By Vin Gopal, Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey
We have been busy working with our Assembly and Senate committees in Trenton to create legislation and programs that enable residents to go about their daily activities safely.
Often that involves coming up with ways to perform tasks virtually, as does Senator Gopal’s bill to allow for property assessment inspections to be performed remotely, which was approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on October 22. We know many residents are hesitant to let strangers into their homes. However, you still should be able to appeal a property assessment and assert your basic right to fair taxation.
Much of the bill applies only to Monmouth County in order to demonstrate that the remote delivery of property assessment services using existing video technology can have immediate value statewide.
In addition to permitting virtual internal home inspections at a taxpayer’s request, the bill also permits the homeowner to have the County Tax Board conduct the appeal hearing remotely. The Tax Board, however, will not hear an assessment appeal if the homeowner refuses to allow the tax assessor to make an internal inspection either in-person or virtually.
We also are focused on ways to make life better for individuals with disabilities. The Assembly Human Services Committee, which Assemblywoman Downey chairs, held a hearing last week on abuse and neglect in group homes and other congregate care facilities. There are many reports of abuse and neglect in some of these living facilities. It is imperative that we try to help our most vulnerable citizens who In many cases cannot speak for themselves. They and their family members deserve a seat at the table to share their stories and what we can do to help protect them better.
The Human Services Committee has approved a number of bills in the past session to remove barriers of entry into the workforce and obstacles that people with disabilities face, such as requiring the Department of Labor to establish a job board just for them. We continue to look for ways to help because we know that our community is stronger when everyone is included.
The Assembly Agriculture Committee approved two bills sponsored by Assemblyman Houghtaling, who chairs the committee, on October 22. One of those bills would increase penalties for people who trespass or vandalize farms. Agriculture is already a tough business with small profit margins. It’s also a major economic generator in the Garden State. This bill would increase the minimum penalty for trespassing and vandalism from $1,000 to $2,500 when damage was more than $10,000.
Another of the bills that the Agriculture Committee approved would create Protect Pollinator License Plates to promote and remind people of how important bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies are to crop growth and green production. The bill establishes a non-lapsing “Protect Pollinators License Plate Fund” supported by fees collected by the Motor Vehicle Commission for the plates to make annual contributions to the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey and to the Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management Program. The organizations would use the money to support efforts to protect pollinator animals in the State.
One last important note: We want to remind everyone who has not already voted to please vote. If you need information about voting, including the locations of county ballot drop-off boxes and polling sites, please call the Monmouth County Board of Elections at (732) 431-7802 or visit the county’s election website at monmouthcountyvotes.com. If you have any questions on voting, you can visit our FAQ page at njld11.com/voting-2020-faqs.