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Two Senator Smith-Sponsored Hurricane Sandy Measures Approved by Senate

Senator Bob Smith, D-Middlesex and Somerset, discusses his legislation to protect New Jerseyans from identity theft when they copy important documents on a digital copier.

Measures Would Set Standards for Home Elevation Contractors, Encourage Federal Government to Assess Sandy-Damage

TRENTON – Two measures sponsored by Senator Bob Smith that will help New Jersey recover form Hurricane Sandy as well as prepare for future storms were approved today by the full Senate.

“Hurricane Sandy was a disaster of epic proportions that left more than a quarter million New Jersey families without power, washed away streets, bridges, homes and businesses and destroyed entire towns,” said Senator Smith, D-Middlesex and Somerset. “It is imperative that we pass legislation that will protect homeowners, while preparing for the severe weather patterns of the future.”

The first bill, S-2976, would protect homeowners who are elevating their homes by requiring that any contractor offering home elevation services  be registered with the state Division of Consumer Affairs. In order to be eligible for registration through the Division of Consumer Affairs, a contractor would need to have at least two years of experience under the guidance of another experienced home elevation contractor.

The bill would also require elevation contractors to use a unified jacking machine when elevating homes, which are capable of lifting the entire bulk of the structure in a simultaneous, synchronized manner. Using these machines has proven to be the most reliable and least accident-prone means of elevating buildings.

“Hurricane Sandy opened up a new market for many contractors in home elevation, which has never been done to the extent that we are currently seeing in the state,” said Senator Smith. “Whether homeowners are raising their homes due to new FEMA standards or because they are protecting against future flooding and severe damage to their homes, they should be confident that their contractor is not only trained and well-prepared for the job, but is using the correct equipment.”

The bill was approved by the full Senate with a vote of 35-0.  It now heads to the General Assembly for further review.

The second measure, SR-100, would urge the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to conduct a thorough assessment of the damage in New Jersey caused by Hurricane Sandy, determining why damage was more severe in certain areas than others and providing an expert analysis of measures that may be pursued to protect infrastructure, the environment and the people of the state. The resolution would encourage the Army Corp of Engineers, FEMA and the DEP to provide the Governor and the Legislature with their findings.

“In order to learn from the past and prepare for the future, we must analyze the state’s strengths and weaknesses in terms of disaster preparedness and infrastructure and determine a plan to ensure that this type of destruction never happens again,” said Senator Smith. “The Army Corp of Engineers, FEMA and the DEP are uniquely qualified to make these assessments, so that we can rebuild a better and stronger New Jersey.”

According to the resolution, Hurricane Sandy is one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history, with property damages approaching $20 billion and the cost of lost business and revenue between $10 billion and $30 billion in New Jersey. An estimated 346,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, 116,000 people evacuated or displaced from their homes and hundreds of buildings, roads and bridges were washed away during and after the October 29, 2012 storm.

The resolution will now be transmitted to Governor Christie; the Administrator of FEMA; the Region II Regional Administrator of FEMA; the Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; the Commanding General and Chief of Engineers of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; President Obama; the Majority and Minority Leaders of the United States Senate; the Speaker and Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives; and every member of Congress elected from New Jersey.

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