The following items are taken from reports issued by legislators and other items of political concern.
College police
   The Senate has passed legislation sponsored by Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman affording private colleges and their police officers immunity from civil liabilities for damages directly related to the lawful exercise of the officers’ authorized police powers.
   The measure, S2344, would protect the officers from liability from incidents involving the general public if they happen to be on the campus. Current law only offers protection for incidents involving students and faculty and any other “beneficiary” covered under the Charitable Immunity Act.
   ”Officers at private colleges have a myriad of responsibilities like responding to emergencies, enforcing laws and protecting visitors and students,” said Sen. Bateman, R-Somerset, Hunterdon, Mercer and Middlesex. “So long as they are obeying the law and not abusing their powers, officers performing these types of vital public safety functions on campus shouldn’t be held liable for lawsuits and damages that occur as result of their actions. Officers have to be held to extremely high standards, but can’t be held responsible for false claims or incidents that happen outside of their control.”
Probation services
   Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose that proposes a constitutional amendment transferring probation functions from Judiciary to the State Parole Board has cleared the Law and Public Safety Committee.
   The constitutional amendment authorizes the Legislature to statutorily establish a Bureau of Probation in the State Parole Board and transfer all functions, powers, duties and responsibilities concerning probation from the Judiciary to the newly created bureau.
   ”A transfer to the Executive Branch empowers the Legislature to pass laws to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of probation services,” said Assemblywoman McHose, R-Sussex, Warren and Morris. “Lawmakers can augment the probation service by establishing more comprehensive training standards, creating procedures for apprehending offenders and allowing probation officers the means to protect themselves in the most dangerous neighborhoods.”
   In 2001, the Legislature enacted a law to establish a Probation Officer Community Safety Unit consisting of at least 200 probation officers authorized to carry a firearm. The legislation also granted these officers the authority to arrest probationers and enforce the criminal laws of the state.
   In 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional. Assemblywoman McHose’s measure, ACR116, makes the required change to the constitution to address the court’s concerns.
Parole hearings
   Certain victims of serious crimes and their families soon should have the opportunity to witness parole hearings with the Senate’s passage of legislation sponsored by Sen. Kevin O’Toole, R-Bergen, Essex, Morris, Passaic.
   ”Victims are already asked to relive the most traumatic experiences of their lives as part of parole proceedings,” Sen. O’Toole said. “They should not be denied access to hearings that could provide closure or a full understanding of their tragedies.”
   Sen. O’Toole’s S1602 allows injured crime victims and relatives of murder victims the opportunity to witness entire parole hearing proceedings in addition to presenting a written or videotaped statement or presenting testimony at the parole hearing.
   Under current law, prosecutors notify such victims and relatives of the opportunity to present written or videotaped statements to be considered during parole hearings. Those reports may include statements concerning the extent of physical, psychological or emotional harm.
   ”Victims’ suffering and distress intensifies when perpetrators are on the brink of release, up for parole,” Sen. O’Toole said. “For those of us who have not experienced such pain and anguish, we can’t even imagine how important full transparency is for the healing process. I urge the Assembly to pass this bill immediately before this session ends.”
   S1602 is pending before the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee. The New Jersey Crime Victims’ Law Center supports this bill.
Funeral costs
   Legislation sponsored by Gilbert “Whip” L. Wilson, Troy Singleton, Craig J. Coughlin and Celeste M. Riley that would make funeral payments for public safety personnel has been released by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.
   The bill (A1399) authorizes a state contribution to the funeral expenses of police officers, firefighters, first aid, ambulance and rescue squad members and correctional officers whose lives are lost in the line of duty.
   The sponsors note the intention of the bill is to provide a token of public appreciation to the survivors of the brave men and women who risk their lives daily to protect the residents of the state.
   ”These are our first responders and heroes in times of crisis. Extending support to their families in the greatest time of need is the right thing to do to honor their dedication to our communities,” said Assemblyman Wilson, D-Camden, Gloucester.
   ”Our public safety personnel are called upon to handle some of the toughest situations we could ever imagine. It is only fitting to honor their service by easing some of the burden for their families if anything happens to them while on duty,” said Assemblyman Singleton, D-Burlington.
   ”These are individuals who place their lives on the line every day. This legislation would extend a small token of appreciation to those who selflessly serve and protect our communities,” said Assemblyman Coughlin, D-Middlesex.
   ”We have seen them in action during Hurricane Sandy and other moments where we were in need of their skills. They are our communities’ heroes and deserve this legislation for their daily sacrifice,” said Assemblywoman Riley, D-Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem.
   Under the bill’s provisions, the state treasurer would be required to reimburse the actual funeral expenses of these public safety officers in an amount not to exceed $10,000. The bill provides that the reimbursement would be reduced by any amount payable for funeral expenses from worker’s compensation.
