Lagana, Mazzeo, Eustace, Andrzejczak & Vainieri Huttle Bill to Improve Delivery of Long-Term & Community-Based Services for the Elderly Heads to Gov’s Desk

Three-Bill Package Based on State Audit is also Designed to Maximize Federal Funding to Save New Jersey Taxpayers Money

A three-bill package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Joseph Lagana, Vince Mazzeo, Tim Eustace, Bob Andrzejczak and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to improve the delivery of state programs and services for the elderly in order to maximize their independence and protect taxpayer dollars gained final legislative approval on Thursday and now awaits action by the governor.

"Essentially these bills provide a number of fixes that will increase the efficiency of existing programs designed to aid some of our most frail and vulnerable residents," said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). "At the same time, these bills also call for better notification procedures in order to make sure seniors are aware that they may be eligible for critical safety net programs."

All three bills were unanimously approved by both houses.

The bills were based on recommendations from a recent State Auditor report on selected community-based senior programs within the state Department of Human Services' Division of Aging Services. The programs, which are funded by the state and federal government and the Casino Revenue Fund, are designed to provide services to elderly residents to avoid unnecessary institutional placement. 

"Anyone with an aging parent or loved one knows how important it is to them to maximize their independence," said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). "We have a number of existing state programs designed to do just that but they're not necessarily being utilized by everyone who is eligible. These bills will help correct that and ensure that the state is taking advantage of every federal dollar available in order to save our taxpayers money."

"This audit was helpful in exposing several shortcomings that have either prevented seniors from accessing crucial programs or left important federal funding on the table," said Eustace. "These changes are designed to ensure a more efficient delivery of home and community-based long-term care services while also ensuring that elderly residents and their families do not have to deal with the aggravation of trying to get authorized claims processed."

The first bill (A-4167) is geared towards enrollees in PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly). PACE is a comprehensive health and social services delivery system that integrates acute and long-term care services to disabled and frail, elderly persons over the age of 55, who are certified by the state as nursing home-eligible, in order to maximize their autonomy and continued independence. 

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Bipartisan Vainieri Huttle Bill to Shine Light on the Port Authority Signed Into Law

            (TRENTON) – Bi-state, bipartisan legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle to increase transparency at the troubled Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has officially been signed into law.

The new law (S-2183/A-3350) will now require the agency to be subjected to the New Jersey Open Public Records Act and the New York Freedom of Information Law, making its records readily accessible upon request for inspection, copying or examination.

The measure was initially passed by the legislature late last year, but was conditionally vetoed by Christie in January to streamline the bill’s language based on recommendations from the bi-state Special Panel on the Future of the Port Authority.  New Jersey’s legislature approved the changes and sent it back to Christie last week.  Since the changes have already been approved by the New York Legislature and signed by Gov. Cuomo, the law is effective immediately.

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Moriarty, Diegnan, Wimberly, Vainieri Huttle, Gusciora & Sumter Bill to Help Prevent Over-the-Counter Drug Abuse Gains Final Legislative Approval

Measure Would Penalize Sale of DXM-Containing Products to Minors

Legislation Assembly Democrats Paul Moriarty, Patrick Diegnan, Benjie Wimberly, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Reed Gusciora and Shavonda Sumter sponsored to help address the prescription drug and opioid abuse epidemic plaguing New Jersey gained final legislative approval on Monday.

The bill (A-622/1469) would prohibit the sale of dextromethorphan (DXM) to minors. Under the measure, any person who sells a product containing DXM as an active ingredient to someone under 18 years of age would be subject to a maximum civil penalty of $750. The provisions of the bill would not apply to a prescription medication dispensed by a pharmacist pursuant to a valid prescription.

The bill would also require the Department of Health to include a comprehensive list of products that contain DXM as an active ingredient on its website. 

