Over the course of my two-year term in office, I like to update my bosses on the issues in Trenton that I am working on. I typically look at the term in four six-month intervals and seek to try and move initiatives forward along that timeline. That said, my main focus as it’s been since being afforded the honor and privilege of representing the Seventh Legislative District in 2011, is to seek to make our state a better place to live, work and raise a family. So, here are a couple of highlights that I wanted to share with you.
Working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I have been able to place a handful of bills on Governor Chris Christie’s desk which are awaiting action from him. The most significant of those proposals is the bill that Assemblyman Herb Conaway, Senate President Steve Sweeney and I worked on to address the tragic situation faced by New Jersey State Trooper Sean Cullen and other members of public safety who have died in the line of duty. A3610/S2016 would boost survivor’s benefits for children of law enforcement and firefighters who die in the line of duty.
Currently, if a member of the State Police Retirement System (SPRS) or the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System (PFRS) dies in the performance of duty, the surviving spouse receives a pension of 70 percent of the officer’s final compensation or adjusted final compensation for the use of the spouse and children of the deceased. However, this proposal would increase the percent of final (or adjusted) compensation from 20 percent to 70 percent for a surviving child (or children in equal shares) if there is no surviving spouse or if that spouse dies. This is reflective of the changing face of what “family” means in our society and offers greater economic protection for a child who must face the horrific consequences of losing a parent.
I also wanted to note a couple of other bills that are moving through the legislative process. A311, requires entities that compile or maintain computerized records that include information permitting access to an online account to disclose to consumers any breach of security of the information. Under current law, businesses and public entities are required to disclose breaches involving personal information such as Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, or credit or debit card numbers, in combination with any required security code, access code, or password that would permit access to an individual’s financial account.
The bill adds user names, email addresses, or any other account holder identifying information, in combination with any password or security question and answer that would permit access to an online account, to the list of breaches requiring disclosure. Notification of a breach provides a consumer with the opportunity to quickly change online account information to prevent outside access to the account, and puts a consumer on notice to monitor for potential identity theft.
The Internet has facilitated commerce and increased our access to services and information, but the unfortunate downside is that even a single breach of security online can open the door to identity theft. As we have seen with recent headlines, many companies have seen customer data compromised by computer glitches or hacking attempts. Consumers have a right to know whenever their personal information is at risk so that they can immediately take the appropriate action. This proposal has passed the New Jersey General Assembly and is waiting consideration in the State Senate.
Reducing the crushing burden that property taxes have on all of us has been a particular focus of mine since I assumed the chairmanship of the Assembly State and Local Government Committee this term. No singular issue affects New Jersey residents across every socioeconomic class then this one. Every committee meeting I have held, thus far this year has moved forward some proposal to reduce this burden. And, I have tried to do this by subscribing to the idea that I was taught early on in life, that there are no monopolies on good ideas. And, an inherent desire to address this issue is not solely the purview of one political party or another. Rather it is a confluence of ideas and policies that when not shrouded in political ideology can drive us forward towards solving this vexing issue once and for all, regardless of who gets the credit.
One such idea moving through the Legislature directly cuts your property taxes. A302, increases distribution to municipalities from Energy Tax Receipts Property Tax Relief Fund over five years to restore municipal aid reductions and would require the additional aid to be subtracted from municipal property tax levy. This proposal if enacted would provide $325 million annually in direct property tax relief to taxpayers by ensuring that this state diversion of financial resources goes right back to the source, YOU, the taxpayer! The bill currently is waiting full consideration by the New Jersey General Assembly, having passed out of my committee in April.
Another proposal, A-2901, is an idea dubbed the “property tax reward” program that applies to those purchasing goods and services in their community. When a resident uses a municipal “reward” card for local purchases, a small percentage of what each person buys goes to the municipality, which they then will apply to the individual property tax bill.
Property tax owners would get to see a reduction on their property tax bill by shopping locally, and local store owners and merchants would benefit from the increase in business. This is a great way to incentivize people to support local businesses, help drive foot traffic to local shops and businesses, build a robust local economy, all while taking a bite out of your property tax bill. This bill also is currently waiting full consideration by the New Jersey General Assembly, having passed out of my committee in April.
Lastly, I wanted to bring to your attention the work I am doing in the area of preventing animal cruelty. This issue is a personal passion of mine and one that I am committed to doing everything I can to eradicate. I have proudly sponsored several proposals in this area from banning declawing of cats (A3899), creating an animal abuse registry (A3421), to prohibiting those convicted of criminal animal cruelty offenses from owning domestic companion animals and working in or volunteering in animal related enterprises as specified by a court, ‘Moose’s Law” (A308). It is not a stretch to suggest that how we treat our pets and the most vulnerable in our society, says a great deal about ourselves and our culture. I believe that basic kindness, thoughtfulness and concern for our pets is an important window into who we are as a society.
To learn more about these issue or any of the other issues I am working on in Trenton, please visit my website, www.TroySingleton.com and click on our Capitol Report, then the “Legislation” tab. Staying connected to my bosses is essential to my ability to effectively represent your interests in Trenton. I hope that you will continue to share with me your viewpoints on the issues affecting our community. Till next week, stay cool! That’s my take. What’s yours?