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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Conaway, Benson, Vainieri Huttle, Sumter & Mukherji Bill to Notify Public of Open Beds at Drug Treatment Facilities Gains Assembly OK

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Herb Conaway, Daniel Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Shavonda Sumter and Raj Mukherji to help more individuals struggling to overcome substance abuse receive the treatment they need gained Assembly approval on Thursday.

The bill (A-3955) would require the development and maintenance of a database to advise the public about open bed availability in residential substance use disorder treatment facilities. Under the bill, the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services in the Department of Human Services would establish and oversee a public database that would track the number of open beds available for treatment in each facility that receives state or county funding.

"The fact that individuals who want treatment must repeatedly call multiple treatment centers to find out if beds are available - often to be rejected over and over again at a time when they are highly vulnerable - is a significant failing in our health care system," said Conaway (D-Burlington). "Having a one-stop resource that makes clear exactly where to find immediate openings can be the difference between someone turning his or her life around and that person giving up out of sheer hopelessness."

The database, to be displayed on the Department of Human Services website and upon request via the addiction telephone hotline and 2-1-1, would include, by county: the address and telephone number of the facility, a description of the services the facility provides, the licensed bed capacity of the facility and the number of open beds available for treatment.

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Vainieri Huttle, Quijano & Jasey “Gestational Carrier Agreement” Bill Gets Final Legislative Approval

Bill Would Provide Legal Protections to Help Individuals Struggling to Conceive

Legislation sponsored by Assemblywomen Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Annette Quijano and Mila Jasey to provide legal protections to those struggling to conceive a child who wish to use a gestational carrier received final legislative approval from the full Assembly on Thursday by a vote of 46-24-2. 

The bill (S-866/A-2648), titled the "New Jersey Gestational Carrier Agreement Act," would authorize a written contract under which a woman agrees to carry and give birth to a child created using assisted reproduction on behalf of an intended parent. 

Unlike traditional surrogacy, in which a woman is artificially inseminated with the semen of the intended father and gives birth to a child through the use of her own egg, a gestational carrier does not make use of her own egg and therefore is not genetically related to the child. 

The issue of surrogacy garnered national headlines in the late 1980's with the case of "Baby M," in which the New Jersey Supreme Court found traditional surrogacy agreements invalid because they violated various public policies and state statutes. In 2009, a New Jersey Superior Court ruled that the findings in the Baby M case apply to gestational surrogacy as well as traditional surrogacy cases.

Because advances in reproductive technology now allow for the transfer of an embryo into the body of a woman who is not genetically related to the child, traditional surrogacy agreements like the one in Baby M, and adoption, are no longer the only means by which a couple that is having reproductive difficulties may have children. 

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Vainieri Huttle Bill to Recognize American Sign Language as a Foreign Language in NJ’s High Schools Clears Assembly Panel

Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) that would allow American Sign Language (ASL) to be used by New Jersey high school students to meet world language graduation requirements was released Monday by an Assembly panel.

American Sign Language is a complete, complex language that employs signs made with the hands and other movements, including facial expressions and postures of the body. The bill (A-4212) would provide that American Sign Language can be recognized as a world language for the purpose of meeting any state or local world language requirement for high school graduation. 

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Benson, Greenwald, Lagana & Vainieri Huttle Cord Blood Bank Tax Deduction Bill Approved by Assembly Panel

Legislation Will Help More Families Bank Life-Saving Cord Blood

An Assembly panel on Monday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson, Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, Joseph Lagana and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to help more families afford the opportunity to bank their child's cord blood in the event of a medical emergency down the road.

The bill (A-1030) would extend New Jersey's gross income tax medical expense deduction to certain cord blood banking services. 

"This bill would make cord blood banking more cost-effective for New Jersey residents while encouraging the proliferation of cord blood banks in our state," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "Hopefully this change will allow more parents to afford this potentially life-saving service."

Cord blood banking involves collecting blood left in a newborn's umbilical cord and placenta and storing it for future medical use because of the potentially lifesaving stem cells contained in it. Stem cells have the ability to develop into other types of cells, so they can help repair tissues, organs, and blood vessels and can be used to treat a host of diseases, like leukemia, Hodgkin's disease, blood disorders, and immune deficiencies. 

"Even though we don't like to think about medical emergencies arising down the road for our children, it's wise to plan for the possibility," said Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington). "This tax benefit will allow more parents to do so and could ultimately save lives."

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Jasey, McKeon, Vainieri Huttle & Mukherji Bill to Provide Medicaid Coverage for Advance Care Planning Clears Panel

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Mila Jasey, John McKeon, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Raj Mukherji to help low-income New Jersey residents access the information and resources needed to ensure they receive the end-of-life care they desire was advanced Thursday by an Assembly panel. 

The bill (A-4233) would amend current law to provide Medicaid coverage for advance care planning. Under the legislation, such planning may include consultation with a health care practitioner regarding the preparation of advance health care directives, health care powers of attorney and medical orders for life-sustaining treatment.

"While everyone in New Jersey - regardless of socioeconomic status - ought to be able to preserve his or her dignity if incapacitated and in need of medical attention, end-of-life planning is out of reach for many," said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). "Providing Medicaid reimbursement for advance care planning would improve access to this valuable service, allowing patients to have more autonomy regarding end-of-life care." 

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Vainieri Huttle, Mosquera, McKeon, Benson & Sumter ‘Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015’ Continues Advancing

Legislation Would Permit Victims without Ties to Offenders to Seek Protective Orders

Assembly approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Gabriela Mosquera, John McKeon, Daniel Benson and Shavonda Sumter to allow more victims of sexual assault to seek protective orders against their perpetrators continued advancing on Thursday.

"Simply seeing an abuser - whether he or she is a new acquaintance or an old friend - forces many sexual assault survivors to relive the trauma of having been violated, and current law says they have no option but to suffer in silence," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Every person in this state has a right to feel safe while going about his or her daily life. With this bill, we reaffirm our commitment to the notion that all residents of New Jersey should be able to seek the protection they need to live in peace." 

Under current law, in order to pursue a protective order, a victim must have had a previous or existing domestic relationship with the offender, such as a spousal or dating relationship, or must file a criminal complaint against the offender. The bill (A-4078), which is to be known as the "Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015," would eliminate these preconditions.

Specifically, the bill would authorize protective orders for victims of non-consensual sexual contact, sexual penetration or lewdness or attempts at such conduct during cases in which the victim does not have a domestic relationship with the offender and does not wish to file a criminal complaint against him or her.

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Vainieri Huttle, Lampitt & Lagana Bill to Tackle Campus Sexual Assault Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainiei Huttle, Pamela Lampitt and Joe Lagana to better equip New Jersey colleges and universities to prevent and respond to sexual assaults on campus was approved Thursday by an Assembly panel. 
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.
"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." 
"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."
The bill (A-4156) would establish a task force to study and make recommendations concerning sexual assault occurring on the campuses of institutions of higher education in the state.

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