Flu

FLU VACCINE OR NOT

By SHERRI RUGGIERI

Each day the news reports that another child has died from this year’s flu virus.  The flu outbreak keeps creeping from area to area ravaging communities.  One school had to be closed and disinfected.  It is curious because an airborne virus like the flu is nearly impossible to destroy this way.  Instead, closing the school seems to have stopped the spread by keeping people away from each other.  The malls and grocery stores have hand sanitizers but, other than making people feel better to do something, this will not stop the progression of the flu.

The CDC’s website advises that “It’s best to get vaccinated before flu begins spreading in your community. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against flu.”  Although the flu virus has changes (referred to as “drift”), the CDC claims that, “antibodies made in response to vaccination with one flu virus can sometimes provide protection against different but related flu viruses.” Therefore, the CDC admits that the effectiveness of this year’s version of the vaccine might be diminished because the circulating flu virus has changed.

“There are many different flu viruses and they are constantly changing. The composition of U.S. flu vaccines is reviewed annually and updated as needed to match circulating flu viruses. Flu vaccines protect against the three or four viruses (depending on vaccine) that research suggests will be most common. For 2017-2018, three-component vaccines are recommended to contain:

  • an A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus (updated)
  • an A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus
  • a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like (B/Victoria lineage) virus

Quadrivalent (four-component) vaccines, which protect against a second lineage of B viruses, are recommended to be produced using the same viruses recommended for the trivalent vaccines, as well as a B/Phuket/3073/2013-like (B/Yamagata lineage) virus.”  https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2017-2018.htm

At least, the public feels that they can do something to keep their family safe.  The pharmaceutical companies also profit the more people panic and take the flu shot.  A win, win? There are no winners by the continued deaths from this year’s strain of the flu virus.

Sherri Ruggieri is the managing editor of Empire State News. A practicing attorney for over 20 years, Ms. Ruggieri is also chairperson of Edison Township’s Planning Board. Additionally, she has served as a college professor, with nearly a decade of experience in teaching law and political science courses.

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don't text and drive

DON’T TOUCH THAT CELL PHONE WHILE DRIVING

By SHERRI RUGGIERI

Many people become ensnared by the law designed to stop cell phone texting while driving (N.J.SA. 39:4-97.3).  While in Municipal Court, the balance of power is vested in the Judge and Prosecutor .  Most defendants accept the guilty plea and pay the numerous fees. Each violation results in even greater punishments:

  1. First time offenders will face a fine of $200-$400.
  2. The fine associated with a second offense will increase to $400-$600 and
  3. drivers who are caught a third time or more, will face a fine of $600-$800.
  4. Also, beginning with the third offense, there will be three (3) points assessed to the driver’s record and there may be a 90-day driver license suspension as well.

One defendant decided not to follow the Prosecutor’s recommendation.  He brought his cell phone records to show that he was not using his phone during the time of the ticket.  The Judge said that he did not need to be on the cell phone to be found guilty.  According to this Judge, the act of touching the cell phone to look at messages while driving is considered a violation.  The defendant questioned why it is acceptable to touch a radio or drink a beverage while driving.  The Judge and this defendant continued to argue about what constitutes impermissible distracted driving behaviors.  The standoff concluded with the defendant agreeing that he had “touched” his cell phone and then paying the required fees.  The Judge advised the people in the Courtroom to use a “hands free” devices and not be “knuckleheads.”

Sherri Ruggieri is the managing editor of Empire State News. A practicing attorney for over 20 years, Ms. Ruggieri is also chairperson of Edison Township’s Planning Board. Additionally, she has served as a college professor, with nearly a decade of experience in teaching law and political science courses.

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black hole

THE U.S. IS GOING BROKE: HOW THE FILIBUSTER AND THE BIPARTISAN CONSENSUS TO SPEND MORE IS MAKING US GO BANKRUPT

By ROBERT ROMANO

Say, you’re a fiscal conservative. You think the federal government is spending too much of your hard-earned tax dollars and that the $20.7 trillion national debt is pushing it. You took a gander at the campaign brochures of each of the major parties in 2016, Democrats and Republicans, and discovered Republicans were actively campaigning on balancing the budget.

