Measure links N.J. gun permits to driver's licenses

Posted: June 28, 2013

TRENTON - The state Senate gave final approval Thursday to a bill that calls for embedding firearms permit information in gun owners' New Jersey driver's licenses, the centerpiece of a gun control initiative crafted by Democrats after the Newtown, Conn., school shootings in December 2012.

The bill also would require gun purchasers to complete a safety course, and would expand the use of mental health records in determining a person's eligibility to buy a gun.

A companion bill that also won final passage seeks to stiffen penalties for those who illegally traffic in firearms, including straw purchasers of weapons.

"It will make existing gun laws more effective and help keep weapons out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them," said Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester), who sponsored the driver's license measure.

The bill, which passed on a 22-16 vote, is the most significant in a series of gun measures that have made their way through the Senate and Assembly in recent weeks.

Gov. Christie has not stated his position on the measures.

Other bills have stalled, including a proposal that would limit firearms magazines to 10 rounds rather than the current maximum of 15.

A range of other legislation was given final approval Thursday, including a controversial measure that would let Camden, Gloucester, and Union Counties' governments get money from county utility authorities to pay for infrastructure improvements.

The Association of Environmental Authorities of New Jersey opposes the bill, calling it a backdoor way for county governments to fill budget holes and get around the 2 percent cap on tax increases.

The Senate also gave final passage to a measure that would ban therapists and other licensed professionals from employing a therapeutic technique called gay conversion therapy that seeks to change homosexuals into heterosexuals.

Critics have denounced the practice as ineffective and cruel. The measure would apply only to the treatment of youths.

Two passed bills - both destined for a gubernatorial veto - would roll back Christie's decision to hold a special Senate election in October to fill the seat of the late U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg.

One would allow New Jerseyans voting in the Oct. 16 special Senate election to also vote early for governor. The other bill would move the Senate election to coincide with the November gubernatorial election.

The Legislature concluded its session Thursday without taking final action on a bill that would expand special economic development zones and provide tax credits to employers to locate in them.

The bill was denounced by environmentalists, who said it would open environmentally sensitive areas in the Pinelands and northwestern New Jersey to development while diverting economic activity from Camden and other hard-pressed cities.

"This is nothing but sprawl-fare, corporate welfare subsidizing overdevelopment and paving over environmentally sensitive areas," said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

The proposal would expand a program targeting tax incentives to companies that locate in economic development areas comprising the state's largest and neediest cities, including Camden, Trenton and Newark.

It stalled over a demands by Assembly Democrats that the bill contain more environmental protections than the version passed by the Senate. The two houses are likely to take up the matter again when they return July 8.

In other action, the nomination of Dianne Solomon, wife of Lee Solomon, a judge and former president of the Board of Public Utilities, to become a commissioner on the BPU board was released from the Senate Judiciary Committee. It drew a critical response from the Sierra Club.

"We are concerned that Dianne Solomon does not have a background in energy policy or clean energy or utility law," Tittel said. "The Christie administration keeps appointing people to the board that do not have expertise or knowledge in the fields the board regulates or how the board operates."


Contact Chris Mondics at 215-313-3022 or cmondics@phillynews.com.

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