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

Capitol Report

July 8, 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

 

NEW LAWS

 

P.L.2013, c.70 Increases the fine and imposes a license suspension for talking or texting on a hand-held device while driving. On June 27, 2013, the bill was signed by the governor. (S-69)  

 

P.L.2013, c.72 Strengthens the enforceability of premarital and pre-civil union agreements. On June 27, 2013, the bill was signed by the governor. (S-2151)

 

BILLS ON THE GOVERNOR’S DESK

 

Animal Law

A-495 (Albano) Creates the crime of threatening the life of certain animals; designated as Dano and Valder's Law. On June 27, 2013, the bill was substituted for S-79 (Sarlo), passed in the Senate (38-0), passed in the Assembly (74-0-0) after concurring with Senate amendments, and was sent to the governor. 

 

S-1303 (Kean) Revises the penalties for animal cruelty, increasing the degree of certain offenses; designated as Patrick's Law. On June 20, 2013, the bill passed in the Senate (39-0) and was sent to the governor. 

 

Business Law

A-3818 (Singleton) Clarifies that the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act applies to real estate transactions. On June 24, 2013, the bill was substituted for S-2242 (Lesniak), passed in the Senate (40-0) and was sent to the governor. 

 

Criminal Law

A-3659 (Barnes) Revises the definition of "destructive device" to include weapons of 50 caliber or greater. On June 24, 2013, the bill was passed in the Assembly (41-33-3) and sent to the governor. 

 

S-1279 (Turner) Upgrades the penalty for unlawfully transferring a firearm to an underage person; permits transfer for instruction and training. On June 20, 2013, the bill was substituted for A-4179 (Mainor), passed in the Assembly (73-0-2) and sent to the governor.

 

Family Law

S-2493 (O’Toole) Revises the statutes and enhances the penalties for offenses involving child pornography; makes the crime of causing a child to engage in a prohibited sexual act subject to the No Early Release Act. On June 20, 2013, the bill was substituted for A-3735 (Mainor) and A-3740 (Russo), and passed in the Assembly (75-0-0), and on June 24, 2013, the bill passed in the Senate (40-0) and was sent to the governor. 

 

Health Law

S-1253 (Vitale) Requires the State Health Benefits Program (SHBP) and School Employees Health Benefits Plan (SHEBP) to cover treatment for alcoholism, other substance-use disorders, and non-biologically based mental illnesses under the same terms and conditions as other diseases or illnesses. On June 20, 2013, the bill was substituted for A-1665 (Johnson), passed in the Assembly (51-20-3) and sent to the governor. 

 

Higher Education

S-1191 (Lesniak) Allows the establishment of a county-wide purchasing system for certain school district services; offers employment protections for certain food or custodial services employees; and regulates subcontracting by districts and public higher education institutions. On June 27, 2013, the bill passed in the Senate (25-10) and was sent to the governor.

 

Labor and Employment Law

A-1273 (Coughlin) Requires the State Health Benefits Program (SHBP) to provide certain information to participating public employers. On June 20, 2013, the bill passed in the Senate (31-8) and was sent to the governor. 

 

Local Government Law

S-316 (Whelan) Permits certain county boards of chosen freeholders to publish notices of proposed or amended ordinances by title and summary. On May 20, 2013, the bill passed in the Assembly (77-0-0) and on June 20, 2013, the bill passed in the Senate (40-0) and was sent to the governor. 

 

Municipal Court Practice

S-69 (Codey) Increases the fine and imposes license suspension for talking or texting on a hand-held device while driving. On May 13, 2013, the bill passed in the Senate (35-0) and was sent to the governor. 

 

Real Property, Trust and Estate Law

A-2737 (Coughlin) Clarifies the intent of the Legislature to protect certain senior tenants; aligns housing age restrictions with federal law. On June 27, 2013, the bill passed in the Senate (24-6) and was sent to the governor.

 


 

NJSBA RECENT ACTION IN TRENTON

 

Consumer Protection Law

S-2551 (Van Drew) Permits real estate licensees to prepare broker price opinions and comparative market analyses. On June 27, 2013, the bill passed in the Senate (37-0) and was sent to the governor. 