So, you rolled the dice and as fortune would have it, the Republicans were elected to majorities in the House and Senate plus claiming the White House for only the fourth time since the Great Depression — the other times were 1953-54 and 2003-07 when they had all three. And, at least initially in 2017, it looked like this might finally be the time spending could actually be cut. President Donald Trump offered his first budget, which proposed increasing defense spending but cutting non-defense and other mandatory spending, with a full $4.5 trillion of overall spending cuts over ten years.

Fast forward a year later, and although Congress did agree to increase defense spending, it was unwilling to cut spending elsewhere. The result is $165 billion of defense spending increases and $131 billion of non-defense over the next two years. The reason?

Once again, the Senatorial requirement to get a supermajority — 60 votes to govern and achieve cloture on any legislation — remains the main culprit. Despite owning majorities in both house of Congress, Republicans still require Democrat votes to pass appropriations bills and other continuing resolutions, which gives the opposition major input into spending. Democrats would not agree to increase defense without also increasing non-defense.

Now, others might note that, in reverse, the filibuster veto on legislation has been almost useless for Republicans. In 2013, having a majority in the House, Republicans were unable to hold up a continuing resolution to achieve concessions rolling back Obamacare. There was a partial government shutdown until Republicans relented. No concessions were achieved. Obamacare remained the law of the land, and spending still increased.

The only achievement on the fiscal side during that period was budget sequestration, which arose out of the 2011 debt ceiling deal. For similar reasons, the sequestration applied to both defense and non-defense spending. In that case, Republicans had the House, Democrats had the Senate and the White House. So, the only spending agreement that could be had was similarly bipartisan, one where if one side could not increase, then neither could.

Similar dynamics played out in the 1980s. Non-defense discretionary budget authority started out at about $160 billion before hitting a low in 1982 of about $138 billion but by 1985 had risen back to nearly $162 billion. The non-defense spending cuts came in exchange for slight tax increases after the historic 1981 tax cuts. Defense spending rose from $141 billion in 1980 to $292 billion by 1988.

The compromise of 1982 again owed to the need for a bipartisan arrangement to get past the Senate. Democrats wanted to pare back a portion of the tax cuts, but to get there, non-defense spending was cut as well before being allowed to rise again in subsequent years. What could meet muster by both political parties very much dictated the terms of the outcome.

Almost every single funding agreement to keep the government funded, or to raise the debt ceiling, since that time has been bipartisan. Because of this feature, a few different outcomes have occurred: 1) Both sides agreed to increase defense and non-defense spending, as in 2018; 2) Defense and non-defense budget authority was frozen, as in 2011, but then both rose in 2016 and 2017; 3) Defense spending was frozen and non-defense spending cut slightly, but then both were later allowed to rise, as in 1995; 4) Defense budget authority increased and non-defense budget authority was cut in 2000, but then both rose dramatically in the 2000s; and 5) non-defense spending cuts were traded for slight tax increases, as in 1982, before being allowed to rise.

Again, thanks to the Senate filibuster and/or divided government, every one of those has been a bipartisan compromise. Some of them came about after partial government shutdowns. To the extent there were some cuts and freezes on the discretionary side of the ledger, they were all more than offset by increases in so-called mandatory spending — that is, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment, food stamps and other automatically paying programs based on eligibility.

For that reason, the $20.6 trillion national debt has grown every single year since 1957.

Since 2000, the debt has grown an average 7.4 percent a year. But the Gross Domestic Product has only grown nominally, prior to adjusting for inflation, at 3.96 percent. As a result, the debt to GDP ratio has risen to 104 percent. But it will get worse.

