Assembly Panel OKs Lampitt, Vainieri Huttle & Pinkin Bill to Ensure Newborns are Covered Under Parents Insurance During First Few Critical Months of Life

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Nancy Pinkin to ensure newborns are covered under their parents insurance during the first few critical months of life was approved by an Assembly panel on Thursday.

The bill (A-2665) extends the time period in which newborn children are covered under their parent's health benefits coverage from the current 60 days. 

"With all that's going on when a child is first born, the 30-day deadline can be problematic for some parents to meet and may cause unnecessary stress," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). "This bill will provide a longer period of time for children to be covered under their parents' health coverage in order to ensure that children have access to adequate health care during the critical first few months of life."

"Current law provides for only a month of health insurance coverage for newborns," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "The first three months are the most crucial in the life of a newborn. Families should not have to worry about health coverage if a problem arises before more permanent insurance is acquired."

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Schaer, Vainieri Huttle, Pinkin, Holley, McKnight & Quijano Measure to Help Spur Cure for Zika Virus Gains Approval by the Assembly

(TRENTON) - The General Assembly on Thursday cleared a measure sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Nancy Pinkin, Jamel Holley, Angela McKnight and Annette Quijano backing the federal government's recent move to prioritize a cure for the Zika virus, which has caused widespread concern because of the devastating impact it has on children born to infected pregnant women. The measure passed 64-0-1. 

The resolution (AR-142) applauds the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for recently adding the Zika virus to the list of eligible Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) under the FDA's Tropical Disease Priority Review Voucher Program, which incentivizes drug companies to develop a cure for such diseases.

"With the spread of Zika in Latin America and its arrival in the United States, this was an important move on the part of the FDA to add Zika to the list of diseases eligible under the voucher program," said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Incentivizing drug companies to put their ingenuity to work could save countless lives and prevent thousands of children from being born with devastating health consequences that could impair them for the rest of their lives."

"Zika's continuing spread will only be compounded by the imminent arrival of summer, posing a greater threat to women and newborns," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "It's crucial that the federal government use whatever resources it has at its disposal to incentivize the pharmaceutical research industry to advance a cure or vaccination." 

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Assembly Approves McKeon, Jasey & Vainieri Huttle Bill to Ensure Stiff Penalties for Vehicular Homicide while Drunk Driving

"Ralph & David's Law" is Named in Honor of Morris County Man & Sussex County Boy Killed by Drunk Drivers

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John McKeon, Mila Jasey and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to ensure stiff penalties for anyone who commits vehicular homicide while driving drunk was approved 68-0-1 by the full Assembly on Thursday.

The bill (A-3686), known as "Ralph and David's Law," would establish a new crime of "strict liability vehicular homicide" for killing a person while drunk driving. The bill is named in honor of Ralph Politi, Jr. and David Heim who were both tragically killed by drunk drivers. 

"In the case of both Ralph and David, this bill's namesakes, their tragic deaths, and their family's grief, were compounded by the leniency of their perpetrator's sentence," said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). "This legislation will help close that loophole and send a stronger message that we will not tolerate this type of negligent and reckless behavior."

"What these families have endured is unimaginable, but hopefully this will serve as a potent reminder and a powerful deterrent for others who might be inclined to get behind the wheel drunk," said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). "This legislation sends a message, loud and clear, that we will not tolerate this type of callous disregard for another person's life."

"As it stands now, a person convicted of killing someone while driving drunk could be out of jail in 30 days," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "What kind of message does that send to potential offenders? Worse, what kind of message does that send to the families of these victims? We need to stand with them and create a much more stringent deterrent against drunk driving."

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Vainieri Huttle, Jimenez & Moriarty to Ban Smoking at Parks & Beaches Heads to Governor’s Desk

By a vote of 51-6-4, the General Assembly on Thursday granted final legislative approval to a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Angelica Jimenez and Paul Moriarty to protect public health by prohibiting smoking at public parks and beaches. 

