Assembly bill list paints a picture of would-be Supreme Court Justice Solomon

TRENTON – If reported Supreme Court nominee Lee Solomon gets his chance to go before the Senate Judiciary Committee, state lawmakers responsible for advice and consent will undoubtedly comb through his records and rulings during his tenure as a Superior Court judge.

However, there’s another treasure trove of information on Solomon from his time under the gold dome.

Solomon, who was appointed to the General Assembly in February 1991 to fill an unexpired term and who was elected to full terms in 1991 and 1993, was a state lawmaker who took up the cause of law and order, introducing dozens of bills that took a hard line against criminals or sought to protect the victims they preyed upon.

Among his efforts to tamp down crime were measures that increased penalties, restricted bail, eased limits on searches and seizures, required greater supervision of some  parolees and notification to their victims upon their release, and provided money for community policing efforts.

Many of his harshest measures were reserved for sex offenders.

Solomon championed legislation in the lower house, dubbed the Violent Predator Incapacitation Act of 1994, that established a “special sentence of community supervision for life” for people convicted of certain sexual assaults or kidnapping that involved sexual assault or exploitation of the child, according to the law.

The parole-like supervision begins whenever the convict is released from prison and anyone sentenced to community supervision must serve for at least 15 years until they can petition the court for release from the program, the law reads.  The bill was proposed as part of a series of Megan’s Law measures introduced in the aftermath of the murder of Megan Kanka, a Hamilton girl murdered by a twice convicted pedophile.

He sponsored legislation that would have increased jail time for perpetrators who use a weapon to commit a sexual assault and another measure requiring an AIDS test for anyone convicted of a sex offense.

That bill was paired with another that would have required criminals convicted of rape and sexual assault to submit to HIV/AIDS testing prior to their parole hearing. The results of the tests would then have been included in the inmate’s pre-parole report.

One measure would have charged prison inmates a fee for health insurance.

Solomon took aim at the state’s bail system on two separate occasions.  In 1993 he sponsored a measure to amend the state Constitution in an effort to expand the  state’s authority to deny bail to some offenders ”in order to assure appearance of the defendant or for the protection of other persons.”

A year later he sponsored a bill to eliminate the 10 percent cash bail option for some offenders, including defendants committing drug-related crimes. A version of the bill was signed by Gov. Christie Whitman.

He sponsored several measures increasing the scope and penalties for certain crimes including robbery and burglary, passing bad checks and leaving the scene of an accident.

As tough as he was on criminals, he was equally supportive of their victims.

In 1992, Solomon sponsored a controversial bill that would have made it a crime to publicize the name of a rape victim.

The legislation sought to make it a disorderly offense, punishable by up to six months of jail time and a fine of up to $1,000, to knowingly disclose or publically disseminate the identity of an alleged rape victim.

The bill created a stir and was strongly opposed by the New Jersey Press Association, which cited concerns related to the First Amendment of the Constitution, according to reports.

He also sponsored a bill that same session that would have given adult victims of alleged sexual assault and rape the same confidentiality in public records that is provided to minors. The legislation would have withheld the names of certain victims in certain court records.

Other victims rights measures introduced by the South Jersey lawmaker would have allowed physicians to prescribe an antiviral drug used to treat HIV to rape victims and provided victims of sexual assault with free HIV/AIDS testing.

Other legislation aimed to make it mandatory for victims of domestic violence to be notified of their attacker’s release from jail.

And while he counted the National Rifle Association as one of his campaign supporters and voted with the rest of the Republican caucus in favor of a bill to repeal the ban on large magazine assault rifles, he also sponsored measures to crack down on gun violence.

One bill took aim at people in possession of unlawful firearm ammunition and another supported a proposal to require anyone who privately sells a firearm to report the sale to the superintendent of the New Jersey State Police.

He was the prime sponsor in the Assembly of legislation that created stiff penalties for a person convicted of being the “leader of a firearms trafficking network.” According to the bill, any “leader” found guilty of trafficking illegal firearms could be sentenced to a life term – no less than 25 years – and fined up to $500,000, according to the law.

In 1995 he was a member of a legislative panel that recommended several gun measures including a ban on so-called “Saturday Night Specials.”

Solomon also took interest in providing a safety net for the state’s law enforcement and first responders.

He sponsored bills that would protect police chiefs from layoffs and pushed legislation that focused on police and firefighter civil action rights, according to records. Another bill would have provided probation officers with additional authority.  In 1995 he sponsored legislation creating a police safety and protection commission.

Solomon also had a pro-business bent during his five years in Trenton.

In 1994, he was the prime sponsor of a measure that gave businesses charged with violating certain environmental laws a grace period to fix the violation before they are fined.  The bill was heavily supported by business groups including the New Jersey Business and Industry Association and was roundly trashed by environmentalists who called it part of an “anti-environmental agenda.”

The would-be Supreme Court nominee was also a staunch advocate for special needs children, pushing several bills increasing funding for education and required health coverage.

Solomon’s short time in the Assembly was not without controversy.  According to reports, in 1994, he sponsored a budget appropriation that provided $1 million for the Camden County Sheriff.  Democrats at the time charged that the money was a political payoff from Gov. Whitman and legislative Republicans to Camden County Sheriff William Simon, who had left the Democratic Party to run as a Republican earlier that year.  Solomon defended the appropriation, saying the department’s budget was a disaster and 70 officers had been cut from the force.  The appropriation was a means of shoring it up and amounted to nothing more than good government, Solomon said at the time.

Backers

During his five years as a candidate for office, Solomon was backed by a diverse group of campaign donors.

His supporters included the state’s largest teachers union and the National Rifle Association.

He was supported by the NRA with a $1,000 donation in 1991 for his state Assembly race, during which he raised money in a joint account with Assemblyman John Rocco, and with a $5,000 check in 1992 during his failed bid for a congressional seat.

Together with Rocco, the men garnered more than $18,270 from the New Jersey Education Association.

The state’s health care industry also courted him and his political ally during Solomon’s four years in office.

The pair collected nearly $35,000 from health care industry organizations and PACs, including more than $5,700 from pharmaceutical PACs and companies like Schering-Plough, now Merck, Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson and Sandoz.

Among the other health care PACs and organizations to contribute to their campaigns was the New Jersey Optometric PAC, New Jersey Health Care PAC, New Jersey Hospital Association, New Jersey Dental PAC, the Medical Society of New Jersey, the Southern New Jersey Chiropractic PAC, the South Shore Medical Center and the Camden City Medical Society.

Both men also received support from a pro-business and private-sector job growth group dubbed the New Jersey Organization for a Better State, which donated $16,000 to the state campaigns.

Solomon lost his Assembly seat in 1995 to current Majority Leader Lou Greenwald.

Assembly bill list paints a picture of would-be Supreme Court Justice Solomon