Tag: Caroline Casagrande

DeCroce and Casagrande’s ‘Autumn Joy Stillbirth Research Act’ Approved by Assembly

Caroline Casagrande

BettyLou DeCroce

Source: Assembly Republican Press Release -

The General Assembly today approved the “Autumn Joy Stillbirth Research and Dignity Act,” sponsored by Assemblywomen BettyLou DeCroce and Caroline Casagrande.

Assembly bill 4280 calls on the Department of Health to create a database for stillbirth research and to develop protocols for stillbirths and to create a database for stillbirth research.

“By establishing guidelines, we are providing medical professionals and staff with tools to ensure grief-stricken families receive sensitive and compassionate care following the loss of a child in stillbirth,” said DeCroce, R-Essex, Morris and Passaic. “For a family coping with a horrific loss, appropriate and skilled care is crucial.”

DeCroce and Casagrande’s bill is named in honor of Autumn Joy Vijayvergiya, a baby who was stillborn in New Jersey in 2011. It requires the development of policies to ensure that families experiencing a stillbirth receive psychological and emotional support.

“A stillbirth is an emotionally devastating event for the mother, father and the entire family. Our bill will better prepare medical care-givers to provide sensitive, proficient treatment for the emotional, and psychological trauma of the loss,” said Casagrande, R-Monmouth.

Approximately one in every 160 pregnancies in the U.S. ends in stillbirth, or 26,000 each year.

By directing the Department of Health to establish a database to serve as a comprehensive resource for stillbirth research, the bill could ultimately provide valuable information for the prevention of stillbirths.

The “Autumn Joy Stillbirth Research and Dignity Act” now moves to the Governor. Companion bill S-2843 passed the Senate, 39-0-1.

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What Didn’t Get Done in 2013?

Source: NJ 101.5 -

The new state legislature in New Jersey won’t be sworn in until Jan. 14 and that means that theoretically more bills can be passed before then, but it also appears many important measures will die. The list includes several bills that could lower property taxes.

Jon Bramnick

“How about Steve Sweeney’s bill which ties in an income tax reduction with property taxes, which was an alternative to a 10 percent across the board income tax reduction,” asked Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield). “That’d be a great message.”

A 10 percent across-the-board income tax cut was first proposed by Gov. Chris Christie. State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) countered with his plan that would lower income taxes for people based on the amount of property taxes they pay. Christie said he will push for a tax cut again in 2014.

Caroline Casagrande

“It’s hasn’t been a mystery that we need to end sick and vacation payouts,” said Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R-Freehold). “What about consolidation? Some form of meaningful, forced consolidation that would actually lower property taxes.”

The governor wants to eliminate end-of-career payouts to public workers for their unused sick and vacation days, but the Democrat-controlled legislature has yet to come to a concensus.

There is a shared services bill and it’s also sponsored by Sweeney. It would force towns to share services where it makes sense or risk losing state aid. The bill has already passed the full upper house and Sweeney said if the Assembly doesn’t approve it this session, he’ll reintroduce it as Senate Bill Number One.

Another issue left unresolved is fully restoring a tax credit for the working poor that Christie had previously cut.

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NJ Republicans Call on Democrats to End ‘Boat Checks’

Source:NJ 101.5 -

For years Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been demanding the elimination of huge end-of-career payouts to public employees for their unused sick and vacation days.

Some of the payouts are so huge that Christie has taken to calling them, “boat checks.” Assembly Republicans are demanding that the Democrat-controlled legislature take up the issue in the current lame duck session.

Caroline Casagrande

“The governor has come to affectionately call them boat checks, the giant payouts for sick and vacation days for departing municipal employees that can tank a municipal budget,” said Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R-Freehold). “I guarantee you’d be hard pressed to find a Democrat who ran on the platform of maintaining boat checks.”

In 2011, State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) introduced a bill to cap the cash-outs at $7,500. He called it a compromise, but Christie called it a joke.

Amy Handlin

“These payouts cost taxpayers between $800 and $900 million per year,” said Assemblywoman Amy Handlin (R-Belford) last week. “Almost a billion dollars is going out the door. It’s going into the Atlantic Ocean.”

Sarlo’s bill from 2011 would end the huge six-figure payouts that are doled out to some retiring public employees and at the time he said his measure would discourage public workers from using up all of their sick time every single year. Those arguments didn’t resonate with Christie.

“Let’s just get down to it, okay?” said Christie in late December of 2011. “Zero should mean zero and I don’t see myself compromising on this……Everybody understands that sick leave should be when you’re sick and their argument is; Well, people may use it otherwise in a fraudulent way therefore we have to pay them not to commit fraud.”