If both continuing growing at those rates, by 2048, the debt will be a gargantuan $185 trillion, but the GDP will only be $42.7 trillion. That’s a debt to GDP ratio of 433 percent. And so ridiculous that nobody would ever believe we could pay it back. We’d be broke.

That is why we hope that the President’s budget he just submitted for Fiscal Year 2019, which includes another $4.5 trillion of proposed deficit reduction and works toward a balanced budget is actually taken seriously by Congress. But if history is any guide, sadly, they’ll ignore it just like they do every year.

To break the bipartisan cycle of increasing the debt, eliminating the filibuster on spending bills could help but only when one party holds the House, Senate and the White House. When each party holds a chamber, that’s divided government and you’d still need a bipartisan deal, filibuster or no filibuster. It’s a feature of the Constitution, which includes majority rule, the bicameral system and the separation of powers.

Because of Congress’ repeated failure to keep spending reined in, that is why so many have supported a Balanced Budget Amendment in the past. Which is probably the way to go, because all this bipartisanship sure is getting expensive.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.

Americans for Limited Government is a non-partisan, nationwide network committed to advancing free market reforms, private property rights and core American liberties. For more information on ALG please visit our website at www.GetLiberty.org.  You can read more articles at www.netrightdaily.com.

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MargaretSanger-Underwood.LOC

PLANNED PARENTHOOD FUNDING IN NEW JERSEY RESTORED

By SHERRI RUGGIERI

 

Margaret Sanger (1922) was the founder of Planned Parenthood.   She would be proud to see that on February 16, 2018, the New Jersey Assembly passed bill A2134, which would restore $7.45 million dollars back into the state’s budget for Planned Parenthood services, which include cancer screenings, birth control, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).  Additionally, bipartisan support for bill A1656 would expand Medicaid coverage for these reproductive health services. Under Governor Christie, the New Jersey Legislature was continually thwarted by the governor’s veto.

During his campaign, Governor Murphy promised to restore funding and fill in the financial gaps that resulted in the closure of family planning health centers in Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Hudson, and Morris counties.  Other centers were forced to cut hours, services, and staff.  Studies have shown an increase in bacterial STDs, breast cancer, and cervical cancer cases as a result of limited services.  To address this reproductive health crisis, Governor Murphy is expected to sign these bills from the Assembly into law.  Christine Sadovy, Legislative and Political Director with Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey stated, “We applaud the Assembly for passing this bill, and thank all of our legislative champions who have stood up for New Jersey women over the last eight years.”

Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey (PPAFNJ) is a nonpartisan 501(c)(4) non-profit social welfare organization, and the advocacy arm of the Planned Parenthood Affiliates in New Jersey. We advocate for access to essential health care through education, activism, voter engagement, grassroots organizing, and legislative advocacy. For more information, visit our website at: www.ppactionnj.org.

Sherri Ruggieri is the managing editor of Empire State News. A practicing attorney for over 20 years, Ms. Ruggieri is also chairperson of Edison Township’s Planning Board. Additionally, she has served as a college professor, with nearly a decade of experience in teaching law and political science courses.

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DACA

SCHUMER-ROUNDS-COLLINS OPENS DOOR FOR MASSIVE AMNESTY FOR MILLIONS

Feb. 15, 2018, Fairfax, Va.—Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning today issued the following statement in opposition to the Schumer-Rounds-Collins amendment:

“Everyone can remember the videos of train loads of illegal immigrants, as children, coming across the border when former President Barack Obama decided to crash our nation’s immigration system with DACA. The Schumer-Rounds-Collins amendment would create the greatest border rush in American history, with amnesty being offered to millions, and then tens of millions of individuals once chain migration is taken into consideration. On this point alone, this amendment should be defeated. This is not what the American people voted for in 2016.

“The only immigration proposal that would offer legal status to DACA recipients, while reforming the immigration system to prevent another rush, which means ending chain migration, the visa lottery and securing the southern border with the President’s wall is the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s legislation. The Schumer-Rounds-Collins amnesty amendment has earned opposition from the White House and a vote for it is a vote against any immigration bill as it would surely be vetoed, ending the debate for 2018 and ending DACA.”

