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Schaer, Lampitt & Benson Bill to Encourage Greater Collaboration between Business and Higher Education Communities Clears Assembly Panel

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic), Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington) and Dan Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex) to encourage more collaboration between New Jersey's businesses and institutions of higher education to help spur job creation and boost the economy was released Monday by an Assembly panel.

"Fostering collaboration between our higher education institutions and our business community is vital to encourage innovation," said Schaer. "By using existing assets we are learning from what other states have done successfully. We should invest in our future."

"New Jersey is home to top-notch research universities and cutting edge industries. Not having these entities work together is a wasted opportunity," said Lampitt. "This can help produce the type of collaboration that can foster greater innovation and propel our economy forward."

"New Jersey loses many of its college-bound students to other states, denying the state and its workforce of valuable brainpower," said Benson. "If we create better career development opportunities for students through these partnerships, they will be more likely to stay in New Jersey."

Sumter, Jasey, Benson, Muoio, Downey & Mukherji Higher Ed Reform Bill Heads to Governor's Desk

Legislation Assembly Democrats Shavonda Sumter, Mila Jasey, Daniel Benson, Elizabeth Maher Muoio, Joann Downey and Raj Mukherji sponsored to combat student loan debt in New Jersey gained final legislative approval Monday in the Senate.

The bill (A-4239) would revise the New Jersey College Loans to Assist State Students (NJCLASS) program to conduct income verification, limit total student loan amounts and require that applicants first exhaust federal student loans. 

"The only concern a college student should have after graduating is choosing which job will lead them closer to their goals," said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). "It has become the norm for families and students to take on an overwhelming amount of debt to pursue educational goals. This legislation will reassess how we distribute state loans." 

"Furthering your education is necessary to advance a career," Jasey (D-Essex/Morris), chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee. "It should never be a burden to do so, and it should be encouraged without fear of debt. This is the first step toward helping families struggling to send their children to college without saddling them with cumbersome loan debt."

Assembly Democratic Bill to Promote Equal Pay for Women Heads to Governor’s Desk

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Joann Downey, Pamela Lampitt, Gary Schaer, Eric Houghtaling, Dan Benson, Troy Singleton, Elizabeth Maher Muoio and Wayne DeAngelo to promote equal pay for women received final legislative approval from the Senate on Monday.

The bill, which was approved by the Assembly last month, now heads to the Governor's desk.

Currently, in the United States, women earn approximately 21 percent less than men. In 2015, female full-time workers made only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 20 percent. The gap between men's and women's wages remains even when taking into account factors such as career choice, experience and education. One study found that a decade after graduation, women earned 12 percent less than men after accounting for all other factors that could affect pay.

Lampitt, Quijano, Eustace, Kennedy, Benson, Muoio, Zwicker & Mukherji Bill Establishing State Goal to Reduce Food Waste in NJ Gains Final Legislative Approval

The General Assembly on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Annette Quijano, Tim Eustace, James Kennedy, Dan Benson, Elizabeth Muoio, Andrew Zwicker and Raj Mukherji to establish a statewide food waste reduction goal of 50 percent by 2030.

"Food waste is a major issue nationally and globally," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). "Unwanted and discarded food squanders water, land, energy, labor and capital resources. When food waste is dumped in a landfill, it rots and creates methane, a very hazardous greenhouse gas. We should begin to look at alternatives to ridding surplus food, especially if it is still unspoiled, instead of just tossing it in a landfill."

"One third of the food produced in the world for human consumption -about 1.3 billion tons - is lost or wasted every year," said Quijano (D-Union). "We must take steps to reduce New Jersey's contribution to food waste and plan for the future."

McKeon, Benson & Kennedy Clean Vehicle Task Force Bill Gets Green Light from Full Assembly

Legislation Assembly Democrats John McKeon, Daniel Benson and James Kennedy sponsored to explore ways to promote the use of "clean" vehicles in New Jersey was approved 50-18-7 by the full Assembly on Thursday.

