Senate and Assembly Voting Sessions Move Key Bills

In the last session before Election Day, the New Jersey Senate and Assembly voted on several bills including those related to school bus safety, workers compensation and firearms. Two NJSBA-supported bills also moved closer to the Governor’s desk just before all eyes turn to the returns on Election Day.

A package of bills focused on school bus safety headed to the Governor’s desk. They were prompted by a deadly school bus accident on Route 80 earlier this year. The bills are focused on vetting drivers more regularly and imposing penalties for drivers who have been issued motor vehicle violations. Other bills require stricter reporting guidelines for drivers whose licenses have been suspended or revoked, school bus drivers to submit medical certificates to the Motor Vehicle Commission to prove continuing physical fitness to drive a school bus, and to comply with certain federal regulations related to school bus operations. The association took no position on these bills.

The Senate voted 26-12-0 to pass S1967 (Sweeney), which would provide annual cost-of-living increases in weekly workers’ compensation benefits for public safety workers who become totally and permanently disabled from a workplace injury.

The NJSBA initially opposed the bill, seeking an amendment to preserve the reverse offset, which would reduce the benefit of a worker who is also receiving disability insurance. That amendment was made. However because changes to the federal law may affect this amendment, the association continues to monitor the bill’s movement in the General Assembly, where it has not yet been heard in committee.

The state Senate unanimously passed a bill that would develop an information technology platform to uniformly collect, process and track benefits applications under the Medicaid program. The sponsors of S499 (Vitale) said it aims to improve the current system for eligibility determination for the Medicaid and NJ FamilyCare programs, a move that the NJSBA supports because it promotes uniformity and predictability in these applications. Its assembly counterpart, A4569 (Downey), is pending in the Assembly Human Services Committee. The Association continues to monitor its progress.

On the state Assembly side, A2869 (Jones) was passed by a vote of 77-0 to repeal a law that established the optional will registry. The NJSBA supports the measure because the registry is not widely used and causes additional work for surrogates. There is no companion bill.

Federal Election Update – Democrats Enjoy “Safe” Predictions And Anticipate Gains in Republican Strongholds

On Election Day, New Jersey will vote on the fate of United States Senator Robert Menendez, who has a strong challenger in pharmaceutical magnate Bob Hugin. Health care has been a leading topic of discussion this election season. Menendez is being identified with helping draft the original Obamacare bill and Hugin is being identified with high pharmaceutical drug costs.

On the congressional level, many New Jersey races have been predictable given the district breakdowns, but with recent events fueling the narrative, only one Republican, Chris Smith in the 4th Congressional district, enjoys a “safe” status while six of the seven Democratic incumbents enjoy “safe” or “solid” status, according to a recent release from Cooks Political Report. The report labeled Josh Gottheimer as a “likely Democratic seat.” The Republican toss-ups include:

Congressional District 2:

Democratic state Senator Jeff Van Drew is vying for the open seat being vacated by Frank LoBiondo, a 24-year Republican incumbent. He is facing attorney and former Atlantic City Councilman Seth Grossman and enjoyed a lead in the polls to turn this seat blue, at the time of publication.

Congressional District 3:

Republican incumbent Tom MacArthur is facing a strong challenge from Democrat Andy Kim, a former diplomat and director of Iraq for the National Security Council under President Obama. MacArthur is widely recognized as a strong ally of President Donald Trump. The latest polls showed the two in a statistical dead heat.

Congressional District 7:

Republican incumbent Leonard Lance is in a tight battle with former Obama State Department official Tom Malinowski. Recent polling showed the two in a statistical dead heat, with Malinowski taking a slight lead.

Congressional District 11:

Republican state Senator Jay Webber, a lawyer, is vying for the open seat left by 12-term incumbent Rodney P. Frelinghuysen against Democrat Mikie Sherrill. Sherrill is a former Navy helicopter pilot and former federal prosecutor. She has never served in public office. Recent polls showed Sherrill with a double-digit lead over Webber, at the time of publication.

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 learn more, visit njsba.com.