MUÑOZ-O’SCANLON BILL ALLOWING MORE RESPONDERS, HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS TO GIVE OVERDOSE ANTIDOTES ADVANCES

To save lives in cases of a heroin overdose, Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz and Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon sponsor legislation that allows more first responders and other healthcare professionals to administer drug overdose antidotes and protects them from liability. The bill today won Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee approval.

Under the current “Overdose Prevention Act,” healthcare practitioners and pharmacists are protected from liability when prescribing, dispensing, or administering an opioid overdose antidote. This bill, A-3720, expands the list of people authorized to administer an opioid antidote and provides them immunity from liability, including sterile syringe access program employees, law enforcement officials, emergency medical technicians, and other emergency responders. In addition to heroin, opioids include drugs such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and codeine.“Heroin overdoses can take anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes to turn deadly. Every second counts when reacting to an overdose situation,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset, who is a registered nurse. “Allowing more first responders and other professionals to administer this critical first aid without fear of legal repercussions will help prevent more unnecessary tragedies.”

“Our first responders need the necessary tools to save lives when time is of the essence,” explained O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth. “We don’t want them worried about liability when someone’s life is on the line. This bill will afford them the ability to treat those in need without second guessing themselves and risking catastrophe.”

A recent national trend of rising heroin overdose deaths across demographic groups has been reflected in New Jersey. Last year, more than 500 residents died from heroin overdoses – nearly double the number reported in 2010.The measure also authorizes needle exchange programs to obtain a standing order permitting their employees to carry/dispense opioid antidotes, and provide overdose prevention information to clients.

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have implemented laws making it easier for responders to give life saving antidotes to reverse overdoses.

ASSEMBLY PANEL ADVANCES MUÑOZ BILL TO PROTECT ADOPTIVE PARENTS AND CHILDREN

Legislation Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz sponsors that gives adoptive parents stalking and restraining order protections from the individual(s) who gave up their parental rights to the adopted child today won approval from the Assembly Human Services Committee.

The bill, A-882, amends the state’s current stalking law making it applicable to adoptive children and their former parent(s). It permits an adoptive parent to obtain a temporary restraining order against the person whose parental rights to the child have been terminated if the former parent/guardian has contacted or attempts to contact the child against the adoptive parent’s directions. The order can be made permanent if the person is convicted of stalking.“When a biological parent attempts to contact a child they gave up for adoption, it can undermine the relationship between the child and his or her adoptive parents,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “These children have already been through very difficult times. Initiating unwanted contact often causes more stress for the children as well as their adoptive parents who risk being targets of harassment and stalking. Surprisingly, the law offers them little protection. Adoptive families need to have the same level of protection that’s available in domestic violence cases.”

Under the measure, unwarranted contact would be a third or fourth degree crime, depending on the circumstances associated with stalking. A third degree crime calls for a three to five year prison term, a fine of up to $15,000 or both; a fourth degree crime carries an 18-month prison term, a fine of up to $10,000 or both.

MUÑOZ BILL THAT ADDRESSES HEROIN EPIDEMIC CONTINUES TO ADVANCE

Legislation Deputy Republican Leader Nancy Muñoz sponsors to combat New Jersey’s heroin crisis continues to advance. The measure won approval today from the Assembly Appropriations Committee. It cleared the Assembly Judiciary Committee in June.

The bill, A-783/A-2831, implements a recommendation from the July 2013 report from the State Commission on Investigation titled “Scenes from an Epidemic: A Report on the SCI’s Investigation of Prescription Pill and Heroin Abuse.” It increases the penalties for manufacturing, distributing, and dispensing heroin by reducing the amount of heroin necessary to be charged for first, second and third-degree offenses.“It’s a frightening epidemic that crosses racial, geographic and socioeconomic lines,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “We need to update our statutes to reflect reality. Current law allows individuals arrested for heroin offenses to avoid the most serious drug charges. That, along with convenience and low cost, is feeding this crisis. It’s time to make the punishment fit the crime.”

Since the seriousness of drug crimes is currently measured by the amount or weight of the controlled dangerous substance, the distribution of heroin and cocaine carry the same penalty. Heroin, however, provides more pharmacological effect from a given weight than does cocaine. As a result, the amounts of heroin consumed by an average user and carried by an average dealer are far lower than those involving cocaine, therefore, those who manufacture or distribute heroin are treated more leniently than those who distribute cocaine.

