Recently I had the opportunity to stop by Comcast Newsmakers and talk about my Civil Asset Forfeiture legislation. Check out the segment below!
Another fantastic National Night Out! This annual event helps us bridge the gap between residents and our law enforcement officials to create a greater sense of community. Thank you to Bayonne PD and the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office for organizing this event.
Thank you to everyone who stopped by our table to pick up reusable bags!
As we continue moving away from plastic bags and become ever more conscious of the effects of climate change, I am happy to announce that my office will be giving away reusable shopping bags. They can be picked up at 836 Broadway Bayonne Monday through Thursday, 10AM to 4PM or by appointment on Saturday. we’re going to limit them to one per adult for residence of the 31st legislative district! #gogreen
INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY is a tenant of US Law. Today, we took the step of assuring that individuals are protected from having their cash/property taken without being charged with a crime. Civil Asset Forfeiture is an outdated system and today is the first step!
Bill Would Criminalize Sexual Contact Between
Teachers and Students under Age 20
(TRENTON) – Continuing efforts to combat sexual assault between teachers and students, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji, Pamela Lampitt, Nicholas Chiaravalloti, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and John Armato that would criminalize sexual contact between teachers and students under 20 years old has cleared the Legislature and now heads to the Governor for further consideration.
“We see countless cases of inappropriate student-teacher relationships nowadays, perhaps due to the fact that technology and social media have bridged the personal space that once existed between students and teachers,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “Regardless, even when a high school student reaches the age of 18, a teacher’s supervisory power makes any sexual relationship inherently coercive and inappropriate. This bill will make that explicitly clear.”
“Even though an 18-year-old student is legally an adult, the power a teacher or other school employee holds over him or her makes any sexual relationship innately compulsory,” said Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington). “It’s never appropriate for a teacher to engage in any kind of sexual contact with a student, no matter their age. These teachers should be held accountable.”
The bill (A-1909) makes a person guilty of sexual assault if he or she commits an act involving the sexual penetration of a victim who is 18 years old or older and less than 20 years old, if the victim is a student in a school where the actor is a teaching staff member, substitute teacher, school bus driver, other school employee, contracted service provider or volunteer and has supervisory or disciplinary power over the victim.
The measure expands current law, under which a person with “supervisory or disciplinary power of any nature or in any capacity” over a minor at least 16 but less than 18 years old who commits an act of sexual penetration with that minor is guilty of sexual assault.
Sexual assault is a crime of the second degree and is typically punishable by a term of imprisonment of five to 10 years, or a fine of up to $150,000, or both.
“The number of improper instances between teenagers and teachers appears to be increasing,” said Chiaravalloti (D- Hudson). “Teachers, who are authority figures, need to understand that the power imbalance supersedes any ‘consent’ received by students and that such relations are inappropriate. We need to close this loophole to make that message clear.”
“By pursuing a sexual relationship with a student, a teacher has taken advantage of the power they hold over that student,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Whether that student is 16 or nearly 20, that behavior should not be tolerated in New Jersey.”
Under the bill, “teaching staff member” is defined under existing law as a member of the professional staff of any district or regional board of education, or any board of education of a county vocational school, holding office, position or employment of such character that the qualifications, for such office, position or employment, require him to hold a valid and effective standard, provisional or emergency certificate, appropriate to his office, position or employment, issued by the State Board of Examiners and includes a school nurse and a school athletic trainer.
“It’s my hope that this bill will bring justice for all students who have become victims of sexual assault by their teachers,” said Armato (D-Atlantic). “The safety and well-being of our students is our top priority.”
If enacted, New Jersey would join 10 other states – Alabama, Connecticut, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Washington – that have laws criminalizing sex between school employees and students over the age of 18.
The bill was approved by the Assembly in January, 76-0.
BAYONNE - This week the Bayonne Board of Education received notice that they will receive over $6.7 million from the New Jersey Department of Education that will allow them to offer full-day pre-k in September 2019. Last year, Bayonne received $3.4 million in state funding for pre-k. With limited space and funds, the Bayonne Board of Education had only 65 full-day pre-k students. Under the approved plan, Bayonne will potentially serve 585 students.
“Pre-K access has been linked to improved educational success later in life,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “But for too many in our state, access to pre-k has been defined by zip code and income level. Those days will soon be behind us. Our Administration is making strides in leveling the playing field for New Jersey’s children and we are proud to work with Senator Cunningham, Assemblyman Chiaravalloti, Assemblywoman McKnight, and Mayor Davis, to expand pre-k access for Bayonne’s children.”
