On June 30, Assembly Members Rose Heck (R-38) and Guy Talarico (R-38) held their final meeting in a series of visits to the municipalities they represent. On that evening, they met with the residents of Hasbrouck Heights, Wood-Ridge, and Teterboro, in the Hasbrouck Heights borough hall.
Heck and Talarico endeavored to hold meetings with all their towns between January and June of this year. The Hasbrouck Heights meeting, held on the final day in June, marked their successful completion of that goal.
"I just wanted to be sure that before we got into a political season, we covered everything, rather than wait till later," said Heck.
The two began the meeting by going over much of the legislation they have authored and sponsored in Trenton.
Talarico spoke passionately about many family issues he has worked on, and his efforts in Trenton have had a decidedly strong focus on New Jersey's families and youth.
He attests to a phenomenon he has witnessed in which parents are taken "out of the loop" in situations that critically affect their children.
"We've got to put the parents back into the role of parenting," said Talarico. "You can't have outside bodies making decisions that parents should be making."
Talarico was appalled to learn, for example, that there is no law requiring an age limit, or parental consent, for tattoos and body piercing.
"You're talking about a permanent activity," said Talarico. "That's forever. Aside from the look of a tattoo and the social implication upon the future of the kid, you're talking about medical problems that are created from the piercing of private parts, tongues and eyelids."
Talarico sponsored a law which now requires parental consent for any person under 18 wishing to get a tattoo or body piercing.
Talarico also spoke of the civil commitment bill that has passed, for which he was the primary sponsor. The bill seeks to keep known sex offenders off the streets.
"This is in response to a common sense thought," explained Talarico. "If these sex offenders are not cured after they serve their jail term, and are likely to commit that type of crime again, why are we letting them back on the street to do it again?"
"This bill says that violent sexual predators are submitted to a psychiatric review after their jail term," said Talarico. "And if it's deemed likely they'll commit the crime again, they are civilly committed. And each year, they are reviewed again."
A facility is currently being built that would house sexual offenders who are deemed unfit for release after their jail term has expired. It will be a high-security psychiatric facility, yet not an official prison.
The assemblyman was also the primary sponsor on a set of laws addressing the issue of health care from all sides. Firstly, the HMO Accountability Act allows insurants to sue an HMO when they are denied coverage. Whereas this benefits individuals in need of health care, the Prompt Payment Bill offers relief for the medical practitioners, ensuring that they are paid on time for legitimate claims.
Meanwhile, the Health Care Claims Fraud Act is targeted against doctors who are fraudulently submitting claims. "This will help lower insurance costs," Talarico pointed out.
"It's a total package," said the assemblyman. It is meant to revitalize the roles of all involved, to combat the process he has seen in which, "You have accounts practicing medicine, and doctors practicing accounting."
Also in the forefront of the minds of both assemblypeople has been the issue of domestic violence. Heck and Talarico spoke at length about their roles in the passage of the "No Duty to Retreat Bill."
"That was my bill years ago, and I gave it to Talarico," said Heck, who is Chairwoman of the Domestic Violence Task Force. "It came out of the hearings that I held in the early 90's."
Previously, a woman had a "duty to retreat" from her home if she is attacked by her spouse or lover. Failure to leave her home could later be used in the abuser's favor in a court of law. "To me, it was an absurdity," said Talarico. "Where are they going to run to? Particularly if they have young children?"
Assemblywoman Heck pointed out that certain battered women are not aware of their options, or sources of relief. "Women who do not have a support system, (who do not have a) knowledge of the advocates for their rights, or shelters, or the alternatives to domestic violence...It makes it more difficult to find help and assistance to learn of their rights."
As a result of this recent legislation, a woman now has the right to defend herself against a violent mate, rather than flee her home.
Heck has also been involved in improvements to the New Jersey Saver Program, which provides certain homeowners with tax rebates.
"Seniors have had the Homestead Rebate, but we received a lot of info about younger folks who had no rebates. This (new rebate) is based on your school taxes, and if you are a property tax payer within a certain income category, you will be receiving dollars and a rebate that will grow over the next four years to a maximum of $600."
At the end of the meeting, Heck and Talarico listened to their constituents' concerns on issues ranging from car insurance legislation to school bus seatbelt regulations.
They advised their constituents where they can best direct their efforts, and apprised them of legislation that was already in the works addressing certain concerns.
Heck and Talarico represent the 16 towns which comprise New Jersey's 38th district. Their June 30 meeting was their 14th and final meeting.
Heck and Talarico will be up for re-election in the
fall, as running mates for a two-year term.
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