Tag: Caroline Casagrande

Should top school chiefs get cash to keep special-needs children in-district?

Source: Asbury Park Press -

When the Freehold Regional High School District cut back on the number of special-education students sent to out-of-district schools in the 2011-2012 school year, Schools Superintendent Charles Sampson was paid a $5,910 bonus on top of his $177,500 annual salary.

Educators in the school district say that 17 special-education students who otherwise would have been sent to schools out of their district benefited by staying close to home and attending Freehold Regional’s Workplace Training Program.

But critics say they fear that extra money in a superintendent’s pocket, and not the best interests of students, could influence the placement of youngsters in these situations.

Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande said it’s a bad idea to hold out a carrot to schools superintendents to induce them to cut the number of out-of-district, special-needs placements.

Caroline Casagrande

“I wouldn’t want my child’s placement to have anything to do with any financial incentive to an adult who is in charge of my child’s education,’’ Casagrande said.

Educating the more than 220,000 special-education youngsters in New Jersey is a huge expense, estimated by the New Jersey School Boards Association at more than $3.3 billion annually.

Almost 40 percent of the special-education cost is for tuition and transportation for the 12 percent of those students who are sent to programs outside their school districts, according to the school boards association and state enrollment figures. The vast majority of special-education students, slightly less than 200,000, are educated in their home districts, according to the state Department of Education.

In Middletown, $33 million is included for special education in the district’s $154.4 million budget, with costs increasing each of the last three years, said schools Business Administrator Amy Gallagher. The district has 1,597 special-needs youngsters enrolled and will spend $4.6 million on tuition and transportation to send 74 of them to out-of-district schools, she said.

The head of the district, Schools Superintendent William George, has been paid bonuses for reducing special-education costs: a payment of $899 for the 2011-2012 school year for reducing tuition costs for out-of-district placement of special-needs students, and $3,080 for the 2012-2013 school year for improving in-district special-education programs and services, according to Gallagher. The bonuses were on top of his $187,500 annual salary.

Casagrande, a Republican from Monmouth County, is the sponsor of a bill that would prohibit superintendents from being paid bonuses for reducing the number of out-of-district placements of special-needs students. The bill was passed unanimously by the Assembly in June. It now awaits action in the Senate Education Committee.

George declined an interview, but said in an email that there is no link between placement decisions and the performance goals built into his contract.

He said the goals were to improve in-district programs for special-needs students, as well as expand shared services with neighboring districts and countywide programs.

Freehold Regional’s chief academic officer, Nicole Hazel, defended the bonus practice in her district, saying Sampson was rewarded not for making decisions about the placement of students, but rather for helping to create programs to serve the pupils in the district.

Freehold Regional has a total of 1,918 special-education youngsters enrolled, including 179 who are sent to out-of-district schools, according to Renee A. Davis, director of special services for the district.

The Workforce Training Program, created under Sampson, benefited some special-education students who otherwise would have gone to out-of-district programs by combining a half-day of academic studies with part-time internships at area businesses that helped to ready them for the work force, Hazel said.

Sampson, who also declined an interview, said in an email that placement decisions are not made by him, but are made on an individual basis by a child-study team.

A survey by the Asbury Park Press of 15 of some of the largest of Monmouth and Ocean counties’ 86 school districts revealed only Middletown and Freehold Regional offered bonuses that were tied to bringing special-education students back into district programs.

But Casagrande said no school official should be swayed by financial incentives when it comes to decisions about where special-needs students will be educated.

Casagrande said the practice of school boards offering their superintendents bonuses for meeting various merit goals was an unintended consequence of a cap placed on the superintendents’ salaries in 2011.

“I certainly understand that school districts are looking for a way to reward excellence,’’ she said. “Some of the incentives that are out there are phenomenal. I just didn’t think this particular area was appropriate for awarding a bonus.’’

Two statewide organizations support Casagrande’s bill, the New Jersey Coalition for Special Education Funding Reform and ASAH, an organization formerly known as the Association of Schools and Agencies for the Handicapped, which is made up of 145 private, special-education facilities in New Jersey serving about 11,000 students.

Officials at Freehold Regional say cost doesn’t enter into the decision about where a special-needs youngster will be schooled.

“It’s all about the least restrictive environment and providing opportunities for students and servicing them as close to home as possible,’’ Freehold Regional’s Hazel said.

