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

Capitol Report

April 5, 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 NJSBA representatives before legislative committees, and the involvement of the NJSBA as amicus in appellate court matters. It is compiled by the government affairs department of the New Jersey State Bar Association. 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.

New Laws

P.L.2010, c.1 (Scutari) Makes various pension system changes concerning eligibility, retirement allowance formula, compensation definition, position eligible for service credit, non-forfeitable rights, prosecutors part, Police and Firemen's Retirement System (PFRS) special retirement and employer contributions. On March 22, S-2 was signed by the governor.

P.L.2010, c.2 (Doherty) Makes various changes to the State Health Benefits Program (SHBP) and the School Employees' Health Benefits Program (SEHBP) concerning eligibility, cost sharing, choice of a plan, the application of benefit changes, the waiver of coverage and multiple coverage under such plans. On March 22, S-3 was signed by the governor.

P.L.2010, c.3 (O'Toole) Makes various changes concerning payments to public employees for unused sick leave, carrying forward of vacation leave by public employees, sick leave for injury while in state service, and accidental and ordinary disability retirement for members of the Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS) and the Teachers' Pension and Annuity Fund (TPAF). On March 22, S-4 was signed by the governor.

Priority Legislation (2008-09)

Below is a summary of NJSBA high-priority bills that were signed into law during the last legislative session.

Business Law

P.L.2009, c.176 (Diegnan) (NJSBA supports) Provides that any notice required or permitted pursuant to the provisions of the New Jersey Business Corporation Act, N.J.S.14A:1-1 et seq., such as by a certificate of incorporation or bylaws or any resolution of directors or shareholders, may be provided by electronic transmission. The NJSBA supported A-2879 because increased use of electronic communications and changes in federal law permit shareholder notices and proxies to be transmitted electronically. This bill complements both federal law and practice. The bill was signed by the governor on Jan. 11, 2010.

P.L.2009, c.177 (Diegnan) (NJSBA supports) Provides one-hour and two-hour service options for expedited over-the-counter corporate service requests presented to the state for processing. The NJSBA supported A-2882 because providing expedited service options will enable businesses to complete transactions more efficiently, and can generate additional revenues for the Division of Commercial Recording. The bill was signed by the governor on Jan. 11, 2010.

Criminal Law

P.L.2009, c.81 (Smith) (NJSBA supports) Establishes a Criminal Sentencing Commission to study and review the criminal law and recommend revisions. The NJSBA supported S-1880 because it has played a vital and active role to support reform in New Jersey's criminal sentencing laws and engage in an open dialogue to improve the state's criminal justice system, and the NJSBA has been ably represented on the commission by Richard S. Lehrich of Cranford. The bill was signed by the governor on July 2, 2009.

P.L.2009, c.192 (Watson Coleman) (NJSBA supports) Authorizes the court to waive or reduce parole ineligibility or grant probation for drug-free school zone violations under certain circumstances. The school zone law requiring the service of mandatory terms of imprisonment has long been the subject of controversy. Defense attorneys and prosecutors alike have criticized the law's reach, especially in light of the inordinate number of minority defendants sentenced under its provisions. The NJSBA supported A-2762 because it will allow the judicious consideration of the facts and circumstances of each case in the interests of justice. The court could waive or reduce the mandatory term of imprisonment or place the defendant on probation upon weighing the factors set forth in the bill. The NJSBA believes that allowing judges a measure of discretion in addressing these cases is appropriate. This bill was signed by the governor on Jan. 12, 2010.

Local Government Law

P.L.2009, c.11 (Biondi) (NJSBA supports) Authorizes the creation of a non-lapsing attorney ID card program trust fund by counties. In 2005, NJSBA worked cooperatively with the New Jersey Sherriff's Association, the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), and the attorney general on the creation of a statewide, uniform attorney identification card to facilitate the ability of attorneys to gain access to New Jersey courthouses and improve the administration of justice. While A-3146 does not mandate the establishment of a uniform attorney ID card, by allowing counties to establish a trust fund for revenue generated from the attorney ID card program, and permitting these revenues to be dedicated to covering the cost of the program beyond the one-year budget cycle otherwise provided by the Local Budget Law, this bill is a step in the right direction, and supports the association's goal of creating a statewide uniform attorney ID card program. The bill was signed by the governor on Jan. 27, 2009.

Municipal Court Practice

P.L.2008, c.84 (Watson Coleman) (NJSBA supports) Allows a court to make an exception to the mandatory driver's license suspension under the state's conditional discharge statute if it finds that compelling circumstances warrant an exception. The bill specifies that compelling circumstances exist if the suspension of the person's driving privileges will result in extreme hardship and alternative means of transportation are not available. The NJSBA supported A-1766 because New Jersey residents rely solely on their vehicles to get to work, school, doctor's appointments, etc. because mass transit is not adequate. According to several Union County judges, one of the most common violations seen in courtrooms is driving while suspended. Thus, the court should have the discretion to revoke the remainder of a suspension for compelling circumstances, especially if it is to allow a person the ability to get to essential medical appointments, work, school or even rehabilitation-related classes/therapy that is otherwise not available by way of public transportation. This bill was signed by the governor on Sept. 10, 2008.

