Lampitt, Mosquera & Vainieri Huttle Bill Creating New Jersey Caregiver Task Force Gains Assembly Panel Approval

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Gabriela Mosquera and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to help gain an accurate picture of the challenges facing caregivers in New Jersey and ways in which the state can improve support was advanced by an Assembly panel on Thursday.

Specifically, the bill (A-4026) would establish the "New Jersey Caregiver Task Force" to evaluate caregiver support services in the state, and provide recommendations for the improvement and expansion of such services.

"If you haven't been in a position to serve as a caregiver to anyone, you can't even imagine the types of challenges they face today," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). "The physical, emotional and financial requirements can be overwhelming. Our goal is to accurately gauge their needs so we can determine where and how the state can step up to offer support."

"Caregiver support services" is defined under the bill as any type of support or assistance available to caregivers in the state, including, but not limited to, financial support or assistance from any source, and any other types of support or assistance provided by public or private employers, hospitals, health care providers or organizations, or government agencies.

"Most people who are providing caregiving services are doing so selflessly and with the weight of many responsibilities on their shoulders," said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). "Often times the financial strain combined with the physical requirements can be extremely stressful. As a state, we should be doing all we can to help ease these demands."

"The needs of caregivers may vary greatly depending on whether they are caring for someone who has physical or mental disabilities," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "This task force would be comprised of a diverse group of individuals who have the expertise and insight to help us formulate a plan to improve the compassionate delivery of caregiving services."

The task force would consist of nine members, including the Commissioner of Human Services, the President of the New Jersey chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons, the Executive Director of Caregivers of New Jersey, the Executive Director of the Arc of New Jersey, the Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness New Jersey, and the President of the Alzheimer's Association Greater New Jersey Chapter, or their designees; and three public members appointed by the Governor.

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Vainieri Huttle, Lampitt & Diegnan Bill to Raise Tobacco & E-Cig Purchasing Age from 19 to 21 Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) - An Assembly panel on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Pamela Lampitt and Patrick J. Diegnan to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco and electronic cigarette devices from 19 to 21 in New Jersey.

Vainieri Huttle said she sponsored the bill in hopes that when signed into law more youth will cease or delay smoking habits. 

"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 would give them the chance to mature more before making this potentially life-altering decision."

Specifically, the bill (A-3254) 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.

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Vainieri Huttle, Eustace, Diegnan & Giblin Bill to Study Transition of Former State Developmental Center Residents Heads to Gov’s Desk

Legislation Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Tim Eustace, Patrick Diegnan Jr. and Thomas Giblin sponsored to study the transition of former residents of two recently- closed state developmental centers gained final legislative approval on Monday in the Senate.

The bill (A-1098) would require the Department of Human Services to conduct follow-up studies to assess the well-being of former residents of North Jersey Developmental Center and Woodbridge Developmental Center. The studies would evaluate all individuals who made a transition from the centers into the community after August 1, 2012.

"North Jersey and Woodbridge Developmental Centers provided access to the special resources their residents needed while also giving their families the ability to visit and provide all-important emotional support," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Ideally - for the benefit of the residents and their loved ones - we would have kept these facilities open. However, given the administration's decision to close them, it is now our duty to make sure that their former residents have the care and opportunities they need and deserve, which is why this bill is so important."

Following the recommendation of the Task Force on the Closure of State Developmental Centers in an August 2012 report, North Jersey Developmental Center and Woodbridge Developmental Center closed in July 2014 and January 2015, respectively.

"It is our duty to ensure that every New Jersey resident with a developmental disability receives the care and support he or she needs to thrive physically, mentally and emotionally," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "This legislation is about our commitment to stand up for the rights of some of New Jersey's most vulnerable men and women."

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Assembly Oks Mazzeo, Vainieri Huttle, DeAngelo & Lampitt Bill Requiring State Agency to Give Proper Notice when Services to Developmentally Disabled are Terminated

(TRENTON) - Legislation Assembly Democrats Vince Mazzeo, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Wayne DeAngelo and Pamela Lampitt sponsored requiring the state to properly notify individuals with developmental disabilities when the services they are receiving are terminated or discontinued cleared the full Assembly on Thursday, 64-0. 

Mazzeo said he was moved to sponsor the bill after meeting with the Atlantic City Arc and learning that some of their clients had their services terminated without proper notice. This legislation aims to address the issue by ensuring individuals with developmental disabilities, their legal guardians and providers of services have notification 90 days in advance of termination. 

