Muñoz Bill Makiing Animal Fighting a Crime Now Law

TRENTON, N.J.  – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz that revises and expands the state’s animal cruelty laws to criminalize animal fighting was signed in law on Monday. The bill increases the level of crime for certain offenses, establishes new criminal and civil offenses and increases criminal and civil penalties.

“Training, promoting and selling animals for the purpose of fighting for amusement or financial gain is despicable and extremely inhumane,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “The injuries inflicted on these poor animals, especially dogs, are very severe, if not fatal. Those that lose the fight but survive are either tortured to death by their owners or left with debilitating injuries.

Specifically, the measure, A-3037/2547/3596/2422/S-736, criminalizes animal fighting and leading an animal fighting network. The latter will be considered “racketeering activity” under the state’s anti-racketeering law.

“Animal fighting, in particular, dog fighting is a secret, underground activity, but it happens everywhere in towns all over New Jersey,” she continued. “It’s a highly profitable, sadistic blood sport and anyone who operates, promotes or in any way participates in this activity should be justly punished.”

Under the bill, assets or property used in animal fighting activities will be seized or forfeited.

 

 

 

 

 

KEEPING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ISSUES AT THE FOREFRONT

It was a little less than a year ago when disturbing images of NFL player Ray Rice’s domestic abuse thrust violence towards women into our national conscience.  While the news headlines and nightly cable news discussions on the topic have subsided to a degree, combating the problems of domestic assault and sexual assault remain in the forefront of my agenda.

The Legislature recently passed A-4078, of which I was a prime sponsor, known as the “Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015”.  Experts in the field of sexual violence state that one of the biggest hurdles to combating sexual assault is the lack of reporting by the victims.  The complex emotions that assault victims may experience, including guilt, shame, embarrassment, and fear, all contribute to the failure to press charges against their attacker.  RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, estimates that 68 percent of sexual assaults in the United States are not reported to authorities, with a resultant 98 percent of assailants never spending a day in jail and free to assault again.  Prior to the passage of A-4078, sexual assault victims were unable to get protection if they had not pressed charges; with passage of the Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015, the courts may issue a temporary protective order regardless of whether the victim has filed criminal charges.  The bill prohibits the alleged offender from having any contact or communication, including personal, written, telephone, or via electronic device, with victims and their family members, employers, and employees.   A-4078 was passed by the Assembly in February 2015, and passed by the Senate last month.  I anticipate that the bill will be signed into law soon.

I recently had the honor of accepting an appointment by State Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner to the Ad Hoc Committee on Domestic Violence.  The committee includes representatives from the three branches of government, with one member of each party from both houses of the Legislature.  The twenty-seven person committee represents a wide range of backgrounds and experience with domestic violence, including judges, lawyers, law enforcement, and New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women.  We have met and are continuing to meet to critically analyze the State’s efforts and policies on combating violence and aiding victims, looking at what we do well in the State and what could be improved.  The committee is working to draft policies and legislation, and make recommendations to the court system to provide excellent and consistent services across the State.

As part of my commitment to addressing the issue of domestic violence, I hosted a roundtable discussion at Kean University on May 27th with stakeholders from the profession of nursing, including chief nursing officers and hospital executives, school nurses, advanced practice psychiatric nurses, nursing educators, nurse attorneys, and the NJ Coalition for Battered Women.  As nurses are largest number of healthcare providers in the US, they are often the first professional interface with a victim of sexual or domestic violence—whether as a patient in the emergency room, or through contact during care for themselves or family members.   It is imperative that all nurses are properly educated and able to handle this delicate situation.  The topics discussed include current hospital policies, course requirements at our schools of nursing, and issues concerning protection of our young victims in the school system.  The goal of our members is to create an atmosphere where victims of domestic violence know they can openly discuss this issue with any nurse, and to create a consistent education model for nurses at all levels.  We are also looking at hospital policies that work well for the victims, and can be extended across the State.  The group will continue to work to reform policies, expand education and training for nursing students and active nurses, and make recommendations to the Board of Nursing.

I am extremely proud of the work we are doing in the State on the issue of domestic and sexual violence.  As a member of the Assembly Women and Children Committee and the Health Committee, I will continue to work on policies to protect women, men and children who are victims. The ad-hoc Committee on Domestic Violence and the members of the Nursing Roundtable will continue to work on recommendations to protect all victims.  We still have work to do, and I remain determined to make sure New Jersey does all it can to protect and support victims.

