Joseph Palaia, a longtime state lawmaker who was a leading voice for children with disabilities, has died. He was 89.
The Francioni Taylor & Lopez Funeral Home in Neptune City says Palaia died Saturday. But a cause of death was not disclosed.
The Republican lawmaker was a teacher and school administrator for several years before he first sought elected office in the late 1960s.
He served on the Ocean Township Council and the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders before he was elected to the Assembly in 1982. He served there until he won a state Senate seat in 1989, a post he held until he retired in 2008.
During his time in the legislature, Palaia sought to expand educational and medical services for children with disabilities. He also was a gun control advocate who co-sponsored the state's Childproof Handgun Law.
"Mary Pat and I offer our condolences to Senator Palaia’s loved ones, friends and all those whom he inspired for decades as an educator, elected official and champion of children with special needs," said Gov. Chris Christie in a prepared news release. "Joe has certainly left a venerable legacy for generations of public servants to follow. Joe’s success came from putting others needs before his own. He was a problem solver who built brighter futures for families, above all else."