Author Archive: Assemblyman Dan Benson

#Science Policy Friday: Small Step for Solar Paves Way for Greener Grid

Promoted by Bill Orr

SciPoliFri_Box.gifThis week’s column is on an important piece of legislation that will ensure that residential and small-business solar continues to grow with the full support of state policy.  As always, thanks to my science and environment intern Arcadia Lee for research and drafting this article. Thank you to NJ Spotlight and for their continued coverage of these important issues to the state of New Jersey. Cross-posted at

You or maybe a neighbor in town has installed solar, and you’ve seen or heard about how the power company’s meter “runs backward” when the solar panels are powering the home.  That means that the homeowner is receiving a retail rate for the power they are generating, making the payback for solar much quicker for the homeowner.  The technical term for this is “Net Metering.”

Net metering is the system that allows people who generate their own electricity using solar panels to feed excess energy back into the grid, sometimes referred to as “nega-watt” energy.  Net metering encourages residential and commercial solar growth and may allow a utility company to avoid costly investments in new transmission and distribution of grid electricity.

Under the current New Jersey law, utilities do not have to offer net metering when generating capacity by net-metered customers equals 2.5% of the state’s peak demand for electricity, and as NJ Spotlight reports, a threshold we are already above. But on August 10th, the governor signed legislation (A-3838/S-2420) sponsored by Assemblymen John F. McKeon, Tim Eustace, Reed Gusciora and myself.  The new law expands the state’s net-metering capacity threshold to 2.9% of total annual kilowatt-hours sold in state. More importantly, this means that the crucial pro-consumer pro-environment and pro-renewable energy job policy of net metering will continue unabated as solar continues its growth in the Garden State.

#SciencePolicyFriday: New Jersey Science Policy Roundup

SciPoliFri_Box.gifThis week’s column is a collection of interesting articles from across various science and technology policy spectrums, from state-wide energy system changes to environmental sustainability designs and more! Stay informed and let us know what topics you’d like us to cover in our next few columns.  Perhaps you’d like to hear about autonomous vehicles, bio pharmaceuticals, climate change adaptation along the Jersey Shore? Let us know and have a great weekend! 

Thanks to my science and environment intern Arcadia Lee for research and drafting this article. Thank you to NJ Spotlight and for their continued coverage of these important issues to the state of New Jersey. Cross-posted at

NJ Energy Policy

Critics of Energy Master Plan Make Opinions Heard at Public Hearing – NJ Spotlight

The NJ Board of Public Utilities hosts the first of three public hearings on the Energy Master Plan

Bill Could Mean More Money to Small Businesses, Residents with Solar Panels – NJ Spotlight

“Christie signs law that increases cap on net metering, letting New Jersey residents earn more for electricity their solar panels produce.”

Power-Grid Operator PJM Hands Off High-Speed Transmission Project – NJ Spotlight

PJM moves to strengthen the reliability of southern NJ’s energy system with a project assigned to PSE&G, Pepco Holdings, Inc. and LS Power.

Power-Grid Operator Pledges to Work Closely With Natural-Gas Sector – NJ Spotlight

“PJM agreement seeks to ensure reliability as coal-fired plants are phased out and more gas-fired units are built.”

More on Tech Policy and Environmental Policy below.

Planning New Jersey’s Energy Future

This is the third in a series of articles or news gathering of science and technology policy issues facing New Jersey or the nation. Thanks to my science and environment intern Arcadia Lee for research and drafting this article.  Cross-posted at

Energy touches the lives of every New Jersey resident – every day. Our quality of life, our security, our prosperity, the land and water around us, and how we work and play all depend on energy. Energy master planning is an important aspect of proactive facilities management, providing an expertly defined and practical road-map to a sustainable future environment.

New Jersey’s Board of Public Utilities Office of Clean Energy will be holding hearings this month to update the state’s Energy Master Plan.  

Adding to the Energy Master Plan’s importance is its relationship to the federal Clean Power Plan announced this week by President Obama.  The EPA is giving each state an individual goal for cutting power plant emissions. States can then decide for themselves how to get there.

Science Policy Friday: Eyes of the Skies, Drones on the Rise – Part 2

SciPoliFri_Box.gifThis is the second in a series of articles or news gathering of science and technology policy issues facing New Jersey or the nation. Thanks to my science and environment intern Arcadia Lee for research and drafting this article.  Cross-posted at

Last week, I discussed my legislation (A-1039/S-2310) that sets standards for law enforcement and other government agency use of drones.  This week, I’m highlighting legislation (A-4344) sponsored by Assembly Homeland Security Chair Annette Quijano and myself that seeks to protect infrastructure from drone surveillance and requires certain drones to be registered and insured.

There have been a few instances to date where a policy like this would have come in handy. Over the summer, a woman was knocked unconscious when she was struck by a small drone during the Pride parade in downtown Seattle. In New York, a businessman was almost hit by a drone after colliding with a building. Also this summer, in Florida, a small UAV sat hovered near a woman sitting at an outdoor table at a bar in Tampa, Florida and when the drone was made to follow her as she left, it crashed into her car’s roof.  California is still trying to track down the owners of drones that interfered with firefighting during recent wildfires.

A-4344 starts an important conversation on what type of reasonable restrictions and penalties should be imposed on those that take on the responsibility of operating a drone.  

Science Policy Friday: Eyes of the Skies, Drones on the Rise

SciPoliFri_Box.gifThis is the first in a series of articles or news gathering of science and technology policy issues facing New Jersey or the nation. Thanks to my science and environment intern Arcadia Lee for research and drafting this article. Cross-posted on Promoted by Rosi.