The bill (A-3295) would establish the Clean Vehicle Task Force, whose 11 members would evaluate issues related to the promotion, development and use of clean vehicles in New Jersey. The body would submit a report with recommendations to the governor and the legislature within a year of organizing.

"Knowing that vehicle emissions are a major contributor to air pollution it's critical that we find ways to get more vehicles with lower emissions on the road," said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). "This task force will help us find ways to protect the environment and advance our goal of slowing climate change. Now that the President has pulled us out of the Paris Accords, it's all the more crucial that states help lead the way in combating climate change."

Mazzeo, Lagana, Vainieri Huttle, & Benson Bill to Educate Parents of Prescription Opioid Use Heads to Governor

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Vincent Mazzeo, Joseph Lagana, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, and Daniel Benson creating a state-led effort to educate parents of student-athletes and cheerleaders on the use and misuse of prescription opioids is headed to the Governor after receiving final legislative approval from the Senate on Thursday.

"The bill ensures that young people and their parents are educated as early as possible about the dangers of opioid abuse and addiction," said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). "It is critical to provide this information to students who participate in athletics to make certain that, in the event they are prescribed an opioid for an injury, they will be fully knowledgeable of the risks of misuse." 

The legislation was unanimously approved by the Assembly in February.

"Prescription drug abuse has taken a heartbreaking toll on many young residents and their families," said Lagana (D-Bergen, Passaic). "Student-athletes are more vulnerable than others due to injuries that may occur while playing a sport. We must step up efforts to inform parents about the potential of opioid abuse and how to prevent it from happening to their children."

DeAngelo, Giblin, Singleton, Holley & Benson Bill to Ask Voters to Support Creation & Expansion of Public Libraries Approved by Assembly

 Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Wayne DeAngelo, Thomas Giblin, Troy Singleton, Jamel Holley and Dan Benson to ask voters to provide grants for the construction, expansion and equipping of public libraries in New Jersey was approved Thursday by the Assembly.
"Some might question the relevance of libraries when technology is so prevalent, but for one, not everyone has access to technology, and secondly, libraries are more than just a place to get books," said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "They are gathering places. They are places where people can get college prep and career assistance. They are places where people without access to computers or an internet connection can have free access to both. Given the value of libraries and what they provide our communities, it would be irresponsible not to invest in their viability."

Greenwald, Land, Andrzejczak, Mazzeo, Houghtaling, Benson & Danielsen Bill to Assist Gold Star Families Goes to Governor

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Lou Greenwald, Bruce R. Land, Bob Andrzejczak, Vince Mazzeo, Eric Houghtaling, Dan Benson and Joseph Danielsen to assist Gold Star families was approved 39-0 Monday by the Senate, giving it final legislative approval.
The bill, approved by the Assembly in February, is part of a larger package of bills to help Gold Star families, two of which have already become law.
"Gold Star families have given the greatest sacrifice they can for our freedoms, and we need to do our part to support them," said Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington). "These bills will provide needed support to navigate the challenges and difficulties they face in the wake of losing a loved one."

Lampitt, Vainieri Huttle, Benson & Wimberly Bill to Uphold Right of Service Dog Access for People with Disabilities Heads to Governor's Desk

Legislation Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Daniel Benson and Benjie Wimberly sponsored to uphold the right of people with disabilities to have equal access to public facilities is headed to the Governor's desk after receiving final legislative approval from the full Senate on Monday.
The legislation, which was unanimously approved by the full Assembly in January, was first proposed by the sponsors after 16-year-old Cherry Hill resident Ben Shore raised concerns about a policy in his school district outlining preconditions to be met in order for a student to be accompanied by a service animal, like his service dog Charlie. 
The bill (A-4081), known as "Charlie's Law," would establish civil penalties for those who deny individuals with disabilities accompanied by service or guide dogs access to any public facility.