Under Muñoz’ bill, the threshold for a first-degree offense would be lowered from five ounces to 2.5 ounces or more of heroin. It carries a prison term of 10 to 20 years, up to a $500,000 fine, or both. In addition, a mandatory minimum term may be imposed, fixed at, or between, one-third and one-half of the sentence imposed with no eligibility for parole.

For a second-degree offense the threshold quantity would be reduced to 0.17 ounces or more, but less than 2.5 ounces of heroin. It is punishable by imprisonment for five to 10 years, up to a $150,000 fine, or both.

A third-degree offense would require a threshold quantity of less than 0.17 ounces and is punishable by three to five years in prison, up to a $75,000 fine, or both.

ASSEMBLY APPROVES MUÑOZ BILL TO REDUCE HOSPITAL RE-ADMISSIONS

To reduce costly hospital re-admissions, Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz sponsors legislation that encourages patients to designate a caregiver for their post hospital care. The measure won approval Monday from the General Assembly.

The bill, A-2955, requires hospitals to provide patients and their legal guardians with an opportunity to designate a caregiver following the patient’s entry into the hospital and prior to discharge or transfer to the patient’s residence. A named caregiver is not obligated to perform any after-care assistance for the patient.“Nationwide, we spend $17 billion in Medicare funds annually on unnecessary hospital re-admissions. In New Jersey, we have a surging population of older adults and others who require long-term assistance and services,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “This measure will enhance patient care by enabling caregivers to provide better support to their loved ones at home and avoid costly hospital readmissions.”

According to the AARP:

• 69 percent of care recipients did not have a home visit by a health care professional after discharge from the hospital;

• 46 percent of family caregivers perform medical/nursing tasks for loved ones with multiple chronic physical and cognitive conditions; and

• most family caregivers report that they receive little or no training to perform their tasks.

Under the bill, hospitals will be required to provide caregivers with instructions in all after-care assistance tasks as per the discharge plan, including a live or recorded demonstration of the tasks performed by an individual designated by the hospital and opportunity for the caregiver to ask questions about the tasks.

MUÑOZ ALS AWARENESS RESOLUTION CLEARS COMMITTEE

A resolution Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz sponsors to increase public awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) received approval today by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

“The disease takes a physical and emotional toll on those who suffer from ALS,” she continued. “While there still is no cure, people who are diagnosed today and their families need to know that recent advancements in research and improved medical care allows many patients to live longer, more productive lives.”“The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge helped bring an enormous amount of attention to this debilitating disease,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “However, as the novelty of the campaign fades, we need to make sure we continue our efforts to educate the public about ALS.

Muñoz’s bipartisan resolution, AJR-67, designates the third Wednesday in May as ALS Awareness Day, and the month of May as ALS Awareness Month in New Jersey. The annual Walk to Defeat ALS, the ALS Association’s national signature event, will be held at various locations in the state during the month of May.

CASAGRANDE-MUÑOZ LAUD ASSEMBLY WOMEN AND CHILDREN COMMITTEE FOR ACTION ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

With domestic violence at the forefront of public concern, Assembly Republicans Caroline Casagrande and Nancy F. Muñoz lauded the action taken today by the Assembly Women and Children Committee which released a package of bills addressing the problem. Both Republican legislators are members of the committee.
The 5-bill package requires counseling for domestic violence offenders; establishes the justification of self-defense by victims; creates a program to assist victims reintegrate into society; and permits a witness under age 16 to testify by closed circuit television in domestic crime prosecutions.

“We heard testimony from people on the front lines of domestic violence that the Ray Rice case wasn’t rare,” said Casagrande, R-Monmouth. “Even though common sense dictates that knocking someone unconscious is an attempt to cause serious bodily injury, these charges are frequently downgraded. There is clearly a disconnect between the legislative intent regarding domestic violence and how the law is applied in the courtroom. Reducing charges that allow a violent act to go unpunished trivializes the seriousness of this crime.”

“Physical assault is an act of violence,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “The recent event regarding Ray Rice and his then fiancé brings this important issue to the forefront. The Legislature is committed to protecting the public from violent acts. Today’s bill package addresses the victims’ needs, and we must also make clear there is an intent to punish those guilty of committing this heinous crime.”

GOVERNOR’S STATEMENT UPON SIGNING ASSEMBLY BILL NO. 1676

Governor Chris Christie released the following statement upon signing of Assembly Bill 1676, bi-partisan legislation sponsored by Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz, R-Union. A-1676 provides that crime victims do not have to pay fees to obtain records relating to the crime; and that requests for such records are not public information.