   The bill now will go to the Assembly speaker for further consideration.
School holidays
   The state Senate has advanced legislation sponsored by Sen. Anthony Bucco, R-Morris, to give municipalities more time to review defeated school budgets whenever the annual school district elections are postponed due to religious holidays as will happen in 2014.
   ”I’ve worked hard with local government leaders on this one to make sure municipal boards will have enough time to thoroughly review defeated school budgets and determine how much of the people’s property taxes are necessary to fund each budget item,” Sen. Bucco said. “It is common sense to give them the same amount of time from the election to the deadline to modify a defeated school spending plan.”
   Under current law, if the voters reject any item submitted at the annual school election the third Tuesday in April, then the governing body of the municipality or the governing body of each of the municipalities included in the district must determine an appropriate school spending plan by May 19.
   Sen. Bucco’s bill, S2458, provides that whenever the commissioner changes the date of the annual April school election pursuant to that law, the commissioner also must change the May 19th deadline to ensure municipal bodies have the same number of days to make their determinations.
   ”In 2014, school election date falls on Passover and the commissioner of Education will likely move the election date back,” Sen. Bucco said. “Without the implementation of this bill, municipalities have too much pressure to conduct a detailed financial analysis, and the people’s money could be misspent. I urge the state Assembly to take immediate action to advance this legislation to Gov. Christie.”
Cancer fund
   Legislation establishing the New Jersey Pediatric Cancer Research Fund, which allows taxpayers to make a voluntary contribution on their income tax return, has been introduced by Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce.
   Funds collected will support cancer research projects approved by the New Jersey State Commission on Cancer Research.
   ”One of a parent’s most traumatic experiences is learning their child has cancer,” said Assemblywoman DeCroce, R-Morris, Essex and Passaic. “The causes of pediatric cancer still perplex the medical community, but we know the heartache it causes. Medical breakthroughs to treat this disease start with research.”
   CureSearch for Children’s Cancer, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to funding children’s cancer research, has noted that, for the past 25 years, there have only been two new drugs developed specifically for children’s cancer.
   ”As we have seen when catastrophe strikes, New Jersey’s citizens are most generous and compassionate,” Assemblywoman DeCroce said. “Through a voluntary check-off on a tax return, we can focus funding that is committed to researching causes and treatments for an affliction that affects children and brings anxiety and pain to their loved ones.”
   Assemblywoman DeCroce’s bill, A4491, is in honor of a West Milford youth, Aaron Newton, who is a survivor of neurablastoma cancer. Aaron and his parents are advocates for increasing awareness regarding childhood cancer.
   More children lose their battle to cancer than asthma, cystic fibrosis, diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined. On average, one out of four elementary schools has a child with cancer. The average high school has two students who are a current or former cancer patient.
Internet gaming
   Reacting to the disclosure that Sheldon Adelson, a rightwing, billionaire, Las Vegas-based casino mogul, is financing a lobbying effort to ban Internet gaming, Sen. Raymond Lesniak has called on New Jersey’s Congressional delegation, the state’s casino industry, public officials and the business community to fight off Mr. Adelson’s effort.
   Sen. Lesniak is the sponsor of New Jersey’s Internet gaming law, which will produce jobs, revenue for the state and new business for Atlantic City’s casinos.
   ”Adelson has started a campaign to shut down New Jersey’s internet gaming, which will cost the loss of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of revenues to Atlantic City’s ailing casinos and hundreds of millions of dollars to the state treasury,” Sen. Lesniak said. “We already have given the legal authority for Internet gaming in New Jersey, and state regulators have done a good job in reviewing and authorizing licenses for online gaming businesses. Imposing a federal ban on Internet gambling for New Jersey would be an economic catastrophe.”
   Sen. Lesniak wrote to every casino CEO in New Jersey, the state’s Congressional delegation, the Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce and the head of the casino workers union, alerting them to Adelson’s actions and urging them to help stop this attempt by to take away the ability of states to permit online gambling.
   Mr. Adelson has hired high-powered lobbyists and public relations experts in Washington and around the country to pursue his goal of outlawing Internet gaming. Those hired include Wellington Webb, the former mayor of Denver; former U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, former New York Gov. George Pataki and the Washington lobbying firms Patton Boggs and Husch Blackwell.
   ”Mr. Adelson, you should take your campaign and direct it where gambling has the most negative impact — lottery sales,” Sen. Lesniak said. “Convenience stores sell lottery tickets right across from low-income housing projects. You should put your billions to work helping those folks get good paying jobs and job training and to support preschool education funding.
   ”And shame on you, Gov. Pataki. You promoted selling lottery tickets to poor people, but now that you’re getting paid big money, you’ve gotten ‘religion’ about gambling.”
