By Vin Gopal
Feeling safe is essential to our quality of life as well as our physical and mental health.
Whether in our homes or schools, or in knowing we can access the care we need to protect ourselves from sickness and disease, everyone wants to feel safe. Here’s a look at a few of our recent bills advancing in the state Senate that should make residents safer and bring some peace of mind.
It’s gratifying to report that the governor recently signed our legislation into law to improve insurance coverage for colorectal cancer screenings. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that people should start getting screened for colon cancer at age 45 years. Early screening is especially important because, with recent progress in treating colorectal cancer, the CDC says about nine out of every 10 people whose colorectal cancers are found early and treated appropriately are still alive five years later.
This law ensures residents can get screenings, regardless of income level, by requiring health insurance coverage for them and eliminating out-of-pocket payments for colonoscopies performed following a positive result on another colorectal cancer screening test.
Another bill, which the Senate Judiciary Committee just passed, would provide protection for those experiencing stalking and online harassment. As technology advances, we see more instances of cyber-harassment that pose real world danger. Persistent harassment online can cause a person to feel unsafe and live in fear. Unfortunately, current state law provides no legal recourse until the situation escalates and harm is done. This legislation, co-sponsored with Senator Linda Greenstein, will empower victims to take legal action and obtain a restraining order, a crucial tool to proactively protect themselves before a stalking situation escalates.
The Senate Judiciary Committee also passed our legislation, co-sponsored with Senator Troy Singleton and Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Ruiz, to hold anyone who benefits from human trafficking accountable. This problem is more pervasive than many people may think. Human trafficking happens everywhere.
Human trafficking is modern-day slavery that keeps some of our most vulnerable residents – most of whom are women and children – held captive physically, psychologically and emotionally. More than 80 percent of human trafficking is classified as sex trafficking, which heavily relies on the use of hotels and motels. Current law fails to capture the entire scope of beneficiaries of this heinous crime. Our legislation would open the door for any party who knowingly profits from human trafficking to be held accountable. The bill also would increase research to prevent the disproportionate trafficking of women and children of color.
A final note: As we begin Women’s History Month, our Legislative District 11 Senate office will be honoring women who own businesses in our district by recognizing them on our Facebook page, facebook.com/senatorgopal. If you would like to nominate a women-owned business in Legislative District 11 please fill out the form posted on our website, senatorgopal.com, or at this link, https://forms.gle/czR1NXWThnPM11Fb6. You may also contact our office at SenGopal@njleg.org or (732) 695-3371 and we will send you the form.
Senator Vin Gopal is chair of the Senate Education Committee. He represents residents of Asbury Park, Allenhurst, Colts Neck, Deal, Eatontown, Freehold, Freehold Township, Interlaken, Loch Arbor, Long Branch, Neptune City, Neptune Township, Ocean Township, Red Bank, Tinton Falls, Shrewsbury, Shrewsbury Township, and West Long Branch.