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

Capitol Report

June 24, 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.62 (NJSBA opposes) Provides surviving spouses of certain fire and police personnel who die in the line of duty with workers' compensation for the entire period of survivorship. On June 13, 2013, the governor signed this bill into law. (S-1469)

 

P.L.2013, c.65 Repeals and replaces Chapters 1 and 7 of the Uniform Commercial Code and revises various additional provisions of the code. On June 13, 2013, the governor signed this bill into law. (A-1888)

 

NJSBA RECENT ACTION IN TRENTON

 

Criminal Law

S-436 (Sacco) (NJSBA opposes) Expands the DNA database to include samples from disorderly persons. On June 13, 2013, the bill was released from the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee with amendments and is awaiting Senate vote.

 

Family Law

S-2814 (Vitale) (NJSBA opposes) Permits adoptees and certain others to obtain the adoptee's original birth certificate and other related information. On June 13, 2013, the bill was released from the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee and is awaiting Senate vote.

 

The NJSBA Board of Trustees, Legislative Committee and Family Law Section all voted to oppose this legislation, believing the bill amends the law to allow adult adopted persons access to their birth certificate through a rather administratively convoluted process. In addition, the bill fails to allow the birth parent who places a child for adoption prior to the date of enactment adequate opportunity to prevent disclosure of the name(s) of the birth parent.

 

The NJSBA has reviewed this and other prior versions of the bill over many years. Historically, the state bar has supported mutual-consent adoption registries and adult adoptee access to the original birth certificate, if made prospective in its application. Given the provisions in this bill, the NJSBA has strong objections, listed as follows: the bill disregards the psychology of adoption; the bill conflicts with the Safe Haven Infant Protection Act; 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 are unrealistic; 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 whom this bill applies to, particularly those who have already placed their babies up for adoption, to learn about the details of such a new law in time to protect their privacy; and, the bill provides inadequate funding to inform birth parents of the change in the law.

 

The NJSBA 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. The state bar feels this is why alternative legislation, like A-3746 sponsored by Assemblyman Peter Barnes III, is a better way to address the issue.

 

Judicial Administration

A-3308 (Barnes III) / S-2207 (Sweeney) (NJSBA supports) Authorizes the Judiciary to revise or supplement fees, subject to limitations, to fund the e-court information system and Legal Services of New Jersey (LSNJ); requires a review and reporting on fees and expenditures of such fees. On June 10, 2013, NJSBA Trustee and Legislative Committee Chair Fruqan Mouzon testified in support of the legislation before the Assembly Judiciary Committee. On June 17, 2013, the Assembly Budget Committee released the bill with amendments to shift the funding priority from the Judiciary first to Legal Services of New Jersey first. The bill now awaits Assembly vote.

 

The NJSBA Board of Trustees; Legislative Committee; Consumer Protection Law Committee; Dispute Resolution Section; Family Law Section; Insurance Defense Committee; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Section; and Pro Bono Committee voted to support this legislation, believing the breadth of the fee increases have been reduced, and the focus of such increases has been squarely placed upon its purpose—funding both the Judiciary’s e-court expansion and increased funding for legal services. The NJSBA would prefer funding for these enterprises would come directly from the general treasury, and urges that future funding increases would be paid for in this manner. However, the state bar understands the difficult economic circumstances facing the state, the dire financial needs confronting the Judiciary and LSNJ and the adverse consequences attendant to failing to act at this time.

 

This bill, in addition to providing safeguards, assures the funds are used for the purposes for which they are dedicated. A regular update is provided to the Legislature and a public hearing is held to gauge the impact of proposed fee increases, and thus the continued need for the fees is periodically examined by the Supreme Court and the Legislature, making certain the increases remain tied to the economic circumstances. 

 

Land Use Law   

A2586 (Riley)/S-1534 (Sarlo) (NJSBA opposes) Equalizes the standing of private and public colleges before land use agencies. On June 13, 2013, the bill was transferred to the Assembly Budget Committee. On June 17, 2013, NJSBA Land Use Law Section officer Anne Studholme appeared to testify in opposition before the Assembly Budget Committee. The bill was held.  

 

The New Jersey State Bar Association’s Board of Trustees, Legislative Committee, Local Government Law Section and Land Use Law Sections voted to oppose this legislation, believing the law seeks to exempt private colleges from compliance with the Municipal Land Use Law. Private colleges have been deemed to be inherently beneficial uses, and already receive special treatment under the law. However, the state bar believes freeing them from all Municipal Land Use Law requirements is bad public policy that will adversely impact surrounding property owners and will undermine a community’s zoning and planning regimen. Additionally, permitting unrestrained development of private colleges will have a negative impact on the citizens and communities they serve.

 

The NJSBA also recognizes that private universities are valuable members of the community, and contribute to the educational welfare of the state. However, without binding municipal land use board review these institutions could expand and/or locate in ways that could have enormous negative impact on communities and their land use planning.

 

Additionally, the Municipal Land Use Law requires private property owners to seek and obtain approvals from the local land use board before developing land, except in instances of single- and two-family housing. This requirement is intended to provide for the orderly development of land in accordance with the planning goals and ordinances adopted by the municipality where the property is situated.

 

In the NJSBA’s opinion, the effect of this legislation is not limited to those New Jersey municipalities that currently are home to private universities. Every municipality, indeed every property owner, would be at risk for future unwanted university uses in inappropriate locations with unsuitable density. Further, the legislation could encourage other private, nonprofit entities, such as hospitals or treatment facilities, to seek similar exemptions from local zoning, creating even more disruption to the goals of the master plan and ordinances.

 

PENDING LEGISLATION

 

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-1191 (Lesniak) Allows 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 13, 2013, the bill was transferred to the Assembly Budget Committee and on June 17, 2013, the bill was released from the Assembly Budget Committee, with amendments and is awaiting Assembly vote.  

 

Judicial Administration

A-3329 (Wisniewski)/S-2184 (Van Drew) Authorizes 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) 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.

 

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).

 

Municipal Court Practice

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

 

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 is awaiting Assembly voice vote.

 

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.

 

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.