LEGISLATIVE ROUNDUP: Lampitt bill on disabled services advances

The Assembly Human Services Committee Thursday approved legislation co-sponsored by Pamela R. Lampitt, D-Camden/Burlington, to increase awareness of the programs and services available to New Jersey residents with developmental disabilities.

The bill requires the Department of Human Services to develop a timeline denoting the age at which such individuals may apply for various services and activities.

Pilot program pushed

The Assembly Education Committee advanced a bill Thursday co-sponsored by Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, and Celeste Riley, D-Gloucester, to enhance science, technology, education and math (STEM) education in New Jersey’s schools.

The bill establishes the four-year “New Jersey Innovation Inspiration School Grant Pilot Program” within the Department of Education. The program would award grants to school districts to support non-traditional STEM teaching methods for students in grades 4-12, among other elements.

Campus sexual assault

Responding to the national epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuses, Sen. Jim Beach, D-Camden, introduced legislation Thursday to require all colleges and universities in New Jersey to adopt an affirmative, “Yes Means Yes” standard in their campus sexual assault policies.

Modeled after a first-in-the-nation law signed last month by California Gov. Jerry Brown, the bill requires schools that receive state funds for student assistance programs to adopt an affirmative consent standard in their sexual assault policies.

Unemployment claims safeguard

The Senate Labor Committee Thursday cleared two bills from Sen. Fred H. Madden, D-Gloucester/Camden, to strengthen the unemployment claims processing system in order to help safeguard benefits for the unemployed.

The first bill requires the Department of Labor to establish a procedure for the quarterly review of personnel access rights to the department’s unemployment system. The second bill clarifies that all payments, reports and receipts from employers related to the unemployment compensation program must be submitted directly to the Division of Revenue.

Animal welfare bills

On Thursday, the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee approved a package of five animal welfare bills co-sponsored by Gilbert “Whip” Wilson, D-Camden/Gloucester, and Lampitt to crack down on animal cruelty.

One bill authorizes courts to issue an animal protection order against any person found guilty of abusing an animal. Another allows an animal welfare organization, animal rescue organization, or operator of a foster shelter to take custody of an animal confiscated from its owner while charges are pending.

A third permits a municipality which does not have a pound to contract with an animal foster care service for collecting and caring for stray animals found within the municipality. A fourth establishes penalties for failure to include a bittering agent in antifreeze. The last bill expands criminal and civil acts of animal cruelty to include the theft or release of a living animal or creature during an act of burglary.

Vet donations

The Assembly Appropriations Committee on Oct. 2 released legislation co-sponsored by Wilson that would allow New Jersey taxpayers to make donations to nonprofit veterans’ organizations via their gross income tax returns.

Motor vehicle payment

The Assembly Appropriations Committee also approved a measure Oct. 2 co-sponsored by Wilson to make it more convenient for drivers to pay motor vehicle fines by establishing a monthly installment plan and extending the time period during which drivers may pay fines.

Foreclosure prevention

The Assembly Appropriations Committee Oct. 2 released a bill co-sponsored by Singleton and Lampitt to create a pilot program to assist distressed New Jersey homeowners stay in their homes and avoid foreclosure.

The legislation would help ease the state’s housing crisis by allowing someone whose property value has plummeted below what they owe on their mortgage to have their principal lowered to an amount more reflective of current market realities.

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