AMTRAK FAILING TO KEEP UP THEIR PART OF THE BARGAIN WITH COMMUTERS AND NEW JERSEY TRANSIT

 

NJ Transit pays millions of dollars to federally controlled Amtrak, Yet Amtrak Has Failed to Provide the Services We Expect

 

TRENTON, N.J. – After four consecutive days of major delays for New Jersey commuters, Sen. Tom Kean, Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, and Assemblywoman Nancy Muñoz are demanding answers. The legislators are insisting on a meeting with officials from Amtrak.

“After the series of delays this week, commuters deserve a detailed explanation as to what’s going on as well as what is going to be done to prevent these issues from reoccurring,” said Kean. “Delays of this nature wreak havoc on commuters’ schedules and their work obligations. It is simply unacceptable.”

“People need to get to work, but every day this week there has been trouble. It is aggravating and unacceptable,” said Bramnick. “It costs money and productivity when hard-working New Jersey residents can’t get to their jobs. Commuters want to know what’s happening and why it is happening. We’re not getting what we’ve paid for, and we’re looking for answers.”

“We want to get answers for the commuters who are paying the price for shoddy maintenance and poor customer service,” said Muñoz. “The frustration of these long delays makes it almost impossible to have any confidence in Amtrak’s reliability.”

SENATE OK’S MUÑOZ RESOLUTION ESTABLISHING ALS AWARENESS DAY

A resolution sponsored by Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz to increase public awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is headed for the Governor’s desk after clearing the Senate today. ALS, also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

“ALS takes a physical and emotional toll on those who suffer from the disease,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “While there still is no cure for ALS, we want people who are diagnosed today and their families to know research and improved medical care allows many patients to live longer, more productive lives.”

Muñoz’s resolution, AJR-67/SJR-51, 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.

CONGRESSMAN LEONARD LANCE HOSTS ROUNDTABLE AT SUSAN G. KOMEN NORTH JERSEY TO ADDRESS URGENT CONVERNS OF THE BREAST CANCER SUPPORT COMMUNITY

Congressman Leonard Lance (NJ07) recently introduced two important measures that address urgent concerns of the breast cancer support community: H.R. 2540, the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act and H.R. 2739, the Cancer Drug Coverage Parity Act. And last Monday, at Susan G. Komen North Jersey’s headquarters in Summit, he brought members of the medical community, breast cancer survivors, advocates and supporters to the table to discuss the state of the fight against breast cancer, and his work in Washington to combat the disease.

“All of us are working out of love for mothers, daughters, sisters and wives,” Lance told attendees at the roundtable discussion. “We have championed many important ideas and collaborated on various policies to combat this disease. These two measures I have introduced in Congress will give patients more tools and resources in the fight. These types of policies are the bipartisan, practical solutions that can make a positive difference in the lives of many.”

H.R. 2540, the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act will require that patients be informed of the availability and coverage of breast reconstruction and prostheses. Since 1998, Federal law requires that insurance companies cover reconstructive surgery and prostheses, whether it is at the time of surgery, or long afterwards. But studies have shown that many women are unaware of their options. Says Lance, “This bill intends to put into place an education campaign to ensure that women coping with breast cancer, especially those of ethnic and minority status, are made more fully aware of their options, and as a result, gain more control over their health care decisions.”

Assemblywoman Nancy F. Muñoz (LD-21) spoke on her resolution in the State Assembly urging support for H.R. 2540, and similar legislation on the state level that mandated the goals of H.R. 2739. “Too many women suffering from breast cancer, particularly in minority communities, are inadequately advised of reconstructive options. I cannot understate the importance of the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act to women across New Jersey and the United States, and applaud Congressman Lance in his leadership on this issue.”

A letter sent to Congressman Lance from Dr. Judith Salerno, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Susan G. Komen just prior to the roundtable event, pledged the organization’s support of the bill and applauded Lance for his leadership. “While the decision to undergo breast reconstruction or use prostheses is a personal decision, all women should be made aware of their options and coverage,” said Salerno. “Unfortunately, studies have found that too few women are fully informed of their options—especially racial and ethnic minority groups. This legislation complements the work currently being done in communities across the country by Komen Affiliates ensuring that all women have access to high quality, affordable care.”

