Press Releases

Benson, Vainieri Huttle, Mazzeo, Mukherji, Downey & Wimberly Opioid Antidote Bill Clears Legislature

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Vince Mazzeo, Raj Mukherji, Joann Downey and Benjie Wimberly to ensure that opioid antidotes are available to help prevent overdoses was approved by the full Senate, 38-0, on Thursday. 

The bill (A-2334) would expand public access to opioid antidotes, such as naloxone hydrochloride, by amending the provisions of the "Overdose Prevention Act" (OPA) in order to allow pharmacists to dispense naloxone to any person, without a prescription, pursuant to a standing order issued by a prescriber or, upon request by the pharmacist, pursuant to a standing order issued by the Commissioner of Health or the Deputy Commissioner for Public Health Services.

"This bill takes a different approach in permitting individual pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a prescription, pursuant to a standing order issued by the Department of Health," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "Ultimately, this means the possibility of more lives saved if a pharmacist doesn't have to obtain an individual order from a physician each time."

Eustace, Zwicker, Vainieri Huttle, Gusciora, Kennedy & Benson Bill to Require NJ's Full Participation in RGGI Clears Assembly

Legislation Assembly Democrats Tim Eustace, Andrew Zwicker, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Reed Gusciora, James Kennedy and Daniel Benson sponsored to require New Jersey's full participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative gained General Assembly approval on Monday. 

The bill (A-4701) would require the state's full participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cooperative effort among nine states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Gov. Chris Christie withdrew from the program early in his first term.

"From the very beginning, we believed that entering into agreements with other states would further the purposes of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and the Global Warming Response Act," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "The governor's withdrawal from RGGI blatantly disregarded the importance of our participation in RGGI to reducing greenhouse gas emission in our state. A return to the RGGI pact with full participation will get New Jersey back on the right environmental track."

Assembly Democratic Bill to Promote Equal Pay for Women Approved by Assembly

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 approved Monday by the full Assembly.

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 Democratic Bill Establishing State Goal to Reduce Food Waste in NJ Clears Assembly Panel

 An Assembly panel released on Thursday legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Annette Quijano, Tim Eustace, James Kennedy, Dan Benson, Elizabeth Muoio and Andrew Zwicker to establish a statewide food waste reduction goal of fifty percent by 2030. 

"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 land fill, 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, than just tossing it in a landfill." 

Chaparro, Vainieri Huttle, Benson, Jimenez, Mukherji & Downey Bill to Establish Alert System for Hit-and-Runs Advances in Senate

Legislation Assembly Democrats Annette Chaparro, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Daniel R. Benson, Angelica Jimenez, Raj Mukherji and Joann Downey sponsored to establish an emergency alert system to help more quickly apprehend drivers responsible for fatal hit-and-run accidents was released on Thursday by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee. 

The legislation commemorates the life of Zackhary Simmons, a 21-year-old man who died in Hoboken in June after being hit by a vehicle that subsequently left the scene.

"I hope this bill reminds drivers thinking of fleeing an accident that the whole state will be looking for you, and you will be caught," said Chaparro (D-Hudson). "I want to thank the Simmons family for working so hard on this bill and sharing their time and inspiring this legislation to honor Zack and encourage other drivers to stop and help an injured person instead of cowardly fleeing a scene."

Vainieri Huttle-led Bill Package Targeting Homelessness in New Jersey Gains Assembly Panel Approval

The Assembly Human Services Committee on Thursday approved an expansive seven-bill package - spearheaded by Committee Chair Valerie Vainieri Huttle and sponsored by Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson, Elizabeth Maher Muoio and Raj Mukherji - designed to reduce homelessness and help New Jersey residents get back on their feet.

In December, Vainieri Huttle and members of her committee visited the Bergen County Housing, Health and Human Services Center, which provides a 24/7, year-round continuum of housing services designed to abate homelessness. Following the visit, the committee held a special hearing to receive testimony on current state programs designed to target homelessness, as well as effective, new strategies that could be implemented to further prevent and reduce homelessness in New Jersey. The majority of the bills approved today were born out of these efforts.

Benson, Eustace & DeAngelo Bill to Provide Tax Credit for Use of Smart Thermostats Clears Assembly Committee

The Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee approved legislation on Thursday sponsored by Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson, Tim Eustace and Wayne DeAngelo to provide gross income tax credit for purchasing and installation costs of smart thermostats. 

The bill (A-4740) would provide a gross income tax credit of 50 percent of the cost of purchase and installation of a smart thermostat in a residential property, not to exceed $250. The tax credit would be funded through the societal benefits charge, commonly referred to as the "Clean Energy Fund." 