To view online: https://getliberty.org/2018/02/schumer-rounds-collins-opens-door-for-massive-amnesty-for-millions/

Interview Availability: Please contact Americans for Limited Government at 703-383-0880 ext. 106 or at media@limitgov.org to arrange an interview with ALG experts.

Americans for Limited Government is a non-partisan, nationwide network committed to advancing free market reforms, private property rights and core American liberties. For more information on ALG please visit our website at www.GetLiberty.org.  You can read more articles at www.netrightdaily.com.

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black ribbon

STEALING THEIR FUTURE

By SNOR

Yesterday’s tragedy in Florida has raised again the very real danger of mass shootings in schools.  There is an expectation that administration, faculty, and students will be safe in this environment.  On the news, one mother was screaming for President Trump to do something more than offer his condolences.  The problem is that more layers of gun control (federal and state law) would not have stopped this shooter.  He had gone through the process and legally had access to his gun.  Tougher gun control laws do not stop illegal weapon possession either. The other side of the gun control debate involves better mental health screening.  However, human behavior is so difficult to predict.

Should there be security with guns at schools and other public places?  Would this threat really deter someone with mental health issues?  Does increasing access to guns make society more or even less safe?  How could we go back in time and prevent this “theft” of human life? The shooter has stolen the future for his victims as well as their family and friends.  The rule of law doesn’t seem to have a way to stop this senseless violence.

SNOR is a dreamer and world watcher who has more questions than answers.

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pic - hanging man

CONSTITUTIONAL REPERCUSSIONS OF THE TRAGIC FLORIDA SCHOOL MASS MURDERS

By KENNETH DEL VECCHIO

In 1969, legendary rock star Jim Morrison was charged with six counts of lewd and obscene conduct for alleged antics at a Doors concert in Miami, Florida. He was accused of using “open profanity” and for displaying his private parts in front of his largely intoxicated audience, many of whom stripped to nudity themselves during the show. Eyewitness accounts varied: some say Morrison unzipped and unleashed his personal weapon, others say he merely feigned the act. Everyone agrees that he used foul language. Ultimately, a year later, after a wasted three weeks of trial time – which included the use of a 4-perosn prosecutorial team – Morrison was convicted of indecent exposure and for the invocation of his First Amendment right to swear, curse or cuss as one may say in the South.

That was a malfunction of the law nearly five decades ago in Miami, a city located in Dade County. The moral police had meddled, successfully, into Morrison’s First Amendment rights. In 2018, the notion that one can call another a “motherf#@ker” or some other profane word is an understood constitutional right. Disrobing in a private artistic event that patrons pay to attend, as distasteful as it may be to be some, is legally permissible; there are completely nude Broadway plays and “all nude all the time” go-go bars. Dade County law enforcement officials and their corresponding political bosses have rendered themselves a collective joke in the historical purview of the Jim Morrison case but, at that time, there was considerable support for their proposition that the Doors front man should be criminally punished. The obscenity debate, indeed, raged nationally.

Today, in very nearby Broward County, a very different constitutional crisis-style debate is erupting in Florida and throughout the nation. The Second Amendment right to bear arms is front and center, with many opining that this clear-cut right should be abridged; as a now-normal strategy, the far left are erroneously and sadly using a major tragedy for political gain. The issue of whether capital punishment, aka the death penalty, is legal (and moral) has also been sparked, with considerable discussion underway. First Amendment rights, however, are not a current focal point, but are smoldering in the background – these are budding flames that most do not want to immediately touch for fear of being burnt alive in the witch hunt media/political frenzy. But scary propositions are being posited, and they need to be addressed and quelled before another, separate constitutional crisis emerges.