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons, an organization deeply committed to educating women about the availability of procedures that can support their breast cancer recovery, was represented by Dr. Gregory Greco, who noted that the wounds of breast cancer are not just physical; they are emotional, psychological and spiritual. “More and more, healthcare providers and patient champions understand that repairing cancer’s non-physical damage is part of our job as members of the cancer team,” said Greco. “For many women, that sort of healing, the kind that comes when someone feels whole again, can only be fully recognized through the reconstructive process. The Breast Cancer Patient Education Act Coalition works to improve patient outcomes and quality of life.”

Patient advocate Dora Arias, Founder & Executive Director of Curémonos, which provides education, support and advocacy to medically-underserved women with breast cancer, remarked that breast cancer patients, regardless of their race or ethnicity, yearn to regain a ‘normal’ life after treatment. “The Breast Cancer Patient Education Act,” confirmed Arias, “will ensure that all women in this country are informed of their breast reconstruction options and can exercise their right to make informed decisions regarding their treatment.”

This month, Lance also introduced H.R. 2739, the Cancer Drug Coverage Parity Act, which would require health insurance plans that cover traditional chemotherapy to provide equally favorable coverage for orally-administered anti-cancer medications. This bill is a critical step towards improving access to anti-cancer drugs by requiring companies to cover patient-administered and physician-administered anti-cancer drugs at the same cost. Correcting this disparity in coverage will enable cancer patients to make healthcare decisions based on the best information and the best course of care available to them, rather than on cost and/or accessibility to treatment.

At the conclusion of the discussion, Lance reinforced his conviction that both these initiatives are bi-partisan in nature and address issues that potentially affect every member of Congress. He expressed his hope that “this is where the nation will come together” and that he will “work in Congress to bring these priorities and all priorities of the breast cancer community to action in Washington.”

MUÑOZ COST SAVING BILL ALLOWING GENERIC BIOLOGICAL MEDS CONTINUES TO ADVANCE

Legislation to reduce the price of expensive biological medications for people who need the drugs for treatment of serious diseases by allowing pharmacists to substitute generics today won General Assembly approval. The bill, A-2477/S-1705, sponsored by Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz, now goes to the governor for his consideration.

Biological drugs (biologics) are created from living cells (animal, yeast, plant) rather than through traditional chemistry, which produces chemical pills. They are used to treat cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, MS and other debilitating diseases. While a (chemical) generic medication is identical to a brand named drug, replication of an identical biologic by another manufacturer is nearly impossible.

“The cost of these drugs often places a financial burden on patients who rely on them to treat very serious diseases and painful conditions,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “Generic versions are just now becoming available which is great news because they can significantly reduce costs, giving more patients access to these vital medications.

“At the same time, we need to make sure pharmacists and physicians are communicating with each other since these products are more complex than chemical drugs and it’s not yet certain what kind of a reaction a patient may have from a generic version,” she continued. “This bill enhances the safety and effectiveness of biologics while providing more treatment options to patients.”

Muñoz said measure is needed to ensure that once the FDA has approved a biosimilar as “interchangeable” with a biologic, a law is in place to address the issue of substitution. Currently, the only biosimilar product approved by the FDA in the U.S. is Zarxio. Manufactured by Sandoz, it is the generic version of Neupogen, made by Amgen, Inc. It is used to treat patients with certain types of cancers and related illnesses, but has not yet been approved as an “interchangeable” product. “Interchangeable” means that pharmacists may substitute a biosimilar or generic for a biological drug.

Under the bill, a pharmacist who dispenses an interchangeable biosimilar is required to notify the prescribing physician of the substitution within five business days after dispensing the medications and provide the name and manufacturer of the product.

Muñoz noted that only Virginia, Indiana, North Dakota, Delaware, Florida, Utah, Oregon and Massachusetts have passed similar legislation. Should the measure become law and, as more biosimilars become available, New Jersey would be at the forefront of providing cost effective medications for patients with debilitating diseases. She added that both generic and brand manufacturers support the bill.

ASSEMBLY APPROVES MUÑOZ-DANCER BILL MAKING ANIMAL FIGHTING A CRIME

Legislation Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz and Assemblyman Ron Dancer sponsor that revises and expands the state’s animal cruelty laws to criminalize animal fighting today received General Assembly approval. The bill increases the level of crime for certain offenses, establishes new criminal and civil offenses and increases criminal and civil penalties. It now goes to the governor for his consideration.

