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9/15/2014 Press office
McKeon, Prieto, Greenwald, Mainor, Jasey & Schaer Bill to Create Statewide Gun Buyback Program Approved by Assembly
(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman John McKeon, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, Charles Mainor, Mila Jasey and Gary Schaer to create a statewide gun buyback program to cut back on the number of firearms out in communities throughout the state was approved 53-22-5 Monday by the Assembly.
"Gun violence claims lives every day. In some communities, it is an-all too common reality," said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). "We realize a gun buyback program alone will not eliminate gun violence, but it can help enhance public safety by reducing the number of firearms in circulation."
"A gun in the hands of a violent or disturbed individual is a bad combination," said Prieto (D-Bergen, Hudson). "This can help keep guns from falling into the wrong hands by creating a controlled environment where individuals looking to get rid of their weapons can do so safely and anonymously."
"A gun buyback program is not the be-all and end-all solution to gun violence, but it can help make a dent by giving people the option to safely discard their weapons," said Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington). "Anything we can do to reduce the number of guns in our communities is a worthwhile pursuit."
The bill (A-2895) would require the Attorney General to establish a statewide gun buyback program that would allow New Jersey citizens to voluntarily and anonymously surrender firearms and weapons in their possession in exchange for a monetary reward. The form of the reward, such as cash or debit card, would be determined by the Attorney General.
"Gun buyback programs are successful in getting a good amount of firearms off the street," said Mainor (D-Hudson). "Giving residents an incentive and a safe alternative to disposing unneeded firearms is a method that has worked in the past to decrease the likelihood of weapons falling into the wrong hands."
"Unfortunately, there is not just one solution to curbing gun violence in our communities," said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). "A buyback program is one proven way of getting rid of firearms. Every gun we can get off the street is a small victory."
"Gun buyback programs are an integral part of a larger effort to reduce the overall numbers of guns available in our communities," said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Each firearm we remove from circulation helps to prevent another devastating tragedy. Each one turned in, potentially saves a life."
Under the gun buyback program established in the bill, the Attorney General would be required to hold at least nine gun buyback programs a year throughout the state. At least three each would be held in the northern region, central region, and southern region of the state, and at least one program in each region would be held in an urban area with a high crime rate. The Attorney General would have to get the crime rates of the various towns by consulting the most recent issue of the Uniform Crime Report, which is published by the Department of Law and Public Safety.
The bill directs the Attorney General to partner with local law enforcement agencies and community organizations in coordinating gun buyback events when possible.
The gun buyback program would be funded by: forfeiture funds received by the Attorney General as instrumentalities of crime; private donations from corporations, small businesses, and individuals; and any other monies that may become available to the Attorney General.
The Attorney General's Office launched a gun buyback initiative in 2012. To date, a total of ten buybacks conducted across New Jersey have recovered a total of 15,958 firearms, including more than 7,300 handguns and nearly 1,900 illegal guns.
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9/12/2014 Press office
Jasey Decries Christie's Land Bank Bill Veto, Says Call for State Oversight Creates Unnecessary Bureaucratic Red Tape for Towns
(TRENTON) - Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex, Morris) released the following statement on Friday describing the Governor's veto of her legislation that would have helped to fight blight in New Jersey's communities, especially in the state's urban centers:
"Land Banks are more than an experiment, Governor.
"Eighty Land Banks in 20 states, including New York, Pennsylvania, are successfully using this tool to markedly improve cities, permitting them to attract business opportunities and greatly improve quality of life.
"Vacant lots, abandoned shopping centers, buildings and homes diminish the property values. Municipalities should be given the opportunity to rid neighborhood blight in a way that will raise revenue and strengthen the tax base.
"Placing land bank programs under state control would create unnecessary bureaucratic red tape and make meaningful change much more elusive for communities that desperately need it.
"For nearly five years, Governor Christie has touted the great need for a smaller and efficient government. Yet, in this veto he calls for state oversight.
"And although, the Governor has stated before the need for communities to be able to control housing development, with this veto, he has rejected a proven method that would help municipalities redevelop or repurpose properties to meet current and future housing needs.
"This bill had overwhelming bipartisan support by Legislature and would have given municipalities the opportunity to take charge of their vacant, underused, abandoned properties and develop the land into thriving business centers, new schools, parks, and housing.
"Municipalities deserve real reasons, real answers and real solutions to curing their towns of unsightly, useless properties now."
