New Jersey State Bar Association - The voluntary Bar Association of New Jersey, serving members since 1899.

Capitol Report

August 9, 2010

This is a status report on recently passed and pending legislation, regulations, gubernatorial nominations and/or appointments of interest to lawyers. The report may also include information about appearances of New Jersey State Bar Association representatives before legislative committees, and the involvement of the association as amicus in appellate court matters. The state bar association's government affairs department compiles the report. Following each bill number is the sponsor's name, the NJSBA position, if any, bill description and status. Full and previous versions of the Capitol Report with links to related text are available online at www.njsba.com.

SPECIAL EDITION - WORKERS' COMPENSATION LAW

This special edition of the Capitol Report focuses on Workers' Compensation legislation that is currently pending in the state Legislature.

Pending Legislation

ADMINISTRATION

S-229 (Kean) (Under review by the NJSBA) Concerns repayment of workers' compensation by pension recipients. On Feb. 18, the bill was released from the Senate Labor Committee without recommendation and referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

S-676 (Sarlo) (NJSBA supports) Increases workers' compensation for loss of a hand or foot. On Feb. 22, the bill passed in the Senate (24-12) and was referred to the Assembly Labor Committee on Feb. 25.

A-1575 (Scalera) (Under review by the NJSBA) Changes the formula that is used to calculate the average weekly wage for temporary disability insurance benefits. On Jan. 12, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Labor Committee.

A-2251 (DeAngelo) (Under review by the NJSBA) Creates the Review Commission on Workers' Compensation to study the effectiveness and efficiency of the procedures used by the state to resolve disputed workers' compensation claims, with special attention to any unnecessary costs or delays imposed on employers and workers, including lost time, lost wages, excessive expenditures and delayed benefits caused by multiple court appearances and other procedural inefficiencies. On Feb. 11, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Labor Committee.

DISABILITY AND INSURANCE

S-935 (Sweeney) (NJSBA opposes) Provides, from July 1, 2011, forward, an annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) in the weekly workers' compensation benefit rate for any worker who has become totally and permanently disabled from a workplace injury at any time after Dec. 31, 1979, and for the surviving dependents of any worker who died from a workplace injury after Dec. 31, 1979. On Feb. 18, the bill was released from the Senate Labor Committee and referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

S-1662/A-2013 (Bateman/Casagrande) (Under review by the NJSBA) Prohibits payment of temporary disability benefits to incarcerated individuals. On March 11, S-1662 was introduced and referred to the Senate Labor Committee. A-2013 was introduced and referred to the Assembly Labor Committee on Feb. 8.

A-1200 (Rudder) (NJSBA takes no position) Delays the implementation of paid family leave for two years. On Jan. 12, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Labor Committee.

A-1610 (O'Scanlon) (NJSBA takes no position) Requires that ordinary disability retirement in certain state-administered retirement systems be granted only if the member has qualified for federal Social Security Disability benefits. On Jan. 12, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly State Government Committee.

A-1689 (Burzichelli) (Under review by the NJSBA) Provides, from July 1, 2006, forward, an annual cost of living adjustment in the weekly workers' compensation benefit rate for any worker who has become totally and permanently disabled from a workplace injury at any time after Dec. 31, 1979, and for the surviving dependents of workers who have died from a workplace injury at any time after Dec. 31, 1979. On Jan. 12, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Labor Committee.

EXCLUSIONS

S-1203/A-2448 (Connors/Rumpf) (Under review by the NJSBA) Prevents intoxicated employees from receiving workers' compensation. On March 4, A-2448 was introduced and referred to the Assembly Labor Committee. S-1203 was introduced and referred to the Senate Labor Committee on Feb. 8.

S-1527 (Sarlo) (NJSBA opposes) Exempts direct sellers from workers' compensation law. On Feb. 22, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Labor Committee.