“Behind every successful initiative like this one are real children and real families who benefit,” said Education Commissioner Lamont O. Repollet. “We know that high-quality preschool helps children build the readiness skills they need for success later on in school, and these foundational skills continue to pay dividends throughout a person’s life.”
“This is a potential game changer for the City of Bayonne. I commend Governor Murphy and Commissioner Repollet for their vision in making funding public education a priority in New Jersey,” stated Mayor James Davis. “In the past two years, Bayonne has seen significant increases in funding for our schools. Our dedicated team in Trenton, led by Senator Cunningham, Assemblyman Chiaravalloti and Assemblywoman McKnight, have delivered for Bayonne. On this issue, I know how passionate Nicholas was in assuring that Bayonne be able to provide full-day pre-k in 2019-2020.”
“We are excited about the opportunity this offers our parents and children. This award is the result of the efforts of the Cabinet and Early Childhood team at the Board of Education and Assemblyman Chiaravalloti. From the moment we discussed this possibility, Nicholas has made securing these funds his top priority,” stated Dr. Michael Wanko, Interim Superintendent.
“Data has shown that full-day pre-k impacts a child’s future academic success. Bayonne children now have the same opportunity as other children in New Jersey. Bringing Pre-K for all to Bayonne has been a major goal of mine since joining the Assembly in 2015. I am very thankful to Governor Murphy and Commissioner Repollet for their commitment to public education,”stated Assemblyman Chiaravalloti. “This is about the future of Bayonne. Extended-day preschool has dramatic and lasting effects when it is high quality. I congratulate the staff and leadership at the Board for responding to the challenge and preparing a superior application.”
Chiaravalloti, Spearman & Mosquera Statement on Assembly Approval of Measure to Include Anti-Hunger Programs on NJOneApp Resolution Heads to Governor’s Desk
(TRENTON) – Continuing efforts to combat hunger in New Jersey, Assembly Democrats Nicholas Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson), William Spearman (D-Camden/Gloucester) and Gabriela Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester) released the following statement on their resolution (AJR-175) to urge the Chief Innovation Officer of the Office of Information Technology to enhance the NJOneApp to include all state anti-hunger programs. The measure received final legislative approval on Monday, passing the Assembly 75-0-5; it was approved by the Senate 34-0-6 last week.
“There are many resources available to New Jersey residents who are food insecure and suffering from severe hunger, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance to Need Families (TANF) and General Assistance through Work First New Jersey; but it remains a challenge to connect people to those vital services. That’s why improving the NJOneApp, which already offers a simple, convenient way for residents to see if they qualify for food assistance programs, is a crucial step towards ending hunger in New Jersey.
“Under this resolution, the NJOneApp will be redesigned to include all state anti-hunger programs. Users will be able to easily browse all the resources available to them and choose which will work best for their family. No longer will residents be unsure of where to turn, who to ask, or what help exists in New Jersey; the answers would be found at the touch of a button on their cell phone.
“We are pleased our Assembly colleagues have joined the fight against hunger by supporting this measure and we thank Speaker Coughlin for including it in his sweeping anti-hunger bill package. We look forward to taking the next step in helping families in need.”
Assembly Democratic Bill Package Designed to Create Fairness and Transparency in Civil Asset Forfeiture Cases Clears Assembly Panel
Assembly Democratic Bill Package Designed to Create Fairness and Transparency in Civil Asset Forfeiture Cases Clears Assembly Panel
Bills Sponsored by Swain, Chiaravalloti, Pinkin and McKnight
(TRENTON) – Seeking to protect citizens from unfair and unclear civil asset forfeiture practices, Assembly Democrats Lisa Swain, Nicholas Chiaravalloti, Nancy Pinkin and Angela McKnight sponsored a legislative package revising certain state civil forfeiture practices, increasing transparency in these practices and studying how those who lack legal representation are affected. The bills cleared the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee Thursday.
The first bill (A-4969), sponsored by Swain, Chiaravalloti and Pinkin, would establish the “Fairness in Asset Forfeiture Proceedings Task Force” to study the nature, extent and consequences of the lack of legal representation of certain New Jersey residents in asset forfeiture proceedings.
