Press Releases

Vainieri Huttle, Singleton & Benson Bill to Create Office to Advise on Special Education Matters Clears Panel

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Troy Singleton and Daniel Benson to help protect the rights of students with disabilities was advanced by an Assembly panel on Thursday. 

The bill (A-1103) would establish the Office of the Special Education Ombudsman in the Department of Education. The office would serve as a resource to provide confidential information and support to parents, students and educators regarding special education rights and services.

"Parents of students with disabilities often don't know where to turn when they have a question or concern about their child's education, and so they find it more difficult to advocate on their behalf," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Creating an office dedicated to informing and advising parents, students and school staff on special education issues will help ensure that New Jersey can execute its mission of providing all students with a quality education." 

Mainor, Benson, Wimberly, Wilson, Sumter & Lagana Bill to Boost Penalties for Drunk Driving with a Minor Continues Moving Forward

Assembly approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Charles Mainor, Daniel Benson, Benjie Wimberly, Whip Wilson, Shavonda Sumter and Joseph Lagana to increase the penalties for driving drunk with a minor as a passenger continued to advance on Thursday.
Under the bill (A-825), a parent or guardian convicted of drunk driving with a minor as a passenger would be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree, punishable by imprisonment of up to 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000 or both, if the violation results in bodily injury to the minor. Drunk driving with a minor currently is considered a disorderly persons offense, punishable by imprisonment of up to six months, a fine of up to $1,000 or both.

Mazzeo, Benson & Moriarty Bill to Honor Parents of Fallen Heroes Gains Approval of Assembly Committee

Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo, Daniel Benson and Paul Moriarty to honor the parents and guardians of fallen members of the armed forces was advanced by an Assembly panel on Thursday.

The bill (A-3727), to be known as the "County Identification Cards for Gold Star Parents Act," would permit county clerks or registers of deeds and mortgages to create a Gold Star Parent identification card. The card would serve to identify the holder as the parent or guardian of a member of the armed forces who died while on active duty and prove eligibility to receive any applicable discounts or other courtesies extended to military families. 

Vainieri Huttle & Benson Bill to Delete Pejorative Language References to Disabled in State Law Clears Assembly Panel

An Assembly panel approved legislation on Thursday sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Daniel Benson to remove language in state law referring to a person with developmental, cognitive, or psychiatric disabilities. 

"State law must reflect proper language use and be respectful to all communities," said Vainieri Huttle (D- Bergen). "Language plays an important role in how individuals see themselves and others. By removing antiquated and offensive terms from our statutes we are fighting the stigma long associated with mental health and physical challenges."

Eustace, Spencer, Lampitt & Benson Aim to Help State Facilities Go Green

Legislation Assembly Democrats Tim Eustace, L. Grace Spencer, Pamela Lampitt and Daniel Benson sponsored to help New Jersey "go green" by maximizing the environmental sustainability of state offices was advanced Monday by an Assembly panel.
Specifically, the bill (A-4047) would create an Office of Sustainability in the Department of the Treasury that would be responsible for developing and implementing environmental sustainability measures in all state buildings and coordinating with the owners of property in which state agencies are located in an effort to implement environmental sustainability practices in those buildings. 
"Pursuing sustainability, and the healthier, non-toxic, energy efficient products that go along with it, will ultimately improve the quality of life for everyone throughout New Jersey," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "This approach should also be embraced as a responsible economic tool given the cost savings associated with sustainable materials. This is a sound, long-term investment for our future."

Assembly Democratic Legislation to Spur Creation of Small Businesses Continues Advancing in Assembly

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Tim Eustace, Gabriela Mosquera, Shavonda Sumter, Daniel Benson, Annette Quijano and Benjie Wimberly to help spur the creation of small businesses and empower individuals with the tools to become self-sustaining entrepreneurs was approved on Monday by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Specifically, the bill (A-953) would provide funding, training and assistance to help support "microenterprises," which are commercial enterprises that have five or fewer employees, one or more of whom owns the business.

"Roughly nine out of 10 businesses in the U.S. are microbusinesses these days, making it critical that we invest in this sector in order to boost our lagging economy," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "Not only will this spur job creation, it will also empower individuals to invest in their communities and help spark wholesale revitalizations."