"DXM abuse is becoming increasingly worrisome for law enforcement, parents and health care officials across the country," said Moriarty (D-Gloucester/Camden). "It's a scary thought, but adolescents are the primary abusers, mainly because it's cheap and easy to obtain and many parents simply don't know about its potential abuse. With a few simple steps like the ones outlined in this bill, we can combat the risk and ensure this medicine is used properly." 

"When used as directed, products that contain DXM are safe and effective, but when they are abused - which, unfortunately, has become a trend - they can cause a great deal of harm or even be fatal," said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). "This legislation is not only a major step toward preventing young people from purchasing dangerous over-the-counter drugs but also a declaration to them that these products can be just as hazardous as the alcohol and cigarettes they're also barred from buying."

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Bipartisan Vainieri Huttle Bill to Shine Light on the Port Authority Gains Final Legislative Approval

Bi-state, bipartisan legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle to increase transparency at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was granted final legislative approval Thursday by the full Assembly and now heads back to Gov. Christie's desk.

The measure was initially passed by the legislature late last year, but was conditionally vetoed by Christie in January to streamline the bill's language based on recommendations from the bi-state Special Panel on the Future of the Port Authority.

The bill (A-3350), approved unanimously, would require the agency to be subject to the New Jersey Open Public Records Act and the New York Freedom of Information Law, making its records readily accessible upon request for inspection, copying or examination.

"The Port Authority's days of operating in darkness are over. Now, the agency has to do more than talk about being open to the public. It must actually adhere to the open records laws of New Jersey and New York," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Despite claims of changes at the Port Authority, the only way to ensure transparency is to enshrine it in law. This law will make access to information the norm, not the rare exception."

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Lagana, Mazzeo, Mosquera & Vainieri Huttle Bill to Strengthen Laws Against Domestic Violence Gains Final Legislative OK

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 the General Assembly on Thursday, giving it final legislative approval.

"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 assaulting a victim of domestic violence, or threatening to do so, 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 ordinarily is 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 Bill to Increase Safe Havens for Unwanted Infants Gains Final Legislative Approval

Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) that would increase the number of locations in the state where unwanted infants may be dropped off safely and anonymously was approved by the General Assembly on Thursday, giving it final legislative approval.

The bill now heads to the governor's desk.

"This is about giving parents who cannot care for their babies more options so children are not abandoned in dangerous locations," said Vainieri Huttle. "This bill would add to the current list locations that are staffed around the clock with individuals trained to react to emergency situations and who can provide first aid if necessary."

The bill (A-4149) expands the list of sites where newborn infants may be left safely and anonymously by a parent, or another person acting on the parent's behalf, in accordance with the provisions of the "New Jersey Safe Haven Infant Protection Act." 

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Vainieri Huttle, Gusciora, Jasey & Mosquera Bill to Revise Requirements for Changing a Birth Certificate Due to Gender Reassignment Gains Final Legislative OK

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Reed Gusciora, Mila Jasey and Gabriela Mosquera to make it easier for an individual undergoing gender reassignment to obtain an amended birth certificate gained final legislative approval from the full Assembly by a vote of 51-23 on Thursday.

"This bill acknowledges that individuals do not necessarily undergo sex reassignment surgery when transitioning genders so it revises the process for obtaining an amended birth certificate to reflect the change in current practices," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Essentially we're updating a standard state procedure to be more inclusive and reflective of our changing society." 

The bill (A-2659) would revise the requirements for obtaining an amended certificate of birth due to a change in sex. 

"Life is not black and white like people once perceived it," said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). "This bill acknowledges the nuances involved in gender reassignment in order to help make an already complex issue a little simpler for individuals who are transitioning."

Specifically, the bill stipulates that the state registrar of vital statistics shall issue an amended birth certificate to a person born in New Jersey who submits a request for an amended certificate, which shows the sex and name of the person as it has been changed. The application may be submitted on the person's behalf by a parent or guardian, if the person is a minor. 

