It’s about jobs…
As your Assemblyman, I’m working to bring quality, high-paying jobs to New Jersey. As Chairman of the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee, I’m looking at technology and innovation to lead growth and reinvigorate New Jersey's economy. This week we held a hearing in Trenton to get an understanding of the cutting-edge technologies that have emerged, that challenge our conventional understanding of energy and fuel. The fuel cell is a highly efficient and reliable alternative to fossil fuels, which is showing its value in the State of New Jersey. I recently visited the Newark Farms Market, which is expanding, hiring 150 new workers. By taking advantage of fuel cell technology in their forklifts and machinery, the Market has improved productivity, and increased capacity. It’s about jobs!
Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In January we celebrated his 86th Birthday, and took time to remember the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We recalled the struggle for civil rights, for racial equality, and his peaceful, non-violent work of civil disobedience. Guided by faith, Dr. King stood up to injustice by leading a movement that included marching, demonstrating, sit-ins and boycotts. The movement was a courageous sacrifice by so many, which advanced the issue of racial equality in our Country, a conversation that is still unfinished to this day. We came together to honor Dr. King’s legacy at the Society of African Missions in Tenafly, New Jersey.
I was joined by Senator Loretta Weinberg, Assemblywoman Valere Vainieri-Huttle, Bergen County Freeholder Tracy Zur,and former Assemblyman Arnold Brown, the first African-American State Legislator in New Jersey. Rev. Gregory Jackson received the Lee Reid award, and Tenafly High School senior Annika Seiden was awarded a scholarship in honor of Dr. King. Other Bergen County youth were congratulated with certificates of merit.
As we look forward to 2015 we welcome new leaders and fresh voices in our municipal and county governments. Throughout New Jersey, communities have held re-organization meetings forming new governing bodies, welcoming new and returning leadership. In Englewood, I had the pleasure of swearing-in Councilman Eugene Skurnick for another term. In Tenafly, I joined new Councilman Paul Stefanowicz for his swearing-in. Throughout New Jersey leaders take the oath of office, a public trust, a commitment, rooted in the history of our State and our Country.
I’m proud to be the Prime Sponsor of “Tuition Equality Act” (A4225). This bill became known colloquially known as the Tuition Equity for DREAMers Act and “allows certain students including undocumented immigrants who meet certain criteria to qualify for in-state tuition at public institutions of higher education and state financial aid.” This law brings access to higher education to more of our state's young people and adult learners. The DREAM Act is transformational; it emboldens the American dream, boosts our economy, increasing personal growth and learning potential. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed the bill into law in 2014.
This week the Assembly Budget Committee approved a bill (A3617) to make higher education an attainable reality for undocumented students in New Jersey. Many of these students have dreamt about going to college their whole life, only to find out they weren't eligible for the same opportunities as their peers. In order to put higher education within reach for them, they need a fair shot at financial assistance just like the many other residents of this state who wouldn't be able to afford college otherwise.Read more
I had the opportunity this week to visit the Academies@Englewood and lead a discussion with students from the Law & Public Safety Academy. It was an opportunity to tell my story about the work we do in the Assembly, but more so, it was a chance to talk about public service and being a positive part of a community. The walls of Ms. Powell's classroom are covered with symbols of justice and include images of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. - An important reminder to me of how significant a good teacher can be in the life of a student.
The students at Dwight-Morrow High School/Academies@Englewood were smart, engaging, and inquisitive. They had enthusiasm and a passion for their studies. I left feeling optimist about our future and thankful for the wonderful teachers who were such a positive force, not only in my life, but in the students as well.
I attended a State Legislative Leaders Conference this week in Jackson Hole, Wyoming with our Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg. The group meets from time-to-time to discuss the challenges we confront in our communities. We work together to find solutions. From these discussions we find new insights, new approaches, but most importantly answers to the complex problems we face. Jackson Hole is home to the historic Town Square Park, a location where we met a former State Legislator and former President from Illinois. He didn’t say very much, but you can learn a great deal if you take the time to listen closely. Lincoln was a legislator, a leader, but even more so, a deep-thinker. We addressed the issues at the Conference with a similar intellectual intensity and then took a thoughtful moment to reflect on the legacy of President Lincoln.
We congratulate Roger A. Haeneth for 50 years of volunteer service to the Leonia Fire Department! State Senator Loretta Weinberg, and I joined Rodger at the Leonia Fire house to present a resolution marking the occasion. Communities succeed with the hard work and commitment from volunteers like Roger. Serving the community is not a part of his life, it is his life!
Recently, an Assembly panel approved my legislation to help exonerate the wrongfully convicted by allowing anyone convicted of a crime to request DNA testing. New Jersey is one of 14 states with an incarceration requirement in their post-conviction DNA testing statutes, meaning only those who are currently incarcerated can file a motion for DNA testing. The bill (A-1678) would allow any person who has been convicted of a crime to make such a motion.
Thanks to DNA testing, we have seen a number of individuals exonerated after years, sometimes decades spent behind bars for crimes they did not commit. Sadly, under current state law, an innocent person who is on probation or parole does not have the same access to the technology that can help clear their name and restore their dignity. This bill would open access to DNA testing to these individuals, so they can stop living under the shadow of guilt and finally be free.
The bill also authorizes the court to order law enforcement officials to submit DNA evidence from a crime scene to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) for testing, and to order the State Police laboratory to evaluate private laboratories for compliance with certain FBI standards.
Recently, I went back to Dwight-Morrow, my high school, to promote my bill (A1672) that requires youth sports programs and cheerleading programs to have written head injury policies. I joined U.S. Senator Bob Menendez and Congressman Bill Pascrell who are advancing similar legislation (SAFE PLAY act) on the federal level. Concussions, we now know, can be very serious - every three minutes a young athlete is treated for a sports related concussion - having a plan in place when they occur, will make a real difference in keeping our children healthy.