News

Benson & Vainieri Huttle Bill Overhauling NJ Animal Cruelty Law amid SPCA Concerns Clears Legislature

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrat Daniel Benson and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to revise and strengthen New Jersey law on animal cruelty amid SPCA concerns was approved by the Assembly on Monday, giving it final legislative approval.
The bill now goes to the governor.
The bill (A-5231) was introduced in response to a report released by the State Commission of Investigation on organizational mismanagement at the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. 
"New Jersey cannot continue to rely on an outdated law and state level organization that has failed to protect animals and their owners from harm," said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). "This bill will ensure that protection of animals is harmonized with our local and county law enforcement and that animal cruelty is investigated and prosecuted with accountability and transparency." 
"Many counties currently have coordinated law enforcement as well as the local sheriff's department to ensure every animal cruelty complaint is investigated and handled in a timely manner as they should be addressed," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "This legislation would allow for a more coordinated police response to animal cruelty complaints in communities." 

NOW LAW: Benson, Vainieri Huttle, Muoio, Mukherji, Chiaravalloti & Wimberly Bill to Prevent Homelessness among Domestic Violence Victims

Legislation Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Elizabeth Muoio, Raj Mukherji, Nicholas Chiaravalloti and Benjie Wimberly sponsored to provide emergency housing assistance for victims of domestic violence was signed into law on Monday.

"There have been many times when victims of domestic violence have been denied emergency assistance because they voluntarily left a job where their abuser could find them or failed to plan for substitute housing - situations that are typically out of their control, especially for many who have limited means," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "Our number one priority should be ensuring their safety and getting them back on their feet, and that's what this law will do."

The new law (A-4406) will provide emergency assistance, typically in the form of rental assistance, to individuals or families who are homeless or in a temporary living arrangement due to imminent or demonstrated domestic violence that imperils their health and safety.

Assembly Approves Wisniewski, Coughlin, Danielsen, Benson & Zwicker Wind Energy Development Bill

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John S. Wisniewski, Craig Coughlin, Joseph Danielsen, Daniel Benson and Andrew Zwicker to provide incentives for companies exploring wind energy development cleared the full Assembly, 54-15-1, on Monday. 

"Rising electricity costs and environmental concerns urge us to seek new ways to create, conserve and protect our energy resources," said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). "Wind farms and the production of clean, renewable energy will be keys to creating the sustainable future New Jersey greatly deserves."

"Encouraging the development and expansion of wind energy initiatives is good business for the state," said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). "Attracting wind energy facilities, in the long run, will create jobs, increase our sustainability, and position our state as one of the few pioneers developing this new energy frontier."

Coughlin, Mukherji, Benson, Downey and Houghtaling's Prescription Drug Patient Protection Act Clears Legislature

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Craig Coughlin, Raj Mukherji, Daniel Benson, Joann Downey and Eric Houghtaling to ensure pharmacy benefits managers are vetted by New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance before operating in the state was approved Monday by the Assembly, giving it final legislative approval.
The bill now goes to the governor.
The bill (A-4676), entitled the "Prescription Drug Patient Protection Act," requires pharmacy benefits managers to obtain, in accordance with the bill's provisions, a certificate of authority form the Commissioner of Banking and Insurance in order to operate in this state. 
A pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) is a third-party administrator of prescription-drug programs for end payers, such as private insurers, and Medicare Part D plans. The sponsors of the bill note a number of complaints about PBMS driving up costs and the purpose of this bill is to provide transparency, accountability and potentially lower costs to consumers.
"The state must ensure patient protection when dealing with third-party pharmacy benefit managers," said Coughlin (D- Middlesex). "With the rise in the cost of healthcare and the price of prescriptions, we must do all that we can to ensure residents are not being taken advantage of by anyone raising the prices of the prescriptions they need unnecessarily."
"New Jersey law protects access to prescription drugs by seniors and other patients with its any willing provider laws, but recently history reveals that third-party PBMs on behalf of insurance companies have sought to circumvent those consumer protections," said Mukherji (D-Hudson). "This legislation ensures that any pharmacy benefits manager operating in our state is approved to do so and understands the regulations applicable to their dealings."

Quijano, Benson, McKnight & Sumter Bill Barring Treatment Facilities from Turning Away Patients Receiving Medication Assistance Now Law

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Daniel R. Benson, Angela McKnight and Shavonda Sumter that incorporates the latest scientific approach to substance use disorders in order to ensure that individuals can access the drug treatment they need has been signed into law.

