Category: Clips

New Jersey adopts Jessica Lunsford Act after 9 years

Source: Daily Record - New Jersey is the latest, and one of the last states, to enact a version of the Jessica Lunsford Act, which increases penalties for people convicted of sexually assaulting a child under 13.

Nancy Munoz

Gov. Chris Christie signed the bill into law May 15. A ceremonial bill signing was held Monday morning on the Statehouse steps and included a short speech from Mark Lunsford, whose 9-year-old daughter was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender in Florida in 2005…

Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce, R-Morris, was a cosponsor of the legislation.

“This law will ensure that those who commit the unspeakable act of sexual assault on a child will be taken off our streets and locked behind bars where they cannot harm any more children,” said DeCroce.“The harm that sexual predators inflict on children, their families and friends is immeasurable and must be punished as severely as possible under the law.”

BettyLou DeCroce

The legislation was initially sponsored by the late Assemblyman Eric Muñoz in 2005. Muñoz’s wife, Assemblywoman Nancy Muñoz, R-Union, is the bill’s prime sponsor.

“We didn’t want to punish the children more than they’ve already suffered. So that’s why the plea deal is in there,” said Munoz

Other primary sponsors for the Jessica Lunsford Act included Senators Tom Kean Jr., R-Union, and Steve Oroho, R-Sussex, and Assembly members Mary Pat Angelini, R-Monmouth, and Allison McHose, R-Sussex.

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NJ lawmakers aim to curb over-aggressive car ‘booting’

Source: Cliffview Pilot -

State lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are teaming up to tighten up regulations on “booting” parked cars, amid an outcry by motorists in Hoboken.

Under the measure, municipalities won’t be able to immobilize your vehicle unless there is an outstanding warrant against it.

The cost to retrieve your car after its bee booted can exceed $200.

If creating more resident parking and not raking in dough is truly is the goal, he said, the city “would be towing vehicles that violate local parking ordinances to free up spaces.”

Declan O'Scanlon

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-13), a vocal critic of red light cameras, said it is “really a shame” that new laws were needed to put the brakes on “a blatant abuse of motorists.”

“You’ve got handicapped people, senior citizens returning from dinner, single women — anybody, really,” he said. “The fact that common human decency alone isn’t enough to persuade the people perpetuating this rip off to stop immediately says something sad about the individuals in charge.”

Weekhawken resident Wilson Vega Jr. said his pregnant wife had a troubling experience after her car was recently booted in Hoboken.

“It’s bad enough my pregnant wife had to pay a hefty fine,” he said. “She also had to return the boot or wait several hours until someone could come get it. It’s outrageous.”

According to the Hudson Reporter, Hoboken “pulled in nearly $5.6 million in revenue from parking tickets in 2013, almost $1 million more than in 2012.

“And though the city forks over $11.50 of every ticket to the state, there is still a financial gain for the city – 23.8 percent of this year’s parking utility budget will be funneled into the city’s coffers.”

The bill, A-3225, is expected to considered by a legislative committee in the coming weeks. Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R-25) joined O’Scanlon as a co-sponsor.

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Gov. Chris Christie signs ‘Jessica Lunsford’ sex offender bill into law

Source: The Express-Times -

New Jersey has become the 46th state to enact a law toughening penalties for sex offenders who prey on children.

Gov. Chris Christie today signed the law known as the “Jessica Lunsford Act,” which imposes mandatory 25-year terms without parole for anyone convicted of assaulting a child younger than 13.

Prosecutors would be permitted to negotiate a 15-year sentence to keep some victims from having to testify.

The bill is named after a 9-year-old Florida girl who was kidnapped, raped and buried alive by a convicted sex offender in 2005. Similar laws around the country are intended to keep child sex offenders locked up longer to reduce their ability to re-offend.

The girl’s father, Mark Lunsford, has pushed hard for such laws.

He flew to Trenton to attend today’s bill signing.