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Bramnick, Assembly Republicans call out Dems on lame-duck session

Source: PolitickerNJ -

State Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) challenged Democrats during the current lame duck session on Monday, questioning several initiatives pursued since the recent election.

Jon Bramnick

“In November and October, the Democrats ran on a simple message: more jobs and bipartisanship. So what are the Democrats doing during the lame duck session? In my judgment, I think they’ve misinterpreted the results of November,” said Bramnick.

“It is clear to me that if they spend time in lame duck dealing with the economy, then they’ve met the needs of the voters of New Jersey. But if they spend their time increasing regulation on business, thinking about more taxes, and placing mandates on the private sector, they’re heading backwards.

“We need to place the Democrats on notice that that mandate, the return of their legislative majority, is not what the people ordered them to do,” added Bramnick, referring to the Democrats’ maintenance of a 48-32 edge following November’s election results.

Bramnick and several other Republicans spoke out against several measures recently sponsored by Democrats. One proposal drawing particular ire was the Opportunity to Compete Act, known colloquially as the “ban the box” bill. The proposed law would ban many prospective employers from asking a job applicant about their criminal background until the applicant is conditionally offered a job.

“I understand the concept that we want to allow people who have been convicted of crimes to have a second chance, but this bill is a disaster,” Bramnick said on the same day that the Assembly Labor Committee voted 6-3 to send the bill forward for a vote in the full Assembly. “This bill not only says that they can’t ask you about your criminal history, in many circumstances they can’t use your criminal history against you. I think that is a regulatory nightmare for business.”

Amy Handlin

“Not only is it not a job-creating bill, it is a lawsuit-creating bill,” added Assemblywoman Amy Handlin (R-13). “It will literally make employers in the state of New Jersey fearful or hiring new people, because they will have no way of knowing whether someone has been dishonest or violent in the past.”

Bills proposed by Democrats supporting mandated paid sick leave in the private sector and others also drew GOP criticism.

Caroline Casagrande

“The voters of New Jersey have now found out that the Democrats came back to Trenton with amnesia,” said Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R-11). “They’re not interested in lowering their property taxes. They’re not interested in making this state more economically friendly for businesses. It hasn’t been a mystery that we need to end sick and vacation payouts. Some form of meaningful, forced consolidation will actually lower property taxes in terms of duplicate services. But nobody is following through.”

“The Chris Christie reform agenda – we do not want that to lose steam during lame duck because of what could be a misinterpretation by Democratic legislators of the November election,” Bramnick concluded. “I think they better be careful. Two years from now, there is another election. And we’re going to remind the voters what they did the month after the last election.”

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Panel OKs Casagrande’s superintendent bonus ban

Source: Asbury Park Press -

The Senate Education Committee on Monday unanimously approved a bill that would prohibit payment of bonuses to schools superintendents for keeping special-education students in district programs rather than sending them to out-of-district schools.

Caroline Casagrande

Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande is the sponsor of the Assembly version, A-3997, approved unanimously by the General Assembly in June.

The bill sponsors cited an article that ran in the Asbury Park Press last month detailing bonuses paid to area superintendents as incentives to keep special-needs students in their own districts.

The Asbury Park Press reported last month that the Freehold Regional High School District paid its superintendent, Charles Sampson, a bonus of $5,910 in the 2011-2012 school year for reducing the number of students sent to out-of-district, special-education programs. The bonus was on top of Sampson’s $177,500 annual salary.

The Asbury Park Press also reported that Middletown Schools Superintendent William George was paid a bonus of $3,080 for the 2012-2013 school year, and another bonus of $899 for the previous school year, for reducing tuition costs for out-of-district placements of special-education youngsters. They were in addition to his $187,500 annual salary.

The bill approved by the education committee would prohibit inclusion of such bonuses in employment contracts for superintendents.

The education committee approved the bill by a vote of 5-0. The full Senate is scheduled to vote on it on Thursday.

Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, a Monmouth County Republican, sponsored an identical bill that was passed by the Assembly in June.

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Bramnick leads GOP chorus calling out lame-duck session Dems

Source: PolitickerNJ -

State Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) challenged Democrats during the current lame duck session on Monday, questioning several initiatives pursued since the recent election.

Jon Bramnick

“In November and October, the Democrats ran on a simple message: more jobs and bipartisanship. So what are the Democrats doing during the lame duck session? In my judgment, I think they’ve misinterpreted the results of November,” said Bramnick.

