Clean energy, Civil Service among Senate bills on tap

TRENTON –  As the lame-duck session winds down, the Senate has scheduled action for Thursday on several bills and resolutions, some of which have passed the Assembly, and pending changes, could be headed to the governor’s desk.

Some of the bills deal with the traditionally controversial issues that have pitted the Democrats in the Legislature against the Republican governor and his GOP allies in the two chambers, including “clean’’ energy pursuits and Civil Service reform.

Here is a rundown of some of the proposals.

SCR166/ACR215: This is the attempt to prevent a substantive change in Civil Service that the administration touts as a way to reduce costs and bureaucracy but which opponents claim is a thinly disguised furtherance of cronyism. The Assembly passed its version Monday along party lines.

 

SCR165: This is a proposed funding stream for open space preservation that environmental groups cannot agree upon. It would amend the Constitution to dedicate either $200 million a year in sales tax, or 2.4 percent, whichever is lower, to fund pursuits such as acquisition of flood-prone areas and historic preservation through fiscal year 2044. But some groups argued in committee that a bond issue would be a better avenue because it would not be subject to the ebb and flow of the economy.  Its backers, however, say it is a more permanent solution than a short-term bond issue.

 

S2733/A2888: This bill would establish an Office of Clean Energy, elevating it from a division of the Board of Public Utilities, and charge it with taking on a stronger role in coordinating efforts to promote non-polluting energy. The Assembly version passed along party lines back in April.

 

S2732/A3103: This orders various departments such as Community Affairs, Environmental Protection and Transportation to give priority consideration to permit applications of green building projects. The Assembly passed its version in June 2012.

 

S2603/A3067: A measure of how times change, this bill eliminates various commissions and boards that are obsolete or inactive.  Among them are such entities as the Public Officers Salary Review Commission, the Smart Freight Railroad Study Commission, the Light Pollution Study Commission and the Northeast Interstate Dairy Compact Commission.  The Assembly passed its version in June.

 

S2602/A3893: One of many post-Superstorm Sandy bills, this takes away from the Department of Environmental Protection the authority to waive permit requirements for work involving grading or excavating of a dune. It does allow exceptions for emergencies. The Assembly version has gone through committee.

 

S2273/A1570: This would mandate sprinkler systems in new single- and two-family homes. The Assembly passed its version already.  The bill has proven controversial, with builders and real estate groups opposing added costs in a shaky economy, and fire officials and health care agencies arguing the lives saved outweigh the extra cost, which they say is minimal compared to the overall expense of some other aspects of a new home.

 

S2155/A2201: This would permit so-called “civil celebrants” to solemnize marriages. Applicants would have to complete a course offered by a nondenominational organization registered with the state. This is an outgrowth of a nonsectarian movement that began in the 1970s. The Assembly passed its bill in March 2012.

 

S2088/A1832: This prevents health insurers from restricting access to pain medication. As sponsor Sen. Loretta Weinberg summarized it during a committee hearing, this puts medical decision making in the hands of the physician, not the insurer. The Assembly passed its version nearly one year ago.

 

S2064/A3153: Known as “Kimmie’s Law,’’ this law sets a zero-tolerance policy for driving under the influence of an inhalant, or what is known as huffing.  The bill is named for Kimmie Goupil, 16, of Hamilton who was killed in a car accident by a driver under the influence of inhalants. The Assembly version has not gone through a committee yet.

 

S1220/A765: This bill addresses medical marijuana usage and mandates that it cannot be used to deny someone needed care, such as organ transplants. The Assembly passed its version in May.

 

 

Clean energy, Civil Service among Senate bills on tap