Senate Passes Gopal, Singleton Bill to Include Monmouth & Atlantic in ‘Common Sense Shared Services Pilot Program Act’

A bill sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal and Senator Troy Singleton that would include Monmouth and Atlantic counties in the state pilot program that makes it easier for municipalities in participating counties to enter into shared services agreements was passed by the full Senate Monday. The bill would make Monmouth and Atlantic counties the sixth and seventh counties in the program.

“While many towns and cities across the state have taken steps to cut costs through shared services, the Legislature provided additional tools under a pilot program enacted several years ago that included five counties,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth).  “Making Monmouth and Atlantic counties part of this program will ease the process for towns and cities that want to share professionals where it makes sense, and reduce taxpayer costs.”

The bill, S-1586, would add Monmouth and Atlantic counties to the list of counties permitted to operate under the pilot program. The bill authorizes the sharing of services for a municipal clerk, a chief financial officer, an assessor, a tax collector, a municipal treasurer or a municipal superintendent of public works without regard to the strictures of tenure rights that persons who hold those positions may have.

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School Bus Safety Package Clears Senate

A series of school bus safety bills sponsored by Senate Transportation Committee Chair Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. and Senator Joseph Lagana as well as Senator Vin Gopal, Senator Linda Greenstein, Senator James Holzapfel and Senator Kristen Corrado cleared the Senate Monday.

The package aims to improve bus safety and accident response, make bus drivers and companies more accountable and require every student to carry an identification card at school-sponsored, off-campus activities.

“All members of the public have a vested interest in making sure school bus drivers are driving safely and paying close attention to their surroundings,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth). “Placing a contact number on the back of the bus will help hold bus drivers accountable for reckless driving, giving the public the ability to easily report if they see something concerning.”

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Sen. Gopal Introduces "Marissa's Law"

Senator Vin Gopal introduced “Marissa’s Law” Monday, Oct. 15 in an effort to make New Jersey’s roads safer and hold negligent drivers accountable.

The bill (S3127) provides for a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment for leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death or serious bodily injury, except if the operator reports the accident. The bill also increases the mandatory minimum term for reckless vehicular homicide.

“When a driver leaves the scene of an accident, that act of extreme negligence is not only irresponsible but it could be the difference between life and death for the other individual or individuals involved in the crash,” said Senator Vin Gopal. “The tragic loss of Marissa Procopio shows just how severe the consequences are when a driver leaves the scene of an accident. We have an obligation to prevent these types of tragedies from occurring in the future. No one should have to receive that call.”

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Gopal, Houghtaling and Downey Respond to NJ Familycare Audit

In response to an audit revealing the New Jersey Department of Human Services lost millions over a three year period due to the mismanagement of NJ FamilyCare accounts, Senator Vin Gopal and Assembly Members Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey issued the following statements:

“It is utterly unacceptable that the state’s NJ FamilyCare accounts were grossly mismanaged throughout the Christie Administration,” said Senator Vin Gopal. “Due to poor oversight, the State paid out $177.5 million in false claims, in addition to $720,000 in payments and fee-for-service claims for individuals who were deceased. New Jersey cannot afford these costly mistakes.”

“I sincerely hope the Department of Human Services takes swift action to correct these egregious errors and fulfill the responsibilities of the NJ FamilyCare program,” said Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling. “We are confident the Murphy Administration will see the severity of this issue and work quickly to get the DHS and NJ FamilyCare program back on course.”

“There are far too many hardworking New Jerseyans who rightfully deserve these funds to carelessly fulfill fraudulent claims,” said Assemblywoman Joann Downey, Chair of the Human Services Committee. “The extreme lack of care in the management of this program during the Christie Administration is appalling and has led to the waste of valuable resources. Our residents deserve better and we look forward to working with Governor Murphy to right the ship.”

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Sen. Gopal Applauds Suspension of Brewery Restrictions

In response to The Attorney General’s announcement that it will suspend enforcement of the “Special Ruling” issued on September 21 regarding limited brewery licenses, Senator Vin Gopal issued the following statement:

“I am extremely pleased to see the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office is not moving forward with the restrictions placed by the ABC on breweries,” said Senator Vin Gopal.

“Our local breweries play a key role in our economy, employing numerous hardworking residents and bolstering our tourism industry. Our focus needs to remain on supporting small businesses like local breweries, not stifling them with unnecessary and inane regulations. I was proud to speak out on behalf of the local business owners within my district when these restrictions were first announced, and I look forward to continuing to work with these business owners to ensure these facilities thrive here in Monmouth County.”

These regulations included a limit of 25 “special events,” such as paint and sip nights, trivia nights, live televised sporting events and live music nights; a limit of 12 special permits a year to sell products off the brewery premises such as festivals, athletic events, and other civic events; a limit of 52 private parties (birthdays, weddings, anniversaries) a year; and a requirement to electronically notify the ABC 10 days prior to holding the event.


Sen. Gopal Offers Reward for Arrest, Prosecution of Jewish Cemetery Vandals

Senator Vin Gopal has offered a $1,500 reward, funded through the Vin Gopal Civic Association, for any information that leads to the successful arrest and prosecution of the vandals who desecrated a Jewish cemetery in Freehold.

Four headstones, including one of a World War II veteran, were found toppled the morning of Aug. 26 at the Congregation Agudath Achim Cemetery.

