Here is a rundown of what Montclair's state and federal legislative representatives have been up to in the previous weeks.
State Senate challenger Mark Alexander Opens Campaign Office in Montclair
Mark Alexander, who is challenging Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex) for the Democratic nomination in this year's 34-District senate race, recently opened a new campaign headquarters in Montclair.
Alexander's headquarters are located at 24 S. Fullerton Ave.
Early Voting Bill Co-Sponsored by Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-34) and Others Advances
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-34) and other Democratic legislators' bill to allow early voting in New Jersey in primary and general elections was advanced Monday by an Assembly panel.
The bill (A-3553) aims to give residents more voting alternatives following the election day woes created by Hurricane Sandy, according to a press release.
"The right to vote and participate in the democratic process is one of our most sacred rights," said Oliver in a press release. "We should give residents every chance to exercise it."
The bill establishes an early voting process to allow voters to cast their votes at specially designated polling places, starting on the fifth Monday before both the primary election and the general election, and ending on the second calendar day before the election.
A municipality holding municipal elections on the second Tuesday in May may also conduct early voting for those municipal elections.
Under the bill, as amended, early voting will enable a registered voter to vote at a designated polling place before the day of certain elections using a paper ballot. Designated polling places must be open for early voting on Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
As amended, this bill will take effect on July 1, 2013, or immediately if enacted after that date.
Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-10) Joins Call to Raise Minimum Wage
Rep. Donald M. Payne Jr. this week signed on as an original co-sponsor to the Fair Minimum Wage Act that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 over the next three years and tie future annual increases to the rate of inflation.
The minimum wage was last increased between 2007 and 2009 from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour.
"People in New Jersey's Tenth Congressional District work hard, and they deserve an honest day's wage, yet minimum wage workers in New Jersey earn just $7.25," said Payne in a press release. "No one who works hard, takes responsibility, and plays by the rules in this country should be forced into poverty or struggle to pay the bills.
New Jersey is working on a November ballot initiative that could raise the state's minimum wage to $8.25.
Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-10) Introduces Gun Buyback Bill
On Feb. 27, Payne introduced the Safer Neighborhoods Gun Buy Back Act of 2013, a bill that would increase incentives to sell back the most widely used guns in crimes around the country, provide a stimulus to the economy, and recycle the sold guns into environmentally friendly objects needed throughout communities.
The Act would provide a two-year $360 million grant to distribute smart debit cards to state and local governments as well as gun shop owners, who can then distribute the cards to gun owners in exchange for those guns which are most used in crimes.
"Since the massacre in Newtown, there has been greater attention cast on the need to reduce violence in our neighborhoods," said Payne in a press release.
The program's debit cards will provide gun owners with funds 25 percent above the market value of the guns traded in. It is expected that sales on individual firearms could range in price anywhere between $40 to $400 depending on alterations, condition, age, and model of the firearm, according to Payne's office.
The debit cards would not be able to be used to purchase other guns or ammunition.
The Act would also designate 10 percent of the grant money toward the recycling of traded-in guns. The recycled gun will then be used in street signs, refrigerators and stainless steel products, among other things.
Guns accepted by the program would be:
Smith and Wesson .38 revolver
Smith and Wesson .40 semiautomatic pistol
Haskell Hi-Point JHP 45 semiautomatic pistol
Iberia Firearm JCP40 semiautomatic pistol
Ruger 9 mm semiautomatic
Hi-Point CF380 .380 semiautomatic pistol
Raven Arms .25 semiautomatic
Mossberg 12 gauge shotgun
Smith and Wesson 9mm semiautomatic
Smith and Wesson .357 revolver
Bryco Arms 9mm semiautomatic
Bryco Arms .380 semiautomatic
Davis Industries .380 semiautomatic
Cobra FS380 .38 semiautomatic pistol
Assemblyman Thomas Giblin (D-34) Co-Sponsors Eye Drop Refill Bill
A bill co-sponsored by Assemblyman Thomas Giblin (D-34) and other Assembly Democrats that would require health insurance providers to cover early refills of prescription eye drop medicine cleared a senate panel on March 4.
The bill (A-3080) requires, in certain circumstances, that health insurers provide coverage for prescription eye drop expenses incurred for a refill.
Federal guidelines recognize that self-administration of drops may involve some reasonable amount of waste and that earlier refills may be appropriate in some circumstances.
"These quantity restrictions can be difficult to meet," said Giblin in a press release. "It's not about being wasteful, it's about being human. Individuals who rely on prescription eye drops to treat certain diseases should have the peace of mind that their refills will be covered if their drops run out before their insurance company says they should."
The bill was approved 69-7 by the Assembly in December, and now heads to the full Senate for consideration.