs, carnivals, circuses and flea markets cleared the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday.

“The mistreatment of any animal is inhumane and wrong,” said Zwicker (D-Somerset/Mercer/Middlesex/Hunterdon). “But it is particularly disturbing when wild, endangered animals are captured, misused, and exploited for profitable entertainment."

The bill (A-1923) will be designated as “Nosey’s Law,” in honor of Nosey the elephant, who is forced to travel the country and give rides at events despite being virtually crippled by arthritis. The arthritis has likely caused unnecessary suffering and permanent disability for Nosey, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture has failed to take action to protect Nosey, and Nosey’s owners continue to use her in shows.

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Freiman and Zwicker Introduce Bill to Raise Age Limit to Buy Shotguns & Rifles in N.J.

(TRENTON) Assemblyman Roy Freiman and Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (both D-Somerset/Mercer/Middlesex/Hunterdon) have introduced a bill to raise the minimum age to buy rifles and shotguns in New Jersey.

Under current law, handguns cannot be sold to anyone under 21 although licensed gun dealers in the state are allowed to sell rifles and shotguns to buyers as young as 18.

Freiman and Zwicker's bill (A-3815) would raise the minimum age to buy rifles and shotguns in the state to 21.

"This is about preventing gun violence," said Freiman. "There is no easy solution to the proliferation of gun violence in this country, but there are measures we can take to help keep people safe. Bringing the rules on rifles and shotguns in line with the rules on handguns can help. If you have to be 21 to buy a handgun, the same standard should apply to rifles and shotguns."

"We want to make it harder for people with bad intentions from getting their hands on these weapons, but we also want to strike the right balance," said Zwicker. "We realize that some young people use these weapons for lawful hunting or as part of their work. This bill's careful exemptions recognize those pragmatic realities, while also limiting access to weapons for people who might want to use them to hurt others."

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Vainieri Huttle, Gusciora, Zwicker & Chiaravalloti Bill to Revise Requirements for Changing a Birth Certificate Due to Gender Reassignment Advances in the Assembly

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Reed Gusciora, Andrew Zwicker and Nicholas Chiaravalloti to make it easier for an individual undergoing gender reassignment to obtain an amended birth certificate was approved by an Assembly panel on Monday.

“This bill acknowledges that individuals do not necessarily undergo sex reassignment surgery when transitioning genders so it revises the process for obtaining an amended birth certificate to reflect the change in current practices,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Essentially we’re updating a standard state procedure to be more inclusive and reflective of our changing society.” 

The bill (A-1718) would revise the requirements for obtaining an amended certificate of birth due to a change in sex.

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Chiaravalloti, Zwicker & Murphy Bill Package to Uphold Net Neutrality in the Garden State, Ensure Consumers Have Equal Access to Internet Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) - An Assembly panel on Monday released a three-bill legislative package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Nicholas Chiaravalloti, Andrew Zwicker and Carol Murphy that requires Internet service providers doing business in the state to meet certain net neutrality requirements to ensure New Jersey consumers continue to have equal access to the Internet.

Net neutrality rules created under the Obama administration required internet service providers to treat all content on the Internet equally. Under these rules, providers were prohibited from blocking, slowing down or prioritizing web traffic from some sites or apps, and giving preferential treatment to their own content over rivals, or to content from those willing to pay extra fees. The rules were repealed last year by the Federal Communications Commission.

"The FCC's repeal of net neutrality regulations have made consumers vulnerable to the whims of the cable and telecomm companies," said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). "These measures would help protect New Jersey consumers from potential price-gouging and other unfair practices."

"A fair and open internet is critical to fostering innovation and economic growth, especially for small businesses and startups," said Zwicker (D-Somerset/Mercer/Middlesex/Hunterdon). "These bills make clear that while the FCC may have abandoned its responsibility to internet consumers, New Jersey will do what it can to safeguard an open internet for all."

"The decision to repeal net neutrality will change the way people use the internet, and not for the better," said Murphy (D-Burlington). "Weakening consumer protections should never be the goal of any government entity. These conditions can help restore some of the protections lost by forcing these companies to adhere to net neutrality principles if they want to do business in New Jersey."

The first bill (A-2131) would direct the Board of Public Utilities to prohibit an internet service provider (ISP) from installing broadband telecommunications infrastructure on any pole or post located on or over any highway or any right-of-way, or on any underground facility, belonging to a public utility or cable television company, unless the ISP: (1) publicly discloses to customers located in this state accurate information regarding the network management practices and performance, and commercial terms of its Internet service; (2) does not engage in paid prioritization; and (3) permits customers located in this state to access all lawful Internet content, applications, and services, and to use non-harmful Internet-enabled devices, without discrimination and without the impairment or degradation of Internet access speeds, subject to reasonable network management.

The bill is sponsored by Chiaravalloti and Zwicker.

The second bill (A-2132), sponsored by Chiaravalloti, Zwicker and Murphy, would provide that no public contract may be awarded to an Internet service provider that (1) engages in paid prioritization; (2) prevents customers located in this state from accessing all lawful Internet content, applications, and services or using non-harmful Internet-enabled devices; or (3) impairs or degrades Internet access speeds, subject to reasonable network management.

The third bill (A-2139) , sponsored by Chiaravalloti and Zwicker, would require a cable television company (CATV company) to commit to the principle of net neutrality for all Internet service customers as a condition of approval of an application filed with the Board of Public Utilities for a municipal consent or a system-wide franchise for the provision of CATV service.