The district’s $183.9 million budget provides $12.1 million for special-education instruction. Figures from the state indicate Freehold Regional will spend another $13.5 million on tuition to send special-education students to schools outside of the district.

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Source: Press Release -

Senator Jennifer Beck, Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini and Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande visited Ocean Grove today to talk about the one year anniversary of Supertstorm Sandy. Nearly 12 months ago the most severe storm in the state’s history made land devastating homes and forever changing thousand of New Jerseans lives.

“We’re obviously in a better place than we were this time last year,” said Beck. “We’ve worked tirelessly to help those in need and return their lives to what was, but it hasn’t been without challenges. Governor Christie has done an admirable job leading our state during one of the most trying times and our job is not done. While $30 million of $600 million in federal funding for the state’s Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) program is expected to be released by the end of this month, that’s not good enough. The Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) has not made it easy to help our constituents, the process needs to be simplified and expedited. The National Flood Insurance Program has also let us down, in the immediate aftermath of Sandy there were promises made that have not been kept.”

The RREM program, designed by the state, is distributing money from HUD through grants of up to $150,000 for approved primary homeowners. Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable III said that the second round of HUD funding is expected in December. It is unclear how much the second pot will be but those on the RREM waiting list would get first crack at that money. Beck, Angelini and Casagrande are urging HUD to streamline the process for Sandy victims.

Mary Pat Angelini

“Over the past year, we have made incredible progress in our recovery from this historic storm,” said Angelini. “However, our area is still facing many challenges and too many people are still struggling to put their lives back together. As we mark the one-year anniversary of Sandy, now is a good time to recognize the incredible resiliency of the affected residents while, at the same time, reaffirming our commitment to each and every person who was impacted by this devastating storm.”

Caroline Casagrande

“Our District experienced some of the worst destruction from Superstorm Sandy and one year later it is gratifying to see so much rebuilt and restored” says Casagrande. “There has been significant progress made with federal government support, but there remains much to be done. Flood insurance premiums are too high and the program has failed our families in many cases. I will continue to work to hold insurance companies and FEMA accountable so that our residents and businesses get the help they need.”

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Casagrande Hosting Blood Drive Thursday

Source: Freehold Patch -

In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande will be hosting a blood drive in front of her district office on Thursday.

Caroline Casagrande

Casagrande said donating blood is one way people can help those battling the disease which is why this is the fifth year she will be hosting the event. “The Central Jersey Blood Center serves area hospitals as they treat premature babies, trauma victims and cancer patients,” she said of the organization conducting the blood drive.

With more than one million people diagnosed with cancer each year Casagrande said there is a constant need for blood donors. The patients need transfusions, sometimes daily as part for their chemotherapy treatments. “Cancer patients are the primary recipients of blood transfusions,” she said. “In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, consider a donation in the name of a loved one fighting that disease.”

The need for blood donors is a personal cause for Casagrande. “When my husband had a near fatal car accident in February of 2008, he needed over 20 pints of blood to save his life,” she said. “Since then I have always tried to make sure we do our part to replenish the blood supply.”

The Central Jersey Blood Center bus will be at 35 West Main Street from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. on Thursday to allow as many people as possible to make donations.

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Beck, Angelini, Casagrande Look To Ban Motocross Tracks Near Homes

Source: LongBranch-Eatontown Patch -

Mary Pat Angelini

Senator Jennifer Beck and Assemblymembers Mary Pat Angelini and Caroline Casagrande are sponsoring legislation that would ban motocross facilities from being built near residential properties.

They are also looking for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to withdraw the $500,000 grant money it has allocated for the motocross track proposed for Tinton Falls.

“Facilities like the one proposed in Tinton Falls can have a serious impact on nearby residents and property values,” Beck said in a release. “Homeowners should be protected from having one of these

Caroline Casagrande

dropped in on their neighborhood. A bill like ours is a common sense measure protecting our constituents’ homes and neighborhoods.”

The legislation would not have any impact on existing motocross applications.

The Jersey Shore Motocross proposal would entail the development of a 21 acre facility for dirt bike racing. The plans call for the construction of three tracks, including one with lighting for night racing, as well as a parking lot for nearly 400 vehicles.

“The motocross track proposed for Tinton Falls would have a significant impact on the quality of life for residents in surrounding residential communities,” Angelini said in a release. “Residents who live nearby are understandably concerned about noise, pollution, traffic and a number of other issues associated with locating this type of facility in such close proximity to residential properties”

This legislation also requires anyone seeking to operate a motocross facility to obtain a license from the state Department of Law and Public Safety and prohibits such a license from being granted for any proposal to be located within five miles of a residentially zoned area.








