Tag: Caroline Casagrande

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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Sick time payments costing Hackensack millions

Declan O'Scanlon

Source: NJ.com -

Towns and cities like Hackensack have had to borrow millions for payments for unused sick time, the Record reported.

Some retiring police supervisors in Hackensack cashed in on more than $300,000 as part of benefit packages written into public-employee contracts years ago.

A bill sponsored by Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon and Assemblywomen Caroline Casagrande, Nancy Munoz and Donna Simon would end sick-time payouts.

Caroline Casagrande

Though 89 percent of towns who responded to a survey taken in 2012 by the New Jersey League of Municipalities said they limited the amount of sick time paid out at retirement, such limits typically don’t apply to to longtime employees who got the benefits when they were hired. Gov. Chris Christie’s 2 percent cap on municipal property tax levy increases still allows towns to bond to pay for sick leave buyouts.

Nancy Munoz

Ken Zisa, the disgraced former Hackensack police chief, was one of 30 city employees who cashed out on thousands in unused sick and vacation time as part of a $4.7 million bond ordinance approved in 2010. Zisa was arrested on insurance fraud charges days after receiving his $94,000 claim.

Donna Simon

In May, news that 25 retiring police employees would cost Jersey City around $5 million in payments for unused sick, vacation and comp days prompted four state Republicans argue in favor of statewide reform for sick-leave payouts. A bill sponsored by Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon and Assemblywomen Caroline Casagrande, Nancy Munoz and Donna Simon would end sick-time payouts.

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New Jersey bills target impaired, distracted driving

Source: Land Line Magazine -

Two bills in New Jersey would keep any consequences from texting while driving solely the responsibility of the person behind the wheel and make sure the punishment for drugged or drunken driving more closely fits the crime.

“It is illogical to expect that a text sender can reasonably determine if the recipient is both driving and will read the text immediately. That is an impractical standard,” Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande said. “Apparently, protections have to be in place from liability for a person merely sending an electronic communication. You have to wonder when the insanity is going to stop.”

One bill in the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee would protect senders of text messages from any potential legal issues if the recipient is involved in a wreck.

Caroline Casagrande

A New Jersey appeals court ruling this fall said that someone who sends a text message to someone they know is driving can be held civilly liable if the driver causes a wreck.

Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, R-Monmouth, said that accountability for distracted driving rests squarely with the driver.

“It is illogical to expect that a text sender can reasonably determine if the recipient is both driving and will read the text immediately. That is an impractical standard,” Casagrande said in a recent news release. “Apparently, protections have to be in place from liability for a person merely sending an electronic communication. You have to wonder when the insanity is going to stop.”

If approved by lawmakers, the bill likely would be signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie. He called the recent court decision “silly.”

Another bill in the Assembly committee would require anyone behind the wheel who is involved in a fatal wreck to provide a blood sample.

New Jersey law now requires police to determine probable cause prior to issuing a blood test.

Dubbed “Michelle’s Law,” the bill would do away with the probable cause requirement following wrecks that result in death. A-4464 would deem drivers to have given consent to providing a blood sample to determine if they are under the influence of drugs. The same consent rule applies to drivers suspected of drunken driving.

The bill is named for Michelle Sous. The 17-year-old was struck and killed by a car as she crossed the street. The driver of the vehicle that struck Michelle wasn’t tested for alcohol and drug influence.

Anyone who refuses to consent to the blood test would face the same penalties as a person who refuses a breathalyzer test.

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State GOP Women Congratulate Sen. Allen as New Chair of National Foundation of Women Legislators

Source: Assembly Republican Press Release

State Sen. Diane Allen was lauded by her female colleagues in the Senate and Assembly Republican caucuses today after she was named the new chair of the National Order of Women Legislators (NOWL) last night in Washington, DC. The NOWL is holding its annual Capital Forum in the nation’s capital and celebrating its 75th anniversary.

Allen was joined at the conference by Assembly Republicans Alison Littell McHose, Caroline Casagrande, Nancy F. Muñoz, and DiAnne Gove. Allen, who has served in New Jersey’s Legislature since 1996, succeeds outgoing NFWL chair Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson from South Carolina.

Alison Littell McHose

“During 17 years in the state Legislature, Diane Allen has been a trailblazer who played a crucial role in changing the political landscape at the Statehouse, where 35 elected women hold almost 30 percent of the seats in both houses,” said McHose, R-Sussex, Warren and Morris. “I congratulate Senator Allen for her well-deserved selection to chair this proud and growing organization, and commend the NOWL for making the right choice.”

Caroline Casagrande

“All of New Jersey is proud of Sen. Allen and her accomplishments as a legislator and successful businesswoman,” said Casagrande, R-Monmouth. “Her extensive experience understanding and solving state issues and her work in the private sector are tremendous assets to the NOWL. Senator Allen is an accomplished leader who is always willing to mentor and help. Her dedication to her constituents and the NOWL has earned her this well-deserved achievement.”

The NOWL’s mission is to provide strategic resources to women leaders for leadership development and effective governance through seminars, and professional and personal relationships at both the state and federal levels. Its membership consists of members of the National Order of Women Legislators (all current and former women elected officials), corporate leadership, and association members.

“Sen. Allen has been a tireless advocate on behalf of women’s role in government,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “She has encouraged many women to become actively involved at all levels of government and become leaders.”

DiAnne Gove

“I congratulate Diane Allen and applaud her for the work she has done for the people of New Jersey,” said Gove, R-Ocean, Atlantic and Burlington. “Through her success in the Senate, Diane has served as a model to advance the prominence of women in the state Legislature.”

State Republican legislators who joined in their congratulations to Sen. Allen include: Senators Dawn Marie Addiego and Jennifer Beck, along with Assemblywomen Mary Pat Angelini, BettyLou DeCroce, Amy Handlin, Holly Schepisi and Donna Simon.

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Angelini, Beck, and Casagrande Laud Announcement that Eatontown will Receive Funds for Those with Disabilities

Source: Assembly Republican Press Release

Senator Jennifer Beck and Assemblywomen Mary Pat Angelini and Caroline Casagrande lauded the Christie Administration for awarding Eatontown Borough a $20,000 grant that will help them offer recreational programs for adults with disabilities.

“These funds will allow Eatontown to make some great programs available to its disabled adults,” said Beck. “State grants like this help towns meet federal obligations without having to burden local taxpayers. Our goal should be to make as many opportunities available to all of our residents while doing so in the most cost effective means possible. The programs that will result from this grant will be a boon to Eatontown’s disabled community.”

“This grant gives Eatontown the opportunity to provide individuals with disabilities the chance to participate in leisure and recreational activities, “said Angelini. “Programs, such as these, are beneficial to those who have disabilities by allowing them to be included more fully in society.”

The Recreational Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities Program Grant assists local municipalities in meeting mandatory mandates under the Americans with Disabilities Act in the least restrictive environments.

“Eatontown has demonstrated a commitment to provide year round quality recreation programs for adults of all abilities” says Casagrande. “The Borough is to be commended for offering these opportunities not just to Eatontown residents, but to those in surrounding communities as well. This grant money will help them to continue their mission of providing safe and enriching recreational opportunities that will help residents reach their full potential.”

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