In Our Community

Mosquera Bill to Strengthen Laws Against Domestic Violence Introduced

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Assembly Democrats Joseph Lagana, Vince Mazzeo, Gabriela Mosquera and Valerie Vainieri Huttle have introduced legislation to make it more difficult for first-time domestic violence offenders to enter pretrial intervention (PTI) and thus avoid jail time.

“The Ray Rice case simply highlighted a larger failing of the criminal justice system in New Jersey,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This bill is about making sure that those who commit acts of domestic violence understand the severity of their crimes. More importantly, however, it’s about righting a wrong in pursuit of justice for the many who have suffered in silence.”

The bill (A-4016) would amend current law to make assault against a victim of domestic violence a crime of the third degree with no presumption of non-imprisonment, meaning that incarceration could be considered as a punishment for the offender. Under the law, such assault is a crime of the third degree, which is ordinarily punishable by three to five years in prison, a fine of up to $15,000 or both, but there is a presumption of non-imprisonment for first-time offenders.

The bill also provides that the prosecutor and the court should give additional weight to a domestic violence victim’s position on whether a defendant should enter PTI.

Furthermore, a defendant charged with a third or fourth degree crime involving domestic violence would be required to enter a plea of guilty before being considered for participation in PTI. Individuals charged with a domestic violence offense who committed the offense while subject to a temporary or permanent restraining order and defendants charged with a fourth degree crime of contempt of a domestic violence order would also have to plead guilty before being considered for PTI.

“With this legislation, our state tells offenders that their behavior will not be tolerated,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “We stand with the victims of domestic violence, and this legislation sends a clear message to our children, letting them know that – regardless of what they may have seen or experienced – domestic violence is absolutely unacceptable.”

“Witnessing my mother have to survive abuse taught me at a very early age that domestic violence has a lasting impact on families and entire communities,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester), who in recent months has sponsored several other pieces of domestic violence legislation. “Stopping the cycle of abuse in the home starts with unequivocally declaring that it is a serious crime that can bear serious consequences – not sometimes, but always.”

“Whether it’s the first time or the fifth time doesn’t matter when we’re talking about violent crime. We need to consider the very real, very dangerous implications of automatically giving second chances to individuals who abuse in the home, particularly when statistics show that if they’ve done it once, they will do it again,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “This bill will help ensure that pretrial intervention serves its intended purpose of providing rehabilitative services for nonviolent criminals, not allowing those who engage in domestic violence to harm others without facing the appropriate consequences.”

The bill would also amend current law to add committing an act of domestic violence while a child under age 16 is present and committing repeated acts of domestic violence as aggravating factors for the court to consider in imposing a sentence.

Under the bill, the definition of “domestic violence” is expanded to include criminal coercion, robbery, contempt of a domestic violence order that constitutes a crime or disorderly persons offense and any other crime involving the risk of death or serious bodily injury to a person protected under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991.

The measure has been referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee for consideration.

Moriarty Bill Outlawing Unsolicited Text Message Ads Gets Assembly OK

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Updated legislation Assembly Democrats Paul Moriarty, Daniel R. Benson, Benjie Wimberly and Bob Andrzejczak sponsored to prohibit advertisers from sending unwelcome and unsolicited text advertisements to consumers was approved 76-0 by the Assembly.

“Unwanted text messages not only tax consumers’ patience, but they are a drain on cell minutes and bank accounts,” said Moriarty (D-Gloucester/Camden). “Just as telephone customers have been able to close their homes to unwanted telemarketing calls, cell customers should be able to be free of unwanted text ads. What we’re trying to do here is assist consumers in avoiding unnecessary charges as a result of receiving messages that are unsolicited and over which the user has no control.”

“For individuals with a limited data plan, receiving a large number of unsolicited text messages may force them to rack up unwanted charges on their cell phone bill,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “The growing number of complaints regarding unwanted text advertisements can no longer be ignored. Cell phone users deserve basic protections against business practices that cause headaches and cost them money.”

“The bill prohibits the sending of an unsolicited advertisement by means of a text message to a resident of New Jersey if it may cause the recipient to incur a telecommunications charge or a usage allocation deduction,” said Wimberly (D-Passaic/Bergen). “The bill requires the recipient’s express permission, including the number to which text message advertisements may be sent, before any unsolicited advertisements may be sent.”

“This is all about protecting the consumer,” said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic). “Besides being annoyances, these text messages can be costly, at no fault of the consumer. This is common sense in this day and age.”

The Legislature approved the bill earlier this year, but it was conditionally vetoed by the governor to remove violations from the Consumer Fraud Act. Under the changes, violators would be subject to a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed $500 for the first violation and $1,000 for each subsequent violation, collectible by the Attorney General.

The bill will now be referred to the Senate for consideration.

Madden Honored with ‘Paul L. Troast Award for Public Service’ By NJBIA for Leadership in Solving NJ’s UI Fund Crisis

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TRENTON Senator Fred H. Madden was honored by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association for his leadership in solving the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund crisis. Senator Madden, who serves as chair of the Senate Labor Committee, was awarded the 2014 Paul L. Troast Award for Public Service at the organization’s annual Public Policy Forum held in Edison.

