Domestic Violence Victim Protection Measures Clears Assembly Panel

The Bergen Dispatch
December 11, 2014
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The first bill (A-3655), sponsored by Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Joseph Lagana, intends to enhance the protections offered under the “New Jersey Safe Housing Act” by prohibiting a landlord from terminating a tenancy, failing to renew a tenancy, or refusing to enter into a rental agreement due to a tenant or prospective tenant’s status as a domestic violence victim.

Under the act a tenant may terminate a lease prior to its expiration if the tenant provides appropriate documentation and written notice that the tenant or his/her child faces an imminent threat of serious physical harm from another person if they remain on the premises.

The bill would amend the act to prohibit a landlord from terminating a tenancy, failing to renew a tenancy, or refusing to enter into a rental agreement based on the tenant’s, applicant’s or household member’s status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, or based on the tenant or applicant having terminated a rental agreement pursuant to the Act.

“Victims of domestic violence must deal with their life being thrown into upheaval,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “The last thing they need is to have their home uprooted through no fault of their own.”

Bill to Ensure Juvenile Offender's Right to Counsel Advanced by Assembly Panel

The Bergen Dispatch
December 5, 2014
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Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Pamela Lampitt and Benjie Wimberly to ensure a fair judicial process by defining when a juvenile offender has the right to legal counsel during a court proceeding was released Thursday by an Assembly panel.

Under current law, a juvenile has a right to an attorney at every critical stage of a court proceeding in a delinquency case. This bill (A-2208) clarifies that a juvenile has a right to an attorney during every court appearance by the juvenile, any interrogation, identification procedure, or other investigative activity undertaken by law enforcement or prosecutorial personnel subsequent to the filing of the complaint; and the duration of any dispositional order entered by the court.

“The court system can be intimidating for most adults, never mind minors,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “This will help to make sure vulnerable youth do not fall through the cracks by providing needed legal representation.”

NJ lawmakers advance sick leave bills

Burlington County Times
October 27, 2014
David Levinsky
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New Jersey lawmakers advanced legislation Monday that would require all employers to provide paid sick leave to their workers, as well as a bill capping how much retiring public workers can receive as compensation for unused sick time.

The Assembly Labor Committee approved the mandatory sick time measure by a 6-3 vote over objections from business groups.

Unions and worker advocacy groups applauded the bill’s release, saying it would aid the estimated 1.1 million New Jersey employees who do not earn or receive sick leave at their jobs.

The measure would mandate that all public and private sector employees accrue one hour of earned sick leave for every 30 hours of work. Businesses with more than 10 workers would be permitted to cap the amount of sick time employees can accrue at 72 hours (nine days). Smaller businesses with 10 or fewer employers could cap the amount at 40 hours (five days).

Earned time could be used by employees to recover or receive treatment from a mental or physical illness or injury, as well as care for a family member. The time also could be used by employees who are victims of domestic violence or who have a family member who is a victim.

Bill requires more suicide prevention training for teachers

October 27, 2014
Kevin McArdle
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The latest statistics compiled by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in 2010 indicated New Jersey had the third lowest suicide rate in the country, but that doesn’t mean suicide isn’t a serious issue.

The same data revealed there were 719 suicides in the Garden State that year, a rate of 8.2 per 100,000 people, which is the highest New Jersey has seen since at least 1999. A bill (A-3224) approved Monday by the Assembly Education Committee is designed to improve suicide prevention training in public schools.

Under current New Jersey law, public school teachers are required to receive two hours of suicide prevention training over the course of their five-year professional development period. Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Mount Laurel) doesn’t feel this is adequate enough. His legislation would require teachers to get two hours of instruction every year, for a total of 10 hours over the course of the professional development period.

“What we want to do is make sure that there is some training happening every year because to me, two hours over five years doesn’t seem like enough in this very important area,” Singleton said. “New Jersey is unique because it requires training to be done by a mental health expert.”

N.J. Assembly panel backs paid sick leave bill

The Record
October 27, 2014
Hugh Morley
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Strong opposition in New Jersey's business community to a bill that would require employers to give their workers paid sick leave failed to prevent the Democrat-backed legislation from moving ahead Monday.

The state Assembly Labor Committee voted 6-3 along party lines to approve the bill, rejecting the criticism of some of the state's biggest business groups, who testified at the committee hearing in Trenton.

The bill would require employers to grant workers an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Workers at companies with fewer than 10 employees would be able to accrue up to 40 hours sick time that ccould be carried over from one year to the next. Employers with 10 or more workers would be required to allow workers to accrue and carry over up to 72 hours of sick leave.

Bill supporters say 1.1 million people in the state are unable to take paid sick leave. But opponents say it will hurt businesses.

"We are concerned about the lack of flexibility in this bill," Mary Ellen Peppard, a lobbyist for the New Jersey Food Council, a Trenton-based group that represents food retailers, told the committee. "Our members do things differently. Our members provide paid time off, but they don't necessarily call it sick time. This imposes a one-size-fits-all standard."