N.J. lawmakers to revisit key measures after vetoes

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora doubted the state's support.
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora doubted the state's support.
Posted: September 10, 2013

TRENTON - Tax breaks for businesses, medical marijuana for children, and requirements aimed at tracking seized guns will be on the agenda Monday when the state Assembly convenes for the first time since June.

The session comes with every Legislative seat up for election in November and lawmakers in the midst of reelection campaigns.

The Assembly is set to reconsider the medical marijuana and gun legislation following conditional vetoes of both bills by Gov. Christie.

It also plans to take up a measure that Christie was expected to conditionally veto, but had not acted on as of Friday evening.

The Economic Opportunity Act, a sweeping bill that would overhaul the state's economic development programs, passed the Senate last month.

One of the bill's sponsors, Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D., Burlington), said Friday that Christie was expected to oppose two provisions, one requiring that maintenance workers on eligible projects receive a prevailing wage and another related to the repurposing of hospital buildings.

"I think if the changes still fit in the confines of promoting economic development throughout the state, you'll see a broad consensus of both Democrats and Republicans" to approve the governor's recommendations, Singleton said.

The bill would still have to be revisited in the Senate, which has no sessions scheduled.

The Assembly will also consider whether to approve Christie's changes to a bill making it easier for children to receive medical marijuana.

Christie conditionally vetoed the bill in August, instructing lawmakers that he would not support the measure unless edible marijuana was made available only to children. He also rejected a provision that would have decreased the number of physician referrals needed for a child to receive marijuana through the program.

The Senate was nearly unanimous in approving the changes last month.

With the Senate's action, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D., Mercer), one of the bill's sponsors, said he expected the Assembly would also grant approval, though he would have preferred to try to override Christie's veto.

"It's just disappointing," Gusciora said Friday. "I don't see why we couldn't have allowed all forms of ingestion of marijuana, including the edible," to all patients, including adults.

Gusciora also objected to Christie's requirement that children continue to receive referrals from both a pediatrician and a psychiatrist to qualify for the medical marijuana program. If neither doctor is registered with the program, a child must obtain a third referral.

That process "could be quite burdensome or costly," Gusciora said. Christie has said the state chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics supports multiple referrals.

Despite those objections, Gusciora expects the Assembly will go along with Christie's changes. He mentioned Vivian Wilson, the 2-