Bill requiring access to public records during an emergency passes Senate
The Senate passed a bipartisan bill that would prohibit public officials from denying open records requests during emergencies.
Republican senators say Gov. Phil Murphy has denied access to some records, claiming the Health Power Act allows him to do so.
“The Act was never intended to keep the public in the dark in times of crisis, but today it is being used to conceal data and information on decisions impacting public health and fiscal stability from public and legislative scrutiny,” said Sen. Joe Pennacchio, one of the bill’s sponsors.
The bill has been referred to the Assembly State and Local Government Committee.
Long-term care workers to receive CARES funding
A bill that uses funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to supplement the pay of long-term care workers is awaiting Gov. Phil Murphy’s signature.
“Despite their vital role in the lives of thousands of long-term care residents, most of the staff in nursing and veterans homes earn close to minimum wage, have inconsistent access to health coverage and sick leave, and are not often valued for their role in the healthcare workforce,” said Louis Greenwald one of the bill’s sponsors.
The bill also creates a grant program so that long-term care facilities can provide additional payment to staff who provide direct care to residents.
Bill will allow data collection on New Jersey’s adult offenders
The Assembly and Senate passed a bill that will allow the New Jersey Attorney General to collect data on adult offenders from the time of their arrest until their case is disposed in court.
The information collected includes race, gender, age and ethnicity. The database will track what charges are dismissed and plea agreements. The bill is intended to spot bias, discrimination and racism in the state’s criminal justice system, according to its sponsors.
“Prosecutors may be vulnerable to conscious or subconscious biases when making decisions about whether to prosecute a case, what to charge, setting bail and negotiating plea bargains” the sponsors said in a joint statement.
Bill that shaves time of prison sentences during a public health emergency goes to Murphy
A bill that gives certain adult and juvenile offenders credit for time served during a public health emergency was approved the Senate and Assembly.
The inmates will receive four months off the sentence for every month they serve during the emergency up to eight months maximum, according to the bill. Inmates serving sentences for aggravated assault, murder or that were convicted of sex-related offenses will not be eligible. The bill includes a plan for victim notification if the inmate is released.
“We heard heartbreaking testimony from family members of inmates who died from COVID-19 while in our custody because health needs were denied and social distancing was not possible,” said Sen. Nellie Pou, one of the bill’s sponsors.
The bill goes to Gov. Phil Murphy for his signature.