Specifically, the new legislation (A-4707) prohibits residential substance use disorder treatment facilities and aftercare facilities, including sober living homes and halfway houses, from denying admission to a person because they are currently receiving medication assisted treatment for a substance use disorder, provided the treatment is administered by a licensed treatment provider. 

"Some treatment and aftercare programs operate with a philosophy that an addiction to one substance should not be replaced with an addiction to another, and therefore they object to medication assisted treatment, instead emphasizing counseling and peer support," said Quijano (D-Union). "This philosophy, while earnest and well-meaning, has the unfortunate result of barring individuals receiving medically supervised medication assisted treatment from other recovery-related treatment services. This legislation is designed to remove scientifically outdated barriers to residential treatment, aftercare, and housing options for individuals in recovery."

Benson & Quijano Legislation to Allow for Cooperative High Schools Sports Programs Heads to Governor

 Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Daniel R. Benson and Annette Quijano to require the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association to allow public high schools in same school district to enter into cooperative sports programs, if schools are unable to field varsity teams individually received final legislative approval Monday and now heads to the governor's desk. 

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, high school football enrollment is down 4.5 percent over the past decade. West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North has felt these effects. With only four seniors, four juniors and 16 sophomores set to play in the upcoming fall football season, the school was forced to drop its varsity program for the upcoming school year and will only play a JV schedule. 

The West Windsor-Plainsboro School District had petitioned the state to allow High School North to merge its varsity program with the district's other school - High School South - but was denied because the schools are part of two different athletic divisions, North being a Group III school and South being a Group IV school.

Singleton, Mukherji, Benson & Lampitt Bill to Require Health Insurance Providers to Cover the Use of 3-D Mammography for Breast Cancer Screening Heads to Governor

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Raj Mukherji, Dan Benson & Pamela Lampitt to require health insurers, SHBP and SEHBP to cover digital tomosynthesis for breast cancer screening received final legislative approval Monday and now heads to the governor.

Digital tomosynthesis, also sometimes called 3-D mammography, creates a three-dimensional picture of the breast using x-rays. Several low-dose images from different angles around the breast are used to create the final 3-D picture. Conventional mammography produces one image of overlapping tissue, while tomosynthesis provides multiple pictures of breast tissue as the scanner moves in an arc. The difference between the images produced by tomosynthesis and conventional mammography has been described as being akin to a three dimensional ball versus a flat circle. 

"If there is a more precise way to screen and diagnose breast cancer, then we should begin making it available to all women through their health benefits," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "Breast cancer can be curable if detected early. Women and their families should be allowed access to the medical resources necessary to diagnose and treat breast cancer."

Coughlin, Benson & Vainieri Huttle Bill to Help Fight NJ's Opioid Crisis Heads to Governor's Desk

 A measure sponsored by Assembly Speaker-elect Craig Coughlin, Assemblyman Dan Benson and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle to help fight the state's opioid epidemic received final legislative approval Monday and now heads to the governor. 

The opioid crisis has killed more than 7,000 people in New Jersey since 2012, according to a report by NJ Advance Media. Last year, at least 1,901 people died from opioid overdoses.

"This crisis is killing thousands of New Jerseyans every year and it is only getting worse," said Speaker-elect Coughlin (D-Middlesex). "We must balance both the needs of patients who rely on these drugs for pain management, and the need to address the opioid misuse and abuse that continues to take a toll on so many families and communities throughout the state."

McKeon, Benson, Kennedy & Johnson Clean Vehicle Task Force Bill Heads to Governor

Legislation Assembly Democrats John McKeon, Daniel Benson, James Kennedy and Gordon Johnson sponsored to explore ways to promote the use of "clean" vehicles in New Jersey received final legislative approval Monday and now heads to the governor's desk. 

The bill (A-3295) would establish the Clean Vehicle Task Force, whose 13 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." 

Benson & Quijano Legislation to Allow for Cooperative High Schools Sports Programs Heads to Governor

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Daniel R. Benson and Annette Quijano to require the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association to allow public high schools in same school district to enter into cooperative sports programs, if schools are unable to field varsity teams individually received final legislative approval Monday and now heads to the governor's desk. 

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, high school football enrollment is down 4.5 percent over the past decade. West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North has felt these effects. With only four seniors, four juniors and 16 sophomores set to play in the upcoming fall football season, the school was forced to drop its varsity program for the upcoming school year and will only play a JV schedule. 

The West Windsor-Plainsboro School District had petitioned the state to allow High School North to merge its varsity program with the district's other school - High School South - but was denied because the schools are part of two different athletic divisions, North being a Group III school and South being a Group IV school.