Mosquera, Greenwald, Lagana, Benson, Lampitt & Vainieri Huttle Bill to Protect Domestic Violence Victims from Gun Violence Clears Assembly Panel

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gabriela Mosquera, Lou Greenwald, Joseph Lagana, Dan Benson, Pamela Lampitt and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to strengthen New Jersey's gun laws and protect victims of domestic violence from gun violence was released Monday by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

"For victims and their children, domestic violence turns a chance to live the American Dream into a horrific nightmare. I know, because I've lived that nightmare," said Mosquera (D-Gloucester/Camden). "Too many victims are killed at the hands of abusers who have easy access to firearms, before they ever have a chance to get out. This legislation will change that - strengthening our gun violence laws in order to protect victims of domestic violence."

Singleton, Mosquera & Benson Sponsored 'Lisa's Law' to Electronically Monitor Domestic Violence Offenders Advances out of Committee

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Gabriela Mosquera and Daniel Benson that would establish a pilot program for the electronic monitoring of domestic violence offenders in New Jersey was released Monday by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

"Under our current system, it is far too easy for domestic violence offenders to get close to their victims again after an initial attack has occurred," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "It is a recipe for tragedy and is, frankly, unacceptable. Letting domestic violence victims literally see when trouble is heading their way will help them stay one step ahead of attackers hell bent on becoming repeat offenders." 

On August 13, 2009, Letizia "Lisa" Zindell, of Toms River was murdered by her former fiancée, Frank Frisco, who then killed himself. The murder-suicide attack occurred just one day after Frisco was released from jail for violating a restraining order that Ms. Zindell had filed against him.

Lampitt, Greenwald, Vainieri Huttle, Benson & Mazzeo Bill to Create Tax-Free Savings Accounts for Individuals with Disabilities Advanced by Assembly Panel

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Daniel Benson and Vince Mazzeo to create tax-free savings accounts for individuals with developmental disabilities was advanced by an Assembly panel on Monday.

The bill (A-3956) would establish the "Achieving a Better Life Experience" (ABLE) program within the Division of Developmental Disabilities in the Department of Human Services in accordance with the federal "Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014," which President Obama signed into law in December 2014.

"The goal of this law is to ease the financial strains faced by individuals with disabilities by making tax-free savings accounts available to cover many day-to-day expenses," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). "This is an important tool to help provide financial security throughout their lives."

Assembly Democrat-Sponsored Legislation to Advance Energy Efficiency, Environmental Sustainability in N.J. Advances

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Tim Eustace, L. Grace Spencer, John McKeon and Daniel Benson to promote energy efficiency and environmental sustainability throughout New Jersey was approved on Monday by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. 

"Every day, people statewide depend on having safe, reliable energy for everything from lighting rooms to engaging in personal and professional communication to heating and cooling their homes," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic), is a sponsor of both bills. "By facilitating the efficient delivery of power to New Jersey residents, these bills will help advance our energy policy and keep the state running smoothly."

The first bill (A-4180) would direct the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to establish a microgrid pilot program. The program would ensure that critical public and private facilities have the means to continue operating during a federally-declared disaster or state of emergency. 

Assembly Approves Conaway, Benson & Pinkin Bill to Allow Residents to Text 911

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Herb Conaway, Daniel Benson and Nancy Pinkin to enable residents to text 911 in an emergency was approved Thursday by the Assembly. 

The sponsors said the ability to text 911 will be a vital service for New Jersey residents with communication disabilities and in emergencies where an individual is unable to talk or must be discrete. 

"Some emergency situations require a less obvious call for help," said Conaway (D-Burlington). "It can be especially vital in domestic violence situations, or situations involving children and seniors. Expanding existing law to include the option to text 911 will protect more residents in more emergency situations." 

Benson, Vainieri Huttle, Jasey, Tucker & Wimberly Bill to Train School Bus Drivers/Aides who Transport Children with Special Needs Continues Advancing

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Mila Jasey, Cleopatra Tucker and Benjie Wimberly to prevent accidental mistreatment of students with special needs by creating a training program for school bus drivers and aides continues to advance in the legislature. The Senate Education Committee approved the measure on Thursday and now awaits consideration from the full Senate. 

"Children with special needs require specialized attention and care. Bus drivers and aides should be aware of behaviors associated with certain disabilities, and know how to effectively deal with them so to avoid any confusion and accidental mistreatment of these students," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "It makes their job easier and ensures that these students are being treated with the respect they deserve."

