In Our Community

Does your car have a ‘black box?’ Moriarty bill aims to protect your driving data

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By Michelle Caffrey | South Jersey Times


You may not know about it, but it’s there.

If you’ve bought a new car recently, it’s likely equipped with an event data recorders — a kind of “black box” for your car — that records just about everything about your vehicle use, including how fast you drive, where you go, and even how many people are with you.

It’s highly personal information that you wouldn’t want in the wrong hands, said Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-4 of Washington Township), who recently proposed legislation to regulate who can access that data and how.

“I think we should get ahead of the technology, instead of letting the technology get ahead of us,” said Moriarty, who chairs the Assembly’s Consumer Affairs Committee. The committee unanimously approved the bill (A3579) on Oct. 2, and the Senate version currently sits in the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.

“Everything is contained in these black boxes, and I think we should have a law, before this gets abused, to say who owns that information and who has access to it,” said Moriarty.

The bill would ensure that the data recorded by the boxes, also known as electronic control modules, would remain the property of the vehicle’s owner, and that no one could retrieve or distribute that information without going through the court system.

Specifically, it outlines that the recorded data, just like a personal computer’s data, can be retrieved by law enforcement through a search warrant or subpoena, or by a representative of the owner. The bill also allows the data to be used to improve motor vehicle safety — the original intent of the modules when they were first introduced by manufacturers — or retrieved by a licensed motor vehicle dealer, repair or servicing facility.

The data can also be accessed and used by a subscription service provider, such as OnStar, if the provider’s agreement outlines the possible usage and storage of the data. The bill doesn’t cover personal recording devices, but does say data on those devices can be accessed to determine the “need for facilitating an emergency medical response” after a crash.

It also protects the data, which can be crucial in determining the cause of a serious motor vehicle crash, from being deleted or altered for two years following a crash, with a violation resulting in a fine of $5,000.

“I think this bill takes into account all of those different types of considerations and puts some parameters under who has access and under which circumstances,” said Moriarty.

It’s no surprise the state’s American Civil Liberties Union backs the bill.

Ari Rosmarin, the NJ ACLU’s public policy director, said they supported the bill in committee and see it as another step forward in protecting privacy rights for the state’s residents.

“Our interest in the bill is really the same interest that we have in protecting the privacy rights of New Jerseyans in a whole array of areas. Just like we believe that law enforcement should need a warrant to get information from a computer or a mobile phone, so too should there be privacy protections for computers you own in your own car,” said Rosmarin.

Their central concern remains uses of the data when it comes to law enforcement, but Rosmarin said it’s clear that kind of information about where people travel and how they get there can carry a high price tag to marketers.

“I think that we’re finding all over the place that data about our movements and activities is extremely valuable to a whole host of both government and private entities,” said Rosmarin, adding regulating this data now, as technology advances quickly, is essential to protecting consumers’ privacy.

“We don’t want to end up in a place where anything we buy that has a chip in it, the information from that chip belongs to someone other than ourselves,” he said. “When we buy a car we are not consenting to an external third party collecting information on us on a daily basis. As technology that collects more and more information about our daily habits and movements proliferates, our privacy laws must keep pace with that and not fall behind.”

Mosquera & female N.J. lawmakers want NFL stripped of tax exempt status

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EAST RUTHERFORD —With MetLife Stadium as a backdrop, 14 female New Jersey lawmakers today called for the federal government to take away the NFL’s non-profit status because of its handling of domestic violence accusations against its players.

The legislators, Republicans and Democrats, said they supported a bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) this month that would not only strip the status, but use the money gained­ estimated at $10 million a year in taxes to fund programs around the country that combat domestic violence.

“We are determined to lobby to get that tax exemption removed in order to get that money into our state and indeed the nation to work to end domestic violence in the United States,”said state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), who led the press conference with state Sen. Jennifer Beck ‘R-Monmouth).

While the NFL as an association has non-profit status, most of its revenue which is paid out to its 32 teams ­ is taxed. Hence the NFL, which has annual revenues of $10 billion, would only be paying an estimated $10 million more in taxes.

