Testa to Introduce Bill to Fund Removal of Abandoned Boats

March 21, 2022  Contact: Brad Schnure / (609) 847-3600

Senator Michael Testa announced plans to introduce legislation to fund the removal of abandoned boats from New Jersey’s shorelines and waterways.

“Local governments and property taxpayers simply do not have the capacity to fund the lengthy and expensive process of hauling away and disposing of all the derelict boats that wash up in their communities,” said Testa (R-1). “It’s clear we need a State fund to pay for the removal of abandoned boats that litter our coasts, bays, and rivers.”

Testa said his legislation follows an eye-opening story this weekend by NJ.com reporter Steven Rodas.

“A comprehensive approach to the abandoned boat problem with dedicated funding for a statewide program is needed and needed soon,” said Testa. “I am working on legislation that will be introduced in the New Jersey Senate shortly to address the problem in a comprehensive manner.”

As the recent report noted, abandoned vessels create a multitude of problems.

“Junked boats look horrible to visitors and locals alike, but the real problems are far worse,” Testa added. “They pose a serious navigation hazard for boaters, and they threaten our fisheries, marine businesses, and the fragile environments of our oceanside and bayfront towns. Abandoned boats pose a risk we cannot afford to ignore.”

Testa: Murphy’s Early Prisoner Releases Might Be Part of Plan to Permanently Reduce State’s Prison Capacity

March 16, 2022  Contact: Brad Schnure / (609) 847-3600

Senator Michael Testa warned that Governor Phil Murphy’s early release of thousands of inmates under the guise of the pandemic might be part of a larger plan to justify a permanent reduction of New Jersey’s prison capacity.

“I’ve spoken to corrections officers and union leaders who were convinced even before the pandemic that the Department’s failure to repair and upgrade infrastructure at Southern State and Bayside State prisons was a sign that the Murphy administration was looking to close portions of those facilities,” said Testa (R-1). “Governor Murphy’s early pandemic release of nearly 900 additional inmates this week certainly makes it look like he’s trying to empty our prisons.”

The New Jersey Department of Correction (DOC) released 852 inmates on Sunday under an early release program initiated by Governor Murphy during the pandemic that shortened sentences through “public health emergency credits.” The Democrat-controlled Legislature rubber-stamped the policy, which some now regret.

In total, the Murphy administration has provided early release to more than 6,200 inmates.

This latest release comes after 40% of the state prison population was released back into New Jersey communities under the administration’s early release policy in 2020 and 2021.

One of the inmates Murphy released early was charged with killing two people at a birthday party, while another was charged with killing someone within a half-mile of his prison just two days after being set free.

“We’ve already seen the proof that it was a tragic mistake for Governor Murphy to free masses of dangerous prisoners back into our communities,” added Testa. “It would be another mistake for the Murphy administration to permanently eliminate the cells and prisons we’ll need when Murphy’s misfits are incarcerated again, which is inevitable.”

Testa and his Republican colleagues have opposed Murphy’s dangerous prison policies since the start of the pandemic, saying they put corrections officers, communities, and families at risk.

“Safe streets” is a key component of the Senate Republican #GiveItBack initiative, which provides New Jerseyans an opportunity to tell Governor Murphy to give back everything he has taken from them over the past two years. Nearly 5,000 people have already told Governor Murphy to “Give It Back” at www.giveitback.us.

Bucco & Testa Question NJ Labor Commissioner on Unemployment System Failures (Video)

March 14, 2022  Contact: Brad Schnure / (609) 847-3600

Senator Anthony M. Bucco and Senator Michael Testa questioned New Jersey Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo about unemployment system failures that have persisted since the start of the pandemic during a meeting of the Senate Labor Committee on Thursday, March 10, 2022.

Included below are highlight videos from the hearing:

“The Commissioner of Labor finally appeared before the Senate Labor Committee to discuss two years of unemployment system failures,” said Bucco (R-25). “Both Republicans and Democrats on the committee took him to task for his department being unresponsive and unhelpful to legislators and constituents in desperate need of help.”

“Governor Murphy’s Commissioner of Labor didn’t have any good answers at our Labor Committee hearing about why the unemployment system has been a total mess for the past two years,” said Testa (R-1). “We heard a lot of excuses, a lot of blaming others, but not a lot of solutions. He had the nerve to give his department an ‘A’ grade despite having failed thousands of New Jerseyans. Both Republicans and Democrats on the committee were frustrated by his answers and his lack of responsibility. It’s totally unacceptable.”