“It is clear to me that if they spend time in lame duck dealing with the economy, then they’ve met the needs of the voters of New Jersey. But if they spend their time increasing regulation on business, thinking about more taxes, and placing mandates on the private sector, they’re heading backwards.

“We need to place the Democrats on notice that that mandate, the return of their legislative majority, is not what the people ordered them to do,” added Bramnick, referring to the Democrats’ maintenance of a 48-32 edge following November’s election results.

Bramnick and several other Republicans spoke out against several measures recently sponsored by Democrats. One proposal drawing particular ire was the Opportunity to Compete Act, known colloquially as the “ban the box” bill. The proposed law would ban many prospective employers from asking a job applicant about their criminal background until the applicant is conditionally offered a job.

“I understand the concept that we want to allow people who have been convicted of crimes to have a second chance, but this bill is a disaster,” Bramnick said on the same day that the Assembly Labor Committee voted 6-3 to send the bill forward for a vote in the full Assembly. “This bill not only says that they can’t ask you about your criminal history, in many circumstances they can’t use your criminal history against you. I think that is a regulatory nightmare for business.”

Amy Handlin

“Not only is it not a job-creating bill, it is a lawsuit-creating bill,” added Assemblywoman Amy Handlin (R-13). “It will literally make employers in the state of New Jersey fearful or hiring new people, because they will have no way of knowing whether someone has been dishonest or violent in the past.”

Bills proposed by Democrats supporting mandated paid sick leave in the private sector and others also drew GOP criticism.

Caroline Casagrande

“The voters of New Jersey have now found out that the Democrats came back to Trenton with amnesia,” said Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R-11). “They’re not interested in lowering their property taxes. They’re not interested in making this state more economically friendly for businesses. It hasn’t been a mystery that we need to end sick and vacation payouts. Some form of meaningful, forced consolidation will actually lower property taxes in terms of duplicate services. But nobody is following through.”

“The Chris Christie reform agenda – we do not want that to lose steam during lame duck because of what could be a misinterpretation by Democratic legislators of the November election,” Bramnick concluded. “I think they better be careful. Two years from now, there is another election. And we’re going to remind the voters what they did the month after the last election.

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DeCroce and Casagrande’s ‘Autumn Joy Stillbirth Research Act’ Advances in Assembly

Source: Assembly Republican Press Release -

The “Autumn Joy Stillbirth Research and Dignity Act,” sponsored by Assemblywomen BettyLou DeCroce and Caroline Casagrande, today was voted out of the Assembly Women and Children Committee.

The bill, A-4280, requires the Department of Health to establish protocols for stillbirths and to create a database for stillbirth research.

BettyLou DeCroce

“The loss of a child in stillbirth is a horrific event, plunging the mother and the entire family into the depths of unthinkable grief,” said DeCroce, R-Essex, Morris and Passaic. “This legislation will provide our medical practitioners and staff additional tools to ensure grieving families are handled sensitively and compassionately,” DeCroce said.

DeCroce and Casagrande’s bill requires the development of policies to ensure that families experiencing a stillbirth receive psychological and emotional support.

Caroline Casagrande

“It is an emotional, psychological and physical trauma, leaving mother and family feeling devastated and alone.” said Casagrande, R-Monmouth. “Following the life-changing tragedy of a stillbirth, it is imperative a mother and the entire family receive sensitive and beneficial treatment from hospitals and doctors. The protocols established by our legislation will better prepare medical professionals for this critical role.”

The Act is named in honor of Autumn Joy Vijayvergiya, a baby who was stillborn in New Jersey in 2011. Approximately one in every 160 pregnancies in the U.S. ends in stillbirth, or 26,000 each year.

By directing the Department of Health to establish a database to serve as a comprehensive resource for stillbirth research, the bill could ultimately provide valuable information for the prevention of stillbirths.

Companion bill, S-2843, passed the Senate, 39-0-1.

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Assembly advances Casagrande and Handlin’s bill targeting state doctor shortages

Source: NJ.com -

A bill introduced by Monmouth County legislators to help address the state’s doctor shortage advanced to the floor the N.J. Assembly Thursday afternoon.

Assemblywomen Caroline Casagrande (R-Monmouth) and Amy Handlin (R-Monmouth) sponsored legislation establishing a physician loan redemption program for doctors in certain specialties. With bipartisan support, the bill was released by the Assembly Higher Education Committee.

