New Jersey lawmakers looking at paid sick leave

October 10, 2014
Michael Catalini
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TRENTON - The push to make New Jersey employers offer paid sick leave attracted a standing-room-only crowd at a legislative committee hearing Thursday and touched off an hours-long debate after a vote was postponed.
Labor and trade associations spoke in favor of the bill, arguing that low-wage workers face economic hardships when they take off from work due to sickness but do not get paid.

"An earned-sick-day standard will boost our state's working families' economic and personal health," Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of the labor-aligned NJ Citizen Action group, said in a statement.

Employers' organizations, including the New Jersey Restaurant Association, support paid sick leave but suggest amending the bill to prevent workers from exploiting it.

Others, such as the right-leaning advocacy group Americans for Prosperity (AFP), oppose the measure, saying it would drive up costs for employers and stifle competition.

"It is not that AFP is against [the concept]. We are against the mandate of it. It is mandates like these that make me question opening a business of my own in New Jersey," said Danielle Cyr of the New Jersey branch of AFP.


September 12, 2014
John Mooney
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The Legislature will soon get back to work on a range of significant education bills, ranging from charter schools to teacher preparation, but yesterday it started out by tackling an unexpected topic: school lunch.

As the Assembly education committee held its first hearings since the summer, it took up four relatively routine bills covering matters including school-bus driver training and reserve accounts for certain federal aid.

But there was considerable interest and testimony regarding a bill that would require middle schools and high schools to set up “food services advisory committees” – with half of the membership comprised of students -- to address students concerns about the breakfasts and lunches they are served each day.

Much has changed in the last decade when it comes to school food, with new federal and state nutrition requirements -- some of which are more popular than others with the students eating the food.

The bill in question is specifically aimed at students who are vegetarian or vegan, said the primary sponsor, giving them a way to press their school districts’ food services to provide more varied dietary options.

New Jersey Lawmakers Push for New Domestic Violence Laws

NBC Philadelphia
September 11, 2014
Geoff Mulvihill
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New Jersey lawmakers advanced a series of bills Thursday designed to cut down on domestic violence, with the case of a former football star punching his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City casino in the backdrop.

The Assembly Women and Children Committee unanimously advanced five bills, including one to require counseling for people convicted of domestic violence. Now, counseling is often a condition for those who strike plea bargains, but not for those convicted by a judge or jury.

"We're saying to those who are offenders, to those in homes where there have been offenders that we're taking this seriously," said Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, a Democrat from Cherry Hill and the chairwoman of the committee. "It doesn't end when somebody is incarcerated. It continues when they get out on parole."

She noted that the committee scheduled the hearing on the package of bills before this week's disclosure of a video showing Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee in the Revel Casino Hotel in Atlantic City earlier this year. Rice, who has since married the woman he was seen hitting and dragging out of an elevator, was released this week by the team and suspended indefinitely by the NFL.

Students would have a say in lunch menus under bill to be considered by N.J. Assembly panel
September 10, 2014
Matt Friedman
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When Madeline Ferraro and her high school senior daughter Brooke had a meeting with her school’s cafeteria staff at Wall Township High School to discuss vegetarian options, she said it didn’t go well.

“They told my daughter she could eat a fruit cup and chips for lunch. That was their offer to her,” Ferraro said. “They weren’t mean. There was no malicious intent. But they were not able to understand what the heck vegetarianism, let alone veganism, was.”

So Ferraro, who works as a New Jersey lobbyist, and her daughter met with state lawmakers to give them some food for thought.

The result: a bill that will be considered by lawmakers Thursday that would ask middle and high schools to set up advisory committees that would recommend school breakfast and lunch dishes that would “better reflect the cultural food preferences of the student body.”

That could mean offering more vegetarian options. Or tailoring a district’s menu to serve food that reflects students’ ethnic backgrounds.

“We are strongly encouraging – no mandate – strongly encouraging all school districts to develop a school advisory committee so they can talk about their specific population needs," said Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden), the sponsor. "So if it is ethnic, there’s an ethnic sort of flare to the foods."

Prieto: Statewide paid sick leave an Assembly priority

September 3, 2014
Kevin McArdle
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The New Jersey Assembly Labor Committee is set to consider legislation this month that would require New Jersey employers to provide paid sick leave to their workers. Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Secaucus) said getting the legislation passed is a priority.

Under the bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt (D-Voorhees), workers would accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.
“My bill requires mostly all employers to offer some form of paid sick leave policy,” Lampitt said.

Newark, Jersey City and Passaic have adopted paid leave policies, with Passaic’s council approving its ordinance late Tuesday night, and several other New Jersey towns are considering following suit. Lampitt said a statewide policy is needed because there are businesses with offices in places like Newark and Jersey City that are offering paid sick leave to employees in those cities, but not in other Garden State municipalities where they also have offices.

“People should be able to stay home and not feel that their job is threatened if they don’t come in when they’re sick,” Lampitt said.
Prieto said there are about 1.1 million workers in the state who do not have paid time off.

“It’s this simple – earned sick leave means stronger families, stronger workplaces and stronger communities. It should become law,” Prieto said in an emailed press release Aug. 6.