Keith Globe, Land Line Mag.com
Truck drivers and other good Samaritans in New Jersey who come across distressed animals or people in parked vehicles soon may no longer have to concern themselves with legal repercussions for stepping in to provide aid.
There are 23 states, including the Garden State, with laws that regulate leaving an animal in a parked vehicle. Rules in 24 states make it illegal to leave a child unattended in a vehicle.
Ten states have Good Samaritan laws specific to rescuing children left in vehicles. They are: Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin. The states of Florida, Ohio, Tennessee, Vermont and Wisconsin include animals in the rules.
Two bills halfway through the New Jersey statehouse would grant immunity to concerned citizens who break into a locked vehicle to save a person or pet from extreme temperatures. The bills do not specify temperatures or conditions in order for a person to act.
Assembly lawmakers unanimously approved one bill, A4079, to provide civil immunity for anyone who forcibly enters a vehicle to remove unattended and unsupervised children who might be at risk.
Rescuers, however, would first be required to take multiple steps before acting. The steps include determining there is no other “reasonable method” to remove the child and they must have already alerted emergency personnel.
“If a child is in immediate danger and the authorities have been notified, a good Samaritan should not have to be concerned with the cost of damages to the vehicle if they are trying to save a child’s life,” Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, D-Camden, said in a released statement.
Vehicles parked in direct sunlight can reach internal temperatures between 131-172 degrees when outside temperatures range from 80-100 degrees, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Outside temperatures in the 60s can cause internal temps to rise above 110 degrees.
Last week, The Record published “Joe Loses Spot in Pack” about Joe Maldonado, an 8-year-old child who was kicked out of Cub Scout Pack 87 because he is transgender. After a month of his membership, the Northern New Jersey Council of Boy Scouts informed the Maldonado family that other parents complained about including a transgender boy in the pack.
The actions taken by the Northern New Jersey Council of Boy Scouts against Joe Maldonado are sad and unfair, but not surprising. In recent years, we have seen the LGBT community make tremendous strides, especially in 2013, when the Supreme Court struck down the ban on same-sex marriage. Transgender citizens, however, are still struggling in their own fight for equality.
When I was working on the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights several years ago, I learned that transgender youth face some of the harshest treatment from their peers, often because of fear or sheer ignorance. These children and adolescents merely want to live as their true selves without shame and out of hiding. They should be entitled to this right without societal justification.
In 2012, I introduced legislation to ensure that citizens who have undergone clinically appropriate sex change treatments, such as hormone therapy, may change their gender on their birth certificates. This bill serves as an important step for members of the transgender community to live authentically. This is a particularly critical issue for transgender youth, who are often not eligible for sex reassignment surgery until their later teen years.
Yet, while the legislation passed both the Assembly and the state Senate, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed it twice, citing legal uncertainties and security concerns. I certainly would not find 8-year-old Joe Maldonado to be a security threat if he wants to change his birth certificate. Unfortunately, Christie does not see it this way and has been able to block this common-sense records update.Read more
Susan K. Livio, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
TRENTON -- The state Assembly voted Monday to impose stricter rules on the private agencies that operate group homes for people with developmental disabilities.
The bill (A2503) is named for Stephen Komninos, a 22-year-old man who died in 2007 when he was left unsupervised against medical orders, and choked to death on a bagel.
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainer Huttle (D-Bergen), the prime sponsor of the legislation, praised the Komninos family for channeling their grief "to make sure no other parent goes through this."
Stephen's father, Thomas Komninos of Upper Saddle River was so moved by the Assembly's support of the bill, he could barely speak after the vote.
Aileen Rivera of Wayne and Martha Cray of Roselle Park, mothers whose disabled sons have suffered abuse in the care of state-licensed or state-run facilities, hugged him and wept.
"We're grateful to the overwhelming response from the Assembly. It hopefully it sends a message to the Senate that this is the right thing to do," Komninos said.Read more
Phil Gregory, Newsworks
A measure under consideration by New Jersey lawmakers would regulate testing self-driving vehicles on state roadways.
The proposal would ensure there are some requirements for self-driving cars that would be on the roads with insured drivers, said Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt, the bill sponsor
"You've seen the pictures where there's an autonomous car where you ... have a table in the middle and have coffee with four people, and the person who should be in the driver's seat has their back turned to the road," said Lampitt, D-Camden. "Those are the cars that we need to be more diligent about to make sure the testing is being done safely."
The legislation calls for manufacturers to secure state Motor Vehicle Commission approval that an autonomous vehicle is safe to operate. And a driver must be behind the wheel to take control if necessary.
Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle said that's important in a state with some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation.
"Changing lanes and keeping the speed limit, I feel there are some many challenges to this. An autonomous car would obey the speed limits," said Huttle, D-Bergen. "Think about how slow these cars would be going on the New Jersey Turnpike because most of us have that flexibility."Read more
John Cichowski, The Record
Totowa's Ray Galvano could hardly believe it Tuesday when he saw there was no line outside the old Motor Vehicle Commission office in Wayne, a pleasant surprise that allowed him to get a new auto registration and title in barely 30 minutes.
"Usually, it takes me 2 or 2½ hours," said the unemployed taxi driver. "What's going on?"
