Speaker Coughlin reflects on his first 100 days

File photo Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin also won some concessions in budget talks.

One hundred days ago, I became speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly thanks to your support. In that short time, my colleagues in the Legislature and I have been putting all our efforts towards making New Jersey a healthier, safer, and more affordable place to live. Below are a few of a things we have accomplished so far:

We had three major initiatives signed into law:

  • Planned Parenthood funding: $7.5 million in grants for health clinics and Planned Parenthood has been put back into the state budget for the first time in eight years.
  • Automatic voter registration: Those applying for a driver’s license, examination, permit, probationary driver’s license or non-driver identification cards will now automatically be registered to vote; enhancing the ability for participation in our democratic process.
  • Student safety: The “Pass the Trash” initiative requires schools to ask potential employees if they have ever been the subject of child abuse or sexual misconduct investigations and reserve the right to decline their candidacy for employment in order to keep their students safe.

Thanks to the support, hard work and dedication of my colleagues in both the Assembly and the Senate, we have placed several bills on the governor’s desk:

  • Equal pay: New Jersey will historically become the leader in pay equity next week when the governor signs a law that will close the wage gap between men and women in the workforce, demanding equal pay for equal work.
  • Gun safety: In an effort to build a stronger system of security for our citizens, we passed a six-bill package that aims to keep guns away from those who pose threats, reduce ammunition magazine capacity, enhance background checks, ban armor-piercing ammunition and counter efforts to weaken gun safety regulations.
  • Combating Hunger: We took significant steps forward in our efforts to eliminate food insecurities by passing the “Heat and Eat” initiative, which allows residents to have additional resources for heat and food assistance, as well as the “Breakfast After the Bell” initiative, which will require the distribution of a complete and healthy breakfast to students in need.
  • Fairness in the workplace: Most places of businesses will be required to grant sick leave benefits to their employees, leading to a healthier work environment.
  • Health care reform: Designed to help all New Jerseyans, our “out of network” bill reforms the health care delivery system in our state to increase transparency in pricing for health care services, enhancing consumer protections, creating an arbitration system to resolve billing disputes and contains rising costs associated with out-of-network health care services. The “New Jersey Health Insurance Market Preservation Act” restores the individual mandate ensuring that all New Jersey Residents have accessibility to affordable health care.
  • Making New Jersey environmentally responsible: By implementing the use of nuclear, solar and offshore wind energy and banning offshore drilling, our state is moving away from unnecessary environmental waste and becoming a more environmentally friendly place to live.
  • Protecting public sector employees: The “Workplace Democracy Act” creates a more trusting and productive work environment for union members and their employers.
  • Urban development: By reinstating urban enterprise zones and requiring a report on the effectiveness of these programs, we are creating economic opportunities to spur development for business and create new job opportunities.

Though 100 days of this legislative session have gone by, there is much more time left and much more to be done. As my colleagues and I continue to take on more challenges including creating a balanced budget that protects working families, my communication lines are open. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to email me at AsmCoughlin@njleg.org, or follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin is a Democrat representing the Woodbridge area.