Mazzeo, Lagana, Vainieri Huttle, & Benson Bill to Educate Parents of Prescription Opioid Use Advanced by Senate Panel

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Vincent Mazzeo, Joseph Lagana, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, and Daniel Benson to require the state Department of Education to develop educational fact sheet for distribution to parents of student-athletes and cheerleaders concerning use and misuse of prescription opioids was advanced Thursday by the Senate Education Committee.
"The bill 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." 

Green, Benson, Moriarty, Mukherji & Pintor Marin Bill to Establish Penalties for Pyramid Scheme Participation Now Law

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Jerry Green, Daniel R. Benson, Paul Moriarty, Raj Mukherji and Eliana Pintor Marin to establish criminal penalties for promoting or participating in a pyramid scheme has been signed into law. 

"Pyramid schemes make victims out of vulnerable people who often are just looking for a way to make ends meet," said Green (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). "Individuals who understand that an enterprise is a pyramid scheme and still choose to participate ought to face serious consequences."

Eustace, Benson, DeAngelo & McKeon Legislation to Advance Energy Efficiency, Environmental Sustainability in N.J. Clears Assembly Panel

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Tim Eustace, Daniel Benson, Wayne DeAngelo and John McKeon to promote energy efficiency and environmental sustainability throughout New Jersey was approved on Thursday by the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities 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). "By facilitating the efficient delivery of power to New Jersey residents, this bill will help advance our energy policy and encourage solar panel installation among building owners."

Mazzeo, Andrzejczak, Mukherji, Moriarty, Benson, Danielsen & Houghtaling Bill to Boost Care for 'Wounded Warriors' Now Law

Legislation Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo, Bob Andrzejczak, Raj Mukherji, Paul Moriarty, Daniel Benson, Joseph Danielsen and Eric Houghtaling sponsored to boost assistance for "wounded warriors" and their caregivers, an ever-growing demographic that faces unique challenges in the post-9/11 era, is now law.

The lawmakers were inspired by a 2014 RAND Corporation study that included 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 caregiving services to wounded veterans. Meanwhile, the study found that 53 percent of post-9/11 voluntary caregivers have no support network. 

Benson, Muoio & Gusciora Bill to Enable Katzenbach School for the Deaf to Continue Driver’s Ed Instruction Becomes Law

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson, Elizabeth Maher Muoio and Reed Gusciora to enable the Katzenbach School for the Deaf to continue offering driver's education for students was signed into law on Thursday.

The new law will permit the Ewing-based Katzenbach School for the Deaf to make use of a car donated to its driver's education program. Since 1951, Katzenbach has provided drivers education for hearing-impaired students, with cars typically donated to the program from car dealerships and later from the state's fleet. When the last car ceased being operational, Katzenbach's board of directors decided to purchase a used car and donate it to the state motor pool for exclusive use by Katzenbach. However, the school was then informed that because of technicalities the car could not be covered by state insurance.

Greenwald & Benson Bill to Study Reliability of Drug Evidence Testing Clears Assembly Committee

Legislation Assembly Majority Leader Louis D. Greenwald and Assemblyman Daniel Benson sponsored to require the New Jersey State Police to study the methods law enforcement officers use to collect evidence related to drug crimes was advanced by an Assembly committee on Thursday.

The legislation follows a July 2016 New York Times Magazine article that highlighted cases of innocent people convicted of drug crimes due to inaccurate field drug tests.

"The notion that men and women may be going to prison for crimes they did not commit should disturb everyone in New Jersey," said Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington). "Collecting and analyzing data on field testing will allow the state to determine whether there's a problem and, if necessary, to come up with a solution."

Lampitt, Vainieri Huttle, Benson Bill to Ensure Chronically Ill Patients Continue to Receive Coverage for Critical Medications Advances in Assembly

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, and Daniel Benson to require health insurance carriers to provide continued coverage of prescription drugs for covered persons diagnosed with a complex or chronic medical condition or a rare disease was approved by an Assembly panel on Thursday.

The bill (A-4205) defines "complex or chronic medical condition" as a physical, behavioral, or developmental condition that does not have a known cure or that can be severely debilitating or fatal if left untreated or undertreated. "Rare disease" is defined under the bill as any disease or condition that affects less than 200,000 persons in the United States.

Quijano, Benson, Muoio, Caride, Vainieri Huttle, McKnight, Wimberly & Sumter Bill to Reimburse School Districts for Lead Testing Signed into Law

Legislation Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Daniel Benson, Elizabeth Muoio, Marlene Caride, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Angela McKnight, Benjie Wimberly and Shavonda Sumter sponsored to reimburse school districts and nonpublic schools for the cost of testing school drinking water for lead has been signed into law.
"Lead testing is critical to maintaining a healthy school environment," said Quijano (D-Union). "In the last year, many schools have had to perform more comprehensive tests for lead, which was not originally calculated in their budget. The state should provide additional funding support for lead testing to help our schools in this time of need."

