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.
On May 25, Americans at home and abroad will pause to observe Memorial Day. Since the first observation on May 5, 1868, then called Declaration Day, it has been a day to remember, reflect upon, and appreciate those who sacrificed and gave their lives to defend our right to freedom in the United States. We owe our thanks and honor to those who served in conflict to protect our land and to keep America the land of the free for over two hundred years.
Memorial Day is a time for remembrance for the men and women who fought in America’s battles, and we acknowledge the tremendous contributions of those serving in the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines and the Coast Guard. There is another group that I would like to highlight, a group of service men and women who are often overlooked in the discussions about those who served our country.
Many associate the United States Merchant Marines with the role they play in the day-to-day operations on the seas in service of our national and global economies. Rarely mentioned is the role Mariners have played in supporting our war efforts dating back to the American Revolution. Since the time of the Revolutionary War through our current War on Terror, the Merchant Marines have carried critical supplies, equipment, and personnel to our Armed Forces, often through dangerous waters. The sacrifices of Mariners during World War II sailing through waters well-covered by German U-boats reflect the dangers that these servicemen encountered in duty to their country. One of every twenty-four Mariners lost their lives during the war, by far the highest casualty rate of any service group.
Two crewmembers of the SS Stephen Hopkins—Captain Paul Buck and Midshipman Edwin Joseph O’Hara—were posthumously awarded the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal for their role in sinking the German commerce raider Stier. Despite just one four-inch gun in defense against the heavily armed Nazi cruiser, the Hopkins crew sank the enemy’s ship, before going under itself. The few American survivors floated on a lifeboat for more than a month before reaching the coast of Brazil. Sadly, most of the crew lost their lives fighting to keep the seas free.
The freedoms that we enjoy were made possible by those individuals who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. Our Armed Forces continue to maintain the same standard of commitment and honor that was declared over two hundred years ago. It is my hope that we will expand our acknowledgements of the successes of the brave Merchant Mariners by passing Assembly Resolution 105, which honors the United States Merchant Marine. On Monday, let us reflect on the sacrifices of all who died in service to defending our way of life, so that freedom can continue to ring across our great nation.
“We’re Number One!” This is usually a joyous cheer, reflecting accomplishments in our towns and schools, at the academic, athletic and social levels. However, this time of year, we somberly reflect on being number one- in taking money out of your wallet. This past October, Business Insider rated New Jersey as having one of the most unfriendly tax codes in the country, with property, sales and income taxes all near the top of their respective lists of the most onerous burdens in the nation. The Tax Foundation notes “New York and New Jersey are in a virtual tie for last place” in State Business Tax Climate, which is clearly not a statement we would like to hear as residents of the Garden State.
The high property, sales and income taxes are just the beginning. Perhaps the Beatles had New Jersey in mind when they wrote “Taxman”: “If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street/If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.” Realty transfer taxes, inheritance and estate taxes, a “millionaire’s tax” on those who don’t even earn half a million dollars per year, a “jock tax” on athletes who play for out-of-state professional teams and all team employees, and a “telecommuting tax” on out-of-state companies employing New Jersey residents who work from home. You name it, the Democrats in Trenton are either taxing it, or they are proposing a tax on it, as a remedy to the fiscal crisis that we face after more than a decade of their control of the Legislature. The citizens of New Jersey are suffering under the weight of this tax burden, as exemplified by the number of people relocating and retiring out of state, including nearly one quarter of those receiving a public pension who leave the state because their taxes are too high.
Despite all of this gloomy news about our taxes, there is hope in the work being done by Republicans in the Legislature and Governor Christie. The two-percent cap on property tax levies has greatly stemmed the rate of increase, which was greater than seven percent under our previous governor. Attempts by the Democratic legislature last spring to undo much of the interest arbitration legislation by nullifying the two-percent cap on interest arbitration awards for police and fire departments were rebuked by Governor Christie and Assembly and Senate Republicans, and later replaced by an agreement to renew the cap. Republicans have introduced multiple versions of bills to eliminate the aforementioned “Taxman” taxes. On the estate tax issue, I sponsor four different bills seeking to eliminate, phase out and/or increase the filing threshold. We must continue to advocate for this legislation, as Democratic leadership seems uninterested in advancing these bills.
April 15th is not a date any taxpayer in New Jersey can look forward to, but November 3rd certainly is. We have the opportunity to have our voices heard concerning how much of our hard-earned income is sent to Trenton and not back to us. When you enter the voting booth in November, remember the feeling of frustration and your lighter wallet, and consider which candidates are working to fix these issues, and who is satisfied with the status quo. It is time for new leadership in the Assembly to work on these tax issues.
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.”
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.”
I am honored to have been selected by Shelia Oliver, the Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly, to attend the National Conference of State Legislators for Emerging Leaders. I have brought back some fresh ideas that I hope to implement that will benefit the residents of New Jersey.
