Benson, Vainieri Huttle, Jasey, Tucker & Wimberly Bill to Train School Bus Drivers/Aides who Transport Children with Special Needs Continues Advancing

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Mila Jasey, Cleopatra Tucker and Benjie Wimberly to prevent accidental mistreatment of students with special needs by creating a training program for school bus drivers and aides continues to advance in the legislature. The Senate Education Committee approved the measure on Thursday and now awaits consideration from the full Senate. 

"Children with special needs require specialized attention and care. Bus drivers and aides should be aware of behaviors associated with certain disabilities, and know how to effectively deal with them so to avoid any confusion and accidental mistreatment of these students," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "It makes their job easier and ensures that these students are being treated with the respect they deserve."

The bill (A-1029) would require the Commissioner of Education to develop a training program for school bus drivers and school bus aides on interacting with students with special needs. The training program would include appropriate behavior management, effective communication, the use and operation of adaptive equipment, and understanding behavior that may be related to specific disabilities. 

"Knowing how to operate a school bus and knowing traffic laws is not enough," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "These bus drivers and aides are responsible for these children and not just for getting them to school safely, but for providing for their well-being while they are on the bus. Teaching them about the challenges faced by children with special needs will help ensure the safety of these students."

Once the training program is made available, boards of education and school bus contractors that provide student transportation services under contract with boards of education would be required to administer the training program to all school bus drivers and school bus aides that they employ.

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

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 was advanced Thursday by an Assembly panel.
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.
"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."
The bill (A-4420) would require the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) in the Department of Human Services to notify an individual with developmental disabilities, or his or her guardian, of plans to terminate any services or residential placement received by the individual due to ineligibility for benefits under the Medicaid program or ineligibility for services or a placement from the DDD. The bill would also require the DDD to notify providers in these instances, as well as when funding for a service is discontinued. The notifications provided for in the bill would have to be made at least 90 days prior to services or a placement being terminated, or a service being discontinued. 

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Tucker, Vainieri Huttle & Quijano Bill Criminalizing ‘Upskirting’ Advanced by Assembly Judiciary Committee

Measure Cracking Down on Illegally Photographing Under Someone's Clothing also Strengthens New Jersey's Right to Privacy Statute

Legislation Assembly Democrats Cleopatra G. Tucker, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Annette Quijano sponsored to criminalize the act of secretly photographing or recording under a person's clothing - commonly referred to as "upskirting" - was advanced by an Assembly panel on Thursday.

"With today's level of technology, most people with cell phones are essentially walking around with an Internet linked video camera in their pocket at all times," said Tucker (D-Essex). "This can lead certain people to assume it is acceptable to 'document' whatever they choose, even if it violates someone else's privacy. We are here today to say that should not, cannot and will not be the case in New Jersey."

Three pieces of legislation before the committee addressing upskirting were combined into a single substitute bill to address the issue. The combined legislation (A-3864/3938/2992) would establish the crime of upskirting.

Specifically, the bill would make it illegal for an individual, knowing that he or she is not licensed or privileged to do so, to photograph, film, videotape, record or otherwise reproduce in any manner an image of the undergarment-clad intimate parts of another person, without that person's specific consent and in any circumstance in which a reasonable person would not expect to have their undergarments observed. Violators would face up to 18 months in jail and fines of up to $10,000.

"Upskirting is not a prank or a game. It's a crime - a defiling and invasive crime," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Today we're putting perpetrators on notice that they will face consequences for their actions."

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Lagana, Mazzeo, Mosquera & Vainieri Huttle Bill to Strengthen Laws Against Domestic Violence Advances

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Joseph Lagana, Vince Mazzeo, Gabriela Mosquera and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to make it more difficult for first-time domestic violence offenders to enter pretrial intervention (PTI), and thus avoid jail time, was approved by an Assembly panel on Thursday.

"The Ray Rice case simply highlighted a larger failing of the criminal justice system in New Jersey," said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). "This bill is about making sure that those who commit acts of domestic violence understand the severity of their crimes. More importantly, however, it's about righting a wrong in pursuit of justice for the many who have suffered in silence."