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9/11/2014 Press office
Benson, Vainieri Huttle, Jasey, Tucker & Wimberly Bill to Train School Bus Drivers/Aides who Transport Children with Special Needs Approved by Assembly Panel
An Assembly panel on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Mila Jasey, Cleopatra Tucker and Benjie Wimberly to prevent accidental mistreatment of students with special needs by creating a training program for school bus drivers and aides.
"Children with special needs require specialized attention and care. Bus drivers and aides should be aware of behaviors associated with certain disabilities, and know how to effectively deal with them so to avoid any confusion and accidental mistreatment of these students," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "It makes their job easier and ensures that these students are being treated with the respect they deserve."
The bill (A-1029) would require the Commissioner of Education to develop a training program for school bus drivers and school bus aides on interacting with students with special needs. The training program would include appropriate behavior management, effective communication, the use and operation of adaptive equipment, and understanding behavior that may be related to specific disabilities.
"Knowing how to operate a school bus and knowing traffic laws is not enough," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "These bus drivers and aides are responsible for these children and not just for getting them to school safely, but for providing for their well-being while they are on the bus. Teaching them about the challenges faced by children with special needs will help ensure the safety of these students."
Once the training program is made available, boards of education and school bus contractors that provide student transportation services under contract with boards of education would be required to administer the training program to all school bus drivers and school bus aides that they employ.
"While these students are on that bus, they are the responsibility of these drivers and aides," said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). "These students are especially vulnerable. It makes sense to educate these employees on how to recognize behaviors associated with certain disabilities so they can respond appropriately. It is in their best interest and the best interest of these students."
An employer shall require that a school bus driver or school bus aide file a certification with the employer that the individual has completed the training program within five business days of its completion. The employer shall retain a copy of the certification for the duration of the individual's employment.
"By tailoring the transportation protocol to a student's specific needs, we can make sure they are receiving the individualized attention they need from those entrusted with their care," said Tucker (D-Essex). "From a policy perspective this is a wise move."
"The commute to and from school can present a number of obstacles and challenges, depending on a student's particular needs" said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). "This will help ensure, first and foremost, that the student is being looked out for, while also helping drivers and aides do their jobs with less worry or concern."
The bill was approved by the Assembly Education Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.
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9/10/2014 Press office
Quijano, Vainieri Huttle, Jasey, Benson, Singleton, Wilson, Lampitt Bill to Facilitate Financial Support to Local Libraries Signed into Law
(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Mila Jasey, Daniel Benson, Troy Singleton, Whip Wilson and Pamela Lampitt to allow taxpayers to make a voluntary contribution in support of local libraries has been signed into law.
"Budgetary constraints at the local and state level have made it difficult for many of our public libraries to operate effectively," said Quijano (D-Union). "This will help to bridge the gap in funding by allowing residents to make direct, monetary contributions come tax season."
"Libraries provide an essential service to our communities. For some residents, their main access to books and the Internet is through their local library branch," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "This gives residents the option to help preserve our public libraries by making a contribution when filing their taxes."
"Libraries are important community resources, but many are under constant threat of having to cut back on services and staff," said Jasey (D-Essex, Morris). "Enabling residents to support through their tax returns will provide much-needed infusions of funding that will help sustain our libraries and keep them in our communities."
"Lack of funding has led to some libraries closing. We cannot let that happen," said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). "We must do all that we can to ensure our libraries continue to serve in our communities. This is a the way we can help fund programming and support staffing in New Jersey's libraries."
"We want our libraries to continue serving as access points for job services, information and internet access for residents," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "The services libraries offer are invaluable and deserve community support in this way."
"In many communities, our libraries are the only source of internet access, serve as community meeting places, and a refuge for children afterschool," said Wilson (D-Camden). "A tax check-off will be a great funding boost for our libraries. There is a way we can help secure their place as vital part of our communities and this is it."
"Our libraries offer invaluable services and free programming that enrich our communities," said Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington). "A designated funding source for our libraries is a smart move in an unpredictable economy."
The law (A-1314/S1803) establishes the Local Library Support Fund, a special fund where the contributions will be deposited and appropriated for the support of county and municipal libraries.
The law requires the Department of the Treasury to turn the funds in the Local Library Support Fund over to the State Librarian, who shall annually distribute the moneys received from the fund in accordance with the State Library Aid Law.