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Beck, Angelini & Casagrande Want to Ban Motocross Tracks Near Homes

Source: Press Release

Caroline Casagrande

Senator Jennifer Beck and Assemblymembers Mary Pat Angelini and Caroline Casagrande announced that they are sponsoring legislation to ban motocross facilities from being located near residential properties and are calling on the state to withdraw funding it has provided for a track proposed in Tinton Falls.

The 11th District legislators said they were sponsoring a bill to prevent projects similar to the one that is proposed for Shafto Road in Tinton Falls from being considered in the future.

“Facilities like the one proposed in Tinton Falls can have a serious impact on nearby residents and property values,” Beck explained.

Mary Pat Angelini

“Homeowners should be protected from having one of these dropped in on their neighborhood. A bill like ours is a common sense measure protecting our constituents’ homes and neighborhoods.”

The lawmakers noted that, while the legislation would not have any impact on existing applications, they wanted to ensure that these projects could not be forced on towns that were opposed to these facilities being located in their community. They also expressed concern that, under existing law, one municipality could approve a motocross project that could negatively impact on a neighboring town or an entire region.

The Jersey Shore Motocross proposal would entail the development of a 21 acre facility for dirt bike racing. The plans call for the construction of three tracks, including one with lighting for night racing, as well as a parking lot for nearly 400 vehicles.

“The motocross track proposed for Tinton Falls would have a significant impact on the quality of life for residents in surrounding residential communities,” said Angelini. “Residents who live nearby are understandably concerned about noise, pollution, traffic and a number of other issues associated with locating this type of facility in such close proximity to residential properties”

This legislation requires anyone seeking to operate a motocross facility to obtain a license from the state Department of Law and Public Safety and prohibits such a license from being granted for any proposal to be located within five miles of a residentially zoned area.

“Motocross is a fun sport but unfortunately it’s an incredibly loud sport as well,” said Casagrande. “It doesn’t belong in a residential community like Tinton Falls where it can disrupt peaceful family life. This legislation will help establish parameters for better locations for motocross.”

Beck, Angelini and Casagrande also wrote to the Department of Environmental Protection requesting that they withdraw grant money they allotted for this project.

“We respectfully request the allocated $500,000 is withdrawn from this project and considered for another more favorable site,” they wrote.

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Could Obamacare worsen NJ’s physician shortage?

Source: Asbury Park Press -

Caroline Casagrande

Republican Assemblywomen Caroline Casagrande and Amy Handlin, who represent the 11th District, are leading a roundtable discussion about the shortage of physicians in New Jersey.

Amy Handlin

The roundtable, being held at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, includes legislators, physicians, medical school residents, students and administrators, including Steven Littleson, the hospital’s president.

The idea of a physician shortage is hardly new. In 2007, the New Jersey Council of Teaching Hospitals, state departments of Health and Senior Services, Banking and Insurance, and Human Services joined with the New Jersey Hospital Association, Medical Society of New Jersey and a number of private organizations to establish a Physician Workforce Policy Task Force.

That task force concluded that New Jersey is facing significant future shortages in both primary care and specialty areas and said that by 2020, there would be a projected shortfall of more than 2,800 additional physicians. The shortage consists of approximately 1,000 primary care physicians and 1,800 specialists.

Some say that because Obamacare will offer more people access to healthcare, more physicians will be needed to serve them.

“It is interesting that three years later, we continue to debate every aspect of the Affordable Heath Care Act,” Littleson said.
Obamacare “will cause a severe shortage of physicians if we don’t do something about the gap” between those who expect to get insurance under the act and the physicians, Littleson said.

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Shared services stuck in neutral

Source: Asbury Park Press Editorial -

How many towns does one small state need?

Fewer than the 565 municipalities in New Jersey, that’s for sure. The waste and redundancy of this multitude of towns (and school districts and other government entities) are self-evident.
So it is always a positive sign when a municipality looks at the possibility of merging with another town, as Princeton Township and Princeton Borough did last year. Sea Bright is the latest Monmouth County town to research consolidation, following Allenhurst and Loch Arbour, which have been in talks about consolidating.

Two weeks ago, the Sea Bright Borough Council asked four residents to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of merging with an as-yet unidentified neighboring town. This citizens advisory committee has until Dec. 31 to study the issue and come back with a report to the council. If approval is given, Sea Bright would need to find another town willing to consider merging with it, then conduct a study about how the two could merge its various services, such as police and public works.