Their full interactions with the commissioner can be viewed here:

Panel Approves Schepisi/Testa Bill to Strengthen Emergency Care Levels for Telemedicine

March 10, 2022  Contact: Robbie Kenney / (609) 847-3600

Legislation sponsored by Senator Holly Schepisi and Senator Michael Testa that would bolster emergency care standards for telemedicine cleared the Senate Health, Human Services & Senior Citizens Committee today.

“Telehealth and telemedicine are here to stay. Since the pandemic, we have had a significant uptick in the need for timely mental health services while those most needing these services oftentimes are placed on lengthy waitlists for treatment.  One tool to address this pressing need is to expand the convenience and benefits of virtual mental health services while providing better avenues for medical professionals to immediately coordinate emergency care for their patients,” said Senator Schepisi (R-39).

“With people now utilizing remote mental health care options at a rate many times higher than pre-COVID levels, more residents are using it to get more immediate help with serious mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression,” Schepisi noted. “It is essential to ensure proper procedures are in place for dealing with life-or-death emergencies, including threats of self-harm or suicide.”

The Schepisi/Testa bill, S-606, requires health care providers using telemedicine or telehealth to make good faith efforts to “activate and coordinate with emergency care services” when a patient demonstrates an urgent need for help. This would include providing the patient’s name and contact information to emergency services and attempting to determine the individual’s current location.

“Telemedicine has changed the way people engage with health professionals,” said Testa (R-1). “As the trend expands and more of us are interacting with doctors through video, it is vital to take steps to secure the best care possible without in-person contact.

“This legislation will help elevate telehealth’s emergency care response with a proven model that emulates practices used by hospitals and doctors’ offices for patients in emotional crisis,” Testa continued. “It will establish tele-care standards that will help save lives.”

Testa to Labor Commissioner: ‘Those are Words. We’re About Action at This Point.’

March 10, 2022  Contact: Robbie Kenney / (609) 847-3600

Senator Michael Testa grilled Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo during his testimony in front of the Senate Labor Committee today.

“We held the commissioner’s feet to the fire. The Department of Labor hasn’t been doing their job and we called him out on it,” said Testa, who brought the concerns of thousands of district constituents to the state house today.

“I can tell you, people in New Jersey want to be able to walk into a One Stop Center and get help with their unemployment claim,” Testa said during the hearing, responding to Asaro-Angelo’s insistence that residents can get help online or by phone, and his defense of the lack of access to department personnel for in-person assistance.

“Those are words. We’re about action at this point,” Testa told the commissioner. “My constituents want to know why they can’t go to the One Stop in Vineland to get help. They want to see your Department employees face-to-face. It’s amazing to me that we are all meeting here in this room today, in-person, but people who don’t have money to put food on their table can’t get help in person,” Testa said.

Testa noted that over the course of two years, his legislative offices have “essentially become satellite offices for the Department of Labor.”

Desperate and frustrated residents who can’t get help unemployment help from the Department have turned to legislative offices across the state.  In the 1st legislative district, staff members have helped nearly 3500 people in the two years since state offices shut their doors.

“People are struggling, people are crying on the telephone,” the Senator said to the embattled Labor Commissioner. “Constituents know your employees haven’t missed a paycheck, and they don’t understand why they still can’t get money they are owed or why they can’t get an answer.”

Testa recently introduced legislation, S-2082/A-3517, requiring state unemployment offices to fully reopen immediately to provide in-person services.

“Teachers are back in classrooms, first responders are patrolling our streets, and medical professionals are in facilities caring for our most vulnerable. If they can serve out in the community, then so can Department of Labor employees,” said Testa when he introduced the measure at a press conference in February. “This failed system where Department employees work from their couch and get paid every two weeks is not working for all New Jerseyans. Commissioner Asaro-Angelo needs to do his job and order his employees back to work and this bill will incentivize him and his staff to do just that.”

The Senator pressed to have the bill added to the agenda for the last two Senate Labor Committee meetings, but to no avail.

Approved by Panel, Testa Bill Would be Breath of Fresh Air for Small Businesses

March 7, 2022  Contact: Robbie Kenney / (609) 847-3600

Legislation sponsored by Senator Michael Testa that would help small businesses clear the air was advanced by the Senate Labor Committee today.

Testa’s bill, S-289, would establish the New Jersey Small Business Indoor Air Quality Management Support Program to provide loans to eligible small employers.

“We want to ensure clean, healthy air for employees to breathe, and efficient ventilation for a comfortable workplace,” said Testa (R-1). “Business owners and their workers can benefit from a healthier, more conducive environment.”

Testa serves as the co-chair of the bipartisan Legislative Manufacturing Caucus, which has identified S-289 as a legislative priority.

The program established by the measure is optional and small companies are not required to participate.