Nikolas Cruz, the grotesque 19-year-old figure who allegedly premeditated the murders of 17 students and adults at a Broward County high school and close by streets, issued many inflammatory, if not frightening statements in social media posts before he carried out the killings. He reportedly posted on Instagram about performing target practice with a pellet gun in his backyard and about killing animals. He also repeatedly put up photos of guns and knives, and discussed them. More so, a Mississippi bail bondsman who frequently watches YouTube videos alerted the FBI last fall of a particularly disturbing statement that he saw delivered by Nikolas Cruz in a video. Cruz had posted a video on YouTube, where he proclaimed, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”

The bondsman, Ben Bennight, advised that the FBI immediately responded to him, visiting with Bennight the next day. It is unclear whether the law enforcement agency actually interviewed or contacted Cruz.

Although it may not be a popular concept in the wake of this tragedy, there is nothing illegal that Cruz had done via his disturbing social media commentary. Law enforcement had no authority to arrest or even detain him. Many politicos looking for attention, as well as media talking heads (including some uninformed lawyers) are already arguing that law enforcement erred in not previously arresting Cruz for his salacious speech. This Monday morning legal quarterbacking is neither instructive nor beneficial to remediating the dangers posed by people like Cruz. Simply, there was no criminal statute violated by him through his spoken or written words.

If Cruz had directly threatened to kill another person(s), his speech would not be protected, and he could be convicted of the crime of terroristic threats.  An individual is guilty of this offense if he threatens to kill another with the purpose to put him in imminent fear of death. The statute also sets forth a “reasonableness” requirement—that the victim reasonably believes the immediacy of the threat and that it will likely be carried out. In the case of Cruz’s social media posts, none of these elements have been met.

It is understandable why people would want to take the statement “I’m going to be a professional school shooter” – and conform it to being a prosecutable threat. However, it is not a direct threat to kill another individual(s); it is, at most, a proclamation of a desire to potentially do something. The reader does not know if the person is serious in his apparent desire, if he is venting and is not really serious, or if he is just joking; all are possibilities. More so, the “imminence” and “immediacy” requirements have not been met. No one has been put in “imminent fear of death” by this statement. Also, since there is no defined victim, no person could “reasonably” believe the “immediacy of a threat” that hasn’t been directed at him, nor given any time frame (much less an “immediate” time frame). Thus, legally, this statement does not even come close to amounting to a terroristic threat, or any crime at all, which means that an arrest would have been unlawful.

That said, the FBI surely had the right, if not obligation, to investigate Cruz because of this wholly disturbing comment. Clearly, any credible law enforcement officer would conclude that a person making such a comment has the potential to commit the type of killing spree that he cited. This reasonable conclusion definitively could have served as a lawful basis for the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to interview and otherwise investigate Cruz. Good old-fashioned police work would have surely led law enforcement to other concerning facts about Cruz, such as his high school expulsion, the disallowance of him to carry a backpack in school because of bullet fragments found in it, his semi-automatic gun ownership, and his threats to other students. Could such law enforcement presence have resulted in preventing Cruz’s atrocities? Perhaps.

A standard law enforcement investigation into his social media commentary might have culminated into finding evidence of his plans to commit the obviously premediated murders. However, at this stage, it would be imprudent to condemn the FBI, because no one knows if they followed up on their Mississippi bail bondsman lead and, if so, what it may have revealed. It is just as likely that such a lead would culminate into a dead end as that it would render evidence that a crime was about to be committed.

The FBI (and any law enforcement in receipt of Cruz’s disturbing posts) would only be at fault under two circumstances: if they failed to investigate Cruz or, alternatively, if they went in the exact opposite direction and unlawfully arrested him for making a statement that, as alarming as it was, does not constitute a crime.

No doubt, the tragedy that just occurred in Florida should prompt legal, political, and media minds to ask questions and seek the vigilance of law enforcement and all people when confronted with individuals who may be capable of carrying out mass murders. However, hysteria should not result in the dangerous slippery slope path of arresting people on the basis of social media or other comments they have issued. At its core, the United States Constitution is rooted in the protection of civil liberties. Our government has failed us over time in safeguarding these precious rights, with the Jim Morrison case being just one example.