Weinberg said that the change in status might make NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who earns $44 million a year, consider taking a small pay cut.

But according to one report, the NFL is considering restructuring in a way that it would no longer be non-profit.

The press conference was a response to the video that surfaced showing Baltimore Raven Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City casino elevator. But lawmakers said if it wasn¹t today, some other scandal would have eventually caused them to have a similar press conference.

Weinberg said she originally sought to hold the press conference on MetLife Stadium’s grounds, but was refused.

Beck listed eight other times in the last seven years when players were charged with domestic violence but faced just minor sanctions from the league, and that the it had taken too long to put a comprehensive policy on domestic violence in place.

Beck urged the owners of the Jets and Giants ­ Woody Johnson and John Mara ­ to work to oust Goodell.

“Seven years of inaction, where Commissioner Goodell, who has two daughters of his own, ignored assault after assault after assault on women,” Beck said. “I today am calling on Woody Johnson and John Mara to act. There should have been a policy in place on this difficult issue, this pressing issue, well before Aug. 28 of this year.”

Beck’s call was in stark contrast to Gov. Chris Christie, who in a Sept. 18 radio interview said Goodell should keep his job and called him an “outstanding man” and an “honest man” who “made a mistake.”

“It’s my opinion that Commissioner Goodell failed,” Beck said. “The governor is entitled to his separate opinion.”

Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera (D-Camden) had a more personal connection to the issue, recounting how her mother was abused and that as a child she and her siblings spent time in a women’s shelter.

“Domestic violence is cyclical, and the way to stop it is to make sure everyone in the family gets help,” she said. “It’s something that sticks with you for a long time.”

Moriarty bill banning unsolicited checks with hidden subscription fees heads to Governor’s desk

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Michelle Caffrey | South Jersey Times

A bill banning unsolicited check schemes in the state, sponsored by Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-4 of Washington Township), was approved by the State Senate on Monday afternoon in a 38-0 vote and will now head to Governor Chris Christie’s desk for approval.

The bill (A-625) would make it illegal to send an individual an unsolicited check that, if cashed, automatically signs them up for a variety of services, buying groups and other subscription plans.

Moriarty said Monday that the checks are often in smaller amounts around $10 and are legitimate checks, but people often don’t see the small print that says if they cash the check, they agree to a monthly charge on their credit cards.

The bill, also sponsored by Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37 of Bergen), was specifically inspired by a constituent who showed Moriarty a check they received for $8.25 that would automatically sign them up for a roadside assistance program that cost $15.99 a month if cashed.

“This happens to a lot of people, and especially the elderly,” said Moriarty, chairman of the Assembly Committee on Consumer Affairs.

The bill’s sponsor in the Senate, Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-1 of Cape May Court House, Millville) said the legislation helps protect residents with disabilities, as well as the elderly.

“Unsolicited checks that automatically obligate the recipient to pay a fee or enroll in a service when cashed have been a tactic used in scams targeting seniors and individuals with disabilities,” said Van Drew. “We have to put an end to these schemes that are aimed at our most vulnerable residents, and this measure will do that.”

Certain checks are excluded from the bill, including those sent in response to a request or application for a check, substitutions for checks or accounts previously issued to an individual and checks related to consumer credit transactions or a consumer loan issued by certain financial institutions.

Under the Consumer Fraud Act, the unlawful practice can be punishable by hefty fines, including a maximum of $10,000 for a first offense and up to $20,000 for additional offenses.

The Attorney General also then has the power to issue cease and desist orders, assessments of punitive damages and the awarding of damages and costs to the injured party.

“These so-called free money offers are at their best deceptive and, at their worst, downright dishonest,” said Moriarty in a release. “Right now, consumers are at their most vulnerable to fall for a scheme that appears to offer them instant cash but would end up costing them much more in the long-run.”

Madden Bill to Improve Newborn Screening Advances

Read the Press Release at NJ Senate Democrats website

Legislation sponsored by Senators Fred H. Madden and Joseph F. Vitale to improve the state’s program for screening newborns for congenital disorders in New Jersey hospitals was approved yesterday by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.

