January 7, 2013
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 obtain a complete copy of the Capitol Report and/or retrieve a former Capitol Report, please visit our website at www.njsba.com.
Local Government Law
S-1451 (PDF) (Weinberg) Revises the law concerning meetings of public bodies to provide the public with greater access to meetings and information about meetings. On Nov. 29, 2012, the bill was substituted and is awaiting Senate vote (33-0).
S-1452 (PDF) (Weinberg) Makes certain access changes to the Open Public Records Act; formally names the act the Martin O'Shea Open Public Records Act. On Nov. 29, 2012, the bill was substituted and is awaiting Senate vote.
ACR-88 (PDF) (Wisniewski) Proposes a constitutional amendment removing gubernatorial appointment of certain municipal court judges. On Dec. 10, 2012, a public hearing was held by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
The New Jersey State Bar Association supports this constitutional amendment because it believes the bill will streamline court administration in New Jersey’s municipal courts. First, the bill will provide a process to appoint inter-municipal court judges that takes into account the concerns of the municipalities. This could have the impact of getting municipal court judges appointed more quickly. Second, given recent efforts to regionalize municipal services, this constitutional amendment allows municipalities to retain the judicial appointment authority they have with a single municipal court in an inter-municipal court situation. The NJSBA believes New Jersey voters rejected this legislation because they did not understand how it would benefit their communities by promoting the consolidation of services while allowing municipalities to continue to provide input into the jurist selected to hear municipal court matters.
Military and Veterans Law
S-1075 (PDF) (Van Drew) Extends the burial of indigent veterans to those who did not serve in time of war; clarifies role of the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs in identifying deceased veterans; provides additional funding for burial of indigent veterans. On Dec. 6, 2012, the bill was reviewed by the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.
Municipal Court Practice
S-82 (PDF) (Bateman) Clarifies when penalty points are to be assessed for convictions of driving in an unsafe manner. On Nov. 29, 2012, the bill passed in the Senate (39-0) and on Dec. 3, 2012, the bill was received in the Assembly and referred to the Assembly Transportation and Public Works Committee.
The New Jersey State Bar Association voted to support revisions to N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.2, which provides motorists with a limited opportunity to pay enhanced fines and penalties for certain motor vehicle offenses to avoid the imposition of a motor vehicle penalty (and associated insurance rating) points. These points often result in increases in insurance rates, which significantly exceed the amount of the fines and penalties associated with N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.2. This present statute also includes provisions to eliminate the possibility that it would be used by irresponsible drivers to avoid the consequences of multiple offenses, and provides that the benefits of the statute would only be available to a given driver twice in five years.
This bill would end that uncertainty by providing a definitive interpretation of the application of the original statute. Motorists would be eligible for the points-forgiveness provision of the statute a maximum of two times in five years. A motorist would then be ineligible for this benefit for five years, and would thereafter be ineligible for the benefit for a period of five years from each subsequent offense. Any motorist who sought to utilize this statute during his or her period of ineligibility would be assessed four motor vehicle points.
S-204 (PDF) (Holzapfel) Requires police notification when a driver's license is suspended. On Nov. 29, 2012, the bill passed in the Senate (39-0) and on Dec. 3, 2012, the bill was received in the Assembly and referred to the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.
A-3096 (PDF) (Gusciora) Establishes a conditional dismissal program in municipal court; alters eligibility requirements and increases fees for existing conditional discharge and supervisory treatment programs. On Dec. 3, 2012, the bill was awaiting Assembly vote with the governor’s recommendations.
The New Jersey State Bar Association voted to support this legislation with amendments because it will fix a longstanding inequity in the municipal court system. The New Jersey State Bar Association believes Section 5 of the bill should be amended to read "shall terminate" rather than "may terminate." This will make it clear that failure to abide by the conditions of the conditional discharge program will result in termination of the program’s benefits.
Real Property, Trust and Estate Law
A-1513 (PDF) (Burzichelli) Creates the Real Estate Installment Contract Act. On Dec. 3, 2012, the bill passed in the Assembly (75-0-0). This legislation is supported by the New Jersey State Bar Association with amendments. Once the “purchaser” and “real estate installment contract” is better defined in paragraph 2, the state bar association believes the bill will be effective.
The New Jersey State Bar Association opposes this legislation because of the significant injury it believes the bill could do to attorneys and their clients who practice in the property tax field. The legislation would create an overlap between county tax board hearings in the demonstration county the filing of appeals in the state tax court. The loss of statewide uniformity with regard to appeals filing deadlines and jurisdiction could pose a significant problem if this proposal was ever expanded on a statewide basis, practitioners would be dealing with county tax board appeals and the April 1 tax court filing deadline simultaneously. Under existing law, the county tax boards have the power to review and revise assessments between Jan. 10 and April 1. County tax boards that are truly concerned with certain ratables distorting a tax rate can already fix the problem before the tax rate is struck.
A-2596 (PDF) (Wisniewski) Removes the requirement for one- and two-family residences to be equipped with a portable fire extinguisher. On Dec. 10, 2012, the governor’s conditional veto was received in the Assembly.
S-1740 (PDF) (Rice) Authorizes municipalities to impose penalties on creditors that fail to timely remedy code violations of certain properties in foreclosure. On Nov. 29, 2012, the bill passed in the Senate (31-0) and on Dec. 3, 2012, the bill was received and referred to the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee.
S-2157 (PDF) (Lesniak) Establishes the New Jersey Residential Foreclosure Transformation Act. On Dec. 3, 2012, the bill was substituted for A-3413 (Green), passed in Assembly (43-32-0) and was sent to the governor.
S-64 (PDF) (Codey) Establishes measures to deter steroid use among students. On Nov. 29, 2012, the bill passed in the Senate (39-0), was received in the Assembly and was referred to the Assembly Education Committee.
A-1196 (PDF) (Stender) Creates the Thomas P. Canzanella Twenty First Century First Responders Protection Act; concerns workers’ compensation for public safety workers. On Dec. 10, 2012, the bill was released from the Assembly Labor Committee and is awaiting Assembly vote.