While it is natural to look for every mechanism possible, via law enforcement intervention and otherwise, to stop a killing rampage like Cruz’s, these mechanisms must be constitutionally grounded. Once the speech police wrongfully use a tragic event like these high school murders as an excuse to start executing improper criminal charges, their illicit misuse of the law will surely decline into further infringements of U.S. citizens’ First Amendment rights to free speech. That type of society is just as dangerous to live in as a society with murderers. Both ills need to be prevented. In Cruz’s matter, if he is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt (another constitutional protection) of capital murder in a court of law, justice will be served by the implementation of capital punishment. But that is another divisive topic to be dissected…

Kenneth Del Vecchio, ESN publisher and editor-in-chief, is the author of some of the nation’s best-selling legal books, including a series of criminal codebooks published by Pearson Education/Prentice Hall and ALM/New Jersey & New York Law Journal Books. He is a former judge, a former prosecutor and a practicing criminal/entertainment attorney for 23 years, wherein he has tried over 400 cases.  Mr. Del Vecchio is also an acclaimed filmmaker who has written, produced and directed over 30 movies that star 100+ film and TV stars, including several Academy Award and Emmy winners and nominees. His films are distributed through industry leaders such as Sony Pictures, NBCUniversal, Cinedigm, and E-1 Entertainment. He has starred in numerous movies, as well. A best-selling political thriller novelist, he penned his first published novel at only 24-years-old. Additionally, Mr. Del Vecchio is the founder and chairman of Hoboken International Film Festival, called by FOX, Time Warner, and other major media “One of the 10 Biggest Film Festivals in the World.”  A frequent political and legal analyst on networks such as Fox News Channel, Mr. Del Vecchio formerly served as the publisher and editorial page editor for a New Jersey daily newspaper. 

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New_Jersey_Turnpike_Reduce_Speed_sign

FEDERAL GAS TAX HIKE

By SHERRI RUGGIERI

President Trump has proposed raising the federal gas tax by 25 cents.  The money would be used to fund infrastructure projects.  “Infrastructure,” refers to the “underlying structure” that supports the functioning of a society and includes “roads, bridges, dams, the water and sewer systems, railways and subways, airports, and harbors” (Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2018).  The issue is particularly important in New Jersey because of significant infrastructure damage left by Hurricane Sandy.

Not all politicians agree with Trump’s federal tax hike as a funding mechanism for essential infrastructure repairs and upgrades.  For example, New Jersey U.S. Senate Libertarian Party candidate Murray Sabrin, who is a Ramapo College finance professor, vehemently opposes adding another tax to the already overburdened American people.  According to Sabrin, “The average American family needs tax relief from the payroll tax, state and local taxes and the high cost of living, which is now accelerating because of the Federal Reserve’s Quantitative Easing policies to ‘stimulate’ the economy after the Great Recession of a decade ago.”

In fact, Sabrin suggested elimination of the $.184 federal gasoline and 24.4 cents diesel fuel tax completely. He explained that the Interstate Highway System was built with funds authorized by the Federal Highway Act of 1956 (National Interstate and Defense Highways Act) and suggests transferring Defense Department funds to the Highway Trust Fund.  This would allow infrastructure projects to be funded without adding more taxes.

Sherri Ruggieri is the managing editor of Empire State News. A practicing attorney for over 20 years, Ms. Ruggieri is also chairperson of Edison Township’s Planning Board. Additionally, she has served as a college professor, with nearly a decade of experience in teaching law and political science courses.

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Senator Menendez

U.S. SENATOR BOB MENENDEZ’S CORRUPTION CHARGES DROPPED

By SHERRI RUGGIERI

Much to the relief of Democrats and Senator Bob Menendez, the Justice Department has dropped its corruption case against Menendez.  He was charged in 2015 with providing official favors in exchange for lavish gifts.  Federal prosecutors also charged him with failing to report these gifts on his Senate financial disclosure forms.  The two-and-half month trial had ended in a hung jury.

