FOP LEGISLATIVE UPDATE FOR JUNE 2015
(Prepared by Peter Guzzo , NJ State FOP Lobbyist)
The following are key pieces of legislation either pending in the New Jersey Legislature or recently enacted into law::
1. A-3493/S-2564 (Prime Sponsors: Assemblyman Gordon Johnson-Dem/Senator Linda Greenstein-Dem): This bill requires police departments of institutions of higher education to adopt the Attorney General Guidelines on internal affairs policies and procedures. Under current law, every law enforcement agency in the State is required to adopt and implement guidelines consistent with those governing the “Internal Affairs Policy and Procedures” of the Police Management manual promulgated by the Police Bureau of the Division of Criminal Justice in the Department of Law and Public Safety. This bill requires police departments of higher education institutions to adopt and implement these guidelines. This bill (an FOP Initiative) was signed into law on May 7, 2015 as P.L. 2015, c. 52.
2. A-4062/S-2851 (Prime Sponsors: Assemblyman Troy Singleton-Dem/Senator Diane Allen-Rep): This bill ensures a six-month continuation of health care benefits for the dependents of a deceased police officer, firefighter, or emergency medical technician who dies within 24 hours of going off duty. Under current law, when an active public safety employee dies, but not in the line of duty, the employee’s family medical coverage terminates upon the death, because the employment has terminated. In order to ensure that the surviving spouse and dependents are not charged an excessive premium for the six-month medical coverage extension, the bill requires the employer to negotiate an extended coverage provision with the medical insurance carrier.. A-4062 is ready for passage in the Assembly. S-2851 is in the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee. The FOP supports this bill.
3. A-4109 (Prime Sponsors Assemblyman Ronald Dancer-Rep/Assemblywoman Annette Quijano-Dem): This bill, to be known and cited as the “Santiago/Ramos/Liu Police Protection Act,” requires any law enforcement agency in this State purchasing and using a new motor vehicle to have tinted windows which permit only the minimum lights transmittance as may be required pursuant to federal law, rule or regulation. The bill applies only to vehicles clearly and conspicuously marked as those used for law enforcement purposes. The window tinting requirement would apply to law enforcement vehicles purchased on or after the first day of the fourth month next following the date of the bill’s enactment. The title of the bill honors Jersey City police officer Melvin Santiago and New York City police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, all of whom were murdered in 2014. The bill is in the Assembly law and Public safety Committee. The bill is an FOP Initiative.
4. A-4343/S-2888 (Prime Sponsors Assemblyman Gary Schaer-Dem/Speaker Vincent Prieto-Dem/Senator Shirley Turner-Dem): This bill requires each county and municipal law enforcement department to develop and adopt a cultural diversity training course that includes instruction and exercises designed to promote positive interaction with the racial, ethnic and religious and various other diversities within their respective communities. Each municipal and county law enforcement officer would be required to participate in the course as part of in-service training. A-4343 passed in the Assembly and is in the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee, along with S-2888. The FOP supports the bill.
5. S-264/A-1347 (Prime Sponsors Senator Linda Greenstein-Dem/Assemblyman Joe Egan-Dem): This bill, known as the “Thomas P. Canzanella Twenty First Century First Responders Protection Act”, creates a rebuttable presumption of workers’ compensation coverage for public safety workers and other employees if in the course of employment a public safety worker is exposed to a serious communicable disease or a biological warfare or epidemic-related pathogen or biological toxin. S-264 passed in the Senate and is ready for passage in the Assembly, along with A-13467. The FOP supports the bill.
6. S-929/A-1908 (Prime Sponsors Senator Steve Sweeney-Dem/Assemblyman John Burzichelli-Dem): This bill provides, from July1, 2016 forward, an annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) in the weekly workers’ compensation benefit rate for any worker, including a law enforcement official, who has become totally and permanently disabled from a workplace injury at any time after December 31, 1979 and for the surviving dependents of any worker who died from a workplace injury after December 31, 1979. This adjustment is intended to mirror, to the extent possible, the COLA already in place for benefits arising from an injury occurring before 1980. The bill passed in the Legislature and is on the Governor’s desk awaiting his action. The FOP supports the bill.
7. S-1567/A-410 (Prime Sponsors Senator Anthony Bucco-Rep/Assemblyman Anthony Bucco-Rep): This bill directs the New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish a fallen police officer, Sheriff’s officer, EMS worker and firefighter memorial sign program which shall include a process allowing a municipal or law enforcement official or the next of kin of the abovementioned officials who died in the line of duty to apply to the DOT to sponsor a sign memorializing the deceased. All costs associated with the application are to be paid by the applicant. No State or public funds may be used to produce, purchase or erect memorial signs. The DOT may receive gifts, grants or other financial assistance in funding or reimbursing the DOT for the costs associated with the memorial signs. S-1567 is ready for passage in the Senate. A-410 is ready for passage in the Assembly. The FOP supports the bill.
8. S-2583/A-3836 (Prime Sponsors Senator Diane Allen-rep/Assemblyman Greg Coughlin-Dem): Under current law, simple assault is upgraded to aggravated assault if committed against a Department of Corrections employee, county corrections officer, juvenile corrections officer, State juvenile facility employee, juvenile detention staff member, juvenile detention officer, probation officer, or any sheriff, undersheriff or sheriff officer while clearly identifiable as being engaged in their duties. This bill clarifies that simple assault is upgraded to aggravated assault if committed against any of these law enforcement officers or employees because of their status as a staff member, probation officer, corrections employee, undersheriff or other law enforcement officer. This bill is consistent with current State law upgrading simple assault to aggravated assault against a police officer because of his or her status as an officer. The bill passed in the Legislature and is on the Governor’s desk awaiting his action. The FOP supports the bill.
9. S-2649 (Prime Sponsors Senator Shirley Turner-Dem/Senator Linda Greenstein-Dem): This bill establishes a “Police Body Camera Implementation Task Force” to study and make recommendations on the use of body cameras by certain law enforcement officers in the State, including but not limited to requirements for implementation and development of best practices for the use of these cameras and rules for access to and use of body camera recordings. With the FOP support, this bill was introduced as an alternative to a bill which would have mandated body cameras without any study. The 17-member task force includes a representative of the New Jersey State FOP. The bill passed in the Senate and is in the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee. The FOP prefers this bill to mandating body cameras without any study as to their use and regulation.
10. S-2783/A-4265 (Prime Sponsors Senator Richard Codey/Senator Teresa Ruiz/Senator Ronald Rice/Assemblypersons McKeon/Pintor Marin/Jasey/Caputo/Giblin/Tucker/Spencer/Oliver-All Dems): This bill would permit a municipality, county or local units engaged in a shared service agreement for police or fire services to adopt an ordinance prohibiting an applicant from obtaining employment with a municipal, county or regional police department, paid fire department or part-paid fire department unless the applicant agrees to remain a resident of the municipality, county, or region served by the department for the first five years of his employment. The applicant would have six months from the date of employment to begin residing in the municipality, county or region served by the department. The six month period begins upon the applicant beginning official duty, following completion of all requisite training for the position. The bill does not affect the preference systems for resident hires that some municipalities currently have in place. The bill would allow an exception to the residency requirement if any member of the fire department or police department suffers injury, or a threat of injury, to his person, family, or property, committed by another with purpose to: (1) intimidate the member because of his status as a member; (2) manipulate an investigation; or (3) otherwise influence the member to violate his official duty. S-2783 is ready for passage in the Senate. A-4265 is ready for passage in the Assembly. The FOP opposes the bill.