Caroline Casagrande

“We know from the report issued by the New Jersey Council of Teaching Hospitals that only about one-third of medical school graduates are opting to stay in New Jersey. After speaking directly with stakeholders, repaying loans for their education is a major concern when they are ready to practice medicine,” Casagrande said in a Thursday press release. “With an acute shortage of doctors expected in the near future, retaining new doctors in our state is a public policy challenge.”

In September, Handlin and Casagrande held an information-gathering session with doctors and health administrators to discuss causes and possible solutions to the doctor’s shortage, which is being exacerbated by the onset of the Afforable Care Act and the introduction of millions of people to health insurance rolls.

The senate version of the bill is sponsored by Sen. Robert Singer (R-Monmouth and Ocean).

“Facing a significant shortage of physicians in needed specialties and a growing demand for care, it’s important we act now to create incentives to attract and retain the best-trained physicians,” Singer said. “Incentives like loan redemption programs will help close that gap and draw more doctors into the specialty areas needed most.”

In return for a four-year commitment to work in-state, the participants’ eligible qualifying loan expenses will be reimbursed, subject to the maximum amount authorized by federal law.

Amy Handlin

“There is no magic pill that will cure this crisis,” Handlin said. “Our goal is to improve and implement public policies that encourage doctors to stay in our state and treat patients who need, and depend on, their expertise. Working out a financial arrangement that addresses one of the primary concerns of medical students and locates physicians in underserved areas is a step in the right direction.”

The bill is based on a recommendation in a report issued by the New Jersey Council of Teaching Hospitals that states loan forgiveness is one of the top factors that medical residents look for in determining a practice.

The report found New Jersey is facing significant future shortages in both primary care and several specialty areas. In eleven years there is a projected 12 percent shortfall in the physician supply versus the likely population demand for services.

The bill would augment the existing loan redemption program for dentists, nurses and various other health practitioners and utilize half of the existing $1.5 million appropriation for redemption of qualifying loan expenses for physicians who serve at least four-years at an approved site of a clinical practice of primary care or specialized care.

Program participants must agree to practice at an approved site in an underserved area, which is defined as any area where more than 20 percent of the population is below 150 percent of the federal poverty level.

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Casagrande, Handlin bill: Help on way for new doctors with big student loans

Caroline Casagrande

Source: Asbury Park Press -

A bill intended to address the state’s projected doctor shortage continues to move along in the Legislature.

On Thursday an Assembly panel approved A-4507, sponsored by Assemblywomen Caroline Casagrande and Amy Handlin, both R-Monmouth, providing a loan redemption program for new doctors with in-demand specialties who work in underserved parts of the state.

The approval also covers A-1269, which would provide a $2 million state appropriation if the measure becomes law. A doctor’s qualifying loan expense can be relieved on a sliding scale over the years of service.

Amy Handlin

The bill, based on a recommendation from the New Jersey Council of Teaching Hospitals, has full approval in the Senate, where it is sponsored by Ocean County Republican Robert Singer. A full Assembly vote is next.

Medical experts say New Jersey is facing significant future shortages in both primary care and several specialty areas. There is a projected 12 percent shortfall in the physician supply a decade from now.

“We know from the report issued by the New Jersey Council of Teaching Hospitals that only about one-third of medical school graduates are opting to stay in New Jersey. After speaking directly with stakeholders, repaying loans for their education is a major concern when they are ready to practice medicine,” Casagrande said.

Casagrande said a recent roundtable discussion she and Handlin hosted at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune was “extremely helpful’’ in understanding the problems facing medical students.

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Sick time payouts a budget burden for Hackensack and other Bergen County towns

Source: The Record -

Hackensack’s welfare director made headlines when she cut off public assistance to a homeless man who failed to report an $850 reward he earned for doing a good deed.

Agatha Toomey is one of a group of city employees who richly benefited from rules allowing them to take payments for unused sick time accrued over their careers.

Caroline Casagrande

“I’ve had high-level discussion with legislative leaders and the front office and we’re confident that this (sick-time reform) will be done in the upcoming legislative session,” Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande said.

The payouts were part of generous benefit packages written into public-employee contracts years ago, allowing sick days to be carried over and cashed in. Toomey cashed in $93,000, while some retiring city police supervisors netted more than $300,000 under the policy.

The payments and the fiscal problems they engender are a long-standing issue in Hackensack. But they are by no means unique to Bergen’s county seat. The payouts have led some towns and cities like Hackensack to borrow millions for the payments, easing the immediate financial burden but imposing added cost on taxpayers who did not benefit from the services of the recipients. While most towns now cap sick-time payouts for recent hires, they’re still facing liabilities that will weigh on property taxes for years.

