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

Capitol Report

February 10, 2014


This is a status report provided by the New Jersey State Bar Association on recently passed and pending legislation, regulations, gubernatorial nominations and/or appointments of interest to lawyers, as well as the involvement of the NJSBA as amicus in appellate court matters. To learn more, visit njsba.com.


NJSBA RECENT ACTION IN TRENTON


Family Law

S-122 (PDF) (Bucco) (NJSBA supports) Expands the number of safe havens for leaving newborn infants. On Jan. 27, the bill was released from the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee and referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.


The New Jersey State Bar Association supports this bill with amendments, since it will expand the list of sites at which newborn infants may be left safely and anonymously by a parent or a person acting on the parent’s behalf in accordance with the provisions of the New Jersey Safe Haven Infant Protection Act. Places in which an infant may be left include fire stations and premises of ambulances, first aid and rescue squads that are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The association supports the amendment to paragraph 4a(2) to include the words “staffed 24 hours, seven days a week,” as set forth in paragraph 4a(3) of the bill, which the state bar believes will ensure the safety of all newborns benefitting from expansion of the sites.

  

S-873 (PDF) (Vitale) (NJSBA opposes) Permits adoptees and certain others to obtain the adoptee's original birth certificate and other related information. On Jan. 27, the bill was released from the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee and is awaiting Senate vote.


The New Jersey State Bar Association has concerns with this legislation, believing it amends the law to allow adult adopted persons access to their birth certificate through a rather administratively convoluted process. It fails to allow the birth parent who places the child for adoption prior to the date of enactment adequate opportunity to prevent disclosure of the name(s) of the birth parent.


The New Jersey State Bar Association has reviewed this and prior versions of the bill over many years, and historically has supported mutual consent adoption registries and adult adoptee access to original birth certificates, if made prospective in its application. Given the provisions in this bill, the association believes: the bill disregards the psychology of adoption, which allows a woman to give up a child for adoption with anonymity and without further contact; the bill conflicts with the Safe Haven Infant Protection Act in not preserving anonymity provided by law in that statute for the birth mother; although the bill continuously refers to birth "parents," its requirements clearly impact birth mothers much more so than birth fathers; the bill may inadvertently encourage abortions; the bill may encourage women to keep babies that may be best cared for by an adoptive family; the bill's requirements are difficult to follow, would invade the birth mother's privacy, and would establish inadequate notice requirements; the obligation to report an address change to the state registrar's office is unreasonable; there is no sunset clause; it is not realistic that a birth parent who lives outside the state of New Jersey will comply with the state's laws in order to avoid invasion of privacy; it is almost impossible for every person to whom this bill applies, particularly those who have already placed their babies up for adoption, to learn about the details of the new law in time to protect their privacy; and the bill provides no funding to inform birth parents of the change in the law, despite a mandate to do so. The state bar believes a more balanced approach is to create a confidential intermediary who can protect the interests of the birth parent and the adoptee as they work toward building a relationship on mutually agreed upon terms. 


Judicial Administration


S-990 (PDF) (Weinberg) (NJSBA supports) Authorizes the Judiciary to revise or supplement fees, subject to limitations, to fund Legal Services of New Jersey and the e-court information system; requires the review and reporting on fees and expenditures of such fees. On Jan. 27, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.


The New Jersey State Bar Association supports this legislation because the breadth of the fee increases have been reduced from previous proposals, and the focus of the increases have been squarely placed upon its purpose—funding both the Judiciary’s e-Court expansion and increased funding for legal services.

This bill also contains safeguards to assure the funds are used for the purposes for which they are dedicated, that a regular update is provided to the Legislature, that a public hearing is held to gauge the impact of proposed fee increases, and that the continued need for the fees is periodically examined by the Supreme Court and the Legislature to make certain the increases remain tied to economic circumstances. The association believes these safeguards have made the bill a stronger piece of legislation.


Municipal Court Practice


S-973 (PDF) (Connors) (NJSBA opposes) Criminalizes fifth or subsequent drunk driving offenses. On Jan. 27, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.


The New Jersey State Bar Association has concerns with this legislation, believing it defeats public policy and contradicts its own intent as making the offense a third degree crime, which would lead to a presumption of no jail time and would further open the door to Prevention Through Education (PTE) and makes the offense expungeable.

S-976 (Connors) (NJSBA opposes) Increases prison time for certain persons convicted of a motor vehicle offense when their license is suspended for driving under the influence. On Jan. 27, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.