 

The NJSBA Board of Trustees, Legislative Committee and Consumer Protection Law Committee all voted to support this legislation to restore the prior practice of permitting real estate brokers and salespersons to provide valuation services for purposes other than marketing of real estate because, in New Jersey, homeowners have properly relied upon such persons in the past. The NJSBA believes these professionals have offered competent services at reduced costs, relative to those of an appraiser, for such purposes as tax appeals, family law disputes and bankruptcy valuations, for many years and the practice has not raised significant consumer protection concerns. The state bar believes this bill will reduce the cost of litigation for consumers and other affected parties.

 

Family Law

A-732 (Eustace) (NJSBA supports with amendments) Makes it a crime of the third degree to practice or represent oneself to others concerning certain licensed or certified healthcare-related professions. On June 27, 2013, the bill was substituted for S-2543 (Beach), passed in the Senate (38-0), received in the Assembly and the Assembly concurred by amendment (73-0-0).

 

The NJSBA Board of Trustees, Legislative Committee, Family Law Section, Health Law Section and Women in the Profession Section voted to support this legislation as amended, believing the bill would protect vulnerable patients seeking treatment for very personal and emotional problems from unlicensed professionals who have the potential to inflict significant harm on such patients. The NJSBA supports committee and floor amendments that exclude from coverage other professionals like attorneys, the clergy, and court mediation professionals who professionally are authorized by law to engage in activities that might constitute the practice of “marriage and family therapy” and would be prohibited from doing so.

 

Municipal Court Practice Section

A-3598 (Gusciora) (NJSBA supports) Establishes a conditional dismissal program in municipal court. On June 27, 2013, the bill was substituted for S-2588 (Turner), passed in the Senate (38-0) and sent to the governor. 

 

The NJSBA’s Board of Trustees, Legislative Committee and Municipal Court Practice Section voted to support this legislation, believing it will fix a longstanding inequity in the municipal court system. Presently, pre-trial intervention (PTI) is only allowed for indictable offenses. Therefore, for example, if someone is charged with theft over $500, he or she would qualify for PTI, which allows the individual to be diverted from the criminal system before conviction. However, if the theft charge is less than $500, the individual does not qualify for PTI because it is not indictable. In some instances, such as in the case of public employees, acceptance into PTI can preserve employment, while a conviction would mean the loss of employment. Thus, the NJSBA strongly supports creating an alternative, such as conditional discharge, to address these circumstances.

 

In 2003, the American Bar Association adopted a report titled “Collateral Sanctions and Discretionary Disqualification of Convicted Persons,” which urged legislatures throughout the country to review their criminal code to ensure the penalties associated with violations are not so insurmountable that it becomes difficult for convicted individuals to reintegrate into society after serving their sentence or paying fines. The NJSBA embraced these findings as a part of its longstanding position in opposition to arbitrary or excessive fees and surcharges for motor vehicle penalties. For this reason, the state bar strongly supports the present legislation, which the NJSBA believes provides an appropriate set of penalties.

 

Special Civil Part

S-2018 (Stack) (NJSBA opposes) Authorizes the award of attorney's fees and expenses in landlord-tenant actions under certain circumstances. On June 27, 2013, the Senate concurred with the Assembly amendments (24-9), the bill was passed and then received in the Assembly. 

 

The NJSBA Board of Trustees, Legislative Committee and Special Civil Part Committee all voted to oppose this legislation, believing if enacted, the bill would create an uneven playing field between landlords and tenants by requiring that landlords pay attorney’s fees even when a breach of contract was the fault of the tenant or if the tenant cured the breach prior to the rendering of final judgment.

 

While it is the state bar’s preference that the legislation not move forward, the NJSBA supports the floor amendments, which attempt to broker a compromise by reducing the onerous nature of the legislation. Those amendments include eliminating the recovery of expenses, the language for allowing attorney’s fees to be provided when a tenant cures a breach of a lease, and the awarding of attorney’s fees in a cause of action if a landlord could not receive an award of attorney fees. The NJSBA believes this is a balanced approach.

 


 

PENDING LEGISLATION

 

Business Law

A-3310 (Eustace) (Under review by the NJSBA) Concerns payment of independent contractors. On June 20, 2013, the bill was amended on the Assembly floor and on June 24, 2013, the bill passed in the Assembly (46-32-0).