IMMIGRATION-RELATED ISSUES

S-109/A-292 (Connors/Rumpf) (NJSBA opposes) Excludes certain illegal aliens from workers' compensation and temporary disability benefits. On Jan. 12, both bills were introduced and referred to the Senate Labor Committee and the Assembly Labor Committee.

A-183 (Chiusano) (NJSBA opposes) Prohibits and imposes penalties on employers who knowingly or intentionally employ unauthorized aliens. On Jan. 12, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Labor Committee.

JUDGES

S-167 (Gill) (Under review by the NJSBA) Provides for a residency requirement for administrative law and workers' compensation judges. On Jan. 12, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

S-231 (Kean) (Under review by the NJSBA) Permits workers' compensation judges to close workers' compensation courts in times of severe weather. On Jan. 12, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Labor Committee.

S-689 (Sarlo) (NJSBA supports) Amends the state fiscal year 2009 appropriations provision to remove the prohibition on payment of a scheduled salary increase for judges of the Division of Workers' Compensation. On Jan. 12, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

PUBLIC EMPLOYEES

S-1252 (Madden) (Under review by the NJSBA) Provides surviving spouses of certain fire and police personnel who die in the line of duty with workers' compensation for the entire period of survivorship. On Feb. 8, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Labor Committee.

S-1294 (Van Drew) (Under review by the NJSBA) Assures workers' compensation benefits to police, fire and emergency personnel rendering aid under certain emergency circumstances. On Feb. 8, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Labor Committee.

S-1624/A-1250 (Girgenti/Stender) (Under review by the NJSBA) Establishes the Thomas P. Canzanella Twenty First Century First Responders Protection Act; creates a rebuttable presumption of workers' compensation coverage for any death or disability, including post-traumatic stress disorder, if the death or disability arises from the physical or psychological impact of stress or injury experienced by a public safety worker engaged in response to a terrorist attack, epidemic, or other catastrophic emergency, in which the worker is exposed to pathogens or biological toxins from biological warfare or epidemics, hazardous chemicals used in, or related to, chemical warfare, or cancer-causing radiation or radioactive substances, or witnesses death and suffering of a magnitude sufficient to cause significant psychological trauma. On Feb. 22, S-1624 was introduced and referred to the Senate Labor Committee. A-1250 was introduced and referred to the Assembly Labor Committee on Jan.12.

S-1672 (Pennacchio) (Under review by the NJSBA) Concerns certain workers' compensation supplemental benefits for surviving dependents of public safety workers who die in the line of duty. On March 11, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Labor Committee.

S-2164 (Sweeney) (Under review by the NJSBA) Makes various changes to several laws that affect the regulation and business operations of employee leasing companies, or professional employer organizations (PEOs). Companies contract with an employee leasing company to assist them with employee-related matters such as health benefits, workers' compensation claims, payroll, payroll tax compliance, and unemployment insurance claims, allowing the client companies to concentrate on the operational aspects of their businesses. On July 19, the bill was released from the Senate Labor Committee with amendments and is awaiting Senate vote.

A-1566 (Scalera) (NJSBA opposes) Concerns workers' compensation for firefighters with cancer. The bill creates a rebuttable presumption that the cancer is a compensable occupational disease of the firefighter for workers' compensation purposes if the firefighter was exposed to a carcinogen while in service of the department and the firefighter, at the time of the exposure, did not fail to properly use department-provided safety equipment and follow safety procedures clearly made a requirement of employment, and did not willfully refuse to accept treatment. The presumption that the cancer is a compensable employment-related injury may be rebutted by proof that the occurrence of the cancer is not linked to the in-service exposure to the carcinogen. On Jan. 12, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Labor Committee.

A-1595 (Scalera) (Under review by the NJSBA) Grants workers' compensation coverage to volunteer firefighters going to or returning from their stations when called to a fire. On Jan. 12, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee.

Note: "Under review by the NJSBA" means that the bill is currently being examined by NJSBA sections, committees and/or Board of Trustees and a final position has not yet been reached on the measure.