Assembly To Consider Bills Combating Domestic Violence, Scrapping Drug-Free School Zones

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TRENTON—Legislation combating domestic violence, giving judges more discretion in sentencing nonviolent drug offenders and requiring the state budget to include a detailed accounting of the various tax breaks allowed under law top today’s Assembly voting session.

The Assembly will also consider legislation requiring all new state workers to live in New Jersey, further clarifying the law prohibiting people from buying more than one handgun per month, allowing towns to hold nonpartisan municipal elections in November, ensuring women- and minority-owned businesses benefit from economic stimulus projects and helping workers gain skills training

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The Assembly will consider a five-bill package to combat domestic violence.

The bills would:

• Establish the Domestic Violence Victim Protection Pilot Program (A-4363), under which the Attorney General would establish a program to continuously monitor up to 500 people convicted of domestic violence. The bill is sponsored by Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex).

• Add criminal coercion to the list of offenses that may be considered domestic violence (A-4364). The bill is also sponsored by Greenstein.

• Create a self-defense justification for domestic violence victims (A-4365). The bill is sponsored by Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer (D-Essex).

• Provide rental and lease protections for domestic violence victims (A-4366). The bill is sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).

• Increase sentences and impose bail restrictions on people who violate domestic violence restraining orders (A-4367). The bill is sponsored by Assemblywoman Joan Voss (D-Bergen).

“Domestic violence devastates the lives of millions each year and leads to injury—sometimes death—and psychological damage that can last a lifetime,” Greenstein said.  “We need to see what can be done to eliminate the threat abusers pose to the future safety and welfare of their victims.”

“Victims of domestic violence have already had their personal rights violated, so we must ensure that if they are simply trying to protect themselves from an abuser that all of the facts of the circumstances involved are considered,” Spencer said.

“Too often acts of domestic violence go unreported and further jeopardize the welfare and safety of the victims of these heinous acts,” Vainieri Huttle said.  “No one should have to live in fear, especially when they are in their own home.”

“Any act of violence against a partner must be taken seriously,” Voss said.  “Victims who have taken the brave step forward to end domestic abuse should be confident that the laws in place do everything possible to protect their future safety.”

The Assembly will also consider legislation (A-2762) Assembly Majority Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman and Assemblyman Gordon M. Johnson (D-Bergen) sponsored to restore judicial discretion in certain drug cases prosecuted through the state’s Drug-Free School Zone.

“Our current Drug-Free School Zone law does not work,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer).  “The mandatory minimum sentencing the zones require has effectively created two different sentences for the same crime, depending on where an individual lives.  This is geographic discrimination at its most basic, and it is something to which I am adamantly opposed.”

The Assembly will also consider legislation (A-2139) Greenstein and Wayne DeAngelo sponsored to require the state budget to include a detailed accounting of the various tax breaks allowed under law to measure whether the deductions or write-offs are meeting their stated goals.

“Everyone likes a tax break, but when a loophole that’s well past its time is continually exploited to save one filer money it inevitably falls to everyone else to make up the difference,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “We cannot make tax policy in a vacuum. To properly determine the effectiveness of our tax laws, we need to know not just how much the state is taking in, but what’s on the other side of the ledger, as well.”

Also on tap is legislation Watson Coleman and Johnson sponsored to require future state employees to live in New Jersey.

Under the bill (A-2515) all future executive, legislative and judicial branch employees – as well as workers employed by independent authorities – would be required to live in New Jersey. Out-of-state residents would be given six months to move into New Jersey before their jobs would be deemed vacant.

The house will also weigh legislation (A-4361) to exempt from the state’s one-gun-per-month law people who wish to buy multiple handguns for an estate or inheritance, collectors of firearms and those who use firearms for competitive and recreational purposes.  The bill is sponsored by Johnson and Assemblymen John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland).

“This is a common sense compromise that does nothing to impair the goal of protecting public safety by keeping criminals from obtaining multiple weapons at once,” Burzichelli said.

Legislation Assemblymen Patrick Diegnan, Jr., and Peter J. Barnes III sponsored would allow towns to hold nonpartisan municipal elections during the November general election. Currently, nonpartisan municipal elections are held on the second Tuesday in May.

“Allowing towns that hold May nonpartisan elections to move those elections to November without jeopardizing their nonpartisan status is a win for everyone,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex).  “Municipalities win because they save money while being able to keep their unique form of government; voters and candidates win because the electorate is more engaged and more active in November elections.”

“Giving communities the option to save money by moving their municipal nonpartisan elections to November just makes sense,” said Barnes (D-Middlesex).  “It allows towns the freedom to decide what electoral approach is right for them, and helps them to save money in the process.”

Also set for consideration is legislation Watson Coleman sponsored to ensure women- and minority-owned businesses benefit from economic stimulus projects

“We must do everything we can to expand job opportunities for everyone, especially those entering the workforce, those who are unemployed and those who are underemployed,” Watson Coleman said.

The Assembly will consider bills (A-4325 and A-4327) sponsored by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden) to provide more job training programs.

“In this economy it is not always a possibility to graduate from high school and attend a four-year, or even a two-year, college right away,” said Lampitt (D-Camden). “Kids today work hard to complete apprenticeships, they work hard to complete college-level classes to fulfill their class work, but they receive no credit and find themselves, literally, taking and paying for those same classes again when they do enter college.”


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