Capitol Report

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August 5, 2019

NJSBA tracking several measures awaiting gubernatorial action

A number of bills are still awaiting final action from the governor after landing on his desk following a flurry of activity before the Legislature adjourned for the summer. They include proposals the NJSBA is monitoring because they have the potential to impact practice areas, including land use, tax, elder and personal injury law.

HAINES FALLOUT

Two of the bills still on the governor’s desk seek to address the Court’s decision in Haines v. Taft, issued last spring. There, the Court concluded that litigants are prohibited from recovering uncompensated medical expenses above the purchased personal injury protection (PIP) limits in an automobile accident, citing to the legislative history of New Jersey’s No-Fault Law. The New Jersey State Bar Association supports S-2432/A-5371 (Scutari/Downey) and S-3963/A-5639 (Scutari/Downey), to the extent they allow the recovery of and apply the PIP fee schedule to such expenses, and prohibit balance billing.

COMMERCIAL PROPERTIES

Vacant or under-utilized commercial properties will have the opportunity for a makeover under S-1583/A-1700 (Cruz-Perez/Dancer), which amends the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law to allow municipalities to declare such properties in need of redevelopment. That has the potential of triggering other redevelopment tools, such as tax exemptions and abatements that can be offered to private sector partners to retool the blighted properties. The NJSBA supports the measure as an effective tool for municipalities to return vacant and abandoned properties to economic use.

TECH UPGRADE

Medicaid and NJ FamilyCare applicants will benefit from the technological improvements proposed under S-499/A-4569 (Vitale/Downey). That bill will allow the commissioner of human services to develop an electronic system to track information about applications and eligibility determinations for the program more accurately, and identify problem areas that need to be addressed. The NJSBA supports the measure as it is anticipated that it will benefit those in need of assistance from the programs.

TAX APPEALS

The NJSBA believes two other bills on the governor’s desk are unnecessary. S-2673/A-2004 (Diegnan/Karabinchak) would allow the repayment of excess property taxes following a successful tax appeal where the owner of any non-residential property is due over $100,000 to be paid over a three-year period. It does not permit the same three-year time period to apply for nonresidential property taxpayers who owe the municipality money following a successful reverse tax appeal—such payment would be due and owing within 60 days pursuant to existing case law.

While the bill purports to ameliorate funding problems plaguing some municipalities, the NJSBA believes it is unnecessary since most appeals are settled under similar payment arrangements anyway. The association, along with a coalition of industry stakeholders, urged amendments to the bill, including clarification that the interest owed on the balance includes the unpaid balance throughout the repayment period; to ensure the same time period applies to reverse appeals; and to increase the threshold to $1 million.

ZONING IN ON ZONING

Similarly, S-3212/A-4741 (Ruiz/Pintor Marin) would permit municipalities to establish temporary supplemental zoning boards of adjustment to address application backlogs. The association does not believe application backlogs are a widespread, insurmountable problem. Further, the NJSBA believes this proposed solution will create additional concerns, such as untrained and inexperienced zoning boards considering applications with little guidance, and applicants engaging in strategic maneuvering to trigger a temporary board review to obtain a particular outcome.

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. 

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