Jasey, Benson, Vainieri Huttle & McKeon Bill to Study Benefits of Later Start Time for Schools Gets Final Legislative OK

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Mila Jasey, Dan Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and John McKeon to study the merits of pushing back the start time for middle schools and high schools in New Jersey was approved 73-0 Thursday by the Assembly, giving it final legislative approval.

The study would look into what it would take to make the change, including the recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics that middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later to better align school schedules to the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty.

"The majority of adolescents in this country are not getting enough sleep. This can have serious consequences on their health and their grades," said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). "Resetting the school day would not be easy or simple, but given what we now know about the effects of sleep deprivation on the adolescent brain, to not even consider it as a possibility does our students a disservice. This bill is a good first step in determining whether changing the school start time makes sense for our students."

Assembly Approves Andrzejczak, Benson & Wilson Bill to Encourage Students to Honor & Assist Veterans and Active Duty Military

Legislation Assemblymen Bob Andrzejczak, Daniel Benson and Gilbert "Whip" Wilson sponsored to encourage students to honor and assist veterans and active duty military members was unanimously approved by the full Assembly on Thursday.

The bill (A-4148) would provide an excused absence on Veterans Day for any student who participates in activities for veterans or active duty members. Activities could include attending a ceremony honoring a veteran or active member returning from overseas deployment, or assisting a veteran at a hospital or food shelter.

"Attending a ceremony honoring a veteran or active duty member, or helping a veteran at a hospital or food shelter, has immeasurable educational value," said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland), who was a sergeant in the U.S. Army and was injured during a deployment to Iraq. "Students can learn tremendously from our veterans and active duty members, all of whom have so much to teach about service to our nation, personal commitment or history, among the many, many possibilities."

Assembly Approves Eustace, Spencer & Benson Bill Requiring New State Buildings to Include Renewable, Sustainable Energy Features

By a vote of 56-14-4, the full Assembly on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Tim Eustace, L. Grace Spencer and Daniel Benson to require certain new state government buildings to be constructed with renewable or sustainable energy features. 

Specifically, the bill (A-4261) requires any new building having at least 15,000 square feet in total floor area that is to be constructed for the use of a state governmental entity to include a distributed energy resource.

"New state building structures are an opportunity to improve sustainability and energy performance," said Eustace (D-Bergen, Passaic). "When constructing new buildings we must consider environmentally friendly designs and look at maximizing efficiency by reducing operation costs and lessening the environmental impact." 

Assembly OKs Mainor, Benson, Wimberly, Wilson, Sumter & Lagana Bill to Boost Penalties for Drunk Driving with a Minor

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Charles Mainor, Daniel Benson, Benjie Wimberly, Whip Wilson, Shavonda Sumter and Joseph Lagana to increase the penalties for driving drunk with a minor as a passenger cleared the Assembly 71-1-1 on Thursday.

Under the bill (A-825), a parent or guardian convicted of drunk driving with a minor as a passenger would be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree, punishable by imprisonment of up to 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000 or both, if the violation results in bodily injury to the minor. Drunk driving with a minor currently is considered a disorderly persons offense, punishable by imprisonment of up to six months, a fine of up to $1,000 or both.

"Driving drunk is irresponsible in any circumstance, but it's even more offensive to do so with a child in the vehicle," said Mainor (D-Hudson), chair of the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee. "A disorderly persons offense is not enough for driving drunk with a minor. We need to send a stronger message that we find such dangerous behavior completely unacceptable."

Vainieri Huttle, Mosquera, McKeon, Benson & Sumter 'Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015' Continues Advancing

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Gabriela Mosquera, John McKeon, Daniel Benson and Shavonda Sumter to allow more victims of sexual assault to seek protective orders against their perpetrators was approved earlier this week by a Senate panel.

"Simply seeing an abuser - whether he or she is a new acquaintance or an old friend - forces many sexual assault survivors to relive the trauma of having been violated, and current law says they have no option but to suffer in silence," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Every person in this state has a right to feel safe while going about his or her daily life. With this bill, we reaffirm our commitment to the notion that all residents of New Jersey should be able to seek the protection they need to live in peace." 

Under current law, in order to pursue a protective order, a victim must have had a previous or existing domestic relationship with the offender, such as a spousal or dating relationship, or must file a criminal complaint against the offender. The bill (A-4078), which would be known as the "Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015," would eliminate these preconditions. 

