TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Ronald L. Rice and Nia H. Gill which would create a 26-member Gangland Security Task Force to examine the activities of adult and youth gangs and the effect that these gangs have on the communities in which they operate, was approved by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee today.
“After September 11th, the federal government created an office of homeland security to deal with terror, in particular attacks from those living outside this country,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex. “We also must be protected from a real threat that is going on everyday in our own neighborhoods. The stories about gang involvement in a prescription drug ring in North Jersey demonstrates that the frightening reality of gang-related crime is everywhere.”
TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Nicholas P. Scutari, which would provide $1.3 million in federal funding to remove thousands of trees that have been infested by Asian Longhorn Beetles, was approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today.
“The counties of Middlesex and Union have been the hardest hit areas in the State,” said Senator Scutari.
“The infestation of the Asian Longhorn Beetle is a serious matter because if not controlled, the insects could have devastating effects on the trees throughout New Jersey, and the problem could easily spread to other states,” said Senator Scutari, D-Middlesex, Somerset and Union. “Late last year the first cases of Asian Longhorn Beetle infestation were detected in Northern New Jersey and if this problem is not handled effectively and immediately, the lumber industry throughout the nation could be decimated.”
TRENTON – The Senate Commerce Committee today approved legislation sponsored by Senator Joseph Coniglio that would help protect consumer borrowers through strengthening the laws that govern debt adjusters and credit counselors.
“As Americans find themselves taking on more and more debt, particularly through credit cards, the services of debt adjusters and credit counselors will be in even greater demand,” added Senator Coniglio, D-Bergen. “We need to make sure that those individuals providing these services are better regulated so that New Jersey residents can feel confident in seeking their assistance.”
TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Ronald L. Rice and Shirley K. Turner which would provide an additional $15 million for the State’s low-income rental assistance program was approved in the Assembly Appropriations Committee today.
“Everyone wants a safe place to live, and New Jersey residents are no different,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex. “It’s the job of the Legislature to figure out ways to make that dream a reality. There are approximately 100,000 New Jersey residents on the (federal) Section 8 waiting list in the State. The rental assistance program will help grant the wish of about 2,000 families who are desperate to get decent housing.”
TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senators Fred H. Madden and John A. Girgenti that would create the “Sex Crime Victim Treatment Fund,” to help provide funding for victim counseling was approved today by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
“The traumatic effects of sexual assault can linger for years, affecting nearly every area of victims’ lives,” said Senator Madden, D-Camden and Gloucester. “This measure provides funding to counsel survivors of sexual assault and their families, so that they can work through their pain and begin leading healthier lives.”
TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Joseph F. Vitale and Paul A. Sarlo which would require State regulation of pharmaceutical wholesalers to protect the health and safety of New Jerseyans was unanimously approved by the Senate Commerce Committee today.
“Without State regulation of pharmaceutical wholesalers, New Jersey is vulnerable to attack from counterfeit and possibly dangerous and lethal knock-off drugs,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “If we allow this industry to continue to operate unchecked, we could potentially be putting the lives of our State’s residents at risk.”
TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senator Nia H. Gill that would criminalize human trafficking and upgrade the penalties for similar crimes was approved today by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“For thousands of years, people have been selling other humans for financial gain,” said Senator Gill, D-Essex and Passaic. ” No one should have the right to sell another person- It’s inhumane and barbaric, and it shows the lack of respect some people have for their fellow man.”
TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Wayne R. Bryant which would allow people on parole and probation who are convicted of low-level indictable offenses to vote was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee today.
“In New Jersey, there has been a steady movement to increase the status of once-minor violations to indictable offenses,” said Senator Bryant, D-Camden and Gloucester. “While I do not have a problem with being tough on crime, indictable offenses also carry the additional punishment of disenfranchisement, which essentially results in banishment from participation in our great democracy. We need to ask ourselves at what point are these penalties too much.”
TRENTON – Democrats on a Senate panel today said it was too early to determine what remedial actions they would recommend to avert a recurrence of the violent, gang-related disturbance at Bayside State Prison on New Year’s Day.
“We have to hear more from the corrections officers, sort out the conflicting testimony and get the findings of the law enforcement investigators before we can recommend remedies,” said Senator John A. Girgenti, Chairman of the Senate Law, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee.
TRENTON – Senator Ellen Karcher said that she was pleased with today’s Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee hearing on New Jersey’s Early Intervention (EI) program for children with developmental disabilities, but added that she’d like to see a greater public presence of EI to raise awareness of the services offered by the State and to get more kids enrolled.
“In my own life, as a mother of an EI-eligible child, I know that the State can do a better job informing new parents of their options,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer, the Vice Chair of the Health Committee. “Even though I’ve been involved in analyzing health care in New Jersey for a number of years, I wasn’t aware of the EI program until six months before my daughter would have been ineligible. It’s crucial to get children with developmental disabilities children in at an early age to soften the impact that disability will have on their lives, and we need to put the word out for the services that are available to parents and their children.”
TRENTON – Senator Joseph F. Vitale, Chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, said that today’s Health Committee hearing on Early Intervention (EI) services offered to children with developmental disabilities in New Jersey provided a “blueprint for success,” to improve the program.
“In today’s hearing, we heard testimony from those with a genuine stake in making EI the best program in the nation for children with disabilities,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “I think we can take from this constructive criticism and start down that path. The EI program in New Jersey already helps so many children get a head start in managing their disabilities, and with continued support and improvement, we can help so many more.”
TRENTON – Senator Fred Madden today introduced legislation to implement a loan forgiveness program worth up to $20,000 to college graduates who take direct-care social services jobs in New Jersey.
“We need to provide incentives to attract full-time professionals to take on the difficult jobs of helping the poor, working in mental health facilities and caring for children with disabilities,” said Senator Madden, D-Glouceser and Camden. “This program is designed to attract the very best to begin careers in social services where current shortages in professional help are projected to continue.”
TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Ellen Karcher which would require developers to notify military facility commanders of any proposed development within a 3,000 foot radius of the military facility which might impact on the operations of the facility was unanimously approved today by the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.
“Our State’s military bases are a vital component in New Jersey’s contribution to the national armed forces, and we must ensure that they can operate without impedance from encroaching development,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer. “In New Jersey, overdevelopment and sprawl are constantly pushing developers to build on property that would be better left undeveloped. However, when that property borders a military base, the potential for a loss in the quality of life of the residents, and in the viability of military operations on that base, is too great to ignore.”
TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senators Fred H. Madden and Ellen Karcher that would create “The Domestic Violence and Workforce Development Initiative Act,” and require the State’s workforce development counselors to be trained to address the needs of domestic violence victims was approved today by the Senate Labor Committee.
“The issue of domestic violence prevention is so important because of the huge impact it has on the families it affects,” said Senator Madden, D-Camden and Gloucester. “Preparing workforce development and unemployment counselors to deal with the needs of domestic violence victims will provide them with the encouragement to seek refuge while working for self-sufficiency.”
TRENTON – Senator Shirley K. Turner, D-Mercer and the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, made the following statement after hearing testimony from Assistant Education Commissioner Gordon MacInnes and administrators from several Abbott school districts:
“It is heartening to hear of all the progress that we have made in the Abbott school districts, yet I know that we still have a great deal to do to make sure that every student in New Jersey gets the best education possible, regardless of where they live.