Caride, Jimenez, Mukherji, Holley, Benson & McKnight Bill to Ensure Safety of Students in Wheelchairs on School Buses Gains Assembly OK

Legislation Assembly Democrats Marlene Caride, Angelica Jimenez, Raj Mukherji, Jamel Holley, Daniel R. Benson and Angela McKnight sponsored to improve the safety of students in wheelchairs who are transported on school buses gained unanimous approval from the General Assembly on Thursday. 

The bill (A-1257) would require school bus drivers to secure students who use a wheelchair with a four-point securement system, which shall be made available on all school buses used to transport students who use a wheelchair. A four-point securement system is defined by the bill as a complete four-point system that includes four wheelchair restraints to secure a wheelchair to the vehicle floor, a lap and shoulder belt that integrates to the rear wheelchair restraints and floor anchorages installed in the vehicle floor. 

"These students are especially vulnerable," said Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic), chair of the Assembly Education Committee. "Equipping our school buses with this four-point securement system and requiring bus drivers to ensure that students in wheelchairs are properly secured in the system will make for a safer ride to school."

Schaer, Jasey, Benson & Vainieri Huttle College Affordability & Preparedness Bill Package Clears Assembly

The General Assembly on Thursday approved two bills that are part of a broader package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Mila Jasey, Daniel R. Benson, and Valerie Vainieri Huttle aimed at helping New Jersey residents better navigate the college process before, during and after their time on campus.

"Too many students today are unprepared entering into a higher education system that leads them to incur crushing student loan debt," said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). "We need to provide a path forward for New Jersey students by allowing them access to college curricula in high school, opening higher education possibilities and exposing them to the academic rigor ahead, and then providing them an option for a debt-free future."

Sumter, Jasey, Muoio, Lagana, Downey & Benson Higher Ed Reform Bill Package Heads to Governor’s Desk

A two-bill package Assembly Democrats Shavonda Sumter, Mila Jasey, Elizabeth Maher Muoio, Joseph Lagana, Joann Downey and Daniel Benson sponsored to combat student loan debt in New Jersey gained final legislative approval unanimously from the full Assembly on Thursday.

"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 package will reassess how we distribute state loans and inform families of their options when planning for college. We must increase transparency under NJCLASS Loan Programs, better educate families on loan repayment options and requirements as well as help families understand how much they can realistically handle in student loans." 

Eustace, Karabinchak, McKeon, Vainieri Huttle & Benson Bill to Create Water Quality Accountability Act Clears Assembly

The full Assembly on Thursday approved legislation, 76-0, sponsored by Assembly Democrats Timothy Eustace, Robert Karabinchak, John McKeon, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Daniel Benson to establish a proactive cybersecurity policy for all water purveyors in order to enhance the reliability and safety of the state's drinking water systems. 

In March 2016, the BPU adopted cybersecurity requirements applicable to the electric, natural gas, water, and wastewater utilities that it regulates. This bill would apply those requirements to all water purveyors. 

"We have seen many cybersecurity threats in recent years," said Eustace (D-Bergen, Passaic). "Whether it is attacking our personal information online or threatening critical resources, the state must take steps to protect residents from cybersecurity breaches. This legislation would codify present cybersecurity requirements established by the BPU and strengthen protections of our water resources by extending these requirements to all water suppliers."

Downey, Houghtaling, Holley & Benson Bill to Connect More Who Served to Programs, Benefits for Veterans Advances

Legislation Assembly Democrats Joann Downey, Eric Houghtaling, Jamel Holley and Daniel Benson sponsored to more effectively deliver services to veterans in New Jersey was approved, 76-0, Thursday by the full Assembly.

The bill (A-4171) would establish the New Jersey Commission on Veterans' Benefits in the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. The 13-member commission would develop, maintain and annually update a five-year statewide veterans' benefits strategic plan that includes goals and measurable outcomes to ensure that all state departments and agencies are effectively delivering comprehensive services and support for veterans and their families.

"Many veterans are aware of how they can benefit from resources the federal government offers, but they're sometimes uncertain about what they and their families may qualify for at the state level," said Downey (D-Monmouth). "A commission dedicated to making sure veterans have access to the programs and benefits they're eligible for and deserve will help New Jersey honor its obligation to those who have served this nation."

McKeon, Muoio & Benson Bill to Block Christie Administration from Chipping Away at Highlands Water Protections Clears Legislature

The full Assembly approved Thursday legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John McKeon, Elizabeth Maher Muoio and Daniel Benson to bar the Christie administration from drastically increasing the number of allowable septic systems in protected areas of the Highlands where a vast majority of New Jerseyans draw their drinking water. The bill was approved, 52-24-0, with a concurrence vote. 

The concurrent resolution (ACR-192) conveys the finding of the Legislature that the Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) proposal published in May to revise the septic system density standards in the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act Rules is not consistent with the intent of the Legislature when it passed the original law in 2004, given that the proposed standards "could result in up to 1,145 additional septic systems, or about 12 percent more individual septic systems than under the existing rule."

Singleton, Tucker, Mosquera & Benson Bill to Encourage Employers to Hire Veterans Clears Committee

Legislation Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Cleopatra Tucker, Gabriela Mosquera and Daniel Benson sponsored to encourage employers to hire veterans of recent active military service was advanced Monday by an Assembly committee.

"Veterans know how to lead a team, complete a task under pressure and do a job with a sense of pride," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "These honorable men and women would be excellent contributors in the civilian workplace, so encouraging employers to consider them when hiring truly benefits all parties involved."

Benson, DeAngelo & Muoio Measure to Ensure Job Security for Organ Donors Clears Assembly Committee

Legislation Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson, Wayne DeAngelo and Elizabeth Muoio sponsored to ensure that organ and bone marrow donors do not lose employment due to a temporary inability to work was advanced Monday by an Assembly Committee.

"Organ and tissue donors selflessly undergo procedures to save another person's life only to face the possibility that their act of kindness may cost them their livelihood," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "Establishing statutory job protection for these men and women will ensure that no New Jersey resident can lose employment because he or she took temporary disability due to organ or tissue donation."

Downey, Lampitt, Schaer, Houghtaling, Benson, Singleton, Muoio & DeAngelo Bill to Promote Equal Pay for Women Clears Senate Committee

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 was advanced by a Senate panel on Thursday.

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.

Assembly Panel Clears Prieto, Mukherji, Benson & Vainieri Huttle Bill to Expand Mammogram Insurance Coverage for Adopted Women

Legislation Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji, Daniel Benson and Valerie Vainieri Huttle sponsored to expand access to mammograms for adopted women in New Jersey cleared the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee on Thursday. 

The bill (A-1977) would require health insurers to provide benefits coverage for mammograms to women under age 40 who may be at risk for developing breast cancer but lack access to their family histories because either they or their parents were adopted. While current law requires insurers to cover mammograms for younger women with a demonstrable family history of breast cancer, the sponsors note that this burden of proof renders the exams less accessible to adopted women and the daughters of adopted parents.