 

S-1441 (Weinberg) Requires cemetery companies to file an annual financial report. On June 24, 2013, the bill passed in the Senate (39-0), was received in the Assembly and was referred to the Assembly Regulated Professions Committee.

 

Consumer Protection Law

S-779 (Weinberg) Prohibits cemetery companies from charging an additional fee for rendering certain services on Sunday. On June 24, 2013, the bill was amended on the Senate floor and is awaiting Senate vote.

 

Elder and Disability Law

A-2737 (Coughlin) Clarifies the intent of the Legislature to protect certain senior tenants; aligns housing age restrictions with federal law. On June 20, 2013, the bill passed in the Assembly (45-25-3) and was sent to the governor. However, on June 24, 2013, the bill was reconsidered for Assembly vote and the Assembly voted to concur with amendments (41-30-4).

 

Environmental Law

A-1312 (Greenwald) Requires a report and public hearing prior to the Department of Environmental Protection recommendation of a site for inclusion on the Superfund list. On June 20, 2013, the bill passed in the Assembly (75-0-0). 

 

Family Law

S-2399 (Scutari) Provides, under certain circumstances, for immediate issuance of marriage and civil union licenses at the time license application is made. On June 13, 2013, the governor’s veto was received in the Senate.

 

Higher Education

S-2291 (Rice) Eliminates the requirement that full-time students at a county college in New Jersey maintain health insurance coverage. On June 27, 2013, the bill was received in Senate with the governor’s recommendation, and passed in the Senate (34-1). The bill further passed in the Assembly (60-6-4), after concurring with the governor’s recommendation, and was sent to the governor, whose veto was later received in the Senate.

 

Judicial Administration

A-3329 (Wisniewski)/S-2184 (Van Drew) Authorizes a special Ancient Order of Hibernians license plate. On June 13, 2013, the bill was released from the Senate Transportation Committee and is awaiting Senate vote.

 

Land Use Law

A-1851 (Diegnan) (Under review by the NJSBA) Refines certain review and approval of licensed surveyors responsibilities under the Municipal Land Use Law and the map filing law. On May 6, 2013, the bill was released from the Assembly Regulated Professions Committee with amendments and is awaiting Assembly vote.

 

Military Law and Veterans Affairs

A-1898 (Albano) Extends burial of indigent veterans to those who did not serve in time of war; clarifies the role of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) in identifying deceased veterans; provides additional funding for the burial of indigent veterans. On June 20, 2013, the bill passed in the Assembly (75-0-0).

 

S-2547 (Madden) (Under review by the NJSBA) Creates the Task Force on Distracted Driving. On June 24, 2013, the bill passed in the Senate (40-0), was received in the Assembly and referred to the Assembly Transportation and Public Works Committee.

 

Real Property, Trust and Estate Law

A-2596 (Wisniewski) Removes the requirement for one- and two-family residences to be equipped with a portable fire extinguisher. On June 20, 2013, the bill passed in the Assembly (74-1-0). 

 

Renewable Energy, Cleantech and Climate Change

A-1383 (Chivukula) Concerns energy efficiency and renewable energy requirements. On May 20, 2013, the bill was amended on the Assembly floor and was awaiting Assembly voice vote, and on June 20, 2013, the bill passed in the Assembly (42-28-4).

 

S-2700 (Smith) Expands the state's energy efficiency and renewable energy standards. On June 3, 2013, the bill was released from the Senate Environment and Energy Committee with amendments and is awaiting Senate vote.

 

Taxation

A-946 (Riley) Permits a farm income-averaging credit under the New Jersey gross income tax. On May 13, 2013, the bill was released from the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

 

A-3857 (Singleton) Requires the state to reimburse certain municipalities for foregone property tax revenue resulting from the veterans' property tax exemption. On June 20, 2013, the bill was withdrawn from the files. 

 

S-1657 (Van Drew) Authorizes property tax deferment for deployed military personnel. On May 20, 2013, the bill was released from the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee and is awaiting Senate vote.

 

Workers’ Compensation

A-4014 (Rumana) Concerns proof of workers' compensation coverage with certain legally required annual reports of employers. On June 20, 2013, the bill passed in the Assembly (75-0-0).