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

Capitol Report

May 31, 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.

NJSBA ACTION IN TRENTON

A-1700 (Burzichelli) (NJSBA supports with amendments) Establishes the New Jersey Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. NJSBA First Vice President Kevin McCann reached out to Assemblyman John J. Burzichelli, the bill sponsor, and urged him to modify the bill so attorneys are not regarded as debt collectors while engaging in the everyday practice of law. Generally, the bill eliminates abusive practices in the collection of consumer debts, promotes fair debt collection, and provides consumers with an avenue for disputing and obtaining validation of debt information in order to ensure that information's accuracy.

On May 20, the bill was amended on the Assembly floor to align the legislation more closely with the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and specify that creditors are not subject to provisions of the bill prohibiting certain practices in the collection of unpaid debts. The bill is awaiting Assembly vote.

ON THE GOVERNOR'S DESK

A-10 (Oliver) (Under review by the NJSBA) Increases the gross income tax rate on income exceeding $1,000,000 for taxable year 2010. On May 20, the bill passed in the Senate (23-17) and was sent to the governor.

A-20 (Moriarty) (Under review by the NJSBA) Supplements the state annual appropriations act for the state fiscal year 2010-2011, makes appropriations for Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled Programs and the Homestead Rebate/Credit Program. On May 20, the bill passed in the Senate (23-17) and was sent to the governor.

S-515 (Weinberg) (Under review by the NJSBA) Permits physicians and veterinarians to earn continuing education credits by providing certain free medical or veterinary services. On May 20, the bill passed in the Assembly (75-1-2) and was sent to the governor.

PENDING LEGISLATION

Children's Rights

A-1654 (Greenwald) (Under review by the NJSBA) Requires the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to provide information on home visitation resources and shaken baby syndrome to parents of newborn infants. On May 20, the bill passed in the Assembly (78-0) and was referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

Consumer Protection

A-1064 (Gusciora) (NJSBA opposes) Eliminates the award of attorneys' fees, filing fees and costs of suit for technical violation of the Consumer Fraud Act. The amended bill defines a technical violation as one in which the person held in violation made a good faith effort to comply with the provisions of the Consumer Fraud Act and the resulting violation did not impact the quality of the product or service provided or result in an ascertainable loss to the consumer. The amended bill also clarifies that its provisions in no way prevent attorneys' fees, filing fees, and reasonable costs of suit from being awarded in suits brought by the attorney general, regardless of whether they are for technical violations. On May 20, the bill passed in the Assembly (76-2), was received in the Senate and referred to the Senate Commerce Committee.

Criminal Law

A-973 (Johnson) (Under review by the NJSBA) Creates the Juvenile Transfer Task Force to study, evaluate, and develop recommendations concerning the transfer of juveniles from the juvenile justice system to the adult criminal justice system. On May 20, the bill passed in the Assembly (63-13-2) and is awaiting Senate vote.

A-1050 (Quijano) (NJSBA supports) Upgrades offenses of engaging in the unauthorized practice of law; creates civil action; provides that a person convicted of the offense is barred from appointment as a notary public. On May 20, the bill passed in the Assembly (78-0), was received in the Senate and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

A-1216 (Rudder) (Under review by the NJSBA) Establishes the crime of initiating a false Amber Alert. Under the bill, a person commits a crime of the fourth degree if he or she knowingly provides false information or a fictitious report to law enforcement authorities concerning a missing person, and this leads to the implementation of a public alert pursuant to Amber's Plan, P.L.2002, c.129 (C.52:17B-194.1 et seq.). On May 20, the bill passed in the Assembly (78-0), was received in the Senate and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Elder and Disability Law

A-2776 (Milam) (Under review by the NJSBA) This bill increases the statute of limitations for violations of the Uniform Securities Law from two to five years. The bill also authorizes the court to award treble damages in any successful civil action brought under it for any violation of the Uniform Securities Law which involves willful or intentional fraud or arises out of a transaction in which a senior citizen or a person with a disability suffered a loss. On May 20, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.

