MAYOR BARAKA TESTIFIES BEFORE STATE SENATE COMMITTEE TO SUPPORT VOTING RIGHTS FOR RETURNING EX-OFFENDERS;
DRIVER’S LICENSES FOR UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS; AND IMPOSE PARKING TAXES FOR NON-RESIDENTS
Senate bills will strengthen rights of Newark residents and empower city’s economy
Newark, NJ –- December 12, 2019 — Mayor Ras J. Baraka testified before two State Senate Committees today in support of three major bills that, if passed, will restore voting rights for returning ex-offenders; enable undocumented immigrants to apply for New Jersey driver’ licenses; and impose parking taxes for non-Newark residents.
The Mayor testified before the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee on the Parking Tax and Voting Rights legislation, and before the Senate Transportation Committee on the Driver’s License measure. All three bills passed through their Committees.
If passed by both houses of the State Legislature, the bills will enable New Jersey ex-offenders on parole or probation to have their voting rights restored, which would affect up to 80,000 residents statewide; will allow Newark and other municipalities to impose a parking tax on non-residents of 3.5 percent to fund mass transit pedestrian access projects; and enable undocumented immigrants to gain drivers’ licenses for private vehicles. However, they remain barred from applying for a Commercial Drivers’ License.
Addressing the Senate Committees, Mayor Baraka said the following:
· On the Voting Rights issue: “These are people that are my neighbors, these are people that are coming back to our community, that we trying to engage in the society, giving them their jobs, trying to get their licenses back, trying to do everything to make them citizens of our community. I think giving them the right to vote is an opportunity for them to feel like they are full-fledged citizens of our state and actually keep them on the right track to do what’s necessary in our community.”
· On the Driver’s License issue: “A couple of years ago the City of Newark enacted a municipal ID ordinance because we wanted to make sure all our residents felt safe and secure, that they could come out and be a part of our community, no longer have to hide, take their kids to school, and be a part of the economy of the City. However, the Municipal ID is not enough, we have folks who are driving because they must, because they have to, and if they are going to be on the road, I believe they should have a license to do that. It’s just a right thing to do.”
· On the Parking Tax issue: “This bill allows us to add or impose a greater fee on non-residents who park in the City of Newark. The city intends to use these additional funds to begin to invest in what we are calling Mulberry Commons Bridge in the City of Newark. This $80 million project. It is estimated to create about $545 million of economic impact on the city, 5,600 permanent jobs, 5,700 construction jobs, because of the additional construction scheduled to take place around it. We will also use it to address the serious homeless problem in Penn Station, by building 100 units of transitional housing for families that are in transition from homelessness to shelters or permanent housing.”
The Mulberry Commons Bridge, a pedestrian crossing, will connect Mulberry Commons Park and the Prudential Center directly, enabling visitors attending events at “The Rock” to avoid dealing with traffic and make it easier for them to reach Newark by commuter rail or bus.
The driver’s license program would be an enhancement and expansion of Newark’s municipal IDs. Undocumented immigrants would be able to present these ID cards, along with another proof of address – a cable, electric, or water bill, for example – to gain a driver’s license, enabling them to commute to work, go shopping, or take children to school.
The restoration of voting rights will affect the voting rights of about 80,000 ex-offenders on parole or probation, making them a greater part of their community, and enabling them to have a voice in Newark’s affairs, thus helping to prevent recidivism.