Merging with another town is intimidating for many municipalities to consider, given the sway “home rule” has in New Jersey and the special interests arrayed against the idea, including public unions, those opposed to civil service reform and others with a vested financial interest in the status quo. Still, some towns — but not nearly enough of them — are considering shared services agreements with neighboring towns to cut costs.

To help facilitiate consolidation, the state Senate last year passed a bill (S2) that would give the Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization and Consolidation Commission (LUARCC) the power to recommend the consolidation or merger of specific municipalities and autonomous agencies, and the sharing of services between municipalities or between municipalities and other public entities.

The commission would estimate how much the towns would save, then ask the state treasurer to certify the figure. The town could either adopt the legislation, or put it up as a referendum. If voters rejected proposals for shared services, they would lose state aid equivalent to what the state estimated they would have saved. Call it the “stick” portion of the “carrot and stick” approach to get towns to do the right thing. The penalty would not apply to those municipalities whose voters refused full consolidation.

Caroline Casagrande

An Assembly version of the bill, whose sponsors include Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande and Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, both R-Monmouth, is mired in the Housing and Local Government Committee. The two Republicans should urge committee chairman Jerry Green, D-Plainfield, to at least hold a hearing on the bill before the legislative session ends in December.

Declan O'Scanlon

With property taxes remaining the chief concern of New Jersey voters, it is incumbent upon the governor and the Legislature to give a full debate to an issue that offers the prospect of substantial savings.

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Casagrande Signs on as Sponsor to Handlin Privacy Bill Package

Source: Assembly Republican Press Release

Saying that the issue of protecting the right to privacy and unjustified government intrusion are a great public concern, Assembly Republican Policy Co-Chair Caroline Casagrande is signing on as a sponsor to the package of privacy-related bills introduced by Deputy Assembly Republican Leader Amy Handlin.

In the summer, Handlin authored six bills addressing various aspects of privacy and government’s interference with that right and recently introduced two additional bills on the same topics.

Caroline Casagrande

“Whether releasing surveillance photos by video recorder, scanning license plates or releasing personal financial information, limits need to be put in place that address the troubling pattern of government overstepping its bounds,” said Casagrande, R-Monmouth. “A person shouldn’t need to be looking over their shoulder wondering if they’re actions are being scrutinized by government. Some of the shadowing techniques being employed and information being obtained are things we thought only happened on television or in the movies. There needs to be justification for using these Big Brother practices and how long the information they retrieve can be retained.”

Handlin initially introduced the six bills and two resolutions on June 27 that address areas of a person’s right to privacy as well as freedom of the press, and on Monday (Sept. 9) added two bills (A-4328 and A-4398) concerning accessing data contained on the computer system of a motor vehicle as well as information obtained when license plates are scanned.

“The public has no idea about how they are being watched, which I believe is another example of the government overstepping its bounds without justification,” said Handlin, R-Monmouth. “If there is a legitimate reason to use some of these surveillance techniques, then let a court approve it. We shouldn’t be comfortable with the notion that if you don’t have something to hide, then don’t worry. We depend on law enforcement to apprehend criminals and prevent crime, but probable cause needs to be demonstrated in order to use some of these methods.”

The following is a synopsis of Handlin’s legislation that Casagrande is joining as a sponsor:

A-4305: prohibits the improper release of photographs or videos captured by security cameras or other recording devices operated by public entities.

A-4306: prohibits a governmental entity from obtaining a biometric identifier of an individual without that individual’s consent. The bill does not prohibit any law
enforcement agency from obtaining biometric identifiers of someone who has been placed under arrest. A “biometric identifier” is a retina or iris scan, fingerprint, voiceprint or DNA.

A-4307: a person who knowingly obtains or discloses personally identifiable health information, in violation of the federal health privacy rule, is guilty of a crime of the
third degree.

A-4308: this bill increases the penalties for the unlawful disclosure or use of taxpayer information by State tax officials. The purpose of this bill is to provide enhanced deterrence against violations of taxpayer confidentiality.

A-4309: requires a Superior Court judge to approve the installation of any video camera by a public entity.

A-4310: requires an administrative agency to include a privacy impact statement when adopting, amending, or repealing a rule.

