June 17, 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.
NJSBA RECENT ACTION IN TRENTON
A-1521 (Burzichelli)/S-2555 (VanDrew) (NJSBA supports) Modifies the process for contested case hearings by the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) with regard to telephone and video conferences, delegation of final decision authority, oral decisions, checklist decisions, electronic filings, and settlements. On June 6, the bill was held in the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee.
The NJSBA’s Board of Trustees, Legislative Committee, Elder and Disability Law Section, Land Use Law Section and Administrative Law Section all voted to strongly support empowering administrative law judges (ALJ) with authority to render a final decision, pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). The NJSBA feels it can no longer support a system of justice wherein a department head, in a contested matter, has the ability to overrule a judge once a decision has been rendered at the conclusion of a hearing. That is currently the situation for attorneys who practice before the OAL, and it unfairly limits an attorney’s ability to fully and properly represent and counsel clients.
A-732 (Eustace)/S-2543 (Beach) (NJSBA supports) Makes it a crime of the third degree to practice psychology, chiropractic or state-certified psychoanalysis without the appropriate license or certification. On June 6, 2013, the bill was released from the Senate Judiciary Committee with amendments and is awaiting Senate vote.
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 other professionals—such as attorneys, the clergy, and court mediation professionals—from coverage under the bill, since they 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 under the original bill.
A-735 (Eustace)/S-1438 (Ruiz) (NJSBA supports) Permits a child who moves out of a school district due to a family crisis to remain enrolled in that district until the end of the school year. On June 6, 2013, the bill was released from the Senate Education Committee with amendments and is awaiting Senate vote.
The NJSBA’s Executive Committee, Legislative Committee and Family Law Section all voted to support as amended this legislation because it will have a minimal impact on the student/child who are going through a transition. The NJSBA does, however, feel the bill should be amended to specifically include “divorce” as a “family crisis.”
S-789 (Weinberg) (NJSBA opposes) Establishes a new standard for a court to grant grandparent or sibling visitation rights under certain circumstances. On June 6, 2013, the bill was released from the Senate Judiciary Committee with amendments and is awaiting Senate vote.
The NJSBA’s Board of Trustees, Legislative Committee and Family Law Section voted to oppose this bill because, although the NJSBA believes the legislation was intended to address recent New Jersey Supreme Court rulings that have curbed the rights of grandparents to visit with their grandchildren, the bill as drafted appears to be vague and overbroad, and as a result may be susceptible to a constitutional challenge.
Municipal Court Practice
A-3598 (Gusciora) / S-2588 (Turner/Scutari) (NJSBA supports) Establishes a conditional dismissal program in municipal court. On June 6, 2013, after testimony from Municipal Court Practice Section chair-elect Barbara Unger, the Senate Judiciary Committee released the bill. The bill was referred to Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for consideration.
The NJSBA’s Board of Trustees, Legislative Committee and Municipal Court Practice Section voted to support this legislation, believing it will correct a longstanding inequity in the municipal court system. Presently, pre-trial intervention (PTI) is only allowed for indictable offenses. Therefore, for example, someone charged with theft over $500 would qualify for PTI, which allows them to be diverted from the criminal system before conviction. However, if the theft charge is less than $500, the individual would not qualify for PTI because it is not an indictable offense. 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.
A-3659 (Barnes III) Revises the definition of "destructive device" to include weapons of 50 caliber or greater. On June 6, 2013, the bill was released from the Assembly and is awaiting the Assembly vote to concur with the Senate amendments.
A-4179 (Mainor)/S-1279 (Turner) Upgrades the penalty for unlawfully transferring a firearm to an underage person. On June 6, 2013, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.
Elder and Disability Law
S-2515 (Norcross) Provides gross income tax credit for certain expenses paid or incurred for care and support of a qualifying senior family member; designated as the Caregiver's Assistance Act. On June 6, 2013, the bill was referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
A-4138 (Mosquera) Prohibits awarding alimony to domestic violence offenders; permits termination of alimony based on a conviction for a crime or offense involving domestic violence. On June 6, 2013, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
A-2182 (Conaway) Creates the Dietitian/Nutritionist Licensing Act. On June 6, 2013, the bill was transferred to the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee.
S-2803 (Rice) Eliminates the requirement that every full-time student at an institution of higher education in New Jersey maintain health insurance coverage. On May 30, 2013, the bill was released from the Senate Higher Education Committee and is awaiting Senate vote.
A-1665 (Johnson)/S-1253 (Vitale) Revises the statutory mental health coverage requirements and requires all health insurers and the State Health Benefits Program (SHBP) to cover treatment for alcoholism and other substance-use disorders under the same terms and conditions as for other diseases or illnesses. On May 6, 2013, the bill was released from the Pension and Health Benefits Review Commission and referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Labor and Employment Law
A-1273 (Coughlin) Requires the SHBP to provide certain information to participating public employers. On June 6, 2013, the bill was released from the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee and is awaiting Senate vote.
A-4014 (Rumana) Requires employees to submit proof of workers' compensation coverage with certain legally required annual reports of employers. On May 6, 2013, the bill was released from the Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee and is awaiting Assembly vote.