Primary sponsors for the Jessica Lunsford Act included state Sens. Steve Oroho, R-Sussex/Warren/Morris; Diane Allen, R-Burlington; and Tom Kean Jr., R-Union; and Assembly members Alison Littell McHose, R-Sussex/Warren/Morris; Nancy Munoz, R-Union/Morris/Somerset; and Mary Pat Angelini, R-Monmouth.

Alison Littell McHose

Littell McHose in a statement said: “The physical and emotional harm done to children, as well as the trauma suffered by their families and communities, deserves the strongest possible response by the justice system. Justice has now been served. The new law will equip law enforcement with the tools it needs to make sure sexual predators receive the punishment they deserve.”

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‘Jessica Lunsford Act’ Signed Into Law

Source: NJ 101.5 -

New Jersey has become the 46th state to enact a law toughening penalties for sex offenders who prey on children.

Gov. Chris Christie signed the law known as the “Jessica Lunsford Act,” which imposes mandatory 25-year terms without parole for anyone convicted of assaulting a child younger than 13.

The law is named for 9-year-old Florida resident Jessica Lunsford, who was kidnapped, raped and murdered in 2005 by a two-time convicted sex offender. Her father Mark Lunsford joined Christie for Monday’s ceremonial bill signing.

“Today marks the day that New Jersey begins changing the landscape on how we deal with crimes against children. Today is the day that New Jersey says that we’re turning the tables and instead of you stalking our children we’re stalking you,” Lunsford said.

The late Assemblyman Eric Munoz also introduced his version of the measure nine years ago. His wife has taken his place in the legislature and was also at the bill signing.

Nancy Munoz

“My husband Eric flew Mark Lunsford up here in the spring of 2005 and he made a promise to him that we will get this passed and Eric always kept his promises,” said Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-Summit). “When Eric died I took over for him and the very first piece of legislation that I picked up was this bill.”

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Christie champions law toughening penalties against sex offenders who assault children

Source: Star Ledger -

In 2005, Mark Lunsford’s 9-year-old daughter Jessica was abducted, raped, and murdered by a twice-convicted sex offender who lived near their home in Florida.

Nine years later, Lunsford choked back tears as he stood next to Gov. Chris Christie this morning to welcome New Jersey as the 46th state to enact a law named after his daughter to toughen sentences against sex offenders who prey on children.

The Jessica Lunsford Act requires judges to sentence those convicted of aggravated sexual assault against children under the age of 13 to at least 25 years in prison without parole. Previously, the crime held penalties of 10 to 20 years.

“Today is the day that New Jersey says, ‘We’re turning the tables, and instead of you stalking our children, we’re stalking you,’” Mark Lunsford told the crowd that gathered at the Statehouse steps in Trenton to see Christie publicly sign the bill into law. “The only way that we can make things different is by joining together and every state passing something that is so tough that it makes other people so angry because it’s so hard for them to do their job to protect a guilty man.”

Florida passed a law named after Jessica the year she was murdered. Around the same time, Assemblyman Eric Munoz (R-Union) worked with her father to introduce a similar bill in New Jersey.

The measure had 72 sponsors and co-sponsors but stalled for years in the Legislature. Critics have said the increased penalties don’t make children safer and may hurt teenagers who have relationships with younger children.

But after Munoz died in 2009, his wife was elected to his seat and continued fighting for the bill’s passage.

Nancy Munoz

“He made a promise to him to get this passed,” Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-Union said today. “Eric always kept his promises. This is an important day for New Jersey.”

The law allows prosecutors to negotiate a shorter sentence — of no less than 15 years without parole — if the state Attorney General’s Office determines it’s in the best interest of the victim.

 

Mark Lunsford has spent much of the last decade traveling across the U.S. to push states to pass the law. He visited New Jersey in 2011 to lobby for it, and after working until 6 a.m. this morning, he immediately caught a flight to finally champion its signing.

“Thank you to the people of New Jersey,” he said.

Lunsford noted that only four states have not passed the legislation, including neighboring New York.