“Assembly Bill No. 1676 (First Reprint), which I have signed today, provides that crime victims shall not be charged fees to obtain copies of the victims’ own records to which the victim is entitled to access under the Open Public Records Act. Those records include, but are not limited to, any law enforcement agency report, domestic violence offense report, and any temporary or permanent restraining order. The bill also provides that such record requests are not themselves subject to disclosure under the Open Public Records Act.

This bill continues New Jersey’s strong policy of assisting victims of crimes by not charging them fees for access to their own records. Moreover, as the Superior Court of New Jersey has already recognized, disclosure of any person’s Open Public Records Act requests implicates privacy, confidentiality, and competitive advantage concerns. Because   disclosure of crime victims’ record requests raises the additional concern of their physical safety, the bill makes explicit for crime victims the previously established general policy that record requests made under the Open Public Records Act are not subject to disclosure.”

Muñoz Statement on Passing of Union County Sheriff Froehlich

Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz, R-Union, expressed her sympathies on the passing of Union County Sheriff Ralph Froehlich, who passed away Sunday night:

“I am saddened to learn of the passing of Sheriff Ralph Froehlich, who spent over 50 years dedicated to protecting the people of Union County. His commitment to public service is greatly appreciated and he will be truly missed. I offer my condolences to his family.”

Muñoz: Raising Taxes on Job Creators Defies Logic

Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz, R-Union, Somerset and Morris, issued the following statement regarding the Senate Democrat’s FY15 budget proposal which calls for $1.6 billion in income and business tax increases:

“The Democrats’ claims that our economy is failing are simply not true. The numbers out today show New Jersey’s unemployment rate continues to decrease. We have created more than 129,000 jobs under this governor’s leadership and our business climate continues to improve.” 

“Raising taxes now would be catastrophic. It defies logic to increase taxes on  the very people who create jobs.  Increasing taxes is not fiscally responsible and these proposed tax increases will lead to people and businesses fleeing New Jersey. This budget proposal is nothing more than a cheap, political ploy that instills class warfare and will decimate our business community after we have made steady progress.”

MUÑOZ BILL THAT ADDRESSES HEROIN CRISIS ADVANCES

The Assembly Judiciary Committee has unanimously passed legislation sponsored by Deputy Republican Leader Nancy Muñoz to combat the heroin epidemic facing New Jersey.

The bill, A-783/A-2831, implements a recommendation from the July 2013 report from the State Commission on Investigation titled “Scenes from an Epidemic: A Report on the SCI’s Investigation of Prescription Pill and Heroin Abuse.” It increases the penalties for manufacturing, distributing, and dispensing heroin by reducing the amount of heroin necessary to be charged for first, second and third-degree offenses.“It’s a frightening epidemic that crosses racial, geographic and socioeconomic lines,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “We need to give law enforcement officials the tools they need to prosecute criminals who are spreading heroin in our local communities.”

A report released in April by the Task Force on Heroin and Other Opiate Use by New Jersey’s Youth and Young Adults identified heroin abuse as “the number one health care crisis” confronting the state.

“Heroin is a cheaper but more potent alternative that drug dealers are using to meet the growing demand for opiates and avoid the more serious criminal penalties,” said Muñoz. “If we are going rid our communities of heroin abuse, it’s time we make the punishment fit the crime.”

Current law measures the seriousness of the crime by the weight of the controlled substances involved. Equivalent weights or quantities of heroin and cocaine are treated identically under the law, which ignores the difference between how those two drugs are used. The amounts of heroin consumed by an average user and carried by an average dealer are far lower than those involving cocaine.

Under the bill, the threshold for a first-degree offense would be lowered from five ounces to 2.5 ounces or more of heroin. It carries a prison term of 10 to 20 years, up to a $500,000 fine, or both. In addition, a mandatory minimum term may be imposed, fixed at, or between, one-third and one-half of the sentence imposed with no eligibility for parole.

For a second-degree offense the threshold quantity would be reduced to 0.17 ounces or more, but less than 2.5 ounces of heroin. It is punishable by imprisonment for five to 10 years, up to a $150,000 fine, or both.

A third-degree offense would require a threshold quantity of less than 0.17 ounces and is punishable by three to five years in prison, up to a $75,000 fine, or both.