"One of the services provided by the Arc is residential living which allows residents with developmental disabilities to receive the support needed to live independently. Failing to provide proper notice that their services or residential placement is being terminated can put these residents through serious hardship," said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). "This bill can help avoid putting these residents through such a predicament by ensuring they, and providers like Arc, are notified well in advance of any service interruption."

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Lampitt, Vainieri Huttle, Benson, Mosquera, Spencer & Wimberly Bill to Create Alert System for Missing Disabled Persons Gets Final Legislative OK

Bill Would Create MVP Emergency Alert System

(TRENTON) -- Legislation Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Daniel Benson, Gabriela Mosquera, L. Grace Spencer and Benjie Wimberly sponsored to create an alert system for missing persons with mental, intellectual or developmental disabilities was approved 79-0 Thursday by the Assembly, giving it final legislative approval.

The bill (A-4270) would require the Attorney General to establish the MVP Emergency Alert System, which would provide practices and protocols for the rapid dissemination of information regarding a person who is believed to be a missing vulnerable person.

A "missing vulnerable person" or "MVP" is defined to mean a person who is believed to have a mental, intellectual or developmental disability who goes missing under circumstances that indicate that the person may be in danger of death or serious bodily injury.

The program would be a voluntary, cooperative effort between state and local law enforcement agencies and the media.

"This legislation reflects our collective duty to protect some of the most vulnerable New Jersey residents," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). "We must do all we can to ensure missing individuals can return home safe and sound, especially when we have all the necessary resources already in place."

"When it comes to recovering a person who's gone missing, we know that time is of the essence and knowledge is power," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "By creating widespread awareness as soon as possible, we can maximize the likelihood that a missing person will be found alive and unharmed."

"We already have systems in place to alert the public when other vulnerable populations go missing," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "This is another way to aid in the search of individuals who may be at a higher risk of going missing and may have a harder time seeking help because of their disabilities."

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Vainieri Huttle, Eustace, Gusciora & Lampitt Bill to End “Return Home NJ” Program Gains Final Legislative Ok

Bill Formalizes Agreement with Administration Not to Return Developmentally Disabled Residents Who Wish to Remain out-of-state to Receive the Care they Need

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Tim Eustace, Reed Gusciora and Pamela Lampitt to end the administration's practice of forcing developmentally disabled New Jersey residents living in out-of-state care facilities to return home against their wishes gained final legislative approval from the full Assembly on Thursday by a vote of 79-0.

"Essentially, this bill formalizes the agreement we had sought for quite a long time with the administration to end the program known as "Return Home New Jersey," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) chair of the Assembly Human Services Committee. "As countless advocates and family members told us, this program was disruptive, dehumanizing and disadvantageous to their loved ones who had been receiving the specialized care they needed in out-of-state facilities for years. I'm grateful that they will no longer be forced to return against their will."

For many years, the state Department of Human Services (DHS) has placed New Jersey residents with developmental disabilities in out-of-state facilities due to a lack of services and support within the State of New Jersey. Through an initiative called Return Home New Jersey, DHS had been moving individuals who live in out-of-state residential facilities back to New Jersey. 

As of March 30, 2015, 170 individuals had been moved to in-state placements under the initiative and 382 remained in out-of-state placements. Vainieri Huttle and a number of other legislators lobbied extensively to halt the program and in July a compromise was reached with the governor that would prevent individuals from having to return to New Jersey against their will.

Specifically, the bill (A-4781) would prohibit the state Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) from transferring, or compelling the transfer of, an individual with a developmental disability who is currently residing in an out-of-state placement to a residential placement in New Jersey, if the individual or the guardian of the individual objects to such a transfer in writing.

"For years, many New Jersey residents with developmental disabilities were placed in out-of-state facilities because it was the only place where they could find the level of care they needed," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "These residential facilities provided the care they deserved and became home to them. This agreement will ensure they can continue on there as long as they'd like."

"It was cruel and completely illogical to force these residents to return to New Jersey, especially if they couldn't receive the individualized level of care they needed here," said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). "I'm glad everyone has finally gotten on the same page and agreed this practice shouldn't continue."