“New York, all your neighbors have Jessie’s law, and you don’t,” he said.

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Fiocchi Urges Preparedness as Official Hurricane Season Starts

Source: Cape May County Herald -

Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi, R-Cumberland, Cape May and Atlantic, said that while the summer just weeks away, residents should be aware that the start of the Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1 and lasts until Nov. 30. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season will be “near or below average.” The agency said there could be between eight and 13 tropical storms originating in the Atlantic Ocean.

“While students anxiously await the end of school and vacationers are making plans to enjoy New Jersey’s many tourist attractions, we must be aware that violent weather can happen at any time over the next six months,” said Fiocchi. “Residents and visitors should monitor reports and have a plan in the event of severe weather. One thing we’ve learned from hurricanes, tropical and ice storms and Sandy is there is no such thing as being over-prepared. Common sense planning and communication are key components in an emergency situation.”

The Office of Emergency Management (OEM) offers the following recommendations in preparing for a significant weather event.

• Prepare an emergency “go-bag,” which includes items such as, bottled water, battery-powered radio, flashlights and extra batteries, non-perishable foods and necessary prescription drugs. Remember to include extra cash in the event ATMs are not working and maintain at least a half tank of gas in your vehicle at all times.

• Make sure the family-emergency plan includes knowing where to go, who to contact, and how to remain in contact should family members become separated during an emergency event.

• Stay informed about local evacuation routes, the location of nearby shelters, what to do before and during a flood.

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Bramnick and Carroll discuss Christie pay increases to staffers

Source: Bergen Record -

An angry Governor Christie defended the decision to give his staff hefty raises, saying Friday that several high-level people left his office in recent months and those who stayed have more responsibility and should get bigger salaries. The Republican governor also said that the total amount he pays his staff now is $240,000 less than it was at the end of his first term last year, before staff members left.

“People who take on more responsibility deserve more pay,” Christie said, responding to a reporter’s question at an event in Tennessee, where he was campaigning for the state’s Republican governor. “In fact, if my budget in the governor’s office is a quarter of a million dollars less than it was when I was sworn in, then I’ve done the right thing, and I’m showing that we’re sacrificing the same way that I’m asking other people to sacrifice in difficult budget times.”

The Record reported Friday that Christie gave raises to 27 staff members, totaling more than $330,000 in additional payments. The average raise was 23 percent. Christie said the story was “incomplete and irresponsible” because it failed to mention that the overall payroll for his office is now less. Representatives of the governor did not respond Thursday or Friday to detailed questions about the raises, including questions about when they were awarded. A spokes­man would only say Thursday that the raises were appropriate for the new job duties.

The state provided salary information only after The Record filed a lawsuit. The administration declined two Open Public Records Act requests, one filed in February and another in March, seeking updated payroll information. “My job is to be a steward of public money and if I have four senior people leave my staff, which they did, three voluntarily and one involuntarily, and I don’t do anything other than try to promote people from within, those people who are taking on new and more senior responsibilities deserve to make more money,” Christie said.

In Trenton on Friday, Christie found few words of support for the pay raises as lawmakers and others said it was wrong to give such increases when the budget is in trouble and wrong again that The Record needed to file a lawsuit to obtain public payroll details.

Some lawmakers who tend to side with the governor on other issues were critical of the raises. Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll said that the state’s fiscal situation makes the raises look particularly bad. “It’s certainly poorly timed,” said Carroll, R-Morris.

“We haven’t had a raise in the Assembly or the Legislature since 2001. Whether we deserve it or not |isn’t the issue, you’ve got to set an example because we don’t have the money.” But not all Republicans in the Legislature criticized the raises.

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, R-Union, said it made sense for the governor to boost his employees’ pay after cutting the state’s workforce by about 6,000 since taking office, and after the difficulties the governor and his staff have faced this year — from the George Washington Bridge lane-closure scandal to the budget shortfall. “A second term is harder than a first term, and I think it’s been proven,” Bramnick said. “I’d vote right now for a 23 percent raise for the governor after what he’s been through.”