   An Assembly panel has advanced legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gilbert “Whip” L. Wilson and Sheila Y. Oliver to require corporations qualifying for state development subsidy grants to repay the entire grant amount if a corporation fails to uphold grant terms.
   ”The intent of this legislation is to ensure that corporations hold up their end of the deal,” said Assemblyman Wilson, D-Camden, Gloucester. “Grant incentives encourage companies to move, build and grow here. We must make sure that they do exactly what they say they will do and fulfill the terms of the grant.”
   ”By offering incentives, we welcome corporations to bring their business to New Jersey,” said Assemblywoman Oliver, D-Essex, Passaic. “More corporations who make New Jersey their home means more job opportunities and more support for families. This legislation would ensure our grant dollars are used wisely and corporations, honest.”
   Under the bill’s (A1393) provisions, if a private corporation has received a development subsidy grant issued by a public entity of the state, and the corporation fails to uphold the terms of any grant agreement with that public entity, the corporation shall refund the full amount of the grant to the public entity.
   The public entity issuing the grant would include provisions for the refund as part of an agreement to provide a grant and may pursue an action to collect the amount of the refund plus any attorney fees and other costs of the action.
   The bill was released out of the Assembly Commerce Committee; and it now will go to the Assembly speaker for further consideration.
Filing deadline
   A measure sponsored by Sen. Jim Whelan that would change the state’s filing deadline for November school board elections in an attempt to increase the number of individuals running to serve on the boards has been approved by the state Senate.
   ”Last year, the Legislature passed commonsense legislation that allowed school board elections to be moved to the November General Election date, ensuring that more voters participate in the process of selecting our school leaders while saving municipalities, the state and ultimately taxpayers millions of dollars,” said Sen. Whelan, D-Atlantic. “As a consequence of this change in election date, the time period between filing to run for school board and the public casting votes for an individual grew exponentially. Hopefully, by moving the date to file for school board closer to the November election, we can encourage more New Jerseyans to participate in the democratic process by running for school boards to serve their communities and better the education for our kids.”
   The bill, S2086, would change the deadline for school board candidates to file petitions to the last Monday in July. Currently, candidates must file by 4 p.m. the day of the primary, held in June.
   A 2012 law allows for school districts to move their annual elections from the third Tuesday in April to coincide with the general election held in November. Since the law’s adoption, more than 500 school districts have moved their election dates.
   The bill was approved by the Senate with a vote of 38-0. It now heads to the General Assembly for further consideration.
Storm resistance
Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Ruben J. Ramos Jr. to assist homeowners in building stronger, smarter, more storm-resistant homes has been advanced by an Assembly panel. “Sandy was a wakeup call for many residents, underscoring the fact that climate change, development and other factors have rendered the current construction and layout of many homes impractical,” said Assemblyman Ramos, D-Hudson. “This bill would help provide public financing for homeowners to renovate or build structures that are far more flood and hurricane resistant.” Currently, a municipality may undertake the financing of the purchase and installation of renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements made by property owners upon application to and approval by the director of the Division of Local Government Services in the Department of Community Affairs in consultation with the director of the Division of Codes and Standards. By ordinance, the municipality may provide for a “clean energy special assessment” to be imposed on those properties when the property owner has requested the assessment in exchange for receiving assistance with the initial financing. “From basement apartments along the Hudson to bayside homes in Mantoloking, this financing would help build stronger, more storm-resistant structures to help withstand the type of devastation we witnessed after Sandy,” said Assemblywoman Grace Spencer, D-Essex. “Most residents do not have financing and fortitude to continuously rebuild in the face of increasingly destructive storms.” “Residents deserve a strategic, long-term, smart rebuilding approach to coping with and preparing for future storms,” said Assemblyman Timothy Eustace, D-Bergen, Passaic. “This legislation would help put the finance in place to help residents build stronger and more storm-conscious homes.” However, the only types of projects presently eligible for this treatment are the installation of renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements. Under the bill (A3898), water conservation projects, flood resistant construction projects, hurricane resistant construction projects, residential storm shelter projects and safe room projects also would be eligible for a special assessment. Municipalities may finance eligible projects by issuing bonds itself by applying to a county improvement authority that issues bonds. Although the use of private financing is not explicitly prohibited under current law, the bill would clarify municipalities also may use private funds for project financing. Finally, this bill also would allow qualified private nonprofit entities to establish programs to finance the purchase and installation of eligible projects. Upon application to and approval, nonprofit entities would be able to contract with municipalities that also have gained approval to administer lending agreements for those municipalities. The nonprofit entity then could serve to administer the program for the municipality using funding from the municipality, county improvement authorities, private entities or its own funding. As in programs administered by the municipality itself, the nonprofit entity also would be repaid through a clean energy and storm resistance special assessment. The Assembly Appropriations Committee voted on the measure in an afternoon committee meeting. The measure now will head to the Assembly speaker for further consideration.