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January 4, 2012

Re:   Legislative Action scheduled for Thursday
        I.  S-837/A-3363 (Sex offender residency ordinance)
        II. A-4366 Changes to Marriage/Civil Union License Issuance & Fees

Dear Mayor:

I.          S-837/A-3363 (Sex offender residency ordinance)

Tomorrow in Trenton, the Assembly Budget Committee is slated to consider S-837/A-3363. This initiative would permit a municipality to enact an ordinance establishing areas in or around elementary or secondary schools, playgrounds, or child care centers where certain registered sex offenders may be prohibited from residing.  The amended bill also imposes restrictions on the location of school bus stops and the siting of child care centers so that they are not situated near the residence of a moderate or high risk sex offender.

We appreciate the sponsors’ leadership on this issue. And we share their desire to protect New Jersey children with enforceable and sustainable restrictions on sex offender residency. We, likewise, sincerely appreciate Assemblywoman Lampitt, who took the time to meet with us on this. We must, however, oppose S-837/A-3363, as currently drafted.

Local ordinances passed pursuant to this bill would, inevitably, be challenged in State Courts. This will delay enforcement of the restrictions, possibly for years, and impose significant litigation costs on local property taxpayers.

A few years back, the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Court’s invalidation of the Cherry Hill and Galloway Township residency restriction ordinances. The Supreme Court based its decision solely on the issue of preemption. It did not consider other Constitutional questions. Those questions would be subject matter for future litigation that could delay and invalidate future local residency restriction ordinances, enacted under the provisions of this legislation.

Unfortunately, S-837 does not set a State-wide standard. Instead, it allows a municipality to enact a carefully crafted ordinance that would restrict certain sex offenders from residing within 500 feet of a school, playground or child care center.

We regret that we cannot support this bill, as currently drafted. But we stand ready to help the sponsors to craft a bill that would establish enforceable, sustainable limits on sex offender residency. We believe that amendments are needed to protect this bill from a successful legal challenge and, thereby, allow it to protect as many children as it can, as quickly as possible.

The bill has already passed the Senate. If released by the Budget Committee on Thursday, it could be added to the agenda for a vote in the Assembly on Monday, January 9. Please contact your Assembly representatives and ask that they delay action on this matter, until the new Legislature convenes.

II.  A-4366 Changes to Marriage/Civil Union License Issuance and Fees

The League of Municipalities supports the intention of A-4366, which changes the requirements and increases fees for marriage licenses and civil union licenses and provides for annulments without cause. This initiative would spur economic development by making New Jersey a wedding destination.   However, we have some implementation concerns with A-4366.

Currently a marriage/civil union license costs $28.  The fee is shared between the municipality, which receives $3, and the Department of Human Services which receives $25.  A-4366 proposes to increase the fee to $60, with $30 to the Department of Human Services, $8 to the municipality and $22 to the State’s General Fund.  While we support the increased fee to the Department of Human Services we question why a new fee is being created for the State’s General Fund especially when the State’s involvement in issuing a license is very limited.  In fact the State has minimum involvement in the issuing of the license until after the marriage/civil union has taken place.

As a practical matter, we are also concerned that the license “shall be issued by a licensing officer at the time the application is made.”  Given the time needed to process the necessary paperwork to issue the license we have suggested that the language be changed to “….at the time the application is made, as soon as practical but no later than close of business day”.

A-4366 is scheduled for a hearing before the Assembly Budget Committee tomorrow, Thursday, January 5th.  Please contact your Assembly representatives and express our concerns with A-4366.

If you have any questions or need additional information please contact Jon Moran at jmoran@njslom.com or Lori Buckelew at lbuckelew@njslom.com.

Very truly yours,

 

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director

 

 

 

 

 

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