Under the bill, a CATV company that provides Internet service in this state must commit to provide service that includes: public disclosure of accurate information regarding the network management practices and performance to customers, and commercial terms of its Internet service; the prohibition of paid prioritization; and the grant of permission to customers to: (1) access all lawful Internet content, applications, and services, and to use non-harmful Internet-enabled devices, without discrimination, subject to reasonable network management; and (2) access all lawful Internet content, applications, and services, and to use non-harmful Internet-enabled devices, without the impairment or degradation of Internet access speeds, subject to reasonable network management.

In all three bills, "paid prioritization" means the management of an ISP's network - or in the case of A-2139, the management of a CATV company's Internet network - to directly or indirectly favor some data traffic over other data traffic, including through use of techniques such as traffic shaping, prioritization, resource reservation, or other forms of preferential traffic management, either in exchange for consideration from a third party or to benefit an affiliated entity.

The bills were released by the Assembly Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, which is chaired by Zwicker.

Zwicker & Johnson Bill to Protect Freelance Workers Advances

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker and Gordon Johnson to ensure fair treatment of freelance workers was approved Monday an Assembly committee.

The bill (A-1526) provides that a freelance worker must be paid the compensation earned according to work terms agreed to by the freelance worker and its client, and requires the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to act as a regulatory agency regarding these work agreements.

"Freelance workers aren't free," said Zwicker (D-Mercer/Somerset/Hunterdon/Middlesex). "Freelance workers must be paid the compensation they've earned, and we need to ensure this basic fairness afforded to every other worker. Freelances are a valuable part of our workforce, and they provide many services, but too often they lack basic protections. This bill will ensure they're treated fairly, benefiting our economy and, in the end, everyone."

"Freelance workers are invaluable," said Johnson (D-Bergen). "Many businesses rely on them for all types of work, and that's great, but these workers deserve equal protections under the law. This bill is fairness, plain and simple."

The bill defines "client" as a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, limited liability company, association or other business entity or a nonprofit organization contracting with a freelance worker for compensation equal to or greater than $600. 

Under the bill, a freelance worker must be paid the compensation earned in accordance with the agreed work terms, which must be reduced to writing. If a freelance worker and client did not agree on a date for payment of compensation earned or a mechanism by which that date is determined, then the freelance worker must be paid the compensation earned not later than 30 days after the completion of the freelance worker's services under the written contract. 

The bill also provides that the contract must be signed by the freelance worker, kept on file by the client for a period of not less than six years, and made available to the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development upon request.

It is a violation of the bill if a client is found to threaten, intimidate, discipline, harass, deny a work opportunity to or discriminate against a freelance worker, or take any other action that penalizes a freelance worker for, or is reasonably likely to deter a freelance worker from, exercising or attempting to exercise any right provided under this act, or from obtaining a future work opportunity because the freelance worker has done so.

The bill provides that any freelance worker may file with the commissioner a complaint regarding a violation of the provisions of the bill by a client, for an investigation of the complaint and a statement setting the appropriate remedy, if any. The bill provides that the commissioner may bring any legal action necessary, including administrative action, on behalf of any freelance worker that alleges a violation of the provisions of the bill. The commissioner may also assess against the client an amount as liquidated damages, unless the client proves a good faith basis for believing that its violation was in compliance with the provisions of the bill. Liquidated damages must be calculated by the commissioner as no more than 100 percent of the total amount of the underlying contract.

The bill also provides that if the commissioner determines that a client has failed to pay the compensation of its freelance workers, the commissioner shall issue to the client an order directing payment, which will describe particularly the nature of the alleged failure to pay.

Each freelance worker who files a complaint regarding a violation of a provision of this bill will be provided with a description of the anticipated processing of the complaint, including the investigation, case conference, potential civil and criminal penalties, and collection procedures by the commissioner, in addition to a referral to a navigation program established by the commissioner. Each freelance worker and the representative of the freelance worker, if any, will be notified in a timely manner by the commissioner of the following:

· any case conference before it is held, with the opportunity to attend; and
· any award, collection of back compensation, civil penalties, any intent to seek criminal penalties, and, in the event that criminal penalties are sought, a notification of the outcome of prosecution.

The bill provides that any client who does not pay the compensation of all of its freelance workers in accordance with the provisions of this bill, and the officers, agents, or representatives of any client who knowingly permit the client to violate the provisions of this bill, will be guilty of a disorderly persons offense for a first offense, and in the event that any second or subsequent offense occurs within six years of the date of conviction for a prior offense, will be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree. A disorderly persons offense is punishable by a term of imprisonment up to six months or a fine not to exceed $1,000, or both. A crime of the fourth degree is punishable by a term of imprisonment up to 18 months or a fine not to exceed $10,000, or both.

The bill also provides that a freelance worker alleging a violation of a provision of the bill may bring an action in any court of competent jurisdiction for certain damages. The remedies provided by the bill with respect to a private action brought by a freelance worker, and any other remedies provided in the bill, may be enforced simultaneously or consecutively so far as not inconsistent with each other.

Finally, the navigation program established by the commissioner under the bill must include assistance from a natural person by phone and electronic mail and shall also include information accessible via an Internet website maintained by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The navigation program must provide the following: general court information and information about procedures under the bill; information about available templates and relevant court forms; general information about classifying persons as employees or freelance workers; information about obtaining translation and interpretation services and other courtroom services; a list of organizations that can be used for the identification of attorneys; and other relevant information, as determined by the commissioner, related to the submission of a complaint by a freelance worker or the commencement of a civil action under the provisions of the bill by a freelance worker.

The bill was approved by the Assembly Labor Committee.