News

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.

Benson, Mukherji, Muoio, Holley, Sumter, Downey, Lampitt, Oliver, Danielsen & Wimberly Bill to Protect NJ Public Safety Officers Now Law

Legislation Assembly Democrats Daniel R. Benson, Raj Mukherji, Elizabeth Muoio, Jamel Holley, Shavonda Sumter, Joann Downey, Pamela Lampitt, Sheila Oliver, Joe Danielsen and Benjie Wimberly sponsored to support workers who are attacked while supervising inmates or detainees is now law.

Under previous law, a corrections officer or juvenile detention officer who was seriously injured after a prison inmate attack and could not work would not receive any salary while waiting for workers' compensation to take effect, which could take several months.

A recent rise in attacks on corrections officers highlighted the need to address this gap in state statute, the sponsors noted.

Assembly Democratic Bill Package Targeting Homelessness in New Jersey Clears Assembly

The full Assembly on Thursday approved an expansive six-bill package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Daniel Benson, Elizabeth Maher Muoio, Raj Mukherji, Troy Singleton, Nicholas Chiaravalloti and Patricia Egan Jones designed to reduce homelessness and help New Jersey residents get back on their feet.

"The descent into homelessness can happen rapidly for a number of reasons, but one thing we've learned is that the climb out can be arduous to near-impossible without a helping hand," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "We've spent nearly the last six months examining the issue to find ways that we can maximize state resources so that they have a real and transformative impact on the lives of homeless residents in our state. Cumulatively, these bills tackle the most pervasive factors that lead to or perpetuate homelessness."

Andrzejczak, Land, Benson, Holley & Mukherji Measure to Strengthen Animal Cruelty Laws Clears Assembly

Legislation Assembly Democrats Bob Andrzejczak, Bruce Land, Daniel R. Benson, Jamel Holley and Raj Mukherji sponsored to require animal abusers to pay the cost for caring for the animals they harmed gained Assembly approval on Thursday.
The bill (A-772) would provide for the cost of care for animals involved in animal cruelty violations and establish a procedure for the alleged violator to pay for the care. 
"The abusive treatment of animals is plain cowardice," said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/ Atlantic/Cumberland). "Individuals who commit such acts should and will be held accountable for their actions. It's time to strengthen New Jersey statutes and make perpetrators pay for their unspeakable mistreatment of animals."

Taliaferro, Eustace, Benson & Mazzeo Legislation to Ban 'Flakka' Possession Clears Legislature, Heads to Gov

 Legislation Assembly Democrats Adam Taliaferro, Tim Eustace, Daniel Benson and Vince Mazzeo sponsored to help curb the use of a street drug often associated with violent and self-destructive behavior was approved by the full Senate, 39-0, on Monday. 

The bill (A-2176) would criminalize the possession, distribution, manufacture and sale of the drug alpha-pyrrolidinopentiophenone (alpha-PVP), an inexpensive synthetic drug commonly referred to as "flakka" or "flocka." The measure adds the drug to an existing list of similar prohibited controlled substances that includes the family of synthetic cathinones known as "bath salts."

"Flakka has been linked to a number of psychotic symptoms and violent attacks, threatening the safety of communities across the nation," said Taliaferro (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). "With this legislation, New Jersey will be proactive about preventing this dangerous drug from taking over in our state." 

Under the bill, possessing, distributing, manufacturing or selling one ounce or more of the drug would be a crime of the second degree. A crime of the second degree is punishable by imprisonment for a term of five to 10 years, a fine of up to $150,000 or both. Possessing, distributing, manufacturing or selling less than one ounce would be a crime of the third degree, punishable by imprisonment for a term of three to five years, a fine of up to $15,000 or both.