Editor's Note: Kevin O'Toole represents the state's 40th Legislative District.
From the moment Hurricane Sandy hit District 40 until today, your elected officials and I have been in constant, sometimes multiple times a day, communication about the needs of your community.
Whether it was organizing a meeting with the President of PSE&G for your mayors, vociferously advocating to the CEOs of PSE&G, JCP&L or Orange & Rockland that their crews need to be in your town, arranging for fuel deliveries for municipal first responder vehicles and police cars, or calling about a down tree on your block, the coordination between us was exceptional. This collaboration between your elected officials to get everyone through this crisis is an example of how government is supposed to function.
As we now move into the phase of returning our lives to normal after Hurricane Sandy, I just wanted to bring you up to speed on some important things that are happening.
I have introduced and am having drafted the following legislation:
- S-2206 The Reliability, Preparedness, and Storm Response Act of 2012: Requires all utilities doing business in New Jersey to file a service reliability plan as well as a communications plan to deal with storms such as Hurricane Sandy. It also provides for an increase in penalties against the utilities for not restoring service in a prompt and timely manner.
- New Jersey Residents Power Protection Act (being drafted): This bill requires certain facilities to install generators in the event of power outages and provides these businesses with a tax credit of $10,000 for purchasing the equipment. This bill applies to gas stations, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, sub-acute rehabilitation facilities and EMS facilities among others.
- Upgrades penalties for certain crimes committed during a state of emergency (being drafted): Under this bill, if certain crimes are committed during a declared State of Emergency the penalties for those crimes is doubled. The reason for this bill is to punish those who think that during a time of emergency it is ok to commit crimes against those that are focused on rebuilding their lives. The crimes this bill would apply to are: robbery, burglary, unlicensed entry of structures, defiant trespass, shoplifting, rioting, failure to disperse, interference with transportation, and interception of emergency communication. Price gouging is currently covered under the Consumer Fraud Act.
- Allow for municipality to switch their utility provider (being drafted): I have heard from residents and municipal officials alike about wanting to get rid of your current utility if they are unresponsive to your requests. Currently, it is nearly impossible to switch your utility provider. My office has begun the process of drafting legislation to ease those restrictions so you, the residents, have the ability to pick your utility company.
During the upcoming weeks and months there will be hearings held and investigations conducted into the practices of our utility companies and how best to deal with the habitual offenders and take corrective measures to ensure we are not repeating the same mistakes. The first such hearing will be held on Monday, November 26, 2012 at the Toms River Town Hall. I ask that you send to my office any suggestions you might have on how to correct these problems as well as specific issues you had. I want to present to the utility companies your troubles and proposed solutions.
Also, on November 28, 2012, I will be holding a meeting with the President of the Board of Public Utilities and your Mayor. I would like to present at that meeting your stories for the Board of Public Utilities to have as they begin their review process. You can send your correspondence to my office via email at email@example.com or call 973-237-1360.
It is my commitment, to you, that I will do everything within my power to hold these utility companies responsible and accountable for their actions.
As always, if there is anything my office can be of assistance with, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Kevin J. O’Toole
Senator, District 40