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

Capitol Report

September 3, 2012

 

This is a status report on recently passed and pending legislation, regulations, gubernatorial nominations and/or appointments of interest to lawyers. The report may also include information about appearances of NJSBA representatives before legislative committees, and the involvement of the NJSBA as amicus in appellate court matters. The government affairs department of the association compiles the report. Following each bill number is the sponsor’s name, the NJSBA position, if any, bill description and status. Full and previous versions of the Capitol Report with links to related text are available online at www.njsba.com.

 

Special Edition

This special edition of the Capitol Report is the fifth of a series of reports summarizing the progress of NJSBA priority legislation since the beginning of the current legislative session.

 

GAY, LESBIAN, BISEXUAL AND TRANSGENDER RIGHTS

 

S-1 (PDF) (Weinberg) (NJSBA supports) Enacts the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act. The NJSBA strongly supports this legislation, believing it is in keeping with the letter and spirit of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s Oct. 25, 2006, decision in Lewis v. Harris, 188 N.J. 415 (2006), and the New Jersey Constitution. The NJSBA believes the civil union law created a convoluted, burdensome and flawed statutory scheme that fails to create for same-sex couples the same rights and remedies provided to heterosexual married couples as required by the Lewis v. Harris decision. As a result, the NJSBA continues to believe the civil union law violates the New Jersey Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. The civil union law created a separate, inequitable and unnecessarily complex legal scheme, and the NJSBA remains unconvinced the law satisfies the Supreme Court’s determination that "the unequal dispensation of rights and benefits to committed same-sex partners can no longer be tolerated."

Status: On Feb. 21, the governor’s conditional veto was received in the Senate, encouraging the Legislature to allow New Jerseyans to decide on this issue through referendum.

SCR-79 (PDF) (Cardinale)/ACR-39 (PDF) (McHose) (NJSBA opposes) Proposes a constitutional amendment to provide that only the union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as marriage. The NJSBA opposes this bill because it would inject discrimination and bias in the New Jersey Constitution. Article I of the New Jersey Constitution grants “rights and privileges” to every person, providing a broad and sweeping declaration of freedom and liberty that has been interpreted to include both substantive rights and equal protection guarantees. SCR-11/ACR-14 would imply that these same rights and privileges are not available to gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual couples. The purpose of Article I is to protect liberty, not to limit its exercise to a certain subset of the people.

Status:
Both bills are pending review in the Senate Judiciary Committee and Assembly Judiciary Committee, respectively.

GOVERNMENT AND PUBLIC SECTOR

 

SCR-91 (PDF) (Weinberg)/ACR-116 (PDF) (Johnson) (NJSBA opposes) Proposes a constitutional amendment authorizing a statute transferring probation functions from the Judiciary to State Parole Board. The NJSBA opposes this bill because the probation department’s enforcement of child support is currently embedded in the court system and this would create economic issues between the two branches of government.

 

Status: Both bills are pending review in the Senate Judiciary Committee and Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee, respectively.

 

A-1306 (PDF) (Greenwald) (NJSBA opposes) Authorizes county surrogates to establish or expand programs to provide information to law enforcement officers, firefighters and first aid squad members concerning the preparation of wills, living wills and powers of attorney. The NJSBA opposes this bill because it is unclear, and under one possible interpretation may cause harm to the public by encouraging the unauthorized practice of law.

Status:
The bill is pending review in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

A-2794 (PDF) (McKeon) (NJSBA opposes) Establishes specific provisions and procedures for any government records request made pursuant to P.L.1963, c.73 (C.47:1A-1 et seq.) as amended and supplemented, and commonly known as the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), submitted to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). While the NJSBA agrees the DEP should recover the costs associated with complying with OPRA requests, and in particular fees related to “extraordinary expenditures of time and effort,” there is concern the bill may have an adverse effect on the Division of Law's workload by shifting routine records requests from OPRA procedures in the DEP to "discovery.”

Status:
The bill is pending review in the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee.

HEALTH AND HOSPITAL LAW

A-1835 (PDF) (Conaway) (NJSBA opposes) Provides for the designation of surrogates to make healthcare decisions for certain patients and the decision-making process for patients without surrogates; establishes a demonstration program for transition of isolated patients from inpatient care to post-acute care. The NJSBA opposes this bill because it shifts the burden of proof to the vulnerable patient and raises significant Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act issues.

 

Status: The bill is pending review in the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee.

 

INTERNET AND COMPUTER LAW

 

S-60 (PDF) (Codey) (NJSBA supports with amendments) Enacts the Social Networking Safety Act. The NJSBA supports the bill with amendments.

Status: The bill is pending review in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

JUDICIAL ADMINISTRATION

 

S-185 (PDF) (Connors)/A-648 (PDF) (Rumpf) (NJSBA opposes) Requires the court to consider the results of a domestic violence assessment before dissolving certain domestic violence restraining orders. The NJSBA opposes this bill because judges should retain the discretion to determine whether an assessment is appropriate, while considering the sensitive nature of a case. Further, the NJSBA objects to mandatory psychiatric assessments prior to dissolution of a restraining order.

Status:
Both bills are pending review in the Senate Judiciary Committee and Assembly Judiciary Committee, respectively.

S-989 (PDF) (Greenstein)/A-2800 (PDF) (McKeon) (NJSBA opposes) Establishes a special environmental prosecutor. The NJSBA lauds the state’s efforts to identify and prosecute criminal violations of the New Jersey’s environmental laws, but opposes this legislation because it is unnecessary, unaffordable, and wrongfully allows politics to drive law enforcement priorities.

Status:
Both bills are pending review in the Senate Environment and Energy Committee and Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee, respectively.