Capitol Report

Capitol Report

July 4, 2022

Legislature sends bills on auto insurance, police licensing, medical records to governor

The Legislature met for the last time before its summer break to vote on the budget and to pass bills affecting auto insurance, obtaining medical records, foreclosures, and a number of other issues of note to the New Jersey State Bar Association.

Disclosure of policy limits

The Legislature sent the governor A4293 (Mukherji)/S2843 (Scutari) that would fix a statute recently amended that requires disclosure of policy limits upon request by an attorney. The NJSBA took a position on the bill in the previous session to ensure disclosure is made to all attorneys and to notify the insured that a request was made.

Those amendments were not made in the final law last session and were not considered this year. The NJSBA will reiterate to the governor its request for these amendments, as well as amendments to ensure that disclosure be limited to policies in effect on the date of the loss.

Increases minimums of liability, UM and UIM coverage

The Legislature passed A4291 (Greenwald)/S481 (Scutari) that would increase the minimum coverage limits over the next four years. The controversial bill met with strong opposition from several groups with concerns that the bill would increase auto insurance costs.

Senate President Nicholas Scutari, a prime sponsor on the bill, voiced concerns about the impact of the current minimums on drivers because of the unpaid medical bills resulting from the lower coverage amounts statutorily required. The NJSBA monitored this bill but did not take an official position on it.

Community Wealth Preservation Program

The Legislature sent A793 (Timberlake)/S1427 (Gill) to the governor. The proponents of the bill sought to make it easier for family members or low-income buyers to purchase foreclosed homes. The bill amends the process of sheriff’s sales and foreclosures.

The NJSBA sought amendments to this bill regarding the “upset price” that is announced in advance of the sheriff’s sale, which is set at 50% of the total cost owed to a lender. The upset price is the minimum price of a property offered at an auction or public sale. The NJSBA cautioned sponsors that setting the upset price announcement at 50% of the total cost owed does not create an actual opportunity to bid on the property for this amount because lenders will continue to bid to the upset price, leading to futile bidding between the announced upset price and the actual upset price.

The sponsors have pledged to work with the NJSBA and other stakeholders to address these concerns. The bill awaits the governor’s action, which could include a veto or conditional veto to consider amendments or passage.

Limits fees for copies of medical and billing records

A3656 (Stanley)/S2253 (Scutari) that would clarify amendments recently passed on access of medical records has again been sent to the governor’s office. The bill amends N.J.S. 26:2H-5n to clarify that the caps on costs for patient and medical records to patients or the patients’ authorized representative be imposed exclusive of search fees. The bill does not cap request from authorized third parties such as the defense, self-insureds, or defense counsel. The bill also limits “authorized representatives” to auto insurers.

The NJSBA urged amendments to the bill to apply the caps to all of the parties authorized to access these records, to amend the definition of “authorized representative” to include all insurers, to clarify the definition of the universe of records subject to production under this section, and to ensure that the bill conforms to the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

These amendments were not incorporated into the bill sent to the governor, but the NJSBA continues to pursue these amendments with the governor.

Licensing of law enforcement officers

The Legislature passed A4194 (Reynolds-Jackson)/S2742 (Greenstein) that would require police officers to be licensed and to comply with ongoing training requirements. The bill authorizes the Police Training Commission to promulgate regulations to implement the licensing requirements as well as training curricula, due process procedures, and other issues related to licensing.

The NJSBA’s Commission on Racial Equity in the Law (COREL) recommended this as one of the strategies to combat anti-Black racism in the legal system and in the practice of law. The NJSBA did not take an official position on the bill but supports the concept of the bill. If the bill is signed by the governor, the NJSBA will continue to monitor the promulgation of rules and regulations.

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.