“I am honored to receive this award and to be recognized by business for the work we’ve done to improve New Jersey’s economic position. I want to thank the NJBIA for working with us in a collaborative way to restore the state’s unemployment trust fund to solvency. Together we prevented crippling tax hikes on businesses while ensuring that benefits for the unemployed were protected,” said Senator Madden (D-Gloucester/Camden). “I look forward to continuing our work to create policies to improve New Jersey’s business climate, to create jobs and spur economic growth.”

NJBIA recognized Madden for his work in bringing New Jersey’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund to solvency through numerous laws he sponsored. His efforts prevented businesses from tax hikes that were set to take effect as a result of the low level of the fund, while ensuring that unemployment benefits were provided to jobless residents. The UI trust fund became insolvent in 2009 due to a rise in unemployment claims and past diversions of $4.7 billion in UI tax revenue in the 1990s and early 2000s. New Jersey began borrowing from the federal government to continue paying UI benefits in March 2009, with the debt reaching a peak of $1.99 billion in March 2011. The debt was entirely paid off in April of this year, and the balance of the UI Trust fund was $509.5 million as of September.

NJBIA is the nation’s largest statewide employer association. With 20,000 plus members it represents every industry in the state, including contractors, manufacturers, retail and wholesale businesses and services providers of every kind. Its members, as a group, employ more than one million people.

Mosquera Bill Package to Bolster U.S. Economy Gains Assembly Approval

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Legislation Requires Exclusive Use of Materials Made in America

Legislation Assembly Democrats Joseph V. Egan, Patrick J. Diegnan, Joseph A. Lagana, Gabriela Mosquera and Tim Eustace sponsored to prohibit agencies from using imported materials to complete a job was approved by the full Assembly on Thursday.

“As we continue to rebound from the Great Recession and strengthen our economy, it’s critical that we take advantage of all opportunities to keep jobs and dollars in America,” said Egan (D-Middlesex/Somerset), Assembly Labor Committee chair. “This bill package is one of those opportunities, and we cannot afford to let it pass us by.”

“This legislation, in addition to being a route to a better economy, is about New Jersey taking pride in this nation’s products,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “It’s about investing in America’s future.”

The bills:

• A-3221 (Lagana/Mosquera/Eustace) would require all Port Authority of New York and New Jersey contracts to include a provision stating that only American iron, steel and manufactured products may be used in the construction, reconstruction, alteration or improvement of a project or facility. As the Port Authority is a bi-state agency, New York must also enact identical legislation in order for the provisions of the bill to take effect in New Jersey. The bill passed 44-25-6. It now goes to the governor’s desk.

• A-3279 (Mosquera/Lagana) would require the Delaware River Port Authority to use materials made in America in the fulfillment of contracts. As the DRPA is a bi-state agency, Pennsylvania must also enact identical legislation in order for the provisions of the bill to take effect in New Jersey. The bill passed 44-24-8. It now goes to the governor’s desk.

• A-3280 (Mosquera/Lagana) would require the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission to use materials made in America in the fulfillment of contracts. As the Commission is a bi-state agency, Pennsylvania must also enact identical legislation in order for the provisions of the bill to take effect in New Jersey. The bill passed 46-24-5. It now goes to the governor’s desk.

• A-3281 (Mosquera/Lagana) would require the Delaware River and Bay Authority to use materials made in America in the fulfillment of contracts. As the DRBA is a bi-state agency, Delaware must enact identical legislation in order for the provisions of the bill to take effect in New Jersey. The bill passed 44-24-6. It now goes to the governor’s desk.

“At this crucial moment of economic recovery, it’s time for us to stop looking beyond our borders and recognize the value of tried and true products made in America,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “When we buy American, we invest in our workers and their families.”

“Just as the northern region of the state seeks to strengthen its commitment to our country, it’s critical that the same rules apply in South Jersey,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This interstate effort will only succeed if we act in unity.”

“A part of patriotism is taking pride in quality American resources,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This bill package is about declaring our undying confidence in this great nation.”

Bills in the package permit waiving the requirement to use American materials after public notice and comment if: the quantity and quality of the material or product needed is unavailable in the U.S., using domestic materials or manufactured products increases the project’s cost by more than 25 percent or the requirement in any way forces deviation from the overall public interest.

Moriarty Bill to Establish Scholarship Fund for Families of Soldiers Lost, Missing & Disabled in Action Clears Assembly

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Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Vincent Mazzeo, Tim Eustace, Gordon Johnson, Whip Wilson and Paul Moriarty to provide scholarships to the children of military personnel who have died, become permanently disabled or are missing in action was approved unanimously Monday by the Assembly.

“Military families are our nation’s real unsung heroes,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “We know that freedom isn’t free and it’s only fitting that we honor the sacrifices of those who have worn the uniform by helping their children and spouses attain their highest educational goals.”

