End children’s vaccine exemption and publish cop discipline records topped NJ’s post-election wishlist

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Before ending her 30-year career as a lawmaker in January, state Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said the passage of a bill making disciplinary records publicly available policing in New Jersey is a priority.

The deadly coronavirus pandemic has convinced Senator Joseph Vitale, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, that now is the time to revive his bill that eliminates religion as a reason parents can use to refuse to have their children vaccinated. children in daycare and school in the state.

Bringing either of these contentious bills across the finish line would be an extraordinary effort at any time, but it’s even harder to predict what might happen in the 9 and a half weeks that go by. precede the end of the legislative session. New Jersey politicians are still reeling from the stunning defeat of Democratic Senate Speaker Stephen Sweeney to Republican Edward Durr, a political novice who spent little time and money to defeat the second most powerful lawmaker of State.

An unexpected red wave of voters across the state also made the contest between Gov. Phil Murphy and Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli too close to call for nearly 24 hours, and toppled at least six seats in the Assembly from Democratic to Republican state. The results of two other races in Monmouth County are disputed.

Historically, the ‘lame duck’ period after election day and before the start of the next legislative cycle on January 11 is a time when lawmakers are pushing through controversial bills that could attract a lot of unwanted attention during election season. . But this time around, it’s hard to predict what, if anything, will be accomplished in the Democratic-controlled legislature.

“Do I think this will lessen the appetite of colleagues to tackle some of the more difficult issues? Weinberg, D-Bergen, said. “Those who are shy will be even more so. Those who have a legal philosophy of these things are going to use the election to say that these are not the things we should be doing. Those on the progressive side will say – and rightly so – that we re-elected Murphy for a second term… and (the legislature is) still run by a Democratic majority. “

“These three groups of people will be more fervent,” she said.

Neither Sweeney nor his spokesperson could be reached for this story.

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, who was easily re-elected and will serve a third term as head of the 80-member house, gave no insight into his lame duck agenda during a press conference Thursday. A legislative source who requested anonymity said Assembly leaders “always knew what to do.”

But Weinberg has a list.

His bill (S2656) make the police disciplinary records public, the police have failed to gain traction, but are hopeful it will reach Murphy’s office for signature. There is also a bundle of guns of three bills, one of which (S2169) which would require residents of the state to renew their firearms purchaser identity cards every four years and to complete training in the safe use and storage of firearms.

Remaking the board of directors of NJ Transit by giving it more weight over the ailing agency’s finances and creating an independent client advocate office has been a priority for years.

Weinberg said she was also determined to see the Assembly pass a bill that would create a team within the state’s Election Law Enforcement Commission to investigate complaints of sexual harassment that arise during campaigns and lobbying.

The bill was recommended by the Task Force on Harassment, Sexual Assault and Misogyny in New Jersey Politics, a panel it convened following a presentation by NJ Advance Media detailing the assaults Widespread and unreported sexual misconduct and harassment in New Jersey politics.

Weinberg is a sponsor of the Reproductive Freedom Act, a bill that would protect and expand access to abortion in New Jersey if the United States Supreme Court overturns the landmark Roe v. Wade. Murphy has pledged to sign it and Weinberg has said she is determined to do so. But the bill has to go through Vitale’s committee and he’s so far not convinced it’s necessary, arguing that state court rulings already protect abortion rights.

“The bill in its current form is unlikely to go forward,” Vitale, D-Middlesex said.

On these and other bills, Weinberg has said she is counting on Sweeney, D-Gloucester, to make this a priority in her remaining tenure.

“He was always the person when the going was tough, I could go see him and tell him I needed your help to get 21 votes,” she said.

Vitale and Sweeney are the main co-sponsors of the bill that would eliminate religious exemptions, and Vitale has said he, too, is counting on Sweeney’s support for what will no doubt attract a storm of opposition.

In December 2019 and January 2020, nearly 1,000 protesters surrounded the Statehouse in Trenton, shaking windows and chanting “assassins” through megaphones. The Senate lacked a voice to pass the bill.

In the 2019-2020 school year, more than 14,000 children skipped vaccines. New Jersey law only requires a parent to submit a letter saying the vaccines violate the family’s religious beliefs, without further explanation.

Vitale said he believed there would be enough voices to pass the bill this time around, after living with the pandemic for 19 months.

“My colleagues have a better understanding of what vaccines mean,” said Vitale.

Many may not remember the scourge of polio, but the vaccine was adopted because it saved millions of lives, he said.

“And the same should apply now,” Vitale said. “The pandemic has reminded us of how important vaccines are. Your refusal to get the vaccine doesn’t just put you at risk.

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Susan K. Livio can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @SusanKLivio.

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