“Newborn screening is essential to protecting the health and wellbeing of infants and detecting disorders that if discovered early in life can be effectively treated or managed to the benefit of the child,” said Senator Madden (D-Gloucester/Camden), vice chair of the committee. “By continuously reviewing and updating this program, we will ensure that it is kept current and that quick and effective health care interventions are provided in the event a condition is detected.”

“New technologies make it possible to screen newborns for a variety of disorders and allow parents and medical professionals to learn of the need for medical treatment early,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex), chair of the Committee. “Reviewing the program annually is critical to ensuring that we remain at the forefront of these advances and to providing improved health prospects for children in New Jersey.”

The Department of Health currently requires that, within 48 hours after birth, all newborns be screened for 54 disorders.  One heel prick of the newborn provides enough blood to test for all 54 disorders. The bill (S461) would require the formal establishment of a “Newborn Screening” program within the Department of Health and require the Health commissioner to establish the Newborn Screening Advisory Review Committee consisting of medical, hospital, and public health professionals, as well as scientific experts and consumer representatives and advocates. The committee would annually review the disorders included in the Newborn Screening program, screening technologies, treatment options, and educational and follow-up procedures. It would also meet annually to review and revise the list of disorders recommended for inclusion in the newborn screening program.

The Newborn Screening program would screen all infants born in the state based on the list of disorders that is recommended by the Newborn Screening Advisory Review Committee and approved by the Commissioner of Health consistent with the Recommended Uniform Screening Panel of the United State Secretary of Health and Human Services. The commissioner would be required to provide a follow-up program to provide timely intervention and, as appropriate, referrals to specialist treatment centers for newborn infants who screen positive for disorders.

The measure would permit parents of newborn infants to opt out of having their child screened if they provide written notice stating that they object to screening on the grounds that it would conflict with their religious tenets or practices. The bill was approved by a vote of 9-0. It next heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for consideration.

NJTV Interviews Assemblywoman Mosquera on Domestic Violence Bills Passed by Assembly

Watch interview at NJTV

By Briana Vannozzi

Six bills to protect victims of domestic violence sailed through an Assembly voting session today, with bipartisan support. Legislators have been working for the last few years to expand and revamp laws currently in place.

“This is an epidemic here in the state. One out of every four women suffers from domestic violence. It’s basically a silent suffering and what we learned with everything last week happening in the media is domestic violence is an everyday occurrence and it’s not just something that should be left in the home,” said Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera.

Assemblywomen Mosquera and Celeste Riley — sponsors for the package of bills — emphasized how the Ray Rice event has shed light on and garnered wide support for the issue.

“It says to us that for us as a society that it’s something that’s still prevalent. We have to work on it. It’s not as easy as you think but it’s something we have to take one step at a time,” Riley said.

Among the legislation, the creation of a task force on domestic violence, self-defense justification for victims of it and mandatory counseling for certain offenders.

Patricia Teffenhart is the executive director for the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “The package of bills that were passed today speaks to the direction New Jersey is going both by being survivor friendly, but also holding offenders accountable in ways we haven’t done before,” she said.

Members of the Assembly are also looking at the disconnect between domestic violence laws currently in place and what is happening at the bench. Like in the Ray Rice case, where a pre-trial intervention program was ordered in lieu of jail time, and the decision is being defended as constitutional.

“We need to take a look at the laws as we have written them and make sure we’re clear that our legislative intent was not that, if you knock someone unconscious you don’t go to jail because it is not an aggravated assault,” said Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande.

Late today, several female Republican members of the Assembly issued a statement calling on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to resign over his handling of domestic violence cases.

“The NFL should send a message to society that it will not tolerate these actions, and implement a no-tolerance policy with severe repercussions,” read the statement.

There was also unanimous passage for legislation altering the structure of issuing and searching restraining orders, and a measure that would allow victims to testify in court hearings through a closed circuit camera system. They’d avoid seeing their abuser, and have an increased incentive to speak up.

“It is vitally important for that person who has been abused to be comfortable to testify,” Riley said.

For advocates of the bills, today’s passage is the first step toward becoming law. The legislation will now head to the Senate for approval and ultimately, Gov. Chris Christie’s desk to be signed.