The bill (A-893) would extend the provisions of the "New Jersey Smoke Free Air Act," which generally prohibits smoking in indoor public places and workplaces, to apply to public parks and beaches throughout the state.

"There is a reason why New Jersey has some of the toughest anti-smoking policies in the country. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease in the nation, and second-hand smoke exposure has been linked to asthma, lung cancer and stroke," said Vainieri Huttle. "Prohibiting smoking in public parks and beaches reinforces our efforts to protect the public against these health risks, and makes our parks and beaches a safer, more enjoyable experience for New Jersey families."

"There is no denying the serious health risks associated with second-hand smoke. It's not only unpleasant; it is dangerous. Second-hand smoke is especially harmful to young children," said Jimenez (D-Bergen/Hudson). "Families should be able to enjoy a day on the beach or at the park without worrying about their children being exposed to the harmful chemicals in second-hand smoke."

"Banning smoking in our beaches and parks would help lessen the exposure to second hand smoke, reduce the risk of fires, and reduce litter," said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). "Cigarette butts are the most commonly littered item in the world. Discarded cigarette butts can be ingested by children and wildlife. This ban would help lessen the health and environment impacts of smoking."

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Assembly Advances Coughlin, DeAngelo & Vainieri Huttle Legislation Urging Comcast and YES Network to Settle Dispute

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Craig Coughlin, Wayne DeAngelo and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to urge Comcast and YES Network to settle their contract dispute was advanced by the full Assembly, 60-0-6.

The ongoing dispute between the two entities has disrupted nearly 900,000 Comcast subscribers' access to coverage of professional sports games since November.

"Baseball fans - some of whom retain a cable subscription solely to be able to watch these games - ought to receive the service for which they have paid," said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). "They shouldn't have to leave the provider they're familiar with because of a schoolyard fight between multi-million dollar companies."

Because the YES Network broadcasts 80 percent of all Yankees games, many of the franchise's fans will be unable to watch the team play this season in the absence of a deal, Coughlin noted.

The Assembly resolution urges Comcast Cable and YES to resolve the carriage renewal agreement dispute. In addition to urging Comcast to settle the contract dispute, the resolution also urges the cable company to consider reimbursing YES Network subscribers for each day of the blackout.

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Vainieri Huttle, Wisniewski, Lagana & Eustace React to Christie Blocking Port Authority Reforms Once Again

Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, John Wisniewski, Joseph Lagana and Tim Eustace on Monday called out Gov. Christie for his latest attempt to block reforms at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) by conditionally vetoing overhaul legislation they sponsored to create transparency and accountability at the embattled agency.

The bill (S-708/A-2184), known as the "Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Transparency and Accountability Act," would have guaranteed legislative oversight of the agency as it undertakes a number of high profile construction projects critical to the region's future.

"The Governor's repeated actions to block real reform at the Port Authority speak volumes," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "We worked exhaustingly to make sure that this latest bill transforms the culture that has allowed dysfunction, waste and abuse to exist for too long while ensuring that the Port Authority is refocused on critical transportation infrastructure needs and, importantly, guarantees that New Jersey has an equal seat at the table. Why the governor would choose a path that weakens New Jersey's role is beyond me. Our number one priority all along has been to make sure reforms are substantive in nature and not simply business as usual masquerading as reform. I am thoroughly reviewing the Governor's recommendations and will discuss it with my colleagues as we decide our next steps." 

"After his eleventh-hour Christmas weekend veto of the previous bill, the Governor pledged to support a substantive overhaul of the Port Authority. Now, once again, he's thrown up another road block," said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). "While not surprising, given his tangled relationship with the agency, it is still disappointing nonetheless. Our commuters deserve far more than a governor who endorses and enables the status quo."

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Spencer, Vainieri Huttle & Eustace Bill to Curb Use of Single-Use Carryout Plastic Bags Advances in Assembly

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats L. Grace Spencer, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, and Timothy Eustace to discourage the use of single-use carryout plastic bags was approved on Thursday by an Assembly panel.

