New Jersey is especially conducive to dangerous, disease-carrying ticks because of the state’s climate, woodlands and large agricultural sector. Assembly Members Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey, however, have taken action to reduce the risk of tick-borne diseases and invasive species as two of their bills to combat these threats cleared the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Monday.
“New Jersey has the third most tick-borne disease cases in the entire United States, yet we have never taken any action to curb the spread of these diseases through controlling the tick population,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “Diseases stemming from tick bites can be incredibly dangerous—and in rare cases, fatal—and we must put forth every effort to prevent the spread of these diseases in order to protect our residents.”
The first bill (A-4459), sponsored by both Monmouth Democrats, authorizes the state and county mosquito control commissions to create and implement measures to control the tick population.
Under current law, no statewide or countywide measures have been taken to control the tick population.
“New Jersey saw the most reported cases of Lyme disease in 2017 in nearly twenty years,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “Ticks may be small, but the threat they pose to the health of our communities can be mammoth. This is a problem we must tackle head-on for the safety of all New Jerseyans.”
This bill would have the state and county mosquito control commissions use their existing revenue-raising powers to finance any tick control measures they deem appropriate.
Ticks are known to transmit a wide variety of diseases to humans, including Lyme disease, Powassan disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis and others, as well as transmit diseases to household pets.
Additionally, New Jersey’s proximity to major ports such as New York City and Philadelphia make the state susceptible to invasive species such as the East Asian Tick, which was recently spotted in Hunterdon County and is known to spread severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome, a potentially life-threatening disease.
The second bill (A-4585), sponsored by Houghtaling, establishes a five-member “Invasive Species Task Force” whose duties include the following:
- studying the most efficient means of controlling invasive species;
- developing uniform policies and a coordinated response to the threat posed by invasive species to New Jersey’s native and agricultural vegetation, and ecological, cultural, historical or infrastructure resources;
- developing a plan to prevent new invasive species from entering the state and limiting the continuing spread of invasive species already present;
- creating a plan to control already existent infestations;
- crafting a plan to restore ecosystems to their natural condition, and to repair damage caused by invasive species;
- identifying regulatory and statutory obstacles and inefficiencies at the federal, state, and local levels impeding the development or implementation of prevention, control and restoration efforts;
- evaluating the 2009 New Jersey Strategic Management Plan for Invasive Species and exploring and developing alternatives in addition to those discussed in the 2009 Plan;
- preparing a new, comprehensive management plan for New Jersey that will include an estimate of the resources necessary for its implementation; and
- preparing recommendations for legislative action necessary to implement the report.
The five-member panel will be made up of the Commissioner of Environmental Protection, who will serve as chairperson of the task force, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Commissioner of Health, the State Forester, and the Executive Director of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station at Rutgers University. If these individuals so choose, they may each appoint a designee who will serve ex officio.
The bills now go to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.