Capitol Report

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March 30, 2020

 

First electronic voting session advances key bills

 

Amid the COVID-19-imposed state-wide lockdown of non-essential businesses, the Assembly acted last Thursday in the first remote voting session authorized by the newly passed law permitting public bodies to meet remotely during a public health emergency or state of emergency. Key bills were advanced that would greatly impact the lives of New Jersey residents and access to justice in the state.

Remote Notary Bill

A-3903 (Downey/Houghtaling/Swain) passed the Assembly with overwhelming support. It would supplant a bill, presently sitting on the governor’s desk, to permit notaries to perform services remotely using communication technology to record the act both visually and audibly. The new bill limits the duration of remote notary services to the duration of the public health emergency and state of emergency declared under Executive Order 103. The bill on the governor’s desk, A-3864, had a 90-day effective date, which would significantly delay any usefulness during the COVID-19 time period. A-3903 removes the waiting period, becoming effective immediately upon the governor’s signature. However, in its current form the bill only permits notaries public to notarize documents remotely, and still excludes wills and codicils; certain Uniform Construction Code (UCC) documents and records governed by a statute, regulation or other rule of law governing adoptions, divorces or other matters of family law.

The New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA) urged the bill’s sponsors and Assembly leadership to consider amendments expanding the legislation to include any officials authorized to perform oaths and affidavits by statute, and to include wills and codicils.

Property Tax Relief

A-3902 (Wimberly/Coughlin/Armato) permits the extension of certain deadlines applicable to local government units under emergency circumstances. The NJSBA supports this measure as part of its overall efforts to extend the deadlines of property tax appeals because it resolves lingering procedural questions about deadlines before the county boards of taxation. The bill empowers the Department of Community Affairs, in consultation with the director of the Division of Taxation, to legally extend the tax deadlines in connection with the county boards. Earlier, the Supreme Court issued an order extending deadlines for property tax appeals before the county boards.

Both bills head to the Senate, which has not yet scheduled a voting session.

Other bills considered by the Assembly include:

 

   A-3900 (Sumter/Chaparro/Quijano)/S-2304 (Sweeney/Scutari/Sumter) expands the scope of the state’s temporary disability insurance (TDI) so workers may obtain TDI or family leave insurance (FLI) benefits by expanding the definition of “serious health condition” to include an illness caused by an epidemic of a communicable disease, a known or suspected exposure to a communicable disease, or efforts to prevent the spread of a communicable disease, and eliminates the current one-week waiting period for disability benefits. The bill heads to the governor for his signature.

   A-3901 (Chiaravalloti/Kennedy/Speight) permits professional and occupational licensing boards to reactivate the licensure of certain people to practice the profession or occupation in New Jersey, as deemed necessary to protect public health, safety and welfare. The bill heads to the Senate.

   A-3904 (Burzichelli/Schepisi/Lampitt) permits the use of virtual or remote instruction to meet the minimum 180-day school year requirement in order to qualify for state aid. The bill heads to the Senate.

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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