Pensions, drones, bump stocks: Highlights of bills Christie signs into law

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Gov. Chris Christie’s final day as governor is tomorrow Monday. We asked people about him. Are people just tired of this guy already? Is anyone sad to see him go? And what do people make of his legacy…?
Mitsu Yasukawa/Northjersey.com

From sweetening the pension of a South Jersey political ally to regulating drones, Gov. Chris Christie signed more than 100 bills ranging in consequence into law on Monday.

About a week ago, in his final State of the State address, Christie admonished Democratic and Republican governors going back 35 years for their record on funding the pension system.

Yet on his last full day in office, Christie signed into law a bill that increases the pension benefits for at least one of his longtime political allies, former Camden mayor Dana Redd, who starts as CEO of the Rowan-Rutgers–Camden board of governors on Tuesday. The post provides her with $275,000 salary.

Christie also signed dozens of bills last week, including bipartisan legislation that promises $5 billion in tax credits for Amazon to build its second headquarters, known as HQ2, in Newark. The city previously promised an additional $2 billion in tax breaks for the technology giant.

Here’s a quick rundown of the bills Christie signed into law on Monday:

Pension sweetener

The bill, S-3620, allows certain elected officials to re-enroll in the pension system they were kicked out of when they switched offices following the enactment of a 2007 law.

The bill seems to benefit Redd, an ally of Christie and legislative leaders, whose pension was frozen when she was elected to the mayor’s office in 2010, after having served on the city council. She was forced to enroll in a less generous “defined contribution” system, similar to a 401(k).

Drunk-droning

Using a drone with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or more, the same as the legal limit for driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, is now a disorderly offense under the bill, S-3370, which Christie signed on Monday.

Using a drone to “knowingly or intentionally” endanger someone’s life or property or to “take or assist in taking” wildlife is illegal under the new law. If someone uses a drone to interfere with a first responder or endanger the security of a correctional facility they could face up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine under this law.

Bump stock ban

Owning or selling bump stocks or “trigger cranks,” devices that allow semiautomatic firearms to fire more rapidly, is now a third-degree crime after Christie signed S-3477.

Though he moved further to the right while running for president and pushed to loosen the state’s gun laws, Christie expressed interest in banning bump stocks after it came to light that the devices were used in the Oct. 1 massacre in Las Vegas. The man who used the devices killed 59 people who were attending a concert.

NJSPCA stripped of power

Lawmakers moved to overhaul the state’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals after reports by the State Commission of Investigation showed the organization was being run by “wannabe cops” who purchased expensive policing gear and enforced laws unrelated to animal cruelty.

The state SPCA rebuked the report and said the watchdog agency was “obsessed” with the organization. Supporters of SPCA urged lawmakers to reject the bill.

The bill, S-3558, strips power from the SPCA to enforce laws against animal abuse and transfers it to county prosecutor’s offices. The move won’t happen overnight, as the law allows for 13 months to transition. Towns with police departments will be required to designate a municipal humane law enforcement officer who would be in charge of enforcing animal cruelty laws.

Circus elephant ban, high school sports, school panic button bills not signed

Christie declined to sign 26 bills, including a proposed ban on circus elephants, legislation allowing neighboring high schools to field joint varsity sports teams, and a requirement that New Jersey go on record as supporting the Paris Climate Accord.

New Jersey will not be the first state to ban elephants and other exotic animals from traveling circuses and fairs, after Christie declined to sign “Nosey’s Law,” a bill backed by animal-rights activists and named after a 35-year-old elephant that was subjected to abuse on the circus circuit. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and the Assembly with only two votes against it.

Christie also issued a “pocket veto” of a bill that would have permitted high schools from the same districts to merge sports teams, which was prompted by declining enrollment in some districts that led to the dissolution of some varsity squads. The bill was opposed by the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association, although it passed both chambers of the Legislature.

Christie also declined to sign a bill that would have required school buildings to be equipped with emergency lights and panic alarms that would have immediately summoned police. State officials estimated that the measure would cost $2.5 million to $12.5 million in startup expenses, plus ongoing maintenance. It was a response to shootings in schools around the country.

The Republican governor didn’t sign a bill that would have required the state to shoulder the full cost of health care for police who retire at 55 with more than 20 but fewer than 25 years of service. The bill’s sponsor said it would apply to about 30 retired state troopers, and legislative analysts said it costs the state about $15,000 a year to provide health care to a retired officer and $36,000 a year for an officer’s family.

Christie effectively vetoed another bill, backed by environmentalists, that would have required New Jersey to join the U.S. Climate Alliance to uphold the Paris Climate Accord. President Trump announced in June that the United States would withdraw from the multinational agreement requiring countries to set and achieve goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Christie also declined to sign a bill that would have required the state attorney general, rather than county prosecutors, to investigate deaths of suspects at the hands of police, and for any resulting trials to take place outside the county where the incident occurred. The bill was sponsored by Sheila Oliver, who becomes lieutenant governor Tuesday, who noted public concerns about unarmed African American men being killed by officers and dying in police custody.

Christie didn’t sign a bill that would have ramped up New Jersey’s reliance on solar energy. The bill would have mandated that 5.3 percent of the state’s power come from the sun by 2022, up from the current goal of 4.1 percent by 2028.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Statehouse News

More: Christie signs 100 bills into law and ‘pocket vetoes’ 50 more on last full day in office

More: On Christie’s final day, a not-so-fond farewell

More: Phil Murphy faces challenges on taxes, Trump, transit when he becomes governor Tuesday

 

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