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Sauickie introduces storm-related bill package ahead of Sandy anniversary

Hurricane Ian’s recent path of destruction in Florida is reminiscent of Superstorm Sandy’s devastating impact on New Jersey in October 2012, said state Assemblyman Alex Sauickie of Jackson, who is introducing a storm-related bill package in advance of the 10th anniversary of the state’s worst natural disaster.

The three bills would help Garden State residents and business operators prepare for and recover from weather events, according to a press release from Sauickie’s office.

In order to become law, the bills Sauickie is introducing would have to be passed in the state Assembly and state Senate and be signed by Gov. Phil Murphy.

“Seeing the images of boats washed ashore, homes ripped from their foundations and the recovery efforts underway in Florida brings back memories of Superstorm Sandy,” said Sauickie (R-Ocean, Monmouth, Middlesex, Burlington).

“I have so much empathy for the people of Florida, because we understand what they are going through. It is why I believe this package of bills is so important right now,” he said.

Approximately 30,000 residents were displaced from their homes in Ocean County, which was more than any other New Jersey county, after Superstorm Sandy hit the state’s coast on Oct. 29, 2012. Thirty-eight people in New Jersey died and as many as 82,000 homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed, according to the press release.

“During Sandy, 2.6 million New Jersey residents lost power. A third of them went without electricity for at least a week. That kind of outage is devastating to everyone, but even losing power for a day can have major consequences for those who rely on medical devices,” Sauickie said.

According to the press release, Sauickie wants to incentivize taxpayers to put in whole-house backup generators at their primary residence by offering an income tax deduction. He said the bill (A-4732) can save lives by providing power and preserving emergency services during a storm.

To address the associated costs following the loss of power, Sauickie sponsors another bill (A-333) awaiting a hearing in the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee.

The legislation would require electric companies to reimburse residential or commercial customers who experience outages lasting more than 48 hours for the cost of spoiled food, prescription medicine or perishable goods. Residents could receive up to $540 and businesses could recoup as much as $10,700, according to the press release.

“With sky-high food prices, a family cannot easily replace a week’s worth of groceries. And New Jersey businesses, especially small businesses, cannot take another financial hit. Being forced to throw away products because of power restoration delays is not within most businesses’ budgets,” Sauickie added. “Public utilities providing unreliable service have to be held accountable.”

The third bill (A-4731) would enable public utilities and cable, internet and cell phone companies to operate more efficiently during emergencies by using drones to assess and maintain critical infrastructure. The state would be required to adopt rules, in accordance with federal laws and regulations, permitting the use of unmanned aircraft in this manner, according to the press release.

“Getting this bill package passed ahead of the next Sandy, Ian or Ida is crucial to our security, safety and resilience,” Sauickie said.

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