Capitol Report

Capitol Report

July 6, 2020

Senate passes bill to remove immigration status for professional and occupational licenses

The New Jersey Senate advanced a bill that would remove proof of lawful presence in the United States as a requirement to obtain a professional or occupational license. S-2455 (Pou)/A-4225 (Mukherji) permits immigrants who are otherwise qualified to obtain professional and occupational licenses to obtain them. The New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA) supports the legislation as a key to advancing New Jersey’s workforce, providing support to fill labor shortages and providing expertise.

“In the midst of the pandemic our state extended emergency licenses to qualified men and women that call New Jersey home, but have not been able to work due to their immigration status,” said Senator Nellie Pou, who sponsored the bill. “These frontline workers stepped up when our state needed them the most, and they should be able to take their exam and be licensed professionals, regardless of their immigration status, even after we defeat the virus.”

The measure would permit individuals to obtain licenses for nursing, physical therapy, teaching and similar occupations and professions. The bill passed the Senate 26–11 and is pending in the Assembly Regulated Professions Committee.

Arbitration bill to protect non-teaching school staff awaits governor’s approval

The Legislature sent to the governor S-993 (Greenstein)/A-631 (Caputo), which would provide non-teaching employees of local, county or regional school districts, as well as boards or commissions, the right to dispute disciplinary action through binding arbitration. The NJSBA supported the bill, believing it provides more inclusion and opportunity by expanding the availability of binding arbitration.

“School employees who do not directly teach students are also essential to our public education system. Bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers and many other staff members make critical contributions to school functionality and help provide our children with a well-rounded educational experience,” said Assemblyman Ralph Caputo and Assemblywoman Mila Jasey in a joint statement. “Yet despite their essential roles, they have not received the same protections as teachers. That’s why this bill will offer them the option of a neutral, third-party arbitrator to help determine any disciplinary action taken against them is fair and necessary. This is an equitable way to ensure employment protections.”

The bill was first introduced 20 years ago and was vetoed by Governor Chris Christie in 2013. It currently awaits the governor’s signature. 

Permit Extension Act gets concurrence from Legislature, awaits governor’s final OK

Governor Phil Murphy conditionally vetoed S-2346 (Sarlo)/A-3919 (Wirths), which extends certain permits, approvals, and deadlines during the COVID-19 emergency. The NJSBA had urged amendments to the bill to provide definitive timelines to the extensions, specifically with regard to applications under the Municipal Land Use Law (MLUL), to provide clarity and predictability in land use applications. Those amendments were included in the conditionally vetoed legislation.

“While I strongly support the bill’s goal of providing businesses impacted by the pandemic with the flexibility and tools they need to support the state’s economic development and recovery, I am concerned that the length of the extension period contemplated in the bill could inadvertently undermine this worthy objective,” said Governor Murphy in his conditional veto message.

Both houses concurred with the governor’s concerns and revised the legislation. The changes included tying the extension to the public health emergency and not the state of emergency, shortening the extension period, and extending the timelines within which a municipal agency could grant or deny applications under the MLUL.

The bill awaits the governor’s final signoff.

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.