The New Jersey State Bar Association has concerns with this bill, believing it does not truly help individuals who may have a drug and/or alcohol problem. The state bar believes there is a dire need for good outpatient therapy allowing individuals the help they need for recovery, and that New Jersey does not allow for a restrictive use drivers’ license, which only worsens the underlying problem. 

 

PENDING LEGISLATION


Banking Law

S-965 (PDF) (Turner) Prohibits a retail sales establishment from storing certain magnetic-strip data; requires reimbursement for costs incurred by a financial institution due to breach of security. On Jan. 27, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Commerce Committee.


Consumer Protection Law

S-394 (PDF) (Sacco) Prohibits the purchaser of a used motor vehicle from waiving the dealer's obligation regarding emissions control equipment. On Jan. 27, the bill was released from the Senate Transportation Committee with amendments and is awaiting Senate vote.


S-967 (Gill) Enacts the Reader Privacy Act. On Jan. 27, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Commerce Committee.


Criminal Law

A-2191 (PDF) (Munoz) Upgrades the crime of soliciting or recruiting for a criminal street gang while on school property. On Jan. 27, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.


S-971 (Connors) Requires additional fines for certain crimes against minors to fund the Amber Alert system. On Jan. 27, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.


S-994 (Weinberg) Requires halfway houses to permit attorneys and certain representatives of attorneys to visit incarcerated clients. On Jan. 27, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.


Election Law

S-938 (Beach) Requires issue advocacy organization disclosure; increases disclosure of campaign finance information; raises the amount of money contributable to committees; modifies restrictions on contributions by certain business entities performing public contracts. On Jan. 27, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee.


Environmental Law

A-2221 (PDF) (Chivukula) Establishes uniform real property taxation for commercial renewable energy systems and limits municipal construction permit fees for non-commercial renewable energy systems. On Jan. 27, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee.


A-2225 (Burzichelli) Requires assessment of an administrative penalty amount by an administrative law judge for environmental violations. On Jan. 27, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Regulatory Oversight Committee.


Health Law

S-952 (Beck) Requires a healthcare representative to make healthcare decisions for an incapacitated patient in accordance with the patient's religious beliefs. On Jan. 27, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.


Insurance Law

S-983 (Connors) Requires health insurers to cover Lyme disease. On Jan. 27, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Commerce Committee.


Judicial Administration

A-2208 (Vainieri Huttle) Clarifies a juvenile's right to attorney representation; requires a 12-month judicial review hearing when a juvenile is placed out-of-home. On Jan. 27, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.

S-946 (Norcross) Implements a constitutional amendment providing for pretrial detention of certain criminal defendants; establishes non-monetary bail alternatives for release; authorizes the Judiciary to revise fees for certain legal programs and services. On Jan. 27, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.


Land Use Law

A-2195 (Greenwald) Authorizes expenditures from open space trust funds to develop or maintain recreation and conservation land although the land was not acquired by the municipality. On Jan. 27, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.


S-969 (Pennacchio) Exempts construction, expansion or renovation of public institutions of higher education, public schools, and police and fire academies from the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act. On Jan. 27, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Environment and Energy Committee.


Local Government Law

S-933 (PDF) (Beck) Establishes best practices for procurement and payment of legal services by local governments and school districts. On Jan. 27, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee. 


Municipal Court Practice

 A-2241 (Rumpf) Prohibits the use of hands-free wireless telephones and electronic communication devices while providing instruction in the operation of a motor vehicle. On Jan. 27, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee.

Real Property, Trust and Estate Law

 A-2246 (Dancer) Authorizes municipalities, by resolution, to require the tax collector to remove a parcel of real property from the accelerated tax sale list if the fourth quarter property taxes are not paid but the property has materially depreciated following a severe weather event. On Jan. 27, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly State and Local Government Committee.

A-2254 (Dancer) Requires the Board of Public Utilities to consider certain revenue-raising limitations when determining whether to approve increases in public utility rates, fares or charges that may be assessed to municipalities. On Jan. 27, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee.


Special Civil Part

 A-2239 (McHose) Revises the definition of "landlord" to include rooming and boardinghouse owners and operators with regard to ordinances holding landlords to certain standards of responsibility. On Jan. 27, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Housing Community Development Committee.

Taxation Law

S-953 (PDF) (Beck) Authorizes innocent spouse relief under the gross income tax. On Jan. 27, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.