I am very concerned about making New Jersey an affordable place in which people can live, work and raise their families. As the mother of five children, I would like to see my children able to afford to remain in New Jersey and raise their families here. Achieving that goal includes taking on the status quo that stifles economic opportunity and burdens New Jersey’s taxpayers. I supported New Jersey’s first ever pension overhaul reform and I am leading the fight on sick pay abuses, which undermine local, county and state government at the taxpayers’ expense.
As a former PTO president, I know the challenges that face our schools, which recently have included concerns for the health and safety of our children during school hours. I was a sponsor of the New Jersey School Security Task Force, the first comprehensive effort to identify physical and cyber vulnerabilities and potential breaches of security in the public schools, and will make recommendations to improve school safety and security. Additionally, the Governor signed into law my legislation that establishes standards of practice for providers of clinical nursing services for medically fragile students.
I have spent more than 35 years as a nursing professional, and have worked as a staff nurse in the surgical ICU, ER, and recovery rooms; I have also trained the next generation of nurses as a critical care educator. I understand healthcare from the provider’s and patient’s perspectives and have put my experience to work in Trenton influencing and sponsoring healthcare legislation. I supported $108.4 million for women’s healthcare and services in Fiscal Year 2014 and have been endorsed by the Women’s Political Caucus of New Jersey. I was proud when the Governor signed into law last month my Diabetes Action Plan that will improve care and help to control complications associated with diabetes.
As an emergency room nurse, I also know the horrific outcomes of those who choose to drive and text. It takes a moment of inattention to cause a lifetime of irreparable harm for someone or their family. I sponsored the law that increases fines for drivers speaking on a hand-held phone or texting while operating a vehicle. In June, 2013 Governor Christie signed into law my bill which directs health care facilities to transport patients immediately to hospitals that will provide the appropriate level of care. I am a strong advocate for the disabled and those with mental health issues. I have also supported reasonable gun control legislation, while mindful of our constitutional rights.
I consider it the highest honor to have been chosen to finish the term of my husband, the late Assemblyman Dr. Eric Muñoz as I learned firsthand from him what a privilege it is to represent the people of District 21. I am even more proud that my constituents have reaffirmed their confidence in my leadership through reelection. That is why I have used my position as Deputy Republican Whip to be vocal on the issues that matter to the people I represent. In public service it is important to find balance and represent all constituents equally regardless of individual agendas or special interests. I will continue to lead the fight for the enactment of the Jessica Lunsford Act, which raises the penalties on those who commit sex crimes against minors. I was the prime sponsor of Patrick’s Law, which significantly increases penalties for animal abuse. I consider it integral to my job as a legislator to advocate for laws that protect society’s most vulnerable and to be the voice in Trenton for those who need my help.
Assemblywoman Nancy F. Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset, issued the following statement today regarding the keynote speech delivered Tuesday night by Gov. Chris Christie at the Republican National Convention:
“The Convention Center was electrified when Governor Christie entered. Everyone in the arena was on their feet. Governor Christie showed his true national leadership last evening and made us very proud to be from New Jersey. Everywhere we go, on the buses, at the restaurants, people are excited that we’re from New Jersey. Governor Christie has brought a new pride for everyone from the Garden State.”
Wednesday’s State Commission of Investigation report indicating the substantial expense incurred by taxpayers by providing government-paid leave for public union employees is another reminder of the need to reform a costly expense that should not be borne by taxpayers, said Republican Assemblywomen Nancy F. Muñoz and Alison Littell McHose today.
The Assemblywomen pointed out that while the report estimated the cost to taxpayers at $30 million in salaries and medical benefits from 2006 through 2011, the issue of these employees’ participation in the state pension plans is another aspect of this practice that needs fixing.
Muñoz and McHose are sponsors of A-2438 which bars certain employees of specified public agencies from participating in the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS). It also repeals the law permitting PERS and Teachers’ Pension and Annuity Fund (TPAF) members on leave who work for labor organization to purchase pension credits.
“Historic pension reform was enacted last year, but we can still make progress in the effort to correct another aspect regarding public employees on paid leave which also costs taxpayers,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “The SCI report was an eye-opener. The bottom line is that comprehensive reform is needed on the inconsistent practice of granting paid leaves, which also includes whether these employees should still be participating in a state pension plan. This aspect can be addressed immediately by A-2438.”
“Until reports like this are issued, taxpayers are not aware of what they are paying for,” said McHose. “When someone calls attention to a flaw that costs millions in taxpayer dollars, the answer is to fix the problem, not attack the motive of the report.
“As I stated two years ago, ‘The SCI’s investigations often target wasteful and abusive governmental practices and, uniquely, the SCI makes its results public even if there is no criminal prosecution.’” continued McHose. “Hearing that ‘some union officials have been on paid leave for years or even decades’ is outrageous enough, but what makes it worse is that SCI said they found no evidence that these officials on full-time paid leave are paying both the employee and employer contributions to the pension fund, as required by law. While the spoils go to these public employees, taxpayers continue to foot the bill.”