The bill (A-4016) would amend current law to make assault against a victim of domestic violence a crime of the third degree with no presumption of non-imprisonment, meaning that incarceration could be considered as a punishment for the offender. Under the law, such assault is a crime of the third degree, which is ordinarily punishable by three to five years in prison, a fine of up to $15,000 or both, but there is a presumption of non-imprisonment for first-time offenders.

The bill also provides that the prosecutor and the court should give additional weight to a domestic violence victim's position on whether a defendant should enter PTI. 

Furthermore, a defendant charged with a third or fourth degree crime involving domestic violence would be required to enter a plea of guilty before being considered for participation in PTI. Individuals charged with a domestic violence offense who committed the offense while subject to a temporary or permanent restraining order and defendants charged with a fourth degree crime of contempt of a domestic violence order would also have to plead guilty before being considered for PTI.

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Vainieri Huttle Says Latest Ruling Denying Whistle Blower Protections for Port Authority Employee Underscores Need for New Reforms

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle on Tuesday said the latest ruling by a state Superior Court judge underscores the need to pass new Port Authority reform legislation to ensure that whistle blower protections are in place for employees who attempt to report wrongdoing.

In denying the former Port Authority employee whistle blower protection, the judge cited the fact that existing New Jersey and New York laws are not identical, a requirement for any laws governing the bi-state agency. 

Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) noted that had governors Christie and Cuomo not vetoed legislation (A-3417) she sponsored last year, whistle blower protections would now be in place for Port Authority employees. 

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Caputo, Vainieri Huttle & Mukherji News Conference Unveiling Proposal for Casino Gaming in Bergen, Essex & Hudson

Bill Would Ask for Voter Approval to Expand Casino Gaming to North Jersey


(TRENTON) – Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee Chairman Ralph R. Caputo (D-Essex) and Assembly members Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) and Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson) issued a multimedia package Tuesday of their news conference in which they unveil a proposal for bringing casino gaming to North Jersey.

The proposed constitutional amendment would ask New Jersey voters to approve giving the Legislature authority to pass laws establishing casinos in Bergen, Essex and Hudson counties.

The multimedia package consists of the members’ news conference, in its entirety and audio of same.

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Mosquera, Greenwald, Lagana, Benson, Lampitt & Vainieri Huttle Bill to Protect Domestic Violence Victims from Gun Violence Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gabriela Mosquera, Lou Greenwald, Joseph Lagana, Dan Benson, Pamela Lampitt and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to strengthen New Jersey's gun laws and protect victims of domestic violence from gun violence was released Monday by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.

“For victims and their children, domestic violence turns a chance to live the American Dream into a horrific nightmare. I know, because I’ve lived that nightmare,” said Mosquera (D-Gloucester/Camden). “Too many victims are killed at the hands of abusers who have easy access to firearms, before they ever have a chance to get out. This legislation will change that - strengthening our gun violence laws in order to protect victims of domestic violence.”

Mosquera issued a multimedia package in which she discusses her legislation.

The multimedia package consists of Mosquera’s commentary and audio and a transcript of same.

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Caputo, Vainieri Huttle & Mukherji Unveil Bill to Ask Voters to Allow Casino Gaming in Bergen, Essex & Hudson Counties

