The New Jersey Legislature is rapidly approaching the June 30 deadline for passage of the state budget and the unofficial start to the pre-election summer recess. This time can be highly unpredictable. But with stability predicted for state revenues and an election for governor, State Senate and General Assembly coming up, the expectation is that this budget season will be relatively straightforward.
The NJ State PBA is currently engaged in or has expressed significant concerns with several bills that will impact law enforcement in New Jersey. Some of these would have serious consequences if passed. As we look ahead to the budget season rush to move bills before the summer recess, the State PBA is directly involved in supporting or opposing the bills noted below (with sponsors).
This is by no means a comprehensive list. In fact, we are currently monitoring or working on dozens of bills out of the nearly 600 in our tracking portfolio. But several of the following will continue to take a serious level of attention during this period.
Assembly Bill 4656/Senate Bill 2963 (McKnight/Rice): Authorizes creation of local civilian review boards to review police operations and conduct. During the past few months, we have provided the sponsor and Assembly leadership several proposals that outline our strong opposition to several sections of the bill, especially providing review boards with subpoena powers to start their own IA investigations. The bill has been held in the Assembly and Senate.
Assembly Bill 5590/Senate Bill 3819 (Mazzeo/Sweeney): Extends period of municipal stabilization and recovery, with certain modifications, under the Municipal Stabilization and Recovery Act. The legislation will extend the state takeover of Atlantic City for another four years. However, we have successfully obtained amendments to the law that will restore Civil Service and PERC rights to Atlantic City Local 24 members and other employees. This was critical to PBA members in Atlantic City. As this goes to press the bills are expected to move quickly through the State Legislature.
Senate Bill 1322/Assembly Bill 4058 (Turner/Wirths): Prohibits law enforcement agencies from considering number of arrests made and citations issued when evaluating a law enforcement officer’s professional performance. We remain extremely concerned with the imposition of quotas disguised as performance evaluation tools. Locals continue to report directives or veiled threats to members regarding writing more tickets. We continue to push this legislation to protect the membership and the public from any inappropriate directives regarding ticket writing. The Senate has passed the bill and we are working with Assembly leaders to move the bill in the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.
Senate Bill 2656/Assembly Bill 5301(Weinberg/Reynolds-Jackson): Requires access to law enforcement disciplinary records as government records. While the New Jersey courts continue to consider whether IA records are subject to OPRA, we have continued to express our opposition to legislation that would open IA records to the public. We have shared our concerns and recommendations with the bill sponsor and the bills remain held in the Senate and Assembly.
Senate Bill 3690/Assembly Bill 5696 (Scutari/Quijano): Expands modified basic training program to allow county corrections officers to be certified as county prosecutor’s detectives or investigators and county or municipal police officers. With the pending closure of the Union County Correctional facility and threats to county correctional police jobs across the state, the sponsors have proposed the legislation to create GAP training for these officers to transfer to other law enforcement agencies more easily. The State PBA supports the bill. As this goes to press, the bills are scheduled for movement in both houses.
Senate Bill 3730 (Gill): Eliminates qualified immunity defense for law enforcement officers. Perhaps the hottest topic in the police reform debate surrounds calls to abolish protections for law enforcement officers under the judicial theory of qualified immunity. The U.S. Senate is currently debating this issue. and it is one of the measures that has stalled police reform legislation at the federal level. The introduction of a qualified immunity bill in New Jersey is therefore not a surprise. Ending qualified immunity protections for law enforcement will expose officers to civil lawsuits for countless interactions with the public. It will cripple law enforcement and endanger officers. We will strongly oppose the legislation moving forward.