Vainieri Huttle, Benson, Lampitt, Johnson, McKnight & Sumter Bill to Guard Against Loss of Health Care Services for the Most Vulnerable Becomes Law

Legislation Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Daniel Benson, Pamela Lampitt, Gordon Johnson, Angela McKnight and Shavonda Sumter sponsored to ensure that the state does not recklessly limit access to health care treatment by changing the way it pays treatment service providers was signed into law on Thursday.

The new law (A-4146) was prompted by the state's decision to begin transitioning most community-based health care treatment services from the traditionally-used cost reimbursement system to a fee-for-service reimbursement system this past summer. The Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services plans to require all providers to complete the transition by July 2017, while the Division of Developmental Disabilities is transitioning providers in a more gradual fashion.

Benson Signals Willingness to Work with Christie Admin on Compromise to Ensure Corrections Officers Hurt in Line of Duty Continue to Receive Fair Compensation

Assemblyman Daniel Benson on Wednesday weighed in on Gov. Christie's conditional veto this week of legislation he sponsored that would ensure certain public employees continue to receive fair compensation after being forced out of work due to injuries from being attacked while supervising inmates or detainees.

The legislation (S-596/A-3422), which received nearly unanimous approval from both houses of the legislature, would have established a compensation program similar to police officers that would allow state corrections officers, juvenile corrections officers, juvenile detention officers, parole officers and probation officers who suffer bodily injury as the result of an attack by inmates, detainees or other under their supervision to continue to receive full wages until they begin receiving workers' compensation payments.

Downey, Houghtaling, Benson & Mukherji Measure to Protect Sanitation Workers via 'Move Over' Law Now Law

Legislation Assembly Democrats Joann Downey, Eric Houghtaling, Daniel Benson and Raj Mukherji sponsored to protect New Jersey's sanitation workers was signed into law on Monday.

The bill follows the death of Freehold resident Michael Massey, an Ocean Township Public Works employee, who was killed in a 2013 motor vehicle crash while working. The sponsors note that requiring motorists to make a lane change or reduce their speed in the presence of a sanitation vehicle can help prevent similar incidents in the future.

Andrzejczak, Mazzeo, Land, Tucker & Benson Bill to Create Veterans Diversion Becomes Law

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Bob Andrzejczak, Vince Mazzeo, Bruce R. Land, Cleopatra Tucker and Dan Benson to create a Veterans Diversion Program to divert eligible servicemembers away from criminal justice system and into appropriate case management and mental health services was signed into law on Monday. 

According to Justice for Vets, one in five veterans has symptoms of a mental health disorder or cognitive impairment, and one in six veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom suffer from a substance abuse issue. The sponsors believe treatment would better serve these veterans and the public by reducing the likelihood of recidivism.

Johnson, Benson & Mukherji Bill Requiring Disclosure of Money Spent by State & Local Governments on Lobbying Activities Now Law

 Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gordon Johnson, Daniel Benson and Raj Mukherji to improve transparency by requiring lobbyists to disclose the money they receive from state and local government entities to lobby any government agency has been signed into law.

The sponsors noted that a 2009 Comptroller report found that state government entities spent close to $4 million on lobbying firms to lobby state government. 

"We have very detailed lobbying disclosure requirements, but when it comes to this relatively newer and growing practice of government entities hiring lobbyists to further their agendas with other government agencies, we need to improve transparency," said Johnson (D-Bergen). "Taxpayers deserve to know where and how their money is being spent."

Greenwald, Lampitt, Benson, Caride & Chiaravalloti Bill to Help Increase Mobility for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder Becomes Law

Legislation sponsored by Majority Leader Louis Greenwald and Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Daniel Benson, Marlene Caride and Nicholas Chiaravalloti to help better meet the transportation needs of New Jersey residents with developmental disabilities was signed into law on Monday.

The new law (S-1825/A-3432) establishes the "New Jersey Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder Mobility and Support Services Task Force," an 11-member task force to study and make recommendations concerning the mobility and support services needs of New Jersey adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The task force will hold at least three public hearings concerning barriers adults with ASD face in using New Jersey's transportation infrastructure and in accessing other basic services in the state.

Assembly Democratic Bill Providing Broad Assistance to Gold Star Families Signed into Law

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald and Assembly Democrats Bruce Land, Gordon Johnson, Vince Mazzeo, Bob Andrzejczak, Eric Houghtaling and Daniel Benson to provide an array of online assistance for Gold Star families was signed into law on Monday.

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.

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

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 cleared the Senate Environment and Energy Committee on Monday.

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."