Small in comparison Matt Rooney, an attorney and the editor of the conservative blog Save Jersey, agreed that the raises made sense. “I don’t think if you want good people in public service, you can expect to pay them peanuts,” he said. He added that it’s important to look at the pay hikes in context. “With all the billions of dollars that Trenton’s wasting on a regular basis, I can’t say this is something that jumped out at me as wasteful or abusive on the face of it,” Rooney said.

Carroll agreed that salary information should generally be easily accessible, although he declined to comment about the specifics of this case. “When it comes to salaries, anyone who works for the people, their salaries should be readily available,” he said. “The default setting should be wide open.”

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Angelini discusses why heroin is still killing at the Shore

Source: Asbury Park Press -

Sixteen-thousand bags of heroin taken off the street.

Twenty-five funerals averted.

Two guilty pleas of manslaughter.

After notching a record 112 drug overdose deaths in 2013 and becoming the epicenter of New Jersey’s heroin and opiate crisis, Ocean County is moving closer toward reducing deaths, curbing abuse and beating back relentless dealers. Yet 28 people so far this year have died of drug overdoses, 21 of them linked to heroin, according to the county prosecutor. At the same point last year, 50 people were dead from drugs.

While the number of lives saved and the lower death rate is a point of pride for county officials, the region and the state is still figuring out how to effectively deal with a heroin abuse crisis years in the making.

Nearly six months into 2014, New Jersey is at a critical point as it faces what legislators have been calling the No. 1 public health crisis since last fall. But those same lawmakers have also said that a comprehensive strategy to address it will be slow, as government goes, leaving places like Ocean County to take the epidemic into its own hands.

All but one of this year’s overdose deaths have been linked to heroin or prescription drugs.

While Ocean County has rolled out an array of new programs to combat the abuse, including a state pilot equipping police with the opiate antidote Narcan, progress has been mixed across the state.

State funding for new programs and treatment is limited to the $4.5 million expansion of drug court. Legislation designed to curb abuse and crack down on dealers has been slow to move through the Statehouse.

Joseph D. Coronato stepped into a blooming crisis last March when he took over as Ocean County prosecutor. By the first week of June, a little more than two months into his term as the county’s top law enforcement official, 53 people were dead of an overdose — the same number as all of 2012, according to his office. All but one of those deaths was linked to heroin or prescription drugs.

 

Users are still dying at a worrisome pace in Ocean County despite the Narcan program. The 28 overdoses through May equal an overdose death every five days; last year it was one every three days.

In Monmouth County, which saw a spike in heroin-related deaths in 2011 and 2012, it appears the overdose trend is holding. There were 61 heroin-related deaths in 2013; through February there were 13, according to the Prosecutor’s Office (the office said there is a backlog of toxicology tests causing the delay). If that rate holds, Monmouth County could see 78 heroin deaths this year, the most in at least five years.

Statewide, heroin deaths have been on the rise: 449 in 2011; 591 in 2012; and through the first half of 2013, the latest accurate data available, 267 people were dead from heroin, according to the Attorney General’s office.

The state Department of Human Services is also working on a statewide Narcan training program for family members and close relatives of opiate addicts, one of the measures included in the Overdose Prevention Act signed into law last year by Gov. Chris Christie. The effort, called the “bystander program,” is roughly based off a long-running program in Massachusetts to lower overdose deaths. Rolled out in 2006, the program has in some areas helped lower the overdose death rate by nearly 50 percent, and there is now on average one rescue a day, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

New Jersey, whose abundance of pharmaceutical companies has earned it the well-known nickname “the medicine chest of the world,” still does not require doctors to register and participate in the prescription monitoring program, an electronic system that tracks what prescriptions are being written, who they are written for and who is writing them. Prescription painkiller abuse often leads people to heroin, a cheaper but more potent alternative.

