Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Tim Eustace, Daniel Benson, Andrew Zwicker and Benjie Wimberly to allow customers connected to hydropower facilities to receive credit on their bills through "virtual" net metering was signed into law this week.
Virtual net metering (VNM) is a bill crediting system in which a customer receives credits on their electric bill for excess energy drawn from a hydropower facility.
"For residents who have invested in a renewable energy source for their homes, this legislation would reduce their utility bill by giving them credit for the excess energy produced," said Eustace (D- Bergen, Passaic). "Virtual net metering allows the customers to keep tabs on how much energy they actually use through alternative energy sources. Because of their investment, residents should see the savings on their utility bills from month to month."
Under the new law (A-2204), a small scale hydropower facility put into service after the effective date with the capacity of 3 MW or less is eligible for net metering. The law authorizes a facility to deliver or sell power to up to 10 end-use customers, who are located within 10 miles of the facility and net-metered within the service territory of a single electric public utility, and designate the end-use customers to be credited by the electric power supplier or basic generation service provider with the excess generations of the facility.
The law (A-2565) allows NJ STARS and NJ STARS II scholarship recipients to maintain program eligibility in the event that medical condition or recent death of a parent or spouse prevents enrollment as full-time student.
"This is the decent thing to do," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "College is the gateway to a brighter future, and for many students, these scholarships are a lifeline. No one should lose their eligibility because they must deal with a medical condition or tragic loss."
"We should be removing all obstacles to a higher education not further burdening them with the threat of losing their scholarship while facing a medical condition or a family death," said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "This law protects students in their most vulnerable state and ensures them the opportunity to continue their education under the NJ STARS scholarship program."
Legislation sponsored by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Assembly Democrats Joann Downey, Raj Mukherji, Angela McKnight and Daniel R. Benson granting seniors and disabled residents more time to apply for their property tax rebates has been signed into law.
"For those living on a fixed income, like seniors and certain disabled residents, every little bit helps," said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). "The senior freeze program can provide a substantial boost to those individuals so we'd like to make sure they have as much time as possible to apply and take advantage of it."
Legislation Assembly Democrats Joann Downey, Eric Houghtaling, Jamel Holley and Daniel Benson sponsored to more effectively deliver services to veterans in New Jersey was recently signed into law.
The new law (formerly bill A-4171) establishes the New Jersey Commission on Veterans' Benefits in the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. The 13-member commission will develop, maintain and annually update a five-year statewide veterans' benefits strategic plan that includes goals and measurable outcomes to ensure that all state departments and agencies are effectively delivering comprehensive services and support for veterans and their families.
"Many veterans are aware of how they can benefit from resources the federal government offers, but they're sometimes uncertain about what they and their families may qualify for at the state level," said Downey (D-Monmouth). "A commission dedicated to ensuring veterans access to the programs and benefits they're eligible for and deserve will help New Jersey honor its obligation to those who have served this nation."
Legislation Assembly Democrats Marlene Caride, Angelica Jimenez, Raj Mukherji, Jamel Holley, Daniel R. Benson and Angela McKnight sponsored to improve the safety of students in wheelchairs who are transported on school buses was signed into law this week.
The new law (A-1257) requires school bus drivers to secure students who use a wheelchair with a four-point securement system, which shall be made available on all school buses used to transport students who use a wheelchair. A four-point securement system includes four restraints to secure a wheelchair to the vehicle floor; a lap and shoulder belt that integrates to the rear wheelchair restraints; and floor anchorages installed in the vehicle floor.
"These students are especially vulnerable," said Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic), chair of the Assembly Education Committee. "Equipping our school buses with this four-point securement system and requiring bus drivers to ensure that students in wheelchairs are properly secured in the system will make for a safer ride to school."
Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Joseph Lagana, Reed Gusciora, Raj Mukherji, Jamel Holley, Daniel R. Benson, Joe Danielsen, Benjie Wimberly and Joann Downey to prevent individuals who have had their driving privileges suspended or revoked from operating a school bus was signed into law this week.
"Individuals who've had their driving privileges suspended or revoked have no business being on the road, never mind transporting children to school," said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Losing your driving privileges is no small infraction. This will keep irresponsible individuals from transporting school children, and ensure the safety of students who depend on school bus transportation."
"The road is already a dangerous place. Parents should be assured that the person charged with safely transporting their children to and from school is qualified to do so," said Gusciora (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). "This ensures that those individuals who knowingly drive a school bus despite not being allowed to drive are punished and are never allowed behind the wheel of a school bus."
Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji, Dan Benson & Pamela Lampitt to require health insurers, SHBP and SEHBP to cover digital tomosynthesis for breast cancer screening has been signed into law. Digital tomosynthesis, also sometimes called 3-D mammography, creates a three-dimensional picture of the breast using x-rays. Several low-dose images from different angles around the breast are used to create the final 3-D picture. Conventional mammography produces one image of overlapping tissue, while tomosynthesis provides multiple pictures of breast tissue as the scanner moves in an arc. The difference between the images produced by tomosynthesis and conventional mammography has been described as being akin to a three dimensional ball versus a flat circle.
Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Vince Mazzeo, Daniel Benson, Paul Moriarty and Joe Danielsen to honor the parents and guardians of fallen members of the armed forces has been signed into law. The law (A-458), known as the County Identification Cards for Gold Star Parents Act, permits 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. "For those mothers and fathers who had to bury a child who volunteered to serve America out of love of country, having a tangible recognition of that sacrifice is invaluable," said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). "While the associated discounts and privileges will benefit families financially, this law, more importantly, is a way to acknowledge just how much the parents of members of our military also give to our country." Every application for a Gold Star Parent identification card will be signed and certified by the applicant and supported by such documentary evidence as the county clerk or register of deeds and mortgages, as appropriate, may require.
Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D., Daniel Benson, Angela McKnight, Angelica Jimenez and Shavonda Sumter to make sure opioid treatment options are offered when someone receives an antidote for an overdose has been signed into law. "Opioid antidotes have proven highly effective in preventing tragedies, but they're not the solution to the problem," said Conaway (D-Burlington), a practicing physician and chair of the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee. "When coming face-to-face with someone obviously suffering from an addiction, we should seize that opportunity to discuss their options for treatment as a real, life-saving solution." Specifically, the law (A-2430) requires that, when a health care professional or first responder administers an opioid antidote to a person experiencing a drug overdose, the person must be provided with information concerning substance abuse treatment programs and resources, including information on the availability of opioid antidotes.
A measure sponsored by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, Assemblyman Dan Benson and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle to help fight the state's opioid epidemic has been signed into law. 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 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." "The unfortunate truth is that for many people these drugs are the only option to relieve severe or chronic pain," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "This law can help reduce the potential for abuse and help prevent the tragic consequences that come with opioid addiction." "There is no one solution to this problem. Tackling this epidemic is going to take a long-term, multifaceted approach," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Taking steps like enhancing monitoring of prescriptions and expanding opioid education to health care professionals who don't prescribe, but work with these patients can help lessen the risk for abuse, which too often ends in tragedy."