New Jersey Becomes Just Third State to Raise Tobacco Purchasing Age to 21 as Vainieri Huttle & Conaway Bill is Signed into Law

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D. to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco and electronic cigarette devices from 19 to 21 was signed into law on Friday, making New Jersey just the third state in the nation, behind Hawaii and California, to raise the minimum age to 21.

“Many people start smoking in their teens because of peer pressure or the desire to fit in,” Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Most teens feel invincible at that age and can’t fully comprehend the potential for addiction as well as the devastating long-term effects smoking can have on their health. Raising the purchasing age will give them the chance to mature more before making this potentially life-altering decision.”

Specifically, the law (A-2320) raises the minimum age for purchasing tobacco and electronic smoking devices from 19 to 21, and raises the minimum age from 19 to 21 years of a person to whom a vendor may sell, offer for sale, distribute, give or furnish such products in New Jersey.

“Smoking is responsible for nearly half a million deaths in the Unites States each year,” said Conaway (D-Burlington).  “In the last five years, cigarette smoking declined among middle and high school students, an encouraging trend.  But there are still far too many young people engaging in smoking so it’s clear we need to do more to help deter them from picking up this dangerous and deadly habit.”

The law also amends various related statutes concerning penalties, fines, signage requirements, non-face-to-face transactions, and enforcement provisions to reflect the increased minimum age.

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Vainieri Huttle & Jimenez Bill to Modify Law on Certain Heinous Crimes against Minors Now Law

‘Joan’s Law’ Honors Girl Scout Who Was Raped, Murdered by Neighbor 

(TRENTON) – Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Assemblywomen Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Angelica Jimenez to amend a state law expanding the penalties for murdering a minor while in the act of committing a sex crime has been signed into law.

The newly signed law (A-373) requires life imprisonment without parole for persons convicted of the murder of a minor under the age of 18 during the commission of a sex crime. Current law requires such a penalty only when the victim is under age 14.

“The crimes covered in this legislation are atrocious regardless of the victim’s age,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “The pain, suffering and anger would continue to manifest every time there is a new parole hearing.  No family member should ever be subjected to the painful reminders of such horrifying events. A minor is a minor in all aspects of the law, and this law eliminates an irrational discrepancy in New Jersey.”

Generally, murder is a first-degree crime punishable by 30 years’ imprisonment without parole or by a specific term between 30 years and life, of which the defendant must serve 30 years before being eligible for parole.  However, there are exceptions to this statutory scheme for certain murders.

“Amending this law is about securing justice for victims of the vilest criminal acts imaginable,” said Jimenez (D-Bergen/Hudson). “Anyone who commits these acts of violence against a child deserves nothing less than a lifetime in prison.”

Known as “Joan’s Law,” the legislation honors Joan D’Alessandro, a 7-year-old in Hillsdale who had been selling Girl Scout cookies in 1973 when a neighbor raped and murdered her.

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Vainieri Huttle, Prieto & Downey Bill to Crackdown on Child Pornographers, Stiffen Penalties Now Law

Legislation is Designed to Address Technological Advances which have Made Mass Distribution Easier 

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Speaker Vincent Prieto and Assemblywoman Joann Downey to broaden the state’s child pornography laws and substantially boost penalties in order to keep pace with changes in technology has been signed into law.

The law (A-4859) establishes additional penalties for child pornography crimes by expanding the definition of child pornography to include the portrayal of a child in a sexual manner; establishing the crime of “leader of child pornography network”; and enhancing penalties and revising the sentencing provisions for these crimes. 

“This law is designed to address the disturbing changes in the child pornography industry that have unfortunately been aided by technology, but are not adequately addressed by our current laws,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).  “Since electronic methods have allowed these sick individuals to mass disseminate images and exponentially increase child exploitation, their punishment needs to fit their crime.”

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Lampitt, Vainieri Huttle, Muoio, Oliver & Mosquera Bill to Help Prevent Head Injuries in Intramural Sports Heads Now Law

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Elizabeth Maher Muoio, Sheila Oliver and Gabriela Mosquera to help protect students who play intramural sports from head injuries was signed into law on Thursday.

“Concussions are among the most common injuries sustained by student athletes,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “Students participating in intramural sports run the same risk of suffering a head injury as those playing in interscholastic athletic competitions. This law will extend the same brain injury safety protocols for students who play interscholastic sports to intramural sports as well.”

“Just because these students are playing intramural sports doesn’t mean they are not vulnerable to potential serious injuries,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “This helps ensure the safety of these students by requiring that intramural sports coaches are trained in head injury recognition.”

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Vainieri Huttle: Governor’s Heartless Line-Item Vetoes are “Quintessential Christie”

(TRENTON) – Assembly Human Services Committee Chair Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) on Thursday called the Governor’s heartless line-item budget vetoes of several critical assistance programs for needy families “quintessential Christie.”

Vainieri Huttle noted that two line-item vetoes, in particular, will have an overwhelmingly adverse impact on some of New Jersey’s poorest families – one that would have increased assistance for heating and cooling utility costs for those receiving food assistance benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and another that would have tied the amount of assistance provided under Work First New Jersey’s Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program to the size of the household in the event that a family has another child.