"For many of these patients, not only are they dependent on a certain level of care provided in these out-of-state facilities, but they also thrive on routines and familiarity," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). "To upend all that, especially after years or even decades, would prove devastating. Thankfully, that won't happen now."

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Vainieri Huttle, Lampitt, Lagana, Mukherji, Quijano, Danielsen & Wimberly Bill Concerning Campus Sexual Assault Becomes Law

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainiei Huttle, Pamela Lampitt, Joe Lagana, Raj Mukherji, Annette Quijano, Joe Danielsen and Benjie Wimberly to better equip New Jersey colleges and universities to prevent and respond to sexual assaults on campus was signed into law on Wednesday.

"College sexual assault has become far too common," said Vainieri Huttle (D- Bergen). "Rape should never be the norm. The only way to prevent sexual assault is to change the culture on campus and to do that we need support from the entire higher education community. With this law, we begin to take the necessary steps toward creating safer campus environments for students." 

The new law (A-4156) establishes a task force to study and make recommendations concerning sexual assault occurring on the campuses of institutions of higher education in the state.

The 2014 report from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault revealed that one in five college students experiences sexual assault during their college career. Even more staggering, the ACLU estimates that 95 percent of U.S. campus rapes go unreported.

"Many sexual assault cases go unreported, leaving the victim to deal with the trauma alone and the attacker free to strike again," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). "If we want victims of sexual assault to report these crimes and prevent others from becoming another statistic, then we have to change the culture that is discouraging victims, whether intentionally or inadvertently, from speaking up and seeking justice."

"As a father of two young girls, it is disheartening to read these statistics and know that many victims of sexual assault will remain silent because they don't trust school higher-ups to take action," said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Students should not only feel safe on campus, but should know that if they are ever faced with such an unfortunate situation, the school response will be swift, fair and appropriate."

"Campus sexual assault is on the rise, and scarier still, advocates say the numbers don't tell the whole story since many assaults go unreported," said Mukherji (D-Hudson). "Rape victims should never carry that burden alone. We must make changes so sexual assault victims feel empowered to come forward, and lawmakers have a responsibility to ensure school officials are properly equipped to respond."

"For many students, college is their first venture into the real world. How sad that according to statistics, many of them will fall victims to sexual violence while in school," said Quijano (D-Union). "We must work to not only change the current culture so victims feel comfortable reporting the abuse, but also prevention so that in the future, these assaults become the exception and not the norm."

"There are many reasons why a student who has been victimized chooses not to come forward. A callous response to abuse claims from school officials should not be one of them," said Danilesen (D-Somerset/Middlesex). "The statistics are alarming. If we are serious about tackling campus sexual assault, then we must have an honest conversation about what our schools are not doing, and make the changes necessary so that campus sexual assault doesn't become a part of the college experience."

"The statistics on campus sexual assault are every parent's nightmare. The fact that many victims are victimized all over again by the very entities charged with protecting them is deplorable," said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). "It is crucial that we examine current policies at our colleges and universities and make the changes needed to help prevent campus sexual assault, and encourage those who have been victimized to come forward without fear that they will be stonewalled."

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Assembly Panel Approves Vainieri Huttle, Eustace, Gusciora & Lampitt Bill to End “Return Home NJ” Program

Bill Formalizes Agreement with Administration Not to Return Developmentally Disabled Residents Who Wish to Remain out-of-state to Receive the Care they Need

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Tim Eustace, Reed Gusciora and Pamela Lampitt to end the administration's practice of forcing developmentally disabled New Jersey residents living in out-of-state care facilities to return home against their wishes was approved by an Assembly panel on Monday.

"Essentially, this bill formalizes the agreement we had sought for quite a long time with the administration to end the program known as "Return Home New Jersey," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) chair of the Assembly Human Services Committee. "As countless advocates and family members told us, this program was disruptive, dehumanizing and disadvantageous to their loved ones who had been receiving the specialized care they needed in out-of-state facilities for years. I'm grateful that they will no longer be forced to return against their will."

For many years, the state Department of Human Services (DHS) has placed New Jersey residents with developmental disabilities in out-of-state facilities due to a lack of services and support within the State of New Jersey. Through an initiative called Return Home New Jersey, DHS had been moving individuals who live in out-of-state residential facilities back to New Jersey. 