“It is important that we understand how legal representation, and its relation to socioeconomic status, affects the outcome of civil asset forfeiture cases,” said Swain(D-Bergen, Passaic). “We must ensure that all our citizens in these instances are being treated fairly, and learn how to better assist those who lack the means for adequate legal representation.”
According to a recent American Civil Liberties Union-New Jersey (ACLU) report, between January and June of 2016, there were approximately 1,860 civil forfeiture cases initiated by county prosecutors in New Jersey, mostly in low-income areas. These cases involved more than $5.5 million, 234 cars and a home. Of these 1,860 cases, the defendants in only 50 of them appeared in court to oppose the forfeiture.
The ACLU report further notes that public defenders are prohibited from representing defendants in civil matters and most legal services providers in New Jersey do not offer assistance to defendants in civil asset forfeiture matters.
“This task force is meant for us to learn how individuals lacking legal representation in civil asset forfeiture cases are affected differently from those individuals who are able to employ counsel,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “Asset forfeiture can turn someone’s life completely upside down, potentially losing a devastating amount of property, and we must do our best to protect all citizens equally.”
The second bill (A-4970), sponsored by Chiaravalloti, revises procedures for certain asset forfeiture proceedings and requires criminal conviction for forfeiture of certain seized property.
“It is not fair if someone is deemed innocent of committing a crime, yet their property said to be related to that crime is taken away from them, never to be returned,”said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). “If there was no foul play, it is only right that these individuals have their property returned to them.”
Under current law, a prosecution involving seized property terminates without a conviction does not preclude forfeiture proceedings against the property.
Under this bill, seized property, other than prima facie contraband, or something assumed to be contraband until proven otherwise, is not to be subject to forfeiture unless a prosecution involving: (1) property in the form of cash, negotiable instruments, or other cash equivalents with a value of $1,000 or less; or (2) property, other than cash, negotiable instruments, or cash equivalent, valued at $25,000 or less terminates with a conviction.
A criminal conviction is not required for other seized property, however, consistent with current law, a conviction creates a rebuttable presumption that the property was used in furtherance of unlawful activity.
Under current law, the burden is placed on the owner of the property, rather than the state, to establish, by a preponderance of evidence, that the owner was not involved or aware of the unlawful activity. This bill would amend this to place the burden on the state to establish, by clear and convincing evidence, that the owner of the property was involved in or aware of the unlawful activity relating to their property.
The third piece of legislation (AR-222), sponsored by McKnight, Chiaravalloti and Pinkin, urges the New Jersey Supreme Court to study the reasonableness of lowering court fees in civil asset forfeiture cases.
“Oftentimes, court filing fees cost more than the money seized by law enforcement, and, as a result, many people do no defend their rights civil action to seek back their seized property,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “It is important to determine if this is the best practice to put in place to encourage our residents to pursue their civil rights.”
Additionally, McKnight is a sponsor of (A-3442), which establishes asset forfeiture reporting and transparency requirements.
The legislation now heads to the Speaker for further consideration.
Bill Would Criminalize Sexual Contact Between Teachers and Students Under Age 20 Passes Full AssemblyRead more
An increase to the minimum wage moved another step closer to reality. Thank you
Calabrese & Chiaravalloti Bill Encouraging Reporting of School Bus Driver Misconduct Clears Assembly
(TRENTON) – Looking to improve the safety for all of New Jersey’s student bus riders, Assemblymen Clinton Calabrese and Nicholas Chiaravalloti sponsored legislation requiring school buses to have a display of identifying information in order for the public to easily report potential bus driver misconduct. The legislation cleared the full Assembly Thursday by a 75-0-0 vote.
“School bus safety is of absolute paramount importance. We need, therefore, to have a mechanism by which the public can easily communicate careless driving of school bus drivers to the respective school district or private school,” said Calabrese (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This measure will also put school bus drivers on notice that their driving will be reported by the public should they fail to perform their duty of driving safely and carefully.”
The bill (A-4031) mandates an agency, board of education, nonpublic school or school bus contactor that operates school buses to display a phone number, website address or other identifying information that allows the public to report a bus driver’s misconduct across the back of the school bus in a color that contrasts with the bus.
“When we put our children on school buses, we have an expectation that the individuals driving the buses will understand the importance and potential dangers of their jobs,” said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). “This bill will help us ensure the safety of children across New Jersey, as it will allow us to more easily identify who is and isn’t fit to be entrusted with the lives of our kids.”