“These programs, at their core, are designed to provide some of New Jersey’s most needy families with a crucial lifeline.  Denying the adjustment of their assistance because of the birth of a child ignores reality and may mean the difference between whether a family can get by or is forced to descend further into poverty.”

“At the most basic level, these vetoes will harm our most vulnerable citizens - children born into poverty who must suffer the effects of even deeper poverty because their families will now struggle to do more with less.  From a moral perspective, we should not be punishing children for their family’s struggles.  From an economic perspective, we should be working to break the cycle of poverty in order to help families find the road to self-sufficiency.

“The Governor essentially took his ‘let them eat cake’ moment from over the weekend and doubled down on it with these vetoes,” said Vainieri Huttle.

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Vainieri Huttle: This is a fair agreement that protects taxpayers & Horizon ratepayers

(TRENTON) – Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), one of the lead sponsors of the Horizon compromise legislation, praised the agreement reached Monday to end the state shutdown and allow critical state services to resume and facilities to reopen:

“It is truly unfortunate that so many residents had their lives or their holiday weekend plans disrupted by this stalemate. Nobody wanted things to get to this point, but I am pleased that the Speaker stood behind his convictions because, at the end of the day, I think we’ve reached an agreement that puts the taxpayers first, protects democratic priorities aimed at safeguarding the most vulnerable among us, and reaches a fair compromise when it comes to our state’s largest health insurer. 

“This legislation will protect ratepayers, increase transparency and maintain stability in the market at a time when there is a heightened sense of uncertainty.  Having an independent actuary conduct yearly audits will ensure transparency, while monitoring for any exorbitant surpluses will help mitigate premium increases.”

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Wimberly, Vainieri Huttle, Oliver, Tucker, Quijano & Johnson Bill to Ensure Equal Access to State Contracts for Women- & Minority-Owned Businesses Now Law

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Benjie Wimberly, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Sheila Oliver, Cleopatra Tucker, Annette Quijano and Gordon Johnson to ensure that women- and minority-owned businesses in New Jersey have equal access to state contracts has been signed into law.

“While progress has been made, women- and minority-business owners continue to face challenges that limit their ability to grow,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic), chair of the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee. “The provisions in this law are necessary to ensure that the equality of opportunity guaranteed by federal and state law is available to minority-owned and women-owned businesses in this state.”

The law (A-1869) establishes the position of chief diversity officer in the Division of Purchase & Property in the Department of Treasury. The chief diversity officer will monitor the state’s public contracting process in order to compile information on the contracts awarded to minority-owned and women-owned businesses, the total value of all contracts and the percentage of the value of those contracts awarded to minority-owned and women-owned businesses enterprises.

The original bill, which would have established a Division of Minority and Women Business Development in the State Department of the Treasury, was conditionally vetoed by the governor. The bill then was amended to concur with the governor’s conditional veto.

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Vainieri Huttle Lends Support for FY 2018 Budget

(TRENTON) – Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle released the following statement Thursday on the FY 2018 Appropriations Act:

“I’m proud to support this year’s budget because it is a living, breathing embodiment of our values as a state, one that protects the most vulnerable among us. 

“There is no reason – whatsoever – that a last-minute plan to overhaul the state’s largest insurer should stand in the way of ensuring that desperately needed funding continues uninterrupted for programs that support cancer victims, pre-school, special education, domestic violence victims and many others.  Particularly during this tenuous time, when continued access to affordable health insurance is uncertain, we should not be toying with a plan that could hurt nearly half the people of this state.

“There is a time and a place for every policy debate, but not at the 11th hour when so many lives depend on the annual appropriations act.  Using it as leverage to score a political win is dangerous and ill-advised.”

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Vainieri Huttle & Caride Bill to Create Safe & Welcoming School Environment for Trans Students in NJ Heads to Governor’s Desk

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblywomen Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) and Marlene Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic) to help create a safe, inclusive and accepting school environment for transgender students received final legislative approval Thursday and now heads to the governor’s desk.  

According to a study by the National Center for Transgender Equality, 41 percent of trans people attempted suicide in their lifetimes, compared to 1.6 percent of the general population.

Fifty-nine percent of survey responders said they avoided using a public restroom in the past year because they were afraid of confrontations or other problems, and about one-third said they limited the amount that they ate and drank to avoid using a restroom.

“Trans children are harassed and bullied for daring to be themselves. This has to stop,” said Vainieri Huttle. “These guidelines are needed to ensure that transgender students can safely be themselves without fear of being persecuted, and can help promote a culture of understanding and acceptance that will hopefully influence how students treat each other in and outside of school.”

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Schaer, Vainieri Huttle, Chiaravalloti, Caride & Mukherji Bill to Increase Protections for Young People with Developmental Disabilities Receiving State Services Heads to Governor

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Nicholas Chiaravalloti, Marlene Caride and Raj Mukherji to provide protections for children and young adults with developmental disabilities who have been subjected to abuse or neglect gained final legislative approval, 76-2, from the General Assembly on Thursday.

The bill (A-3386) would provide protection for individuals with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 21 who have been subjected to abuse, neglect, or exploitation and are receiving services from the Division of Children’s System of Care (CSOC) in the Department of Children and Families.

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