"Plastic bags are a source of numerous environmental concerns," said Spencer (D-Essex). "These bags wash up in our waterways, are hazardous to marine life and even pollute the air when burned at landfills. With this legislation, we can encourage more stores to make environmentally responsible choices when it comes to shopping bags."

The bill (A-3671) would require each operator of a store to impose a $0.05 fee for each single-use carryout bag that is provided to the customer. Store operators would retain $0.01 of the fee collected, and pay the remaining $0.04 to the Director of the Division of Taxation. The director could use up to one percent of the revenues collected to defray the cost of administration of the bill. The remaining revenue collected would be used to create the "Healthy Schools and Community Lead Abatement Fund."

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Vainieri Huttle, Schaer, Pinkin, Mukherji, Lampitt & Mazzeo Bill Barring State Pension Investments in Anti-Israel Companies Gains Assembly Panel Approval

Legislation is in Response to the "Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions" Movement against Israel

An Assembly panel on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Gary Schaer, Nancy Pinkin, Raj Mukherji, Pamela Lampitt and Vince Mazzeo prohibiting the investment of New Jersey public employee retirement funds in any company that boycotts, divests, or sanctions Israel or Israeli businesses.

Vainieri Huttle, Schaer, Pinkin, Mukherji and Lampitt all took part in a legislative study mission to Israel earlier this year where they gained insight into how Israel, a $1.7 billion trade partner with New Jersey, provides international leadership in new technology and humanitarian assistance and works to achieve peace and address the security concerns of its citizens.

"This bill is designed to combat the 'Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions' movement targeted against Israel," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "With the power of our pension funds, we're sending a statement that we will not stand for any global attempts to delegitimize our partner in democracy and freedom."

"The BDS movement is an attempt to punish and isolate Israel, who has been a long-standing ally of the United States and a cooperative partner with New Jersey," said Schaer (D-Bergen), Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee. "Our multi-billion dollar pension fund is a formidable disincentive for those considering boycotting Israel."

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Muoio & Vainieri Huttle Bill to Enhance Benefits Under Work First New Jersey Program Advances

Legislation sponsored by Assemblywomen Elizabeth Maher Muoio and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to ensure that some of New Jersey's most vulnerable residents receive the assistance they need under the Work First New Jersey program was advanced by an Assembly panel on Thursday.

The bill (A-3410) would repeal the section of the "Work First New Jersey Act" that currently prohibits a household from gaining additional cash assistance benefits as a result of the birth of a child. Such policies that prevent an increase in welfare benefits as a result of the birth of a child are commonly known as "family caps." 

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Gusciora, Vainieri Huttle & Benson Bill to Create Pilot Program to Help Aging Mercer County Residents Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Reed Gusciora (Mercer/Hunterdon), Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) and Dan Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex) to create a pilot program that would provide social, health and mental care services for Mercer County communities with large elderly populations was approved Thursday by an Assembly panel.

The bill (A-2043) would establish a "Naturally Occurring Retirement Community" or NORC pilot program in the Division of Aging Services in the Department of Human Services. 

Unlike housing built specifically for elderly residents, a NORC is a residential area with a high concentration of elderly residents who are aging in place in their communities. 

"Having to uproot because your healthcare needs can no longer be met at home can be devastating for many older residents. NORCs provide services that help keep elderly residents healthy and socially active without having to relocate to senior housing," said Gusciora. "If this pilot program can help our older residents lead healthy and productive lives in their own homes, then it is worth trying. Growing older does not have to be an impediment to healthy, independent living."

"Many older residents would rather stay in their homes, but need additional assistance to maintain their independence. NORCs allow these residents to receive needed services without having to move from the only community they have known," said Vainieri Huttle. "Given the benefits, this is worth looking into. Our health care needs change as we grow older, but that should not determine where we spend our remaining years, especially if those needs can be met at home."

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