“These men and women are the most honorable among us, as they have dedicated their lives in the name of freedom and democracy,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “We preserve their legacy by helping their families ‘Be all they can be.’ ”

The bill (A-2849) establishes in the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority the Military Dependent Scholarship Fund. The fund will be used to provide scholarships to the spouse, child or other eligible dependent of a New Jersey resident who is killed, missing in action or totally and permanently disabled as a consequence of Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation New Dawn. The scholarships will be provided to pay for the costs of undergraduate study at a public or independent institution of higher education.

“Our men and women in uniform place their lives on the line everyday to preserve American values,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “When we encourage and enable their families to pursue their goals we pay homage to their parent or spouse self-less service to our country.”

“Members of our military are deployed around the world to protect the freedoms and democracy we take pride in,” said Wilson (D-Camden/Gloucester). “It is important we continue to honor the service and sacrifice of our military families in ways that help them to strive. A scholarship program is one of those ways.”

“The hardships of those who serve in defense of our nation impact their families in ways most of us – because of their selflessness – will never know,” said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This legislation is about making sure that the family members of the brave men and women who made the greatest of sacrifices for this country can pursue an education in their honor.”

The bill also establishes a board of trustees of the fund which is authorized to award scholarships from the Military Dependents Scholarship Fund. The board will have the following duties: determine eligibility for a scholarship from the fund; determine the amount of each scholarship award; report annually to the governor and the legislature on the performance of its duties; solicit and raise private funds to finance the Military Dependents Scholarship Program; and receive and disburse such contributions to the fund as may be forthcoming from private and public sources.

Under the bill’s provisions, to be eligible for the scholarship they will have to demonstrate that the applicant will be or is enrolled in a full-time undergraduate program of study leading to a degree at an institution for the award, regulation and administration of scholarships from the fund. Eligibility for the scholarship program, in the case of a spouse, will be limited to a period of 15 years form the date of death of the person, the date the person is officially listed as “Missing in Action” or the date upon which the person is certified to have been totally and permanently disabled for initial receipt of the benefits. In the case of a dependent child, eligibility will be limited to period of eight years following graduation from high school.

The measure now awaits further Senate consideration.

Mosquera Bill to Provide Tax Relief to Those Caring for Elderly Relatives Clears Assembly Panel

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(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela R. Lampitt Gary S. Schaer, Gabriela Mosquera, Daniel J. Benson and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to provide a tax credit to those who take in and support an older family member was released on Thursday by an Assembly panel.

The bill (A-1855), designated as the Caregiver’s Assistance Act, provides a gross income tax credit to qualified caregivers, including resident taxpayers and resident individuals, who pay or incur qualified care expenses for the care and support of a qualifying senior family member residing with the caregiver at the caregiver’s permanent place of abode in this state.

“Those who provide older loved ones with care and support meet a critical need of the state’s aging population,” said Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington). “There is no question that allowing seniors to remain in their own communities for longer periods of time can improve their overall quality of life and reduce the demand for long-term care services.”

“The efforts of family caregivers are so critical yet typically go unnoticed,” said Schaer (D-Passaic/Bergen). “The credit provided by the bill will alleviate a portion of the overall cost associated with providing in-home care to elderly relatives, and illuminate the critical role family caregivers’ play in supporting the health and well-being of the state and its senior residents.”

The bill (A-1855), designated as the Caregiver’s Assistance Act, provides a gross income tax credit to qualified caregivers, including resident taxpayers and resident individuals, who pay or incur qualified care expenses for the care and support of a qualifying senior family member residing with the caregiver at the caregiver’s permanent place of abode in this state.

“We must recognize and provide financial assistance to our residents who provide uncompensated care and support to elderly relatives,” said Mosquera (D-Camden, Gloucester). “Their work often has significant impacts on the emotional and financial health of those providing care.”

“This is long overdue recognition and much-needed financial help for caregivers who devote their time to taking caring of another,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “They enrich lives by helping a family member who needs care as they grow older.”

“Growing older should not mean that you grow a part from the community you call home,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “It’s only right that we help the caregivers who selflessly step up and support a person in need. Caregivers deserve the tax break this bill would provide them.”

The bill stipulates that qualified caregivers must have gross income that does not exceed $100,000, or $50,000 if married or a civil union partner filing separately or if unmarried, not a partner in a civil union and not filing or eligible to file as head of household or as a surviving spouse for federal income tax purposes, to be allowed the credit.

As provided in the bill, the amount of the credit is equal to 22.5 percent of the qualified care expenses paid or incurred by the qualified caregiver during the taxable year for the care and support of a qualifying senior family member that are not in excess of $3,000. The bill’s limitation on the amount of qualified care expenses caps the maximum amount of each credit at $675 per year.

The credit is in addition to the benefit of the dependent deduction that may be received by the qualified caregiver for claiming the qualifying senior family member as a dependent on the caregiver’s gross income tax return. Also in the bill, the credit is refundable: the amount of any credit that reduces the qualified caregiver’s tax liability to an amount less than zero is required to be refunded to the caregiver as an overpayment of tax. The bill specifies that a qualified caregiver is eligible to receive the benefits of the credit, even if the caregiver has gross income below the statutory minimum subject to tax.

The bill was approved by the Assembly Women and Children Committee, of which Lampitt is chair.