While the incident has not yet been labeled as a hate crime by authorities, several instances of vandalism and hate have occurred throughout Monmouth and Ocean counties. In August, Klu Klux Klan flyers were distributed in Red Bank.

In Lakewood, a synagogue on Route 9 has been vandalized twice. A cloth banner with an anti-Semitic slur was hung up in July 2017 and a black "666" was spray painted on a stone Holocaust memorial in March.


Senator Gopal will join the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America in offering a reward for the arrest and prosecution of the guilty parties.


Sen. Gopal Supports Gov. Murphy's Economic Plan

 

In response to Governor Phil Murphy’s plan to build a stronger and fairer state economy, Senator Vin Gopal issued the following statement:

“I commend Governor Murphy on taking positive and innovative steps towards moving New Jersey’s economy forward,” said Senator Vin Gopal.

“While I plan to dig deeper into his proposals, I strongly support his sentiment in getting New Jersey’s economy back on track after eight years of stagnant economic policy. I am extremely pleased to see education and workforce development at the center of the Governor’s plan.”

“As State leaders, supporting the economy must be among our top priorities. I look forward to working with the Governor to execute a plan that is in the best interest of New Jersey residents.”

 


Sen. Gopal Calls for Continued Women's Health Funding to Combat Spike in STD Rates

Sexually transmitted diseases, specifically chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, are on the rise in New Jersey, prompting renewed emphasis on the importance of fully funded women’s health care centers.

According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of gonorrhea increased 15.6% from 2016 to 2017, with a 34.6% increase from 2013 to 2017 while cases of syphilis increased 15.2% from 2016 to 2017 and 92.8% from 2013 to 2017. Cases of chlamydia rose 2% from 2016 to 2017, with a 24.4% jump from 2013 to 2017.

“These statistics are absolutely staggering,” said Senator Vin Gopal. “With the frequency of STDs increasing at such an astronomical rate here in New Jersey, where funding for family planning services was gutted in the previous administration, it is critical that we continue our efforts to support vital healthcare facilities.”

Senator Vin Gopal was instrumental in working with the Murphy Administration to restore $7.5 million in funding to Planned Parenthood that was previously slashed by the Christie Administration.

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Sen. Gopal: Serious Concerns with ABC's New Brewery Regulations

Senator Vin Gopal is raising strong concerns on the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s new regulations on the state’s breweries.

These regulations, which severely limit the scope of breweries’ operations, include a limit 25 “special events,” such as paint and sip nights, trivia nights, live televised sporting events and live music nights; a limit of 12 special permits a year to sell products off the brewery premises such as festivals, athletic events, and other civic events; a limit of 52 private parties (birthdays, weddings, anniversaries) a year; and a requirement to electronically notify the ABC 10 days prior to holding the event.

“These regulations are extraordinarily restrictive, placing an undue strain on our breweries,” said Senator Vin Gopal.

“We must focus our efforts on supporting small businesses, not limiting their ability to attract customers. Special events are vital to these small businesses, which employ numerous hardworking local residents. Without the ability to attract new customers and grow their business, local breweries will be stifled and stunted. I strongly encourage the ABC to reconsider these ill-conceived regulations and give our breweries the chance to grow and thrive. I will be speaking with ABC as well as seeing what we can do legislatively to remove some of these restrictions.”

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Gopal, Diegnan Bill to Prohibit NJ Transit from Issuing a Law Enforcement Badge to Anyone Who is Not a Law Enforcement Officer Advances

Legislation sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal and Senate Transportation Chair Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. that would prohibit the New Jersey Transit Corporation from issuing a law enforcement badge to NJ Transit board members, Port Authority Commissioners and local and state elected officials cleared the Senate Thursday.

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Gopal Bill Supporting Entry-Level Manufacturing Training Benefiting Veterans and Residents Advances

A bill sponsored by New Jersey Legislative Manufacturing Caucus Chairman Senator Vin Gopal and Senator Steve Oroho that would make a General Fund supplemental appropriation of $250,000 to the Department of State for the purpose of funding the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, Inc advanced from the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on September 24.

“Many residents and veterans in our state struggle to find long-term employment with a decent wage,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth).

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Gopal, Diegnan Bill to Prohibit NJ Transit from Issuing a Law Enforcement Badge to Anyone Who is Not a Law Enforcement Officer Clears Committee

Legislation sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal and Senate Transportation Chair Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. that would prohibit the New Jersey Transit Corporation from issuing a law enforcement badge to NJ Transit board members, Port Authority Commissioners and local and state elected officials cleared the Senate Transportation Committee.

“The only people who should be issued a law enforcement badge are individuals who are trained to be law enforcement officers.  I am glad that that distinction will be clarified in this piece of legislation,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth).

 

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Gopal, Diegnan Bill Would Authorize Special Combat Action Badge License Plates Clears Committee

Legislation sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal and Senate Transportation Chair Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. that would authorize special Combat Action Badge license plates cleared the Senate Transportation Committee today.  The license plate would display the words, "Combat Action Badge" and the Combat Action Badge emblem.

“This badge is relatively new in the Army.  Those who have been awarded this distinction should have it publicized and display it with honor in order to educate others on its significance,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth).  “Allowing for veterans to display that they have seen combat on a license plate will allow them to cherish the pride of knowing they served their country.”

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