Capitol Report

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January 13, 2020

Lame duck legislative session plows forward; NJSBA tracks key measures in Trenton this week

As the end of the lame duck legislative session drew to a close, the New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA) weighed in on auto insurance, child support and other issues.

njsba sounds off on bill to end insurance fraud

The NJSBA voiced significant concerns in testimony on a bill that would overturn the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision placing liability for claims by an innocent third party on an insurance company that underwrites a fraudulent policy. S-1732 (Cryan)/A-2092 (Lagana) sets out to clarify that a violation of the New Jersey Insurance Fraud Prevention Act results in the loss of motor vehicle liability insurance coverage, and that innocent persons who are injured have recourse under uninsured motorist coverage or from the Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment Fund. If passed, the bill would allow insurance companies to disclaim coverage for fraud and turn away innocent third parties to collect from these other two funds.

The bill is a response to the New Jersey Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Citizens United Reciprocal Exchange v. Perez, 233 N.J. 143, 151 (2015). In that case, the Court reaffirmed the notion that an insurer does not escape liability to innocent third-party members of the public whose protection is a paramount concern of the no-fault system, even when the policy is rescinded due to material misrepresentations of the insured.

NJSBA Trustee Craig Hubert testified before the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee to voice the NJSBA’s opinion that the legislation would penalize an innocent passenger or person injured by the driver of an automobile as a result of the fraudulent actions of individuals over whom they had no control.

The bill was voted out of committee and awaits a vote in the Senate and Assembly.

Higher Education Citizenship Equality Act heads to governor’s desk  

The Senate voted out a bill that would provide equal access to college opportunities for New Jersey students who are citizens, but whose parents are undocumented. The NJSBA supported A-3836 (Gusciora)/S-700 (Ruiz), which would make students who are classified as dependents eligible for in-state tuition and financial aid such as scholarships, loans, and grants, if they meet certain criteria.

The NJSBA recommended an amendment to follow federal guidelines in clarifying that non-citizens who can provide evidence from the Immigration and Naturalization Service that they are in the United States for reasons other than a temporary purpose, with the intention of becoming a citizen or permanent resident, are eligible as well, if they meet the other criteria enunciated in the bill for the benefits described.

The bill awaits the governor’s signature.

Filial responsibility bill heads to governor

The NJSBA supported S-2802 (Diegnan), which would repeal filial responsibility laws in New Jersey.

Filial responsibility laws were enacted in 45 states based on the colonial idea that children should be responsible for their parents. Since then, federal benefits such as Medicaid and Medicare, which provide basic medical care for seniors, regardless of financial standing, have been enacted. Federal law also prohibits states from considering any individual other than a person’s spouse when determining their eligibility for these assistance programs. Similarly, long-term care facilities are prohibited from requiring third-party payment as a condition of a person’s admission.

The NJSBA believes this legislation would eliminate confusion caused by these outdated federal statutes and allow practitioners to clearly and unequivocally advise clients about their rights and responsibilities in seeking appropriate care for a parent or spouse in need of assistance.

Community service bill awaits governor’s sign-off

S-3332 (Rice)/A-1988 (McKeon) would establish programs that allow certain applicants to perform community service instead of paying motor vehicle surcharges. Eligible applicants would have to be unemployed, be determined to be financially unable to pay the motor vehicle surcharge, and be enrolled in a job training or education program.

The NJSBA supported the legislation because it believes it provides fairness to those who have limited financial means to pay motor vehicle surcharges.

Khayla Dixon and Hayley Slusser contributed to this report.

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.