Bill to create Bergen Regional oversight board advances in N.J. Assembly


A bill that would create an 11-member board to oversee embattled Bergen Regional Medical Center may soon be voted upon by the Legislature after it cleared a key panel Thursday.

The Assembly Budget Committee approved the measure calling for more oversight at the hospital which is under increased scrutiny following reports of alleged assaults at the state's largest medical center.

"The patients and staff at Bergen County Regional Medical Center deserve safe treatment in a safe environment,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle, D-Englewood. “But current law does not give our county government the power to take an increased role in oversight."

Read more


By Colleen O'Dea NJ Spotlight

Cautious welcome for effort to help people ‘navigate the bureaucracy,’ but concerns raised about adding another layer of complexity

New Jersey offers a host of services for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but they are located in several different state offices and it can be difficult for the disabled and their family members to get — or even know about — what's available, advocates say.

Legislation scheduled for a vote Monday in the Assembly aims to make navigating the maze of services easier by creating the position of ombudsman to provide information about services available, assist those involved in disputes with state agencies, keep track of common complaints, and suggest improvements. If approved, the ombudsman would have duties similar to those of the Special Education Ombudsman created earlier this year.

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen, sponsored the legislation (A-3824) because, she said, she regularly hears from people having trouble getting services and she thinks an ombudsman's office would be the best way to help. (The bill would have the governor appoint the ombudsman.)

"I get numerous phone calls to the office from people trying to navigate the system, not only trying to navigate it, but telling me their services were terminated. They don't know where else to go," she said. "The ombudsman would serve as a GPS to help people navigate the bureaucracy. It would be like a one-stop shopping place with a wealth of information."

About 25,000 adults and almost 15,000 children receive support from the two major state agencies charged with providing services: the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) in the Department of Human Services and the Children's System of Care (CSOC) in the Department of Children and Families. Services include early intervention, community-based day programs, group home or other residential services, in-home supports, summer camps, respite care, home and vehicle modifications, and assistive technology, among others.

Read more

ACLU Says Bill Sponsored By Bergen Legislators Would Create 'Anti-Israel' Blacklists

Daniel Hubbard, Ridgewood-Glen Rock Patch

June 14, 2016 12:59 PM

The American Civil Liberties Union is opposing a law proposed by two Bergen County legislators, claiming it would harm free speech and use government resources to build political blacklists.

The bill would prohibit the state’s pension and annuities funds from investing in a company that supports boycotts of Israel or Israeli businesses, according to the ACLU. It would require the government to investigate people’s beliefs to determine if their reasons for not doing business with Israel are political and allegedly punishes people for holding unpopular opinions, the group said.

Read more

Local lawmakers, blood suppliers weigh in on donor safety rules

John Petrick, The Record

Tuesday, June 14, 2016 1:21 AM

When it comes to the advent of AIDS within the gay community and its impact on the safety of America's donated blood supply, North Jersey health officials and legislators alike say that one thing is clear — that was then, and this is now.

"What may have seemed reasonable 30 years ago is not justifiable now, especially with modern blood screening techniques. It's time to update outdated laws and policies," said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Englewood.

In the aftermath of the shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., that killed 49 people and injured 53, blood centers in that area were overwhelmed with people who wanted to donate. Gay men, however, weren't all allowed to do so — a policy harking back to the height of the AIDS crisis.

Until recently, men who had sex with men at any point in their lives were prohibited from giving blood in the U.S., the rationale being that they were more likely to be HIV positive. Federal authorities have begun to loosen those restrictions, put in place in 1985, after years of opposition by gay rights advocates and improvements in screening technology. In December, the Food and Drug Administration published new voluntary guidelines for blood centers that would permit donations by gay or bisexual men who have abstained from sex for one year.

While observers say it's a step in the right direction, they say the ban ultimately needs to be lifted once and for all.

Read more

Proposed Smoking Ban On NJ Beaches Goes To Governor

May 26, 2016 11:59 PM By David Madden CBS Philadelphia


TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) — New Jersey state legislators have approved a plan that would, if approved by Governor Chris Christie, ban smoking on all public beaches.

There’s no guarantee that’ll happen, though.

Christie himself is not a fan of smoking, but he vetoed an earlier attempt to impose a statewide prohibition in parks and on beaches.

Read more

Time to wean ourselves off plastic shopping bags | Editorial

By Star-Ledger Editorial Board

The average American – and you know who you are - uses 500 plastic bags every year. That adds up to 1,500 per household and 100 billion used in the U.S. annually.

Only five percent of those 100 billion are recycled, because they require processing equipment that is different from the systems used by most curbside pickups.

So you can guess the rest: Most of these bags end up in our landfills and incinerators, choke our storm drains, poison our birds and marine life, and taunt the rest of us by rolling through our streets like artificial tumbleweeds.

Read more

Christie should do the right thing with Port Authority reform | Opinion

By Margaret Donovan and Richard Hughes

The public's best chance to finally hold the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey accountable to the people will expire on Monday. 

That is the deadline for Gov. Chris Christie to either sign or veto the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Transparency and Accountability Act, which was sent to his desk April 7. It is the companion to a bill already signed last year by New York's Gov. Mario Cuomo.

Read more

Singleton & Vainieri Huttle Bill to Enhance State’s Involuntary Outpatient Commitment Program Gains Assembly Panel OK

An Assembly panel on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to enhance and streamline the state's involuntary outpatient commitment program to ensure that those in need of mental health assistance are receiving it.

Specifically, the bill (A-2189) would establish standards for those who are in need of involuntary commitment to outpatient treatment because their mental illness, as demonstrated by recent acts, could, if untreated, reasonably result in the deterioration of their mental condition to the point which they will become dangerous to themselves, others, or property and they have been unwilling to voluntarily accept appropriate treatment after it has been offered.

Read more

Christie signs bill outlawing 'upskirt' photos


Governor Christie Thursday signed into law a bill that makes it illegal to take pictures or videos of people’s private areas under their clothes without their permission or knowledge.

Sponsors of the bill said the measure will help prevent such invasions of privacy.

Christie also issued conditional vetoes of two other bills, including one that would have renamed a section of Highway 21 in Newark after the late Pittsburgh Pirate Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente.

The other vetoed bill would have provided a $21 annual energy assistance to families qualified to receive benefits from the federal nutrition program formerly known as food stamps.

The so-called "upskirting" bill had unanimous support in both the Senate and the Assembly.

Read more

Christie vetoes bill to restore help for homeless, wants people to prove hardship

By Susan Livio NJ Advance Media For NJ

TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie partially vetoed a bill Monday that would have permanently restored housing assistance to thousands of chronically homeless and disabled people who lost aid when the program expired last year.

Democratic lawmakers sponsored the bill in response to the state Department of Human Services's announcement that two temporary emergency housing assistance programs would be phased out beginning last summer and would not be renewed. The programs serve people who are chronically ill and disabled and people who are taking care of a sick or disabled spouse or child. 

Read more