Gusciora, Wisniewski & Benson Bill to Penalize Unlawful Use of Handicapped Parking Placards Clears Assembly Panel

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Reed Gusciora, John Wisniewski and Daniel Benson to strengthen penalties for unauthorized parking in spaces reserved for persons with disabilities has been advanced by an Assembly panel.

The bill (A-2352) would establish a penalty of up to $500 for unlawfully using a parking placard issued to someone with a disability. 

"Reserving parking spaces for individuals with disabilities is a fundamental element of our state's commitment to ensuring equal opportunity for all of our residents, and preserving the integrity of that commitment requires establishing consequences for abuse," said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). "By discouraging drivers from unlawfully using placards that belong to a friend or relative, this bill will help ensure that the designated spaces are used only by authorized parties."

Benson Disappointed in Supreme Court Ruling, Vows to Continue Fighting for Public Employees

Assemblyman Daniel Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex) expressed his disappointment with Tuesday's Supreme Court pension funding ruling, but vowed to continue working to help shore up the retirement system for hardworking public employees by advocating for making full pension payments.

Lampitt, Conaway, Benson, Sumter, Fuentes & Pinkin Bill to Make Cost-Effective Biological Drug Alternatives More Widely Available Continues Advancing

A Senate panel on Monday continued advancing legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D., Daniel Benson, Shavonda Sumter, Angel Fuentes and Nancy Pinkin to make it easier for consumers to obtain more cost-effective, "generic" versions of biological medicines used to treat conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, anemia, psoriasis and various forms of cancer. 

"The FDA has created a safe pathway to make alternative biological medicines more readily available on the market," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). "If there is a more cost-effective option to treat and cure various illnesses, then by all means we should be helping patients pursue it."

"Substitution of these biologically similar products for their name-brand counterparts at the pharmacy level is expected to reduce cost by increasing competition," said Conaway (D-Burlington). "Ultimately, this will allow more patients to access treatments."

Benson & Johnson Legislation to Create Greater Transparency for State Agency Lobbyists Advances

Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Daniel Benson and Gordon Johnson to create greater oversight and transparency when it comes to lobbyists hired to represent state agencies was approved by an Assembly panel on Thursday.

"This bill is designed to protect taxpayers by guarding against ethical and financial indiscretions," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "These requirements will ensure that lobbyists fully disclose their activities while also putting the onus on government agencies to justify the need to hire a lobbyist so that taxpayer dollars aren't squandered."

Specifically, the bill (A-1003) would require a governmental affairs agent who is retained or engaged to represent a department, division, agency, board, bureau, office, commission, authority, or any other agency of the state or a subdivision, to file a notice with the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) of that representation, as well as quarterly and annual reports on the activities and expenditures specific to that representation. 

Andrzejczak, Benson Bill Encourage Veteran Hiring in School Districts Clears First Legislative Hurdle

Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Bob Andrzejczak and Daniel Benson to promote the hiring of New Jersey military veterans in school districts was advanced by an Assembly panel on Thursday.

"The more we can do to get military veterans back to work and in stable employment the better it will be for New Jersey's military families," said Andrzejczak (Cape May, Atlantic and Cumberland). "Veterans returning home are looking for opportunities to use their skills and hard work ethic to contribute to today's society. This legislation will give veterans an additional path to pursue for employment."

Benson Legislation to Ensure Good Samaritans Receive Free Emergency Medical Transportation Released by Assembly Panel

Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Daniel Benson to ensure that individuals who are hurt while providing assistance during emergencies receive ambulance service free of charge was advanced by an Assembly panel on Thursday.

Quijano, Benson, Fuentes & Lagana Bill to Regulate Drones Gains Panel OK

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Daniel Benson, Angel Fuentes and Joseph Lagana to establish rules and regulations regarding the use of civilian drones was advanced by an Assembly panel on Thursday.

"Our top priority when it comes to drones has to be protecting the safety and wellbeing of all New Jersey residents, and that means taking any suspicious activity whatsoever very seriously," said Quijano (D-Union). "This legislation makes it clear that using drones for the surveillance of sensitive locations cannot be tolerated."

The bill (A-4344) would make it a fourth degree crime to monitor, observe, photograph or electronically record critical infrastructures, including but not limited to those related to transportation, emergency services, power generation and chemical refining, using a privately-owned drone without obtaining prior written consent. A fourth degree crime is punishable by up to 18 months imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000 or both.

