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Benson, Muoio & Gusciora Bill Opposing Reorganization of NJ Office of Information Technology Approved by Assembly

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Dan Benson, Elizabeth Muoio and Reed Gusciora opposing the governor's decision to reorganize the New Jersey Office of Information Technology was approved Monday by the General Assembly.

"This reorganization makes no sense, and will lead to increased operational inefficiencies and hinder important OIT functions such as identifying waste and fraud," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "The state should instead focus on enhancing OIT capabilities and building upon their record of success."

"Restructuring the OIT has the potential to waste taxpayer dollars by delaying the development and implementation of work product and infrastructure improvements," said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). "The possible detrimental effects on the state's technical infrastructure are concerning to us, and should be concerning to the governor."

Eustace, Karabinchak, McKeon, Vainieri Huttle & Benson Bill to Create Water Quality Accountability Act Now Law

Legislation 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 was signed into law on Friday.

In March 2016, the BPU adopted cybersecurity requirements applicable to the electric, natural gas, water, and wastewater utilities that it regulates. The new law will 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 law will codify present cybersecurity requirements established by the BPU and strengthen protections of our water resources by extending these requirements to all water suppliers."

Lampitt, Vainieri Huttle, Benson & Wimberly Bill to Uphold Right of Service Dog Access for People with Disabilities Now Law

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 was recently signed into law.

The new law, which received unanimous approval 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 law (formerly A-4081), known as "Charlie's Law," establishes civil penalties for those who deny individuals with disabilities accompanied by service or guide dogs access to any public facility.

Mazzeo, Lagana, Vainieri Huttle, & Benson Bill to Educate Parents of Prescription Opioid Use Now Law

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 now law.
"The law 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."

Assembly Democratic Bill Establishing State Goal to Reduce Food Waste in NJ Now Law

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 has been signed into law.

"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." 

Assembly Democratic Bill Package to Provide Free Mental Health Services, Extend Certain Benefits to Gold Star Families Now Law

A legislative package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Lou Greenwald, Gordon Johnson, Bruce R. Land, Bob Andrzejczak, Vince Mazzeo, Eric Houghtaling, Dan Benson, Patricia Jones, Raj Mukherji and Joseph Danielsen to provide mental health services and other resources to Gold Star families has been signed into law.

The term "Gold Star" describes a family member who has lost a loved one in military service. A Gold Star Family member is defined to mean a spouse, domestic partner, partner in a civil union, parent, brother, sister, child, legal guardian, or other legal custodian.

"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). "This will provide needed support to navigate the challenges and difficulties they face in the wake of losing a loved one."

Sumter, Jasey, Muoio, Lagana, Downey & Benson HESAA Transparency Measure Now Law

Legislation 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 is now law.

"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 new law will increase transparency under NJCLASS loan programs, better educate families on loan repayment options and requirements and help families understand how much they can realistically handle in student 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 a step toward helping families struggling to send their children to college without saddling them with cumbersome loan debt."

Schaer, Jasey, Benson & Wimberly College Affordability & Preparedness Bill Now Law

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Mila Jasey. Daniel R. Benson and Benjie Wimberly aimed at helping New Jersey residents better navigate the college process has been signed into law.

"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."

DeAngelo, Giblin, Singleton, Holley & Benson Bill to Ask Voters to Support Creation & Expansion of Public Libraries Now Law

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 has been signed into law.

"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."

Science Policy Friday: EoE/Eos - Rare Disease, Even Rarer Insurance Coverage

 

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This article, the first in a two part series, seeks to raise awareness of a rare disease affecting children known as eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE or Eos for short), a chronic disease that causes inflammation in the esophagus. Part two examines how a rare disease like Eos Disorders is either not covered or poorly covered by medical insurance, and recent legislation to address this problem for EoE.  A big thank you to our new science and environment intern Chelsea Mann for research and drafting this article.

Inflammation is a term regularly associated with common health complications. It is the most likely reason you experience joint pain after a morning run and the reason you miss work after developing bronchitis. While such complications may temporarily interfere with our daily lives, treatment options for inflammation are usually easily accessible and efficient. But for some people—especially children—inflammation can be a serious condition, particularly when this immune response prevents them from eating regular foods to obtain their basic nutrition.   

Imagine an inflammatory disease that closes your throat, prohibits the consumption of food, and cannot be treated with simple medications. This type of inflammation is caused by eosinophils (white blood cells) in response to allergies. White blood cells are typically helpful, but high quantities of white blood cells in areas other than the blood and intestinal tract can cause major issues. While we often take it for granted, the esophagus is a critical organ. It is the body’s digestive highway and transports food from the mouth and throat to your stomach. The inflammatory response that is triggered by an elevation of white blood cells in people with Eos disorders creates a roadblock on this digestive highway, disrupting crucial function and making it near impossible to safely consume and digest food.

Eosinophilic esophagitis largely affects infants and children. According to most medical descriptions of EoE, the symptoms include nausea, regurgitation, vomiting, abdominal pain and reflux. While rare, eosinophilic esophagitis is one of the most prevalent esophageal diseases and causes of dysphagia or difficulty swallowing, and food being impacted in the esophagus. It is a parent’s worst nightmare to have a child with the potential to choke every time he or she eats, while also being deprived of the basic nutrients he or she needs to live and thrive.  Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s webpage on the disease provides more detailed information about the signs and symptoms of eosinophilic esophagitis in infants and children.