(TRENTON) - Assembly Democrats Ralph Caputo, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Raj Mukherji on Monday announced they've introduced legislation to ask New Jersey voters to approve giving the Legislature authority to pass laws establishing casinos in Bergen, Essex and Hudson counties.
The proposed constitutional amendment - announced at a State House news conference - would allow the Legislature to pass laws establishing not more than three casinos in the three North Jersey counties.
"We cannot sit idle any longer," said Caputo (D-Essex). "We can't bury our head in the sand anymore, because one day we're going to look up and our gaming dollars will have flocked away to other states. This is not about taking business away from Atlantic City. This is about New Jersey missing out on the available markets in northern New Jersey and the surrounding region. With continuously encroaching competition from New York and Pennsylvania, the longer we wait the more our window of opportunity closes. If New Jersey is going to stay competitive, it needs alternatives, and that means putting casinos in Bergen, Essex and Hudson counties."
"We are losing gaming tourists to our neighbors and it is time we bring them back home to New Jersey," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Now is the time to finally focus on finding the best ways to utilize gaming to boost the North Jersey economy and our state as a whole. We can bring top-flight casinos to Bergen, Essex and Hudson counties while helping Atlantic City, benefiting everyone and ensuring New Jersey remains competitive."
"We've watched New York and Pennsylvania slowly but surely erode New Jersey's gaming industry, and the time for talk is over," said Mukherji (D-Hudson). "Jobs, jobs, jobs. If the voters authorize limited North Jersey gaming in these three counties that are crucial to our economic success, we could realize more than 20,000 good paying jobs and realize billions in additional gross gaming revenues in the coming years. In the face of continuously encroaching competition from New York and Pennsylvania, our window of opportunity closes with each additional minute of delay."

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Mazzeo, Schaer, Lampitt & Vainieri Huttle Propose “Holocaust Reparations Tax Exemption Act"

Bill Would Eliminate Inheritance and Estate Taxes on Reparations Received by Holocaust Victims, Survivors and their Descendants

Assembly Democrats Vince Mazzeo, Gary Schaer, Pamela Lampitt and Valerie Vainieri Huttle have introduced the "Holocaust Reparations Tax Exemption Act" to help relieve the tax burden on Holocaust survivors and their descendants.

"The purpose of the bill is to alleviate the tax burden on the restitution payments and distributions received by Holocaust survivors," said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). "This is a small token of remembrance and compensation for the untold losses that can never fully be recuperated." 

Specifically, the bill (A-4421) would provide an exemption from the transfer inheritance and estate taxes for an amount equal to the value of certain payments and distributions received by Holocaust survivors and their eligible descendants. 

"Many generations fought long and hard for reparations and we should not be taxing their sacrifices at death," said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Because many of these benefits have been, and continue to be, passed along to future generations, this bill extends the tax relief to descendants as well."

"For those who were fortunate enough to survive the holocaust, they typically were stripped of most of their earthly possessions, including family heirlooms and treasures," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). "These things can never be regained but this change can help us continue to honor the victims and pay tribute to their families in some small way."

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Garcia, Mukherji, Vainieri Huttle, Mainor, Eustace & Mosquera Bill to Help Empower Teens to Seek Mental Health Approved by Senate

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Carmelo G. Garcia, Raj Mukherji, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Charles Mainor, Tim Eustace and Gabriela Mosquera to help empower minors to seek treatment for mental illness and emotional disorders was approved Monday by the Senate. 

"This bill takes into account the fears and stigmas associated with mental illness, particularly for young people," said Garcia (D-Hudson). "Hopefully by creating a more private means for them to seek treatment we can drastically improve and ultimately save lives. I'm grateful to the young men and women of the Hudson County Boys and Girls Club who prompted me to sponsor this legislation."

The bill (A-3435) is designated as the "Boys & Girls Clubs Keystone Law" in honor of the members of the Keystone Club of the Hudson County Boys & Girls Clubs who were concerned about suicide and self harm among teenagers.

"It's inspiring to see the young men and women of the Hudson County Boys & Girls Club concerned with the welfare of their peers," said Mukherji (D-Hudson). "They understand, firsthand, what it's like dealing with these hurdles as teens. This legislation will allow teens in need to seek mental health treatment and, hopefully, aid in preventing suicides."

Specifically, the bill would amend current law to permit a minor to give consent for behavioral health care for the treatment of mental illness or emotional disorders. 

"Research has shown that one of the greatest barriers to mental health treatment for teens is stigma," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Millions of young people forego treatment every year because of this. Hopefully this bill will help them overcome that and seek the much-needed help they deserve."

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