Conaway & Benson Bill Requiring Health Insurers to Cover New Abuse-Deterrent Pain Medications Clears Assembly Panel

An Assembly panel on Monday approved legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D. and Daniel Benson requiring health insurers to cover prescription pain relief medications designed to decrease abuse and addiction.

Specifically, the bill (A-4271) would require health insurers to provide health benefits coverage for prescribed abuse-deterrent opioid analgesic drugs.

"As it stands now, deaths from opioid addiction are at epidemic proportions," said Conaway (D-Burlington), a practicing physician. "Pain treatment, similar to other courses of treatment, can have side effects - including the risk of addiction. As a doctor, my goal is to reduce those risks and make the patient well. Removing the cost barrier to abuse-deterrent opiates will increase the prescribing and use of these high-tech drugs, which have significant potential to reduce dependency and overdoses. We as policymakers should be encouraging the widespread use of abuse-deterrent formulations to protect consumers and lower costs to the health care system. That's exactly what this bill achieves."

Benson Bill to Make Homeowners' Associations Subject to Open Public Meetings Act Clears Assembly Panel

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrat Daniel Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex) to require local Homeowner's Associations meetings adhere to the rules and regulations of the Open Public Meetings Act was approved by an Assembly panel on Monday. 

Benson said he introduced the legislation to require newly developed communities that have yet to establish a homeowner's association and of which the developer is currently serving as the executive board to maintain public transparency in all dealings and decisions on behalf of the property.

Benson Condemns BPU’s Approval of Verizon Rate Increase as a Tax Increase on Seniors

Assemblyman Daniel Benson on Tuesday condemned the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) for approving a significant rate increase and the deregulation of Verizon's traditional landline service that will hit New Jersey residents who can least afford it the hardest.

Benson has been the lead sponsor of legislation (A-2459) that would have prevented Verizon from replacing a customer's landline service with wireless service without their consent.

Benson, Moriarty & Wisniewski Bill to Help Prevent Consumers from Getting Roped Into Endless Contracts Clears Assembly

A consumer protection measure sponsored by Assembly Democrats Dan Benson, Paul Moriarty and John Wisniewski was approved by the Assembly on Thursday, moving New Jersey closer to requiring notification to customers when a contract is to be automatically renewed.

"So many highly-used services out there today include automatic renewal clauses in their contracts," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "In an era of paperless billing and automatic charges to credit cards or bank accounts, consumers often get perpetually roped into extended and costly contracts. By requiring these terms to be clearly displayed and advance notice before renewal, this bill will give consumers the opportunity to make more informed choices for themselves."

DeAngelo, Benson, Garcia & Andrzejczak Bill to Honor Veterans with Special License Plates Approved by Assembly

Legislation Assembly Democrats Wayne DeAngelo, Daniel Benson Carmelo Garcia and Sgt. Bob Andrzejczak sponsored to honor veterans by establishing special license plates was approved Thursday by the General Assembly.

"Men and women who have served in our armed forces deserve the opportunity to convey their pride in being veterans," said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "No matter where they go - regardless of whether they're traveling here in New Jersey or out of state - these military plates will be a tribute to their service." 

The bill (A-1485) would allow the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission to issue special license plates to honorably discharged veterans. Applicants would have to present a DD-214 form as evidence of honorable discharge. The bill also would allow surviving spouses of deceased veterans to retain the special license plates for display on vehicles they own or lease. 

Mazzeo, Andrzejczak, Wilson, Mukherji, Moriarty, Benson & Danielsen Bill Package to Boost Care for “Wounded Warriors” Clears Assembly

While decked out in denim on Thursday in support of "Jeans for Troops" Day, the full Assembly unanimously approved a bill package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Vince Mazzeo, Sgt. Bob Andrzejczak, Gilbert "Whip" Wilson, Raj Mukherji, Paul Moriarty, Daniel Benson and Joseph Danielsen to boost assistance for "wounded warriors" and their caregivers, an ever-growing demographic that faces unique challenges in the post-9/11 era.

The lawmakers were inspired by a number of unsettling statistics regarding the care of wounded veterans in the post-9/11 era, most notably that an estimated 1.1 million civilians are providing volunteer care-giving services to wounded veterans. Meanwhile, a Rand Corporation study conducted last March found that 53 percent of post-9/11 voluntary caregivers have no support network and as many as 40 percent do not have their own health care.