Under current regulations, there can be no lettering on the front or rear of a school bus other than the words “SCHOOL BUS.” This bill would amend this to include the allowance of information helpful to the public in reporting bus driver misconduct.
The bill was initially advanced through the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee on January 17 and now heads to the governor’s desk
Bill to Establish Municipal Dedicated Funding Source for Arts and Culture through Public Question Advanced by Assembly Panel
(TRENTON) – In an effort to encourage New Jersey’s art initiatives, Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji, Angela McKnight and Nicholas Chiaravalloti bill (A-3832) allowing municipalities to establish an annual funding dedication to arts and culture though public question advanced in the Legislature Monday. The sponsors issued the following statement on the bill:
“The arts and our creative economy are vital to our urban communities, to the state’s cultural identity, and to the overall economy, contributing nearly $520 million annually,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson), a card carrying member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA). “This legislation will allow voters to decide if their municipalities should create a dedicated source of funding for the arts and provide much needed stability for additional programming and local venues.”
“From the performing arts to individual artists to children’s art programs in our schools, there are many who would benefit from the additional funding,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “If our residents want their tax-dollars going towards boosting New Jersey’s arts and culture then this is absolutely something we should encourage.”
“Municipalities often lack a recurring funding source for the arts,” said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). “This legislation aims to give residents the ability to choose whether some of their tax dollars will be devoted to the New Jersey arts.”
The bill was approved by the Assembly Appropriations panel on Monday, Jan. 28.
Legislation Would Protect Patients if ACA Were Changed or Repealed
Vainieri Huttle, Chiaravalloti, Downey & Danielsen Bill to Ensure Health Insurers Cover Pre-Existing Conditions Clears Assembly Panel
(TRENTON) - To make certain patients would continue to have coverage for pre-existing conditions if the federal Affordable Care Act were ever amended or repealed, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Nicholas Chiaravalloti, Joann Downey and Joe Danielsen to require health insurers to cover pre-existing conditions for New Jersey residents was approved on Monday by the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee.
"Because of the Affordable Care Act, as many as 133 million people - or 51 percent of Americans - who have pre-existing conditions are guaranteed that condition will be covered by their health insurer," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "But the ACA has been threatened in the past few years. This bill will safeguard this crucial protection for patients should anything ever happen to the ACA."
The bill (A-1733) clarifies that a health insurer shall not impose, or include in its insurance policies, any provision excluding coverage for a pre-existing condition. It revises New Jersey law concerning group health insurance, the Individual Health Coverage Program, the Small Employer Health Benefits Program, hospital confinement plans, and certain hospital, medical, and health service corporation plans to conform to the federal law regarding pre-existing conditions.
"When the ACA was passed, state law was never changed to include the mandate for coverage of pre-existing conditions," said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). "This important update sends a clear message that we in New Jersey believe health care is not a privilege, but a right."
"People with pre-existing conditions had their lives changed when the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010. For the first time, they could not be denied coverage by an insurance company because of their conditions, from diabetes to allergies to cancer," said Downey (D-Monmouth). "We cannot go back to a world where people had less access to critical medications or treatments because of poor insurance coverage. With this bill, we ensure that will never happen in New Jersey."
"No one should ever be penalized for having a medical condition," said Danielsen (D-Middlesex, Somerset). "The ACA paved the way for Americans to begin seeing what was possible when they had access to coverage for pre-existing conditions. So many people now have far better quality of life as a result, and that's something we will fight to protect and guarantee for all New Jersey residents."
The measure now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.
As 2018 comes to an end, I wanted to just thank you for your support. As I reflect on the past year, like many of you, I realize that although I didn’t accomplish nearly as many things as I had hoped – that I accomplished more than I thought.
I am lucky to have great partners in Trenton, an amazing staff, an incredibly supportive family and all of you.
This Christmas as my family celebrates the Feast of the Seven Fishes – I hope all of you will enjoy your holiday tradition with those you love. Because despite the fights and the slights, we are really lucky.
As my family gathers and argues over who gets the last piece of baccala, we will also be thinking of those less fortunate. This year, I would encourage you – if you can – to make a donation (of any amount) to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey . Nearly 14% of households in New Jersey are food insecure and will struggle to find enough food this week. This equates to
almost 1 in 8 households – many with children.
Have a fantastic holiday and a wonderful New Year! Looking forward to an exciting 2019.