Family Law

A-2200 (Johnson) (Under review by the NJSBA) This bill permits a child whose parent or guardian is a member of the New Jersey National Guard or a member of the reserve component of the armed forces of the United States, and who has been ordered into active military service in any of the armed forces of the United States in a time of war or national emergency, to remain enrolled in the school district in which the child's parent or guardian is domiciled at the time of being ordered into active military service, regardless of where the child resides during the period of active duty. On May 20, the bill passed in the Assembly (78-0), was received in the Senate and referred to the Senate Education Committee.

Higher Education

A-2405 (Lampitt) (Under review by the NJSBA) Directs each institution of higher education to develop and coordinate a comprehensive disaster preparedness plan. On May 20, the bill was amended on the Assembly floor to eliminate the requirement that the emergency operations plan proposed by an institution of higher education be approved by the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, the State Office of Emergency Management, the Department of Health and Senior Services, and the Commission on Higher Education. Under the bill as amended, the plan would continue to be reviewed by those offices that may submit recommendations. The amendments also clarify that an emergency operations plan is not subject to the provisions of the Open Public Records Act. The bill is awaiting Assembly vote.

Local Government Law

A-1585 (Scalera) (Under review by the NJSBA) Clarifies immunity from civil liability for volunteers affiliated with Citizen Corps under certain circumstances. The bill provides that a state, county or local office of emergency management may organize and deploy volunteers under the Citizen Corps program, including but not limited to community emergency response teams, medical reserve corps, and other teams approved by the State Office of Emergency Management as it deems may be needed in the event of an emergency. On May 20, the bill passed in the Assembly (77-0), was received in the Senate and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

A-2486 (Burzichelli) (Under review by the NJSBA) Prohibits adoption of new rules exceeding federal standards unless specifically authorized by state law or necessary to protect public health, safety or welfare. On May 20, the bill was amended on the Assembly floor and is awaiting Assembly vote.

A-2720 (Burzichelli) (Under review by the NJSBA) Establishes a new procedure in the Administrative Procedure Act to allow substantial changes to agency rule-making upon adoption instead of issuing a new notice of proposal. As used in the bill, "substantial changes" means any changes to a proposed rule that would significantly enlarge or curtail who and what will be affected by the proposed rule; change what is being prescribed, proscribed or otherwise mandated by the rule; or enlarge or curtail the scope of the proposed rule and its burden on those affected by it. On May 13, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee.

A-2722 (Burzichelli) (Under review by the NJSBA) This bill implements the recommendations set forth in the report of the Red Tape Review Group concerning contested case hearings handled by the Office of Administrative Law, and in several respects goes beyond those recommendations. On May 13, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee.

Municipal Court Practice

S-1639 (Ciesla) (Under review by the NJSBA) Upgrades the penalties for drag racing. Under the bill, drag racing would be a crime of the fourth degree and would be allocated to Title 2C, the criminal code. Crimes of the fourth degree are punishable by up to 18 months imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. The bill also increases the additional fines imposed to between $500 and $1,000 for a first offense, and to between $1,000 and $2,000 for a second or subsequent offense. The current statute, P.L.1955, c.217 (C.39:5C-1), would be repealed. On May 20, the bill passed in the Senate 37-1

Real Property, Trust and Estate Law

A-1678 (Greenwald) (Under review by the NJSBA) The bill, as amended, establishes the New Jersey Homebuyer Tax Credit Program under the New Jersey gross income tax. To qualify for the credit a taxpayer must enter into a contract of sale on a qualified home purchase within the year following the bill's date of enactment. For qualifying new home purchases a taxpayer has 18 months from the contract of sale in which to complete the purchase. For qualifying previously occupied homes a taxpayer has 12 months from the contract of sale in which to complete the purchase. On May 20, the bill passed in the Assembly (67-8-2), was received in the Senate without a committee reference and is awaiting Senate vote.

NOMINATIONS

The following nominations received advice and consent by the Senate on May 20:

COMMISSIONER OF THE DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY AFFAIRS
Lori Grifa, of Montclair, NJSBA member

COMMISSIONER OF THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT
Harold J. Wirths, of Wantage

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.