In Our Community

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

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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

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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.

Madden Bill to Provide Informational Materials to Parents Regarding Down Syndrome Advances

Read the Press Release at NJ Senate Democrats website

Legislation sponsored by Senator Fred H. Madden Jr. and Senate President Steve Sweeney to require information regarding Down syndrome be provided to parents who receive a prenatal or postnatal diagnosis has been approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.

“Parents who receive a diagnosis should be provided accurate, up-to-date and evidence-based information about Down syndrome so they can make the best choices for treatment and care that will allow their child to reach their full potential,” said Senator Madden, vice chair of the committee. “This bill will ensure that every parent who receives a prenatal or postnatal diagnosis receives this important information.”

“There is nothing worse than being given a diagnosis for your child that you don’t understand,” said Senate President Sweeney. “When I learned of Lauren’s diagnosis, I didn’t know what Down syndrome was or where to turn for help. Giving parents accurate information about what to expect and treatment options will help provide some of the tools they need to ensure their child lives a healthy and active life.”

Senate President Sweeney’s daughter, Lauren, was born with Down syndrome. She weighed two pounds and spent 75 days in a neonatal unit before being released. Senator Sweeney’s experience as a new father of a child with a disability was the reason he entered public service. Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21, according to the National Down Syndrome Society. One in every 691 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome, making Down syndrome the most common genetic condition. Approximately 400,000 Americans have Down syndrome and about 6,000 babies with Down syndrome are born in the United States each year.

The bill (S475) would require the health care professional providing a diagnosis of Down syndrome to any person who renders prenatal care, postnatal care, or genetic counseling, to provide the parents with the following:  (1) up-to-date, evidence-based, written information about Down syndrome that has been reviewed by medical experts and national Down syndrome organizations, including physical developmental, educational, and psychosocial outcomes; (2) life expectancy, clinical course, and intellectual and functional development and treatment options; and (3) contact information regarding telephone and support services, including information hotlines specific to Down syndrome, resource centers, and other education and support programs. The bill requires that the information should be available in English and Spanish and in a manner that is easily understandable for women receiving a positive prenatal diagnosis or for the family of a child receiving a postnatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.

The bill was approved unanimously by the committee. It next heads to the full Senate for consideration.

NBC10 Interview: Mosquera Bill Package to Combat Domestic Violence Passes Assembly

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On Monday, September 15, 2014, the New Jersey General Assembly unanimously approved a comprehensive six-bill package sponsored by Assemblywoman Mosquera to combat domestic violence by expanding protections for victims and providing law enforcement with better tools to deal with offenders.

Watch the NBC10 interview with Assemblywoman Mosquera to learn more about how these bills will help protect victims of domestic abuse.



Assemblyman Paul Moriarty’s police camera bill signed into law

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By Michelle Caffrey | South Jersey Times 

A law requiring all new municipal police patrol vehicles be equipped with video cameras was signed into law on Wednesday, Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-4 of Washington Township) said.

Moriarty, who sponsored the bill after an in-car camera captured his 2012 DWI arrest and provided evidence that lead to a dismissal of all charges, said Governor Chris Christie signed the bill Wednesday evening.

The bill requires all municipal police departments to equip newly purchased or leased vehicles that are used primarily for traffic stops with an in-car camera, or equip patrol officers with body cameras as a more affordable option.

A $25 surcharge on DWI convictions was set aside by the legislation to provide funding for the new equipment.

The bill was initially approved by both the state Assembly and Senate during the last legislative session, but was pocket-vetoed by the governor when he declined to either veto or sign the bill.

Moriarity re-introduced the legislation this spring, and was approved by the Assembly in May and the Senate in June.

The impetus for the bill came from Moriarty’s 2012 arrest on DWI charges in his hometown of Washington Township, where he previously served as mayor.

A recording of the arrest showed multiple discrepancies between arresting officer Joseph DiBuonaventura’s pursuit of Moriarty and what DiBuonaventura wrote about the incident in subsequent police reports.

Prosecutors cited the video as evidence Moriarty — who has vehemently denied drinking that day — was illegally stopped and targeted by DiBuonaventura, who is now facing 14 criminal charges including official misconduct, falsifying a police report and harassment.

Moriarty has said that the video of the incident was crucial to proving his innocence, and against the odds, since only nine out of the township’s 50 patrol cars were equipped with cameras.

“As recent controversies have shown, it helps to have video footage to back up claims of excessive force and abuse of authority against civilians. Conversely, there are many good officers who have been wrongly accused of impropriety and this measure is designed to ensure their protection as well,” said Moriarty, who also serves as Chairman of the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee.