By Vin Gopal, Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey
We have been busy in Trenton over the past two weeks moving bills through the state Assembly and Senate to help businesses generate revenue and remain open.
The Assembly approved our bill giving notaries the ability to work remotely. It has been challenging for many New Jersey residents and businesses to get documents notarized to move forward with legal and financial transactions because notary services must be performed in person. Amending the law creates a path through the bottleneck created by limited access to notaries. In addition, the governor has ordered a 90-day extension beyond the final day of the public health crisis for notaries whose five-year terms expire during it.
We also have introduced a new bill calling on Congress to provide immediate financial assistance to the United States Postal Service. The USPS has been unable to access $10 billion in loans from the US Treasurer made available in March under the CARES Act because the terms were too restrictive. Many Monmouth County residents have reached out to us because they are not receiving their medications, bills, paychecks, and all kinds of personal documents. The nation’s principal mail-delivering service says it will run out of cash by the end of September if Congress doesn’t act to provide immediate financial assistance. We need Congress to act now.
No one has suffered more during the health crisis than our older residents, especially those in nursing homes and other extended care facilities. The abuse or exploitation of our institutionalized elderly population is unacceptable. The Assembly unanimously approved our bill to increase the maximum fine for a person who fails to report abuse – as required by law – from $500 to $1,500 and from $2,500 to $5,000 for the facility where it happens.
The Assembly also unanimously approved our bills to create a three-year pilot program enabling owners of preserved farmland to host weddings and other social and cultural events, and to include esports in the existing sports betting regulations.
The Senate approved our bill to create a permanent study commission to review the definitions of veteran status, such as “disabled veteran” and “service-disabled veteran,” and to recommend more uniform and less restrictive changes. We know that returning to civilian life can be a difficult transition. These men and women have sacrificed themselves for our country and we owe it to them to ensure they are taken care of when they return home. A permanent Veteran Commission and Military Post-Deployment Task Force would be a big step in providing better support.
We also have introduced legislation in the Senate to allow counties and municipalities to borrow funds to cover shortfalls during the pandemic by issuing ‘coronavirus relief bonds.’ As with our schools, our towns and counties are nearing the financial breaking point. We need to take some of that pressure off so they can continue to provide the services and programs their residents rely on.
We also are fighting for full restoration of funding for the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault in the 2021 state budget. NJCASA is a statewide advocacy organization representing all county-based rape crisis centers and the Rutgers University Office of Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance. We need to support its mission of compassionate and just treatment of sexual assault because every person in our state deserves to feel safe, and NJCASA provides a safe haven we cannot afford to lose.
If we can be of assistance to you, please call our office at (732) 695-3371 or go to tinyurl.com/LD11Help and send us your question.