Recently, Judge William Walls acquitted Menendez on seven of the 18 corruption counts.   The most damaging to the prosecutor’s case was Judge Walls’ elimination of the counts concerning campaign contributions.  DOJ spokesperson Nicole Navas explained that, “Given the impact of the Court’s Jan. 24 Order on the charges and the evidence admissible in a retrial, the United States has determined that it will not retry the defendants on the remaining charges.”  Menendez must now rehabilitate his reputation and obtain the backing of the Democrats.

Republican pharmaceutical executive Robert Hugin plans to seek the GOP nomination to run against Menendez.   Hugin is a strong supporter of former Gov. Chris Christie and President Donald Trump.  However, New Jersey has not elected a Republican candidate to the U.S. Senate since 1972.

Sherri Ruggieri is the managing editor of Empire State News. A practicing attorney for over 20 years, Ms. Ruggieri is also chairperson of Edison Township’s Planning Board. Additionally, she has served as a college professor, with nearly a decade of experience in teaching law and political science courses.

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Family

GESTATIONAL CARRIER BILL CLEARS NEW JERSEY ASSEMBLY’S PANEL

By SHERRI RUGGIERI

Assemblywomen Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Annette Quijano and Mila Jasey have sponsored a bill to regulate the new reproductive technology identified as “gestational carriers.”   Seemingly out of author Margaret Atwood’s cautionary story The Handmaid’s Tale, the New Jersey Assembly’s Women & Children Committee introduced bill (A-1704), entitled the New Jersey Gestational Carrier Agreement Act.  The Act would require written contracts between intended parent(s) and a woman who agrees to carry and give birth to a child for an infertile family.  Gestational carriers are different from surrogates because a “gestational carrier” is not genetically related to the child.  Reproductive technology has improved to such a degree that an embryo from one woman can be transferred into another woman’s body.

Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union) explained that “For women and men struggling to have a baby, a gestational carrier can be the answer to the family they have longed for.  This bill would provide a legal framework for gestational carrier agreements in order to protect all parties involved – from the woman who has agreed to carry the baby to the intended parents, and most importantly, the children.”  The bill would permit gestational carrier agreements that stipulate that the intended parents become the legal parents and the woman, who acts as the gestational carrier, relinquishes all parental rights or future obligations.

The law would require a gestational carrier to be at least 21 years of age and previously have given birth to at least one child of her own.  Additionally, these women must complete medical and psychological evaluations and retain their own attorney; however, the legal fees could be paid by the intended parents.

Furthermore, under this bill, intended parents will be required to complete a psychological evaluation as to their suitability to participate in a gestational carrier agreement.   They must retain an attorney to provide legal advice about the contract terms and legal consequences of the parties’ agreement.  The gestational carrier agreements must be in writing would allow those people who are single, married, in a civil union, or domestic partnership, to be either intended parents or gestational carriers.

The legal procedure would begin after a gestational carrier becomes pregnant.  The intended parent(s) would file a complaint in Superior Court for an “Order of Parentage.”  A parent and child relationship established by gestational carrier agreement then becomes the basis for a Child Support Order.  Intended parent(s) would then be legally obligated to support the child.

There are strict provisions for the confidentiality of gestational carrier agreements.  All records and filings related to a gestational carrier agreement are to remain confidential and unavailable to the public.  Only a child born subject to this agreement, who is at least 18 years of age, can file a written request for this information.

The bill would take effect immediately upon enactment and apply to any gestational carrier agreements entered into on or after the effective date.

Sherri Ruggieri is the managing editor of Empire State News. A practicing attorney for over 20 years, Ms. Ruggieri is also chairperson of Edison Township’s Planning Board. Additionally, she has served as a college professor, with nearly a decade of experience in teaching law and political science courses.

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