On Monday, another Ray — Martinez (the one who runs the MVC) — explained it all to the skeptics on the New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee at a hearing in Trenton: Technology upgrades, mobile vans and building expansions, like the one that's already started in Wayne, are among the strategies designed to "ameliorate" the chronic waits that have plagued New Jersey motorists since they began driving as teens, said the agency's chief administrator.
“Sounds terrific," said Committee Vice Chairwoman Valerie Vanieri Huttle, with a weary trace of "we've-heard-this-song-before" in her voice. "That doesn’t translate to a lot of satisfaction for our constituents,” added the Englewood Democrat.Read more
Mary Jo Layton, The Record
A set of qualified bidders to take the helm could signal a new start for the hospital of last resort.
Bergen Regional Medical Center is many things — a nursing home, a detox center and psychiatric facility — but there's one thing it's not: a destination hospital. Even after two decades of private management, the state's largest hospital is still the treatment center of last resort for most patients.
But for the first time in years, key health care companies with proven records are interested in taking the reins, with a goal of transforming the county-owned Paramus hospital into a model of quality and cost-effective care.
The payoff could be enormous — for the uninsured or homeless who rely on Bergen Regional, for the families forced to seek addiction or psychiatric services outside the state due to long waits or insurance issues, and for taxpayers who pick up the tab with little accountability in how their money is spent. And with a heroin crisis driving up addiction rates that are far outpacing treatment resources, an improved, if not expanded hospital wouldn't come a moment too soon.
"I think there's a light at the end of the tunnel,'' said state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck, who has spent years highlighting shortcomings in care and accountability at the hospital. "There are seemingly strong partnerships ready to take over the operation of the hospital on behalf of the residents and people who need the services."
This month, seven entities submitted bids including a coalition of five hospitals — Hackensack University Medical Center, Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, Valley Health System in Ridgewood, Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, and Christian Health Center in Wyckoff. The hospitals would hire the Carrier Clinic, a treatment center in Belle Meade, to run operations.Read more
Matt Friedman, Politico
HACKENSACK — Is Andrew Cuomo pulling a Chris Christie?
State Senator Loretta Weinberg, at least, sees a similarity in the way the two governors treat the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
“This is a governor trying to take control of the Port Authority through manipulation, intimidation and bullying,” said Weinberg, a Bergen County Democrat who co-chaired the Legislature’s investigation into the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal, referring to Cuomo. “We in New Jersey are already familiar with that.”
New Jersey lawmakers — especially those in North Jersey who have many commuter constituents — desperately want a replacement to the decrepit Port Authority Bus Terminal, and had secured a place for it in the agency’s 10-year capital plan.
But as POLITICO reported this week, Cuomo and Post Authority chairman John Degnan can't come to terms on the amount of money to be spent on the bus terminal. Degnan, a New Jersey appointee, wants roughly $3.5 billion. Cuomo, whose top authority-related priorities are upgrades to Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, wants no more than $2 billion.Read more
Press of Atlantic City Editorial Board
New Jersey and the nation have made great strides toward public acceptance of breastfeeding as the evidence for its benefits has mounted. There’s still a little further to go, and a proposal in the state Legislature would help.
Sponsored by Assembly members Bob Andrzejczak, D-Cape May, Atlantic, Cumberland, and Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen, the bill would extend civil-rights protections to nursing mothers.
Frankly, some of those protections probably aren’t needed, such as from discrimination in housing or borrowing.
But the broad approach wouldn’t hurt and would provide needed support for women nursing toddlers and those nursing or pumping milk at small businesses.
Federal data shows nursing infants need less sick care, fewer prescriptions and less time in the hospital. Breastfeeding strengthens a baby’s immunity, lessens the chance of future obesity and supports development.
No wonder New Jersey has seen a jump in mothers who have breastfed at some point, from 72 percent in 2010 to 82 percent this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
John C. Ensslin, The Record
Addicts will be able to seek help from their local police department under a bill that Governor Christie signed into law on Wednesday.
“This new law allows police officers — often the first people to discover nonviolent drug offenders in their worst state — to become a point of access for help and recovery,” Christie said.
The new law directs the state director of Mental Health and Addiction Services and the Attorney General to draft regulations to enable county and local law enforcement to establish programs in their own departments.
The regulations would establish guidelines for the training and recruitment of police officers, volunteers and recovery services taking part in the program.Read more
Lilo H. Stainton, NJ Spotlight
Problems with fee-for-service model could be further exacerbated if President-elect Trump ditches Affordable Care Act
Proceeding with state plans to reform the payment system for community mental health providers will leave tens of thousands of vulnerable patients stranded without proper care, advocates warned, while also ripping larger holes in New Jersey’s longstanding safety net for those with serious psychiatric issues.
Nonprofit organizations that operate housing, day programs, and healthcare services for clients with mental illness warned that under the new reimbursement system they will be forced to close down parts of their operations and lay off hundreds of workers, shunting thousands of desperate patients to. While Gov. Chris Christie directed $127 million, primarily federal funding, in the current budget to help fund the transition, providers insist that the new billing model will still leave them short.
And the impact of the payment reform is likely to be far worse than they originally predicted, advocates told the Assembly Human Services committee on Monday, especially given President-elect Donald Trump’s plans to dismantle the federal law that would cover much of these patient costs.
The committee voted to approve a proposalfor the state to closely monitor the reform and report back on the process, sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), the committee chair, and several of her Democratic colleagues. A Senate version was approved in September.Read more