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School meal legislation goes to Christie's desk

Courier Post
March 21, 2015
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Legislation co-sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt and Gabriela Mosquera designed to make public schools' breakfast and lunch menus more culturally sensitive was approved 34-5 by the Senate last week, sending it to Gov. Chris Christie's desk.

Bill A-3360 would require superintendents in public school districts containing a middle or high school to establish an advisory committee to recommend breakfast and lunch options that reflect the district's cultural and traditional dietary preferences if the student population suggests such a need exists.

"Consistency in teaching New Jersey's children about embracing cultural diversity requires us to ensure that they know everyone will be welcomed in the classroom as well as in the cafeteria," said Lampitt, D-Camden.

"School breakfasts and lunches cannot provide the nourishment that New Jersey's students need if they aren't eaten," said Mosquera, D-Camden.

"Making vegetarian, vegan, kosher, halal and other cultural dietary options available can increase the likelihood that students will eat the food on the menu and help ensure that New Jersey's school nutrition programs reach their intended goal."

Making sure new medicines are safe

The Jersey Journal
March 9, 2015
Joan Quigley
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Most of the pills and injectable medications you take today are made from inert materials in a lab somewhere, but the stuff you may take next year could be made from body cells or plants. They work really well. Perhaps they'll even cure your problem, but currently they are very expensive.

You've heard about them - new kinds of medicine used to treat cancer, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, AIDS and other debilitating diseases - but you may not know that something very like them will be widely available soon and more affordable. They're called biologics and the oldest of them are coming off patent very soon. So pharmaceutical companies all over the world have developed less expensive versions and want to hit the U.S. market as quickly as possible.

Government at both the federal and state level is grappling with the issue of how to substitute the expensive drugs with the newer versions while ensuring the substitutes work without causing harm. The first issue was what to call them. Cheaper versions of original drugs with inert ingredients are called generics, which means they are virtually identical to the original and work in exactly the same way.

New Emergency Alerts Would Help Find Missing NJ Residents with Disabilities

NJSPOTLIGHT
February 23, 2015
Andrew Kitchenman
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New Jersey has Amber Alerts to help find missing children. Silver Alerts are for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. MVP Emergency Alerts could be on the way for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Advocates for the new alert system say that residents with these disabilities sometimes wander away from their families or caregivers, but can be ignored by passersby who aren’t aware of their conditions, potentially putting their lives at risk.

That’s why legislators are looking to institute the state’s third emergency alert system as a way of stopping missing-persons crises and save lives.

Assemblywoman Pamela R. Lampitt (D-Burlington and Camden) said at a hearing on a bill (A-2709/S-2668) that would create the system that while she wasn’t aware of incidents in the state that would have benefited from having the system in place, she wanted to be proactive and prevent crises.

“These individuals when they become flustered, they become upset, they can become very non-approachable,” Lampitt said, adding that other people -- including police officers -- may believe that they’re acting irrationally due to drug or alcohol use. “They’re irrational because they’re scared,” she added.

LEGISLATURE GRAPPLES WITH HOW TO REGULATE BIOLOGICS, NEW CLASS OF MEDICATION

NJSPOTLIGHT
February 6, 2015
Andrew Kitchenman
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In recent years, many of the bestselling new medications haven’t been traditional drugs chemically synthesized in labs. Instead, they belong to a growing class of “biologics” -- substances that are cultivated from living cells, often by altering the DNA that carries genetic information.

Biologics have been a boon to those with a variety of conditions, and are widely used to treat rheumatoid arthritis as well as to fight infections in chemotherapy patients. But these products often are expensive to develop and buy, racking up $66.3 billion in sales nationally in 2013. That’s why the 2010 Affordable Care Act included a provision to encourage the development of generic products that would be similar to but cheaper than the name-brand biologics.

New Jersey laws don’t cover how these so-called biosimilars should prescribed, which is why the Legislature is grappling with ways to regulate them. Biologics-industry representatives have supported state-level legislation addressing biosimilars prescriptions across the country. In fact, biosimilars aren’t yet available in the United States but could result in significant savings if the federal Food and Drug Administration approves.

N.J. 'Pay it Forward' task force to study waiving tuition and letting students pay with future earnings

NJ.com
February 6, 2015
Adam Clark
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New Jersey will create a task force to study how to make college more affordable for the state's students under a law signed Thursday.

The commission will study a "Pay it Forward Pilot Program," in which public college and universities could waive tuition and fees in favor of taking a percentage of students' future earnings. It will also study several other ways to reduce college costs, including an accelerated program for high school students interested in pursuing a career in medicine.

New Jersey's public four year colleges rank among the most expensive in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Education rankings.

Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden), one of the bill's cosponsors, said New Jersey needs to better compete with the schools in neighboring states that lure its students.

"This migration hurts our schools and it hurts us as a state since many of these students will take jobs and settle in these states," Lampitt said. "Making our schools more affordable can help us better compete, and keep students who after graduation will help contribute to our economy."

Christie vetoed prior versions of the bill which called for staff from the executive branch to work on the study, because he said it would duplicate work the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education was already doing.