Drones seem to be everywhere in the news.  We may have seen the latest cool uses like The Lily Camera and Amazon’s package delivering drones.  Or read about concerns over safety and privacy, whether from amateur operators getting in the way of California firefighters or fears of government abuse of information gathering.

For New Jersey policymakers, safety has to be the primary focus as our state considers how best to assess and manage the risks associated with governmental, commercial and civilian use of drones within our borders.  I along with colleagues in the Assembly and Senate have introduced two timely bills that provide needed rules of unmanned aerial vehicles, otherwise known as UAVs or drones, so that the promise of new technology can be realized without the inherent dangers to privacy and safety.  In addition Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman has passed Legislation in the House of Representatives regarding drones and their threat to security.

This first article focuses on NJ’s potential governmental use of drones and creating an important framework that balances privacy with the promise of enhanced capabilities by public safety.  The bill (A-1039/S-2310) sponsored with Speaker Prieto and Senator Sacco, sets forth certain standards to be followed by law enforcement agencies and fire departments when utilizing drones.  

My Endorsement for Governor

Promoted by Rosi

Throughout my tenure in public service, as Hamilton councilman – as a Mercer County Freeholder and now as an Assemblyman – I’ve come across few elected officials with the personal strength and independence of Senator Barbara Buono. Today, I am endorsing her candidacy for Governor and I am asking Democratic leaders and most importantly voters across New Jersey to join me in supporting her as our party’s nominee for Governor.

As someone who represents a bellwether district in our state, I believe Senator Buono on the top of our Democratic ticket will best help us send a strong message this November.  We need a tough, compassionate, progressive woman like Barbara who will fight for our Democratic principles of standing up for the middle-class and ensuring a better future for our children.

Senator Buono grew up the daughter of an Italian immigrant butcher, in a poor household, sometimes not knowing when her next meal would come and having to rely on public assistance. She worked three full-time jobs, put herself through college and law school and took a job as a public defender, representing some of society’s most vulnerable. She showed why public education is so important for every child in New Jersey. There is a stark contrast between Senator Buono and the past three years of leadership in New Jersey by the Governor, we know we can do better.  I believe Barbara is the best choice to lead us as we face the challenges of creating jobs, rebuilding our communities affected by Sandy and delivering on the promise of our progressive state values.

I look forward to campaigning alongside Senator Buono throughout my district as we take back our state and truly make it ‘Blue’ Jersey again.

Turning Blue Jersey into Teal Jersey

A guest post by one of our interns and Moravian student Catherine Makoski. Tomorrow the Assembly Women and Children Committee will hear A2161 which establishes September as Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in New Jersey

Democrats Senator Turner, Assemblyman Benson, and Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle-along with the support of many colleagues-sponsored a bill to establish a statewide ovarian cancer public awareness campaign which was signed into law this January. As this is the first September since then, it is especially important to observe what is nationally recognized as Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

This month, towns all over New Jersey have been “turning teal” in a campaign to educate the masses about the signs and symptoms of this too often deadly disease. Assemblyman Benson, his staff and volunteers have helped with this effort in towns in the 14th District, tying teal ribbons in support of survivors and handing out symptom cards and informational pamphlets to local businesses and constituents to spread awareness.

When Politicians Need a Push

Promoted by Rosi. This was posted Friday, but I saved it for Monday’s front page. What do you think of A3180, Blue Jersey?

We have a number of indicted or arrested Mayors on bail who continue to “serve” in their office despite their pending trials. In Mercer, the Mayors of the two most populous towns (Trenton and Hamilton) both have been tagged with corruption charges.  Years ago, the raid by the FBI, or the walk to the Federal Courthouse would mean a tersely worded statement or an awkward press conference where the elected official would announce their resignation.  However it seems times have changed. While we all believe that everyone deserves their day in court and are innocent until proven guilty, that doesn’t mean that the residents they represent deserve to be sentenced to months of waiting, distractions and turmoil.  All the while taxpayers are footing the bill for salaries, benefits, pension contributions and other perks of the office. Unfortunately, most of this money is lost even if there is a conviction down the road.

That’s why I introduced A3180 in June and will be looking to advance it this fall. It is clear that in these days of local corruption, some politicians need a push to do the right thing. Rather than hanging in office and collecting a salary from property taxpayers to fund a legal defense (especially since campaign funds cannot be used) it’s time to suspend their pay and benefits pending the trial. No indicted official should be able to use the threat of staying office through a full trial as a bargaining chip with prosecutors.  

New Jersey is already reaping benefits of health-care reform law

Dan Benson is vice chair of the NJ Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee. He’s from Hamilton and represents the 14th Legislative District. This is cross-posted with Times of Trenton.

– promoted by Rosi

Access to quality health care for working-class New Jerseyans is a top priority for my Democratic colleagues in the Legislature and me, which is why progress on this issue is good news for hard-working families.

Recently, the Legislature approved a bill implementing health exchanges for our state as required by the federal Affordable Care Act.

This is likely to be the opening salvo in a lengthy discussion in New Jersey about how our state implements federal health-care reform to cover nearly 1 million uninsured residents.

However, I think it’s important to take a look back over the last two years since the federal law was adopted and see how President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is already helping New Jersey families. While there has been much discussion over the requirement that everyone obtain health insurance, the state health exchanges and the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court challenge, many of the very popular provisions of the new health-care reform law took effect immediately and are too often overlooked or forgotten in the debate.