New Jersey lawmakers are slated to tackle everything from property tax breaks to student depression to church security during a busy voting session Monday.
It’s the last scheduled voting day of the session in Trenton. Translation for non-political types: Lawmakers are rushing to get priority bills passed, otherwise they’ll have to start all over and reintroduce their bills in the new session that begins Tuesday.
Below are some notable items scheduled for votes Monday. If passed by the Senate and Assembly, which meet separately Monday afternoon, the bills go to Gov. Phil Murphy for a signature or veto.
Property tax deductions for veterans
Veterans who live in New Jersey qualify for a $250 property tax deduction — but only if they served in a time of war or emergency. Some lawmakers think that all veterans should get the deduction no matter when they served, and they’ll vote Monday whether to put the question to voters on the November 2020 ballot.
The effort comes on the heels of a ballot measure last November, which voters approved, and that expanded eligibility to veterans who live in a certain type of retirement community.
Depression screenings in schools
Public school students in 7th through 12th grade would undergo depression screenings each year if this bill is passed. The bill is a response to a report issued last year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said suicides among people between 10 and 24 years old increased 57 percent between 2007 and 2017.
New Jerseyans who purchase electric vehicles would get another perk — an up to $5,000 rebate — if this bill is passed. The bill, seen as an essential tool in curbing air pollution, would also make it easier to charge those vehicles by adding more charging stations, including at apartment complexes and hotels. It also sets benchmarks for NJ Transit buses and non-emergency state-owned cars and small trucks to be electric.
Security funding for churches
New Jersey planned to spend $1 million this fiscal year to provide security to nonprofit organizations, including places of worship and social service providers. Lawmakers want to double it to $2 million, citing an increase of hate crimes across the state.
Lawmakers have rushed to keep vapes and e-cigarettes, and more specifically nicotine, out of the hands of New Jersey children. Bills that ban flavors and limit how much nicotine can be sold — measures opponents said would shut down 250 stores across the state — are scheduled for votes.
The bills were amended after much political back-and-forth in recent weeks, which most notably lead to erasing a provision that banned menthol cigarettes.
Thousands of people flooded the Statehouse to protest a plan to eliminate an exemption for religious reasons to vaccination requirements. Lawmakers who couldn’t get the original bill passed have appeared to reach a compromise: allowing children who attend private schools to be unvaccinated but not allowing children who attend public schools and daycares to skip vaccinations.
Sexual harassment prevention
After allowing it to idle for 22 months, senators are scheduled to vote on a bill establishing a policy prohibiting sexual harassment in the Legislature and mandating training to prevent it. The Assembly passed the bill back in September 2018. The vote follows a report by NJ.com on a culture of sexual harassment and abuse of women working in the state’s political ranks.
Civil asset forfeiture
It may become more difficult for police and prosecutors to keep cash and property they seize from people they suspect used the items in a crime. The Senate will consider a bill that says a person has to first be convicted of a crime before they can take ownership of property tied to a crime, if it’s $1,000 in cash or property worth $10,000 or less. The Assembly passed the measure in May.
Under the current system, or civil asset forfeiture, New Jersey can still keep a person’s property by showing by “a preponderance of the evidence,” or more likely than not, the property was linked to a crime, regardless of the outcome of a criminal trial.
In July, the state will have an online searchable database of property seized across New Jersey that updates quarterly, after Murphy signed a bill mandating transparency requirements Monday. The database will include what was seized, the alleged criminal offense, whether the defendant was charged and what happened in the criminal case, among other details.
Overnight warming shelters would be open more often if this bill is passed by the Assembly. The Code Blue law currently says overnight warming centers must open when the temperature drops to 32 degrees with precipitation or 25 degrees with no precipitation. The bill, which has already been passed in the Senate, eliminates the difference and triggers “Code Blue” — the opening of shelters — at 32 degrees.
Stacey Barchenger is a reporter in the New Jersey Statehouse. For unlimited access to her work covering New Jersey’s Legislature and political power structure, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
Read or Share this story: https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/new-jersey/2020/01/13/vaping-vaccines-and-electric-vehicles-nj-votes-monday/4432870002/