A-4328: restricts access to recorded data imbedded in motor vehicle computer systems.*

A-4398: requires judicial approval prior to installation or use of automated license plate reader by law enforcement agency.*

ACR-200: proposes an amendment to the New Jersey Constitution stating that people have a right to privacy from government intrusion, unless the government follows the due process of law.

ACR-201: requests the President and Congress enact a federal shield law for journalists. A shield law would grant journalists notice and an opportunity to be heard in federal court in order to challenge a federal subpoena seeking phone records or other information identifying a source. Federal bills S.987 and H.R.1962, both titled the “Free Flow of Information Act of 2013,” were introduced in May 2013. The bills would establish the federal shield law.

* introduced on Sept. 9, 2013

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Safety burden owned by driver

Source: Asbury Park Press Editorial -

Caroline Casagrande

It was a blow for both common sense and personal responsibility. Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R-Monmouth) announced last week that she will introduce legislation to protect from civil liability the sender of a text message should an accident occur because a driver reads that message.

In some ways it is a shame that New Jersey needs a law to spell this out. But we apparently do.

A state appeals court recently ruled, “When a texter knows, or has special reason to know, that the intended recipient is driving and is likely to read the text message while driving, the texter has a duty to users of the public roads to refrain from sending the driver a text at that time.” The case that prompted the decision is tragic.

Linda and David Kubert both lost their left legs Sept. 21, 2009, when their motorcycle was struck in Mine Hill by a car driven by 19-year-old Kyle Best of Wharton.

The Kuberts settled their lawsuit against Best, but sued then-17-year-old Shannon Colonna of Rockaway, who was exchanging texts with Best as he drove. The appeals court agreed that a judge was correct in 2012 when he dismissed lawsuit claims against Colonna, who was accused of “aiding and abetting” Best by sending him a distracting text.

While the appellate court found no evidence Colonna knew Best was driving, it said: “If the sender knows that the recipient is both driving and will read the text immediately, then the sender has taken a foreseeable risk in sending a text at that time. The sender has knowingly engaged in distracting conduct, and it is not unfair also to hold the sender responsible for the distraction.”

That is nonsense. The law is already clear: No texting while driving. Driving a vehicle while texting is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated, accoording to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The federal agency reports that sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent — when traveling at 55 mph — of driving the length of a football field. The onus is therefore on the recipient of the text to ignore all alerts they have received until they are off the road.

Trying to fathom the whereabouts, the recklessness and the actions of anyone you text is impossible. And for the courts to ascribe liability to those who text safely and legally is a profound overreach.

This is one of those no-brainers. There are not two sides to this story. There is only the law and personal responsibility.

Casagrande’s proposed legislation puts the responsibility where it belongs — in the front seat with the driver — not with the sender who cannot be held culpable for anything beyond their control. This bill should be fast-tracked and signed into law.

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Monmouth lawmaker to propose bill to protect texters who send messages to drivers

Source: Star Ledger -

A Republican assemblywoman from Monmouth County says she’ll propose legislation to protect texters from being sued if they send a message to drivers who get into an accident.

The bill authored by Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande comes in response to last week’s groundbreaking decision by two state appeals court judges, who said texters who send messages to someone they know is driving have a responsibility to other drivers.

Caroline Casagrande

“It is a sad state of affairs when a court believes that someone sending a text message can be held accountable if they have a special reason to know the recipient will be driving a vehicle and then read the message,” said Casagrande. “This legislation puts the responsibility where it belongs – in the front seat with the driver – not with the sender who can be held culpable for something beyond their control.”

Last week’s ruling came out of an appeal by a couple who were riding a motorcycle through Morris County in September 2009 when they collided with a pickup truck that had just crossed over a double center line. The couple, David and Linda Kubert, each lost a part of a leg as the result of the crash.

They sued driver Kyle Best of Wharton and Shannon Colonna, who sent Best a text message moments before the accident.

A three-judge panel tossed out claims against Colonna, saying there was no evidence to suggest she knew that Best was driving. However, two members of the appellate panel, said that texters have a legal responsibilty to other drivers if they know the person who’s receiving the text is behind the wheel.

“We conclude that a person sending text messages has a duty not to text someone who is driving if the texter knows, or has special reason to know, the recipient will view the text while driving,” Superior Court Appellate Division Judge Victor Ashrafi wrote.

“It is illogical to expect that a text sender can reasonably determine if the recipient is both driving and will read the text immediately,” Casagrande added. “That is an impractical standard.”

Casagrande expects to introduce the legislation when the Assembly returns from its summer recess.

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