TRENTON – Movement was made on gun legislation. The state’s fiscal and jobs picture brightened some. And residents hit hard by Sandy may finally get some much needed tangible relief.
The Senate took up some gun bills, but held off taking up the controversial one that would reduce magazine clip size from 15 bullets to 10 bullets.
Still, it did pass bills on background checks and other matters of gun control.
But the one that ultimately gained the most attention was the one bill that had to be held back for procedural reasons.
Among the bills that passed on Monday were ones that allow for seizure of motor vehicles, increase penalties for traffickers, have the Education Department prepare pamphlets on limiting kids’ exposure to media violence, and provide time for people to dispose of illegal firearms.
But the bill that did not get voted on was a centerpiece of Senate President Steve Sweeney’s package. The bill would have made revisions to handgun purchase permits and established new ID cards that would have data embedded in a driver’s license. The bill also provides for instant background checks so that an attempted illegal purchase could have led to immediate revocation of a permit.
But after the bill had to be held, Sweeney lashed out, according to sources, and ordered some Republican-sponsored bills pulled from next week’s agendas of committees. Sources said Sweeney blamed Minority Leader Sen. Thomas Kean Jr. for not cooperating and providing procedurally needed votes to move the gun bill that day.
In addition to the full session of the Senate, there were various Assembly committees held early in the week.
Bills to prevent privatization of services unless the level of service and workers’ salaries are about the same also moved forward.
The Assembly Agriculture Committee passed several bills, including one that would limit the state’s ability to reduce fishing quotas that have been set by regional fisheries agencies.
Opponents warned this is a bad precedent and the state must have authority to make critical decisions about what is best for the greatest number of residents.
And one Assembly panel took testimony from labor representatives and lawmakers worried that a Christie administration plan to change Civil Service is an end-run around the Legislature to bypass long established promotions procedure and open the door to cronyism.
The so-called “banding’’ proposal will make it possible to bypass more qualified employees in favor of more politically connected workers, witnesses told the Assembly State Government Committtee.
Both the Treasury Department and the Office of Legislative Services determined that last month’s revenues were strong. For April, the state’s income tax revenues were $2.23 billion, a 29 percent increase from a year ago.
The state’s revenue picture showed improvement as the lagging unemployment rate fell from 9 percent to 8.7 percent.
In what has become a lengthy ongoing battle, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court issued a decision to prohibit the state from tapping into the more than $140 million in municipal affordable housing trust funds.
The state has long claimed it is within its right to take over the funds, citing a law that was passed in 2008 that allowed it to do so if the funds weren’t exhausted.
But groups like the League of Municipalities and Housing Action Network claim that doing that would slow down the construction of affordable housing and would lead to higher property taxes.
Who will ultimately win this battle remains to be seen.
Gov. Chris Christie said some $300 million would be available to willing sellers of properties that suffer from chronic flooding and who suffered from last year’s hurricane.
He made the announcement in Sayreville, which was hard hit during Superstorm Sandy.