Protecting our Seniors
As Chair of the Assembly Aging and Senior Services Committee, I led the legislature in enacting sweeping reforms to New Jersey's long-term care system in the wake of COVID-19. I am also proud to have authored innovative legislation that works to ensure that our loved ones in nursing homes can communicate with their family and friends, even when visitation is restricted.
In addition to my work on improving the State's COVID-19 response, I am also championing the passage of legislation to prohibit age discrimination in New Jersey. At a time when so many seniors must continue to work to make ends meet, it is crucial that employers make hiring and firing decisions based off job performance, not someone's age.
I am proud to be recognized as one of New Jersey's foremost champions for women's rights. As District 37's Assemblywoman, I have sponsored landmark legislation to protect access to reproductive healthcare, and to safeguard reproductive rights. Additionally, I have been a leader in the fight for pay equity and the expansion of paid family leave.
Recently, I introduced historic legislation, The Reproductive Freedom Act, which would ensure that all New Jerseyans, regardless of income or immigration status, have access to the reproductive healthcare that they need.
I have also recently introduced sweeping reforms to better protect sexual assault survivors and expand their rights under the law. This package would ensure that survivors are heard and respected at every stage of the process, from the police department to the court room.
Advocating for LGBTQ Equality
I am proud to serve as one of New Jersey's most outspoken advocates for LGBTQ rights and equality. Throughout my career in the legislature, I have authored landmark legislation to mandate inclusive LGBTQ curriculum in our schools as well as landmark legislation that allows transgender individuals to change their gender identity on their birth certificates.
Recently, I introduced legislation to protect LGBTQ seniors in long-term care facilities from discrimination and harassment. I have also introduced legislation to expand access to PReP and PEP, lifesaving HIV medication.
Students are better able to succeed when they are comfortable in their education environment. Harassment, intimidation, and bullying prevent children and adolescents from reaching their full potential because they are afraid to go to school, participate in extracurricular activities, and explore new opportunities.
I sponsored the New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, the toughest and most comprehensive anti-bullying law in the nation, so that students can feel safe to learn and thrive. The law requires schools to proactively prevent bullying and quickly and appropriately respond to incidents. It enables school districts to address bullying on and off school grounds, including the internet and social media.
I also sponsored a law to create the New Jersey Anti-Bullying Task Force to monitor the implementation of the law and make sure that it is working to protect students and enhance the entire school community. The law is now in its second year of implementation, and districts and families have reported that bullying is finally being addressed in our community.
While some may think that human trafficking only occurs in developing nations, war zones, or impoverished regions, it happens right here in New Jersey and in District 37. Working with the New Jersey Coalition against Human Trafficking and national experts, I authored the Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection, and Treatment Act.
This new law gives law enforcement the tools they need to prevent and prosecute perpetrators and helps victims become survivors. During the recent Super Bowl, the law supported advocates raising awareness about sex and labor trafficking that occurs during large-scale sporting events and helped security officials detect signs of trafficking. Recently, I have also championed legislation to allocate additional funding to the New Jersey Human Trafficking Commission as well as legislation to require human trafficking education be included in school curriculums.
Port Authority Reform
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has been out of control for decades. It operates critical transportation infrastructure, including the George Washington Bridge, and oversees a budget of $7 billion, which is larger than the budget of 26 states combined. Yet, it is unclear how those funds are spent or whether the public interest is truly served.
As District 37's Assemblywoman, I have fought for reform and transparency in the bi-state agency, including sponsoring the Port Authority Transparency and Accountability Act.
I believe that we must hold the Port Authority Accountable, they must be subjected to annual independent audits, and that the public must be properly engaged in conversations before changes are made, especially as it pertains to toll-hike discussions.
I am committed to changing the culture of the PANYNJ so that commuters and fare-payers are put first.
Protecting the Disability Community
It has been said that the moral test of government is how it treats its most vulnerable. My mission is to make sure that New Jersey meets that test and fulfills its obligation to protect and support individuals with special needs and their families.
In recent years, we have made progress in how our state treats individuals with disabilities. We now have a registry of caretakers
who abuse clients, require the Department of Human Services to provide greater information to families on available services and programs as they make long-term plans, and have greater oversight of community care residences. We have even made efforts to reduce the stigma by removing the word "retarded" from state statutes.
Additionally, I authored New Jersey's landmark law to prevent abuse and neglect in group homes. The Stephen Komninos Law requires the State to conduct regular visits in group homes, it also mandates that facilities notify families within a set timeframe when an individual is injured.
Economic Development in District 37
District 37 has the potential to be an economic hub for Bergen County and Northern New Jersey. The district has diverse and energetic communities, historic downtown areas, and cultural centers, such as the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood, which I was proud to play a leadership role in revitalizing in 2004.
I have long advocated for the extension of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Line into Bergen County. I am committed to continued partnership with federal, state and local officials to bring District 37 onto the line and finally make this a reality for our community.
I am also actively working to increase funding for the arts and tourism because those dollars can have significant economic impact for our region. As a member of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, I have seen that investing in the arts and cultural initiatives helps revitalize downtowns, boosts related businesses, and brings in tourists. District 37 offers so much to see and do, and I want to make sure that our community has the support to promote these attractions.
When I first entered office as District 37's Assemblywoman, one of my first major accomplishments was the passage of my law, the Global Warming Response Act. At the time, this was the nation's strongest law to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
I have also sponsored landmark legislation to ban the sale of single-use plastics as well as legislation to provide tax credits for businesses that utilize green technology.