Action Alert December 5, 2014: Contact Your Legislators About Drug Policy and Fracking

As we begin December, there are two action items that are still on the table:

•    Call or write Senate President Sweeney (856-251-9801) and Judiciary Chairman Scutari (908-587-0404) in strong opposition to S211/A783. See details below.
•    Call or write your legislators to override the Governors Fracking Waste Ban Veto

S211/A783  Background

The assembly passed A783 a few weeks ago.  However, the Senate has not voted yet. S211/A783 represents a doubling down on the failed drug policies of the past.  This horrible legislation will do nothing to decrease opioid abuse in our state, would fill New Jersey’s prisons with nonviolent drug offenders serving disproportionately long sentences and will cost taxpayers millions of dollars (almost $8 million a year according to the bill’s fiscal estimate) in increased incarceration costs—money that would be better spent on drug treatment and other effective health interventions.This bill is in direct opposition to the bi-partisan bill package recently introduced by Senator Vitale to address opioid abuse in New Jersey from a public health approach.

S211/A783 would also have an enormous disparate racial impact, devastating communities who are already suffering from the effects of mass incarceration and lack of supportive social services.  While African Americans and Latinos make up only 27 percent of the population in New Jersey, they account for more than 80 percent of those incarcerated for drug offenses.

On top of pre-existing sentencing enhancements, S211/A783 would effectively quadruple current sentences.  These penalties would rival the infamous (and now reformed) Rockefeller drug laws in New York.  While the legislation itself doubles the penalties for heroin distribution, it must be considered in conjunction with other sentencing enhancements and mandatory minimums already contained in New Jersey’s criminal code.

Please try to call during normal business hours, but if not, make sure to leave a detailed message.  When calling, please ask to speak with the legislator’s Chief of Staff or Legislative Aide, state your name and if applicable, the congregation you represent.  Finally, follow-up your call with an email to SenSweeney@njleg.org and SenScutari@njleg.org detailing your discussion with their staff, reiterating your strong opposition to S211/A783 and urging them to prevent the bill from moving any further. (Click the email link above to write Senator Sweeny or Scutari.)

Ban Fracking Waste Override Background:

In the Spring we helped pass legislation (S1041) to ensure that NJ wouldn’t become a dumping ground for toxic fracking waste, which contains radioactive elements, heavy metals, and known carcinogens. Unfortunately, the governor vetoed the bill, which was passed with strong, bipartisan support.

Please contact your NJ legislator now. Urge them to continue prioritizing clean water and public health by overriding the veto. Frack waste has already been dumped in New Jersey’s waterways. We’re talking about endocrine-disrupting and cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene, arsenic, radium, and formaldehyde. This is why it’s so important that our legislators support protecting our public health and water supplies from this dangerous pollution.

Gov. Christie says he vetoed the bill because New Jersey doesn’t have fracking. However, the pressure to dump even more in New Jersey will only increase as fracking expands in Pennsylvania, gas deposits are explored in New York and New Jersey, and other states are increasingly restricting disposal options.

Please contact your Legislators today!

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