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August 26, 2019

Legislative Roundup: Auto insurance, commercial property tax appeals, and abandoned properties make list of signed legislation

In the typically quiet summer months when the Legislature is on break, all eyes are on Governor Phil Murphy’s office, waiting to see which bills will be signed into law. The governor recently signed a group of bills of interest to members of the New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA).

Auto insurance

The governor signed a pair of bills drafted to clarify a split in the courts resulting from what practitioners consider a controversial decision in the case of Haines v. Taft. S-2432/A-5371 (Scutari/Downey) and S-3963/A-5639 (Scutari/Downey) clarify the Legislature’s intent regarding the application of personal injury protection (PIP) coverage on the recovery of uncompensated medical expenses above the purchased PIP limits in an automobile accident. The NJSBA supported both bills to the extent they allow recovery of and apply the PIP fee schedule to such expenses, and prohibit balance billing. S-2432/A-5371, as drafted, permitted such recovery but was unclear on the application of the PIP fee schedule and balance billing. After several interest groups, including the NJSBA, pointed out these issues, the sponsors drafted clarifying legislation to address the concerns.

Commercial Property Tax Appeals

Despite efforts by key stakeholders, S-2673/A-2004 (Diegnan/Karabinchak) was signed into law. The association voiced concerns about the bill, which permits municipalities to repay property tax overpayments, following successful commercial property tax appeals, over three years. Testifying before the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee, the NJSBA pointed out the inequities of S-2673/A-2004, which would still require commercial businesses that underpay property taxes to pay them to the municipality within the current 60-day period. The NJSBA, which opposed the bill, made recommendations to reduce the repayment period and to equalize the bill to include the reverse tax appeals.

Abandoned Properties

Signed into law was a bill that will address the epidemic of abandoned shopping malls and office parks by permitting them to be designated as commercial sites for redevelopment to qualify for tax incentives. S-1583/A-1700 (Cruz-Perez/Dancer) amends the local redevelopment and housing law to expand the determination of an area in need of redevelopment. The association praised the bill as an effective tool to return vacant and abandoned properties to economic use.

Temporary Supplemental Zoning Boards of Adjustment

The governor also signed S-3212/A-4741 (Ruiz/Pintor Marin), which permits municipalities to establish a supplemental zoning board of adjustment to address any backlogs or influx of appeals and applications a municipality’s permanent zoning board of adjustment may experience. The association opposed the bill, voicing concerns regarding procedural problems and the potential for abuse.

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.