Most states have a prescription monitoring program, but New Jersey requires just pharmacies to register and use the database, according to the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws, a federally funded nonprofit that works with the Office of National Drug Control Policy to draft model drug and alcohol laws and regulations in states.

Mary Pat Angelini

Legislation last year to strengthen prescription monitoring died in lame-duck session and has been reintroduced. Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini, R-Ocean and co-signer of an Assembly bill, said it has been “very frustrating” getting legislation passed. She has written former Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver to take “swift action” on last year’s bills – senate and assembly versions – as well as current Speaker Vincent Prieto to make addressing the abuse epidemic a priority this legislative session.

“Sadly, the end result is I haven’t gotten a response,” she said.

Prieto could not be reached for comment, but issued a statement to the Asbury Park Press.

In it, he said lawmakers are “trying to resolve all the many concerns that have been brought up in the committee debates on these bills, and are willing to work with everyone involved to devise a workable and effective bill.

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Bramnick responds to Sweeney on Sandy Bill of Rights

Source: PolitckerNJ -

New Jersey’s top Senate lawmaker is accusing his GOP colleagues of being “scared and timid” of the state’s Republican governor.

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) blasted Senate Republicans Friday after the caucus announced yesterday it would not support Sweeney’s Sandy Bill of Rights that Gov. Chirs Christie vetoed. In a letter to Sweeney, Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-21) told the bill’s sponsor Republicans wouldn’t support a veto override despite originally approving the bill.

Kean’s letter came after Republican lawmakers overwhelmingly supported the measure when it originally passed the Senate 34-0 and 72-0 in the Assembly.

Kean told Sweeney in his letter provisions of his bill “are in direct conflict with numerous federal laws” and its implementation could harm storm victims by preventing additional federal aid from coming to the state.

Jon Bramnick

“The only thing we’re scared of is violating federal law,” responded Assemblyman Jon Bramnick on Friday. “The Senate president needs to get an attorney and read the bill because the bill has portions that are clearly in violation in federal law.”

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O’Scanlon reacts to Sweeney challenge of GOP support for Sandy “Bill of Rights” veto

Source: Star Ledger -

State Senate President Steven Sweeney took to his opponents’ territory to slam Republicans’ plans to support the conditional veto of his Hurricane Sandy victims “Bill of Rights” legislation.

The “Sandy Bill of Rights” called for changes aimed at addressing problems that residents and housing advocates raised about state-administered recovery grants, including providing a clear explanation of how to apply for programs and allowing applicants to find online where they stand on waiting lists.

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth), who earlier this week published an opinion supporting Christie’s veto, said Sweeney was incorrect.

Declan O'Scanlon

“I like some of the things that the bill would do, for example, permitting people to appeal a denial, but there are also obvious fatal flaws in his legislation,” O’Scanlon said by phone on Friday. “For him to push for an override is blatantly political when he knows the override could actually hurt people recovering from Sandy. He could force us to turn down people actually eligible for aid or approve people ineligible for aid, both of those possibilities are disgusting.”

O’Scanlon accused Sweeney of using the Sandy aid process to push ambitions for higher office.

“This blatant politicizing of this issue should stop,” O’Scanlon said. “It is shameful. We have people to help, we don’t have time for Sen. Sweeney’s blatant campaign stops on the road to the governorship.”

O’Scanlon said his office was never formally notified of the Sweeney press conference, nor was he invited.

“We were not invited, and this wasn’t the first time that we were not invited to a press conference that he was doing in my district,” O’Scanlon said. “We were not even formally informed, nor was the mayor of Sea Bright, someone who knows more about sandy recovery and the obstacles of sandy recovery that Steve Sweeney.”

Republicans have suggested marking up the bill to address Christie’s concerns.

“If we were going to do it again, we would include the administration,” O’Scanlon said. “There are things in his bill that the governor took out or wants to exclude from the bill. We could do all of that in the next two weeks if we really wanted to do it, we’ve already hashed over a lot of this stuff.”

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