Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrat Daniel Benson and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to revise and strengthen New Jersey law on animal cruelty was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Monday. The bill 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"New Jersey cannot continue to rely on an outdated law and state level organization that has failed to protect animals and their owners from harm," said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex).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."
Legislation Assembly Democrats Daniel R. Benson and Annette Quijano sponsored 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 was advanced Monday by an Assembly panel. 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.
An Assembly panel on Monday approved a measure sponsored by Speaker-elect Craig Coughlin, Assemblyman Dan Benson and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle to help fight the state's opioid epidemic.
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."
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 approved 38-0 Thursday by the Senate, giving it final legislative approval. "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 bill will do."
Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Daniel Benson, Jamel Holley, Joe Danielsen and Wayne DeAngelo to ensure hospital staff is well-informed to deliver proper care and oversight for patients suffering from Alzheimer's and dementia was approved by the General Assembly on Thursday, 70-0.
The bill (A-918) would require hospitals to clearly note on a patient's medical records whether they have dementia-related disorders.
"From supervising my mother's health needs for years, I understand the unique level of care that Alzheimer's patients require," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "This simple annotation will alert hospital staff to be more vigilant in their oversight of patients suffering from Alzheimer's, dementia or other related conditions."
"This is in everyone's best interests," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "Dementia and Alzheimer's patients and their family deserve the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the hospital is uniquely attuned to the needs of their loved one."
Legislation Assembly Democrats John Wisniewski, Angela McKnight, Nicholas Chiaravalloti and Daniel Benson sponsored to make it easier for prosecutors to ensure justice is served in cases of reckless driving was approved 70-1-1 by the full Assembly on Thursday.
The sponsors noted that the 2015 death of Medford resident Eileen Marmino, a special education teacher and mother of two who died in a crash while riding her bicycle, was the impetus for the legislation. Although the driver had swerved into the bike lane and killed Marmino, the penalty was a considered a traffic violation punishable by a mere $300 fine and no jail time.
"Drivers have a responsibility to focus on the road and stay in their lane while behind the wheel," said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). "If a motorist isn't paying attention and ultimately causes someone's death, the prosecutor ought to be able to ensure that the motorist faces serious consequences."
The Assembly on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson, Tim Eustace and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to close a dangerous opioid prescription loophole. Specifically, the bill (A-4741) require practitioners to check prescription monitoring information before issuing certain prescriptions to emergency department patients and authorize medical scribes and licensed athletic trainers to access prescription monitoring information under certain circumstances. "We've made great strides to reduce the availability of opioids when appropriate to limit the potential for addiction, but there's clearly more that needs to be done." said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "This bill will close a dangerous loophole that can be exploited by someone determined to fuel an opioid addiction."
The Assembly on Thursday voted to approve 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. Specifically, the legislation (A-4707) would prohibit 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.
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 Thursday by the Assembly. 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."
Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Dan Benson, Angela McKnight and Benjie Wimberly to ensure that critical public access points for the disabled are not blocked by snow was approved Thursday by the General Assembly.
"Large amounts of snow can hamper most people from getting around. Now imagine that you're disabled and mobility becomes all but impossible if critical public areas aren't plowed or shoveled properly," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "The removal of snow from public roadways, walkways, and other public areas is a critical service during an emergency snow event."
"Snow deposits that obstruct access to ramps, curbs, special parking spaces, and other crucial areas that provide access to people with disabilities create potential health and safety risks and impedes the mobility of many New Jersey residents," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "This bill is designed to ensure that we are more mindful of our fellow neighbors."