Specifically, the measure, A-3037/2547/3596/2422/S-736, criminalizes animal fighting and leading an animal fighting network. The latter will be considered “racketeering activity” under the state’s anti-racketeering law.

“Training, promoting and selling animals for the purpose of fighting for amusement or financial gain is despicable and extremely inhumane,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “The injuries inflicted on these poor animals, especially dogs, are very severe, if not fatal. Those that lose the fight but survive are either tortured to death by their owners or left with debilitating injuries.

“Animal fighting, in particular, dog fighting is a secret, underground activity, but it happens everywhere in towns all over New Jersey,” she continued. “It’s a highly profitable, sadistic blood sport and anyone who operates, promotes or in any way participates in this activity should be justly punished.”

“Animals used in such fights are kept in horrific conditions. They are starved, drugged and beaten to make them aggressive. No animal deserves to be abused or killed for so called ‘entertainment,’” said Dancer, R-Ocean, Burlington, Middlesex and Monmouth. “This blood sport is a brutal, violent practice that also breeds other serious crimes such as gambling, drug dealing, weapons offenses and money laundering. Increased fines and penalties will help protect these defenseless animals and punish their abusers.”Under the bill, assets or property used in animal fighting activities will be seized or forfeited.

MUÑOZ BILL ELIMINATING PENALTY FOR MEDICAID APPLICANTS WHO MAKE SMALL GIFTS WINS ASSEMBLY PANEL APPROVAL

Residents applying for long-term care benefits under Medicaid who gift small amounts of their money to others in the five years before eligibility is determined will not be penalized for the transfers under legislation Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz sponsors. The bill, A-3760, will allow residents to transfer up to $$500 per month during the five-year “look-back” period for determining Medicaid eligibility for long-term care services.

“Many people legitimately and routinely give financial gifts to family, friends, religious organizations and charities,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “No one can predict the future. You can’t possibly know what your financial or medical needs will be five years down the road. People should not be penalized for their generosity if the time comes that they require Medicaid to pay for long-term care.

“Current state law is unclear about gifting money to others,” she continued. “This measure will ensure residents are protected when applying for Medicaid assistance should the need arise.”

The measure, which was approved today by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee, clarifies current state Medicaid law. Since many people try to “hide” their assets by transferring them to another individual so they qualify for Medicaid long-term care benefits, federal and state Medicaid law requires a five-year look-back period from the date of a person’s application to determine whether an authorized transfer took place.

Federal law allows states to exclude certain transfers, such as “de minimis” or minor gifts, on the assumption that the person is not giving away the money in an attempt to qualify for future Medicaid benefits. An individual may be denied coverage for unauthorized asset transfers. New Jersey, however, does not have a clear standard regarding such transfers. Those decisions are currently made by county welfare agencies.

MUÑOZ BILL TO PROTECT SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIMS WINS SENATE COMMITTEE APPROVAL

Legislation Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz sponsors that provides sexual assault victims with protection against their offenders won approval from the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on Monday. The bill was unanimously approved by the Assembly in February.The “Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015” (A-4078/S-2686), allow victims to obtain protection without filing criminal charges.

“Sexual assault is physically and psychologically devastating; and victims are often embarrassed or feel they are in some way to blame for the attack,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “As a result, only a small percentage of victims file criminal charges. Unless they report the crime, they cannot obtain a restraining order. This leaves their attacker free to harass or assault them again.”

The bill allows the court to issue a temporary protective order regardless of whether the alleged victim has filed criminal charges. It prohibits the alleged offender from having any contact or communication, including personal, written, telephone or via electronic device, with victims and their family members, employers, and employees.

Under current law, restraining orders are predominately used for victims of domestic violence.

In addition, the measure prohibits stalking, following or harassing, including cyber-harassing, the alleged victim.

SENATE PANEL APPROVES MUÑOZ ALS AWARENESS LEGISLATION

A resolution sponsored by Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz to increase public awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” today was released by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.“ALS is a horrific disease which takes a physical and emotional toll on those afflicted and their family,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “Although there still is no cure, people who are diagnosed today and their families need to know that advancements in research and improved medical care allows many patients to live longer, more productive lives.

“Last summer’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge brought an enormous amount of attention to this debilitating disease,” she continued. “Our objective is to maintain the momentum that was generated and make sure we continue our efforts to educate the public about ALS.”

Muñoz’s resolution, AJR-67/SJR-51, 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.