Governor Christie has taken aim at the sick leave benefit, but his mandated 2 percent cap on property tax increases included a loophole that still allows towns and cities to borrow money at interest for pension costs.

Towns and cities statewide face payments of more than $1 billion for employees’ unused sick and vacation days; Hackensack’s liability alone is more than $15 million. While state lawmakers have floated bills to curb them, they haven’t agreed on the terms of reform. Meanwhile, lawmakers say nothing is stopping towns and cities from renegotiating contracts on their own.

Even though most towns and cities cap or eliminate sick-day payouts, that typically doesn’t apply to longtime employees who got the benefit when they were hired.

In a January 2012 survey by the New Jersey League of Municipalities, 89 percent of responding towns reported they limited the amount of sick time that may be cashed out at retirement — but only 10 percent applied those limits to all their workers.

Toomey, the head of Human Services, got a $93,000 payout in February 2011 for unused sick leave when she was 53. Toomey, as an employee who works without a contract, is permitted to cash out days with no age requirement, Lo Iacono said.

It was Toomey’s payout — after she denied benefits to Brady — that prompted The Record to take a closer look at sick payouts. Toomey said Brady broke rules by failing to notify her office of new income within 10 days, after police gave him back the money he turned in — a good deed that earned him a commendation from the City Council.

The Record also found that former police chief Ken Zisa had been paid $94,000 with funds from a $4.7 million bond ordinance that was supposed to be dedicated to retirees. He did not retire, but had been suspended without pay after he was criminally charged with official misconduct, insurance fraud, conspiracy and witness tampering. He was convicted in May 2012 and sentenced to five years in jail, but remains on house arrest while his appeal is pending.

Zisa was also sued by more than 20 police officers for allegedly coercing them to support his and his friends’ political campaigns by intimidation and retaliation. Other police officers who benefited from the bond ordinance were also facing lawsuits, including Sgt. Anthony Trezza, who was sued with Zisa in a civil rights case. Retired police captains Robert Wright and Dennis Cinque were also sued with Zisa in connection with alleged sexual harassment — a case that was later settled for $150,000.

Also on the list was retired Deputy Police Chief Frank Zisa Jr., Ken Zisa’s brother, whose former girlfriend won a $2.4 million settlement from a lawsuit in which she alleged Ken Zisa retaliated against her because she refused sexual advances by him and Frank Zisa Jr.

All the officers received six-figure payouts ranging from $201,515 to $308,131.

That $4.7 million bond issue is costing the average homeowner about $255 over five years, said Tammy Zucca, Hackensack’s chief financial officer.

The city continues to pay thousands as employees cash out one by one; former interim police chief Tomas Padilla got a payout of nearly $150,000 for unused sick and vacation days earlier this year.

The governor’s 2 percent cap on municipal property tax levy increases has made it hard for some cities to afford benefit buyouts. But when he mandated the cap, Christie also permitted the bonding that has allowed many of the places to circumvent the cap.

“You’re bonding, reducing other programs to pay for sick leave buyouts which we believe is objectionable,” said William Dressel, executive director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities. “It’s a drain on property taxes — these large payouts — and it’s something that should be addressed.”

The hodgepodge of benefits from union to union, contract to contract, and town to town is a disservice to local government, some officials say. But state reform appears to be at an impasse.

Christie wants a complete elimination of sick pay buyouts for future employment and a reduction for those who have already accrued days. In 2010, he vetoed a bill that would have capped unused sick time at $15,000 — a ceiling that has been in place for state workers since 1986. In 2011, he conditionally vetoed a bill that would have limited the payout for unused sick time to $7,500, saying the cap should be zero.

“The governor does not see any room for compromise on this, because it makes no sense,” said Christie spokesman Colin Reed. “Zero means zero for accumulated sick leave.”

A group of Assembly Republicans, meanwhile, is pushing a bill that would eliminate sick leave payouts for new hires and freeze payments to those facing work-related criminal charges. Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, R-Monmouth, a sponsor of the bill, said she believes the state is on the cusp of reform despite past disagreements.

“I’ve had high-level discussion with legislative leaders and the front office and we’re confident that this will be done in the upcoming legislative session,” she said.

She declined to say who was involved in those conversations or whether any deals were being made behind the scenes, but said there is “great optimism from both Republican and Democratic parties.”

Municipal managers are working to phase out the perks, Dressel said, but still are paying for employees who already had banked sick days.

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