P.L.2009, c.201 (Munoz) (NJSBA supports with amendments) Establishes Ricci's Law; provides that all persons convicted of first, second, and third offenses of drunk driving would be required to install an ignition interlock device in any motor vehicle they own, lease or operate. Although the NJSBA was inclined to strongly oppose A-3073, the association decided to support the bill if it was amended to include provisions that allow for a temporary driver's license so a convicted party may continue to work, requires the interlock device only if the driving while suspended offense is the result of a prior conviction for driving while intoxicated and/or under the influence, or made the interlock applicable only to the vehicle driven by the convicted party and not any other vehicles (such as owned or driven by family members) that the convicted party does not own or operate. While the legislation was amended to address NJSBA concerns, those amendments did not go as far as requested. The bill was signed by the governor on Jan. 14, 2010.

Workers' Compensation

P.L.2008, c.93 (Sarlo (NJSBA supports with amendments) ) Increases the power of judges of compensation to enforce workers' compensation law. The NJSBA supported S-1913 with amendments to remove provisions in the bill that would: 1) impose additional fines and other penalties on parties or counsel for unreasonable delay, with the proceeds of the penalties paid into the Second Injury Fund, and 2) refer to "other actions deemed appropriate by the judge of compensation with respect to the claim," which the association found to be too broad. The bill was signed by the governor on Oct. 1, 2008.

P.L.2008, c.94 (Sarlo) (NJSBA supports) Strengthens enforcement against employers for failure to provide workers' compensation coverage. The NJSBA supports reasonable measures, such as proposed in S-1914, to ensure employers comply with Workers' Compensation Insurance coverage requirements. The bill was signed by the governor on Oct. 1, 2008.

P.L.2008, c.95 (Sarlo) (NJSBA supports) Requires every corporation, limited partnership, limited liability company, limited liability partnership or other employer required by law to submit an annual report, and to include a valid proof of workers' compensation coverage, if applicable, as part of the annual report. Without the inclusion of the valid proof of coverage, the annual report is not complete for purposes of filing, the requirement to submit the annual report is not fulfilled, and all requirements concerning the failure to submit the annual report shall apply. The NJSBA supports reasonable measures, such as proposed in S-1915, to ensure employers comply with Workers' Compensation Insurance coverage requirements. The bill was signed by the governor on Oct. 1, 2008.

P.L.2008, c.96 (Sarlo) (NJSBA supports) Provides that when a physician states a worker is in need of emergent medical care not being provided or authorized by the employer, the worker may file a motion for emergent medical treatment with or after the filing of a claim petition. The NJSBA supports S-1916 because it balances the interests of the injured worker with the interests of carriers, and sets a reasonable timeframe in light of a worker's emergent need for medical treatment. The bill was signed by the governor on Oct. 1, 2008.

P.L.2008, c.97 (Sarlo) (NJSBA supports) Revises membership of the Compensation Rating and Inspection Bureau (CRIB) to make it more inclusive of all parties involved with the Workers' Compensation System. The bill includes on the governing committee, for the first time, directors who do not represent member insurers, but rather a licensed insurance producer; a representative of business; and a representative of labor, all three of whom shall be appointed by the commissioner of banking and insurance from lists submitted by appropriate statewide organizations. The bill also clarifies CRIB's authority with respect to its members and its duties. The NJSBA supports the expansive, and inclusive, nature provided by S-1917. The bill was signed by the governor on Oct. 1, 2008.

P.L.2008, c.121 (Sarlo) (NJSBA supports) Authorizes the insurance fraud prosecutor to investigate, and if warranted prosecute, cases of failure to provide workers' compensation insurance coverage occurring after a reasonable opportunity has been given to obtain that coverage. The prosecution would be conducted under the existing provisions of the workers' compensation statutes, and in particular, R.S.34:15-79, which already establishes criminal penalties for failure to provide such coverage. S-1918 also adds the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DOLWD) to the list of state departments and agencies with which the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor must establish a liaison relationship and continuing communication. The NJSBA supports all efforts to use all available tools to address issues of fraud. The bill was signed by the governor on Dec. 19, 2008.

P.L.2009, c.291 (Quijano) (NJSBA supports) Amends the Workers' Compensation Law to require that the director of workers' compensation shall, in any case in which an award of compensation payable by an uninsured employer or an assessment has been ordered by the director, file with the clerk of the superior court a statement of the findings and judgment of the workers' compensation judge or a certified copy of the director's order. Upon that filing, the statement or order, as the case may be, shall have the same effect and may be collected and docketed in the same manner as judgments rendered in causes tried in the superior court. The NJSBA supported A-3669 because it would expedite the process of filing court actions against uninsured employers for non-payment of workers' compensation benefits. The bill was signed by the governor on Jan. 17, 2010.

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.