TRENTON - Democrats on the state Assembly's higher education committee say that one in five female college students report being the victim of some form of sexual harassment, and they want to make sure universities are involving the local police.
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora's bill would make that happen by fining colleges $50,000 every time they fail to report a sexual assualt on campus. "We need to send the colleges a strong message that when they hear such allegations, they should immediately report them to the police so that they are properly investigated," Gusciora says.
Legislators from both sides of the aisle weighed in. "I think you need to rethink this a little bit," said Assemblyman John DiMaio. "I can't support the bill with a $50,000 fine against the institution. It could hurt very small colleges."
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Lobbyists for the state's colleges say current federal rules already require schools to keep stats and notify their campus police, but admit it's up to the victims to report the crimes to local law enforcement.
The committee also took another step toward making every college campus in New Jersey tobacco-free, including smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes.
"I think it's the right thing to do," says Assemblywoman Celeste Riley. "I have friends using e-cigarettes to quit, but we should not be encouraging smoking period."
According to the American Cancer Society, the bill would make New Jersey's campus tobacco laws the toughest in the country.
Both bills passed out of committee, and now head to the full Assembly for a vote.