As of March 30, 2015, 170 individuals had been moved to in-state placements under the initiative and 382 remained in out-of-state placements. Vainieri Huttle and a number of other legislators lobbied extensively to halt the program and in July a compromise was reached with the governor that would prevent individuals from having to return to New Jersey against their will.

Specifically, the bill (A-4781) would prohibit the state Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) from transferring, or compelling the transfer of, an individual with a developmental disability who is currently residing in an out-of-state placement to a residential placement in New Jersey, if the individual or the guardian of the individual objects to such a transfer in writing.

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Assembly Panel Approves Vainieri Huttle & Singleton Bill to Help Guard Child Protection Caseworkers

In Wake of Attacks that Left Several Seriously Injured, Bill Would Require Human Services Police Officers to Accompany Workers into the Field When Needed

The Assembly Human Services Committee on Monday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Troy Singleton to help safeguard child protection workers from the kind of attacks that left one seriously injured last November and sent two others to the hospital in July

"It's clear that we need to be doing a better job to protect these caseworkers. They are going out into the field unprotected to handle emotional and often tenuous situations," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), Chair of the Human Services Committee. "The possibility for confrontation always looms, which makes it all the more confusing as to why the administration diverted Human Services police officers in the first place."

"This is an issue of critical concern because it affects both the caseworkers and the children they're sent to protect. When we neglect their security, we're paying the price twofold," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "Despite my questioning earlier this year, I still don't understand the decision that led to the security lapse or why we chose to privatize our security needs, instead of utilizing the human services police we have who are trained to handle these types of situations."

The bill (A-4638) would require the Division of Child Protection and Permanency to implement policies and procedures to ensure the safety of every caseworker employed by the division and require Human Services police officers to accompany them into the field when needed.

The policies and procedures would address issues of safety when a caseworker receives a threat of violence from a client, or is presented with a potentially dangerous situation while working in a local office, investigating a report of child abuse or neglect in the field, or making an emergency removal of a child pursuant to current law.

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Assembly Panel Advances Democratic Legislation to Expand NJ Film Tax Credit

Johnson, Garcia, Vainieri Huttle, Lagana & Mukherji Bill Would Restore Christie Cuts to Help Reinvigorate Industry in New Jersey

(TRENTON) - An Assembly panel on Monday gave the green light to legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gordon Johnson, Carmelo G. Garcia, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Joseph Lagana and Raj Mukherji that would expand New Jersey's film and digital media production tax credit program in order to generate jobs, revenue and a slew of other ancillary benefits.
"The expansion of this tax credit will give New Jersey the shot in the arm it needs to once again attract film and digital media productions that have added so much to our economy in past years," said Johnson (D-Bergen). "We need to fix the mistake that was made when this credit was suspended and create an even more powerful economic development tool for our state."
The bill (A-2474), which was amended to match a Senate substitute (S-779) that was approved earlier this year, would increase the FY 2015 annual program cap for the film production tax credit from $10 million to $50 million and for the digital media production tax credit from $5 million to $10 million.
"First and foremost, the restoration of this tax credit will significantly boost job creation and revenue for our state," said Garcia (D-Hudson). "It will also spur capital investments in our neighborhoods from the influx in talent that typically follows these industries. For communities like Hoboken and Jersey City, just a stone's throw from Manhattan, this is particularly important."
The bill also provides for a tax credit equal to 22 percent, instead of the current 20 percent, of eligible production expenses if the expenses represent purchases of goods from businesses located in Urban Enterprise Zones or purchases of services performed by residents of a UEZ. 
"What's sad is that we squandered a prime opportunity in the immediate aftermath of the recession to take advantage of the many production companies that were interested in coming to New Jersey because we were a more cost-effective alternative to filming in New York City," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Hopefully this legislation will send them a clear signal that we still are and we're open for business."
The bill also stipulates that applicants must demonstrate that the awarding of the tax credit will yield a net positive benefit to the state. Additionally, it enhances the benefits provided to the state by requiring applicants to enter into a public-private partnership with a four-year public institution of higher education in New Jersey in order to qualify for tax credits under the program. 
The bill also requires qualified applicants to appropriately credit the filming and production locations within New Jersey that were used.
"The suspension of this tax credit dealt a significant blow to our economy, particularly with all the ancillary benefits that come along with this industry," said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). "However, it's never too late to reverse this mistake. This bill will restore the confidence film and digital media production companies once had in New Jersey and help lure high-paying jobs back to our state."

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