Wimberly, Jasey, Benson & Moriarty 'Reader Privacy Act' To Upgrade NJ Reader Privacy Laws Clears Assembly

Legislation Assembly Democrats Benjie E. Wimberly, Mila Jasey, Daniel R. Benson and Paul Moriarty sponsored to place purchases of books and electronic books under similar protections as library records by expanding New Jersey's law on reader privacy recently was approved by the General Assembly.

The sponsors note that the invention of digital books and e-readers has raised questions around the country about privacy and broadening protections to include these new literary mediums. California and Arizona enacted similar legislation in 2011 extending library privacy laws to include digital book records.

Singleton, Vainieri Huttle, Downey, Mosquera, Lampitt & Benson Bill to Boost Domestic Violence Training at Local Level Advances

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Joann Downey, Gabriela Mosquera, Pamela Lampitt and Daniel Benson to enhance domestic violence training at the local level gained unanimous approval Thursday from the full Assembly.

The bill (A-2185) would establish mandatory domestic violence training for municipal prosecutors. 

"We've come a long way from the days when domestic violence was viewed as just a 'family problem,'" said Singleton (D-Burlington). "Heightened awareness and training throughout the law enforcement community has actually helped increase prosecution rates against offenders. Taking domestic violence training to the next level with a coordinated approach among all facets of law enforcement will help us protect even more women and families."

Eustace, Zwicker, Benson & Mazzeo Legislation Urging Resident Participation in "Earth Hour 2017" Approved by Assembly

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrat Timothy Eustace, Andrew Zwicker, Daniel Benson and Vincent Mazzeo to encourage resident participation in Earth Hour, a worldwide movement to raise awareness of the effects of climate change was approved by the full Assembly, 62-9-1, on Thursday.

Specifically, the Assembly Resolution urges statewide participation in Earth Hour 2017, an annual event sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund, during which people from all walks of life, in communities large and small, dim their lights for one hour in order to "cast a vote in favor of action" to combat climate change. 

Assembly Signs Off on McKeon, Quijano, Benson, Houghtaling & Downey Bill Barring Public Agencies from Settling Whistleblower Suits Confidentially

The General Assembly on Thursday unanimously approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John McKeon, Annette Quijano, Daniel Benson, Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey that would bar public entities from entering into confidential settlements of whistleblower lawsuits with public employees and mandate that such settlements are part of open public records.

McKeon first introduced the bill in response to the settlement reached with former Hunterdon County Assistant Prosecutor Bennett Barlyn, who testified extensively on the bill during a hearing this week before McKeon's Judiciary Committee. Barlyn filed a lawsuit against the state in 2012 alleging he had been fired in 2010 after complaining to a superior that an indictment brought by the Hunterdon County Prosecutor's Office had been dismissed by then Attorney General Paula Dow for political reasons. 

Benson, Vainieri Huttle, Mazzeo, Mukherji, Downey & Wimberly Opioid Antidote Bill Gains Assembly Approval

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Vince Mazzeo, Raj Mukherji, Joann Downey and Benjie Wimberly to ensure that opioid antidotes are available to help prevent overdoses was approved unanimously by the full Assembly on Thursday.

The bill (A-2334) would expand public access to opioid antidotes, such as naloxone hydrochloride, by amending the provisions of the "Overdose Prevention Act" (OPA) in order to allow pharmacists to dispense naloxone to any person, without a prescription, pursuant to a standing order issued by a prescriber or, upon request by the pharmacist, pursuant to a standing order issued by the Commissioner of Health or the Deputy Commissioner for Public Health Services.

Mazzeo, Lagana, Andrzejczak, Zwicker, Land, Benson & Downey Bill to Require Schools to Maintain Narcan Supply Clears Panel

Legislation Assembly Democrats Vince Mazzeo, Joseph Lagana, Bob Andrzejczak, Andrew Zwicker, Bruce Land, Daniel Benson and Joann Downey sponsored to require schools to maintain a supply of an opioid antidote was advanced Monday by an Assembly committee.

The bill (A-4177) would require high schools to maintain a supply of naloxone hydrochloride, such as Narcan or a similar opioid antidote, and permit the school nurse to administer the antidote to a student or staff member who is experiencing an overdose. The board of education may designate additional employees who may be trained and authorized to administer the antidote in the absence of the nurse.

McKeon, Quijano, Benson, Houghtaling & Downey Bill Barring Public Entities from Entering into Confidential Lawsuit Settlements Advances

An Assembly panel on Monday unanimously approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John McKeon, Annette Quijano, Daniel Benson, Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey that would bar public entities from entering into confidential settlements of whistleblower lawsuits with public employees and mandate that such settlements are part of open public records.

McKeon first introduced the bill in response to the settlement reached with former Hunterdon County Assistant Prosecutor Bennett Barlyn, who testified extensively on the bill during today's hearing. Archived audio from today's hearing will be posted here after the hearing concludes, with Barlyn's testimony beginning around the 20 minute mark.