Under current law, in order to obtain an amended birth certificate, a person must undergo sex reassignment surgery and provide the state registrar with a medical certificate from their physician indicating that their sex has been changed by surgical procedure. 

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Assembly Approves Democratic Measures to Boost Funding for Women’s Health Care

Mazzeo, Eustace, Mosquera, Vainieri Huttle, McKeon, Pintor Marin, Lagana, Jasey, Mukherji Bill Package Restores Funding for Women's Health Centers & Expands Medicaid Coverage

A two-bill package sponsored by Assembly Democrats to boost funding for health care for low and middle income women and their children in the FY 2016 budget received final legislative approval on Thursday.

The measures - sponsored by Assembly Democrats Vince Mazzeo, Tim Eustace, Gabriela Mosquera, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, John McKeon, Eliana Pintor Marin, Joseph Lagana, Mila Jasey and Raj Mukherji - would restore the funding eliminated by Gov. Christie for women's health centers and expand Medicaid coverage under federal law to help serve some of the state's poorest women.

The first bill (A-3672), sponsored by Mazzeo, Eustace, Mosquera, Vainieri Huttle and McKeon, would provide $7,453,000 in supplemental funding for Family Planning Services grants through the state Department of Health. 

The measure was approved by a vote of 48-31.

"In difficult fiscal times, the priorities we choose show our character as a state," said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). "From a financial perspective, this relatively small investment pays enormous dividends and is a cost effective way to improve the health and well being of women and children in New Jersey."

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

(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 approved Thursday by the General Assembly.

"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."

Among other provisions, the bill (A-4218) would:<

  • Require domestic abusers to surrender their firearms while a domestic violence restraining order is in effect, or when they are convicted of a domestic violence crime or offense;<
  • Require an abuser's firearms purchaser identification cards and permits to purchase a handgun to be suspended during domestic violence restraining orders;
  • Require an abuser's firearms purchaser identification cards and permits to purchase a handgun to be revoked if the individual is convicted of a domestic violence crime or offense; and
  • Require cross-referencing of records to assist in determining whether an alleged domestic abuser owns a firearm in order to assist law enforcement's ability to ensure that an abuser does not have access to firearms.
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Johnson, Eustace, Caride, Muoio, Vainieri Huttle, Lagana, Lampitt & Moriarty Bill Requiring Contingency Plan for Trains Carrying Hazardous Material through NJ Continues Advancing

Bill stems from 2012 Paulsboro train derailment and chemical spill

(TRENTON) - An Assembly panel on Monday released legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gordon Johnson, Tim Eustace, Marlene Caride, Elizabeth Muoio, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Joseph Lagana and Pamela Lampitt that would require owners of trains carrying hazardous material through the state to prepare and submit to the state a response, cleanup and contingency plan.

The bill is in response to the 2012 Conrail train derailment in Paulsboro. One of the cars breached spilling vinyl chloride -- a carcinogenic gas used in making PVC plastics -- into the atmosphere. More than 200 homes in the 2.2-square-mile town were evacuated following the incident. A report from the National Transportation Safety Board found many failures that contributed to the accident and the aftermath, including a lack of a comprehensive safety management program and a failure to use proper response protocols.

"The failures noted in the NTSB report are alarming" said Johnson (D-Bergen). "This bill will help avoid the missteps made in the Paulsboro derailment by holding train companies accountable for proper training of employees, emergency personnel and a thorough emergency response plan."

"We often don't think bad things can happen until they do," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "This bill holds the owners responsible for ensuring the safety of the communities that these trains travel through, from having a contingency plan to training emergency personnel on how to respond."

The bill (A-4283) requires the owner or operator of a high hazard train traveling on any railroad track within the state to submit a discharge response, cleanup and contingency plan to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) within six months of the effective date of the bill.

The bill defines "high hazard train" as any railroad locomotive transporting 200,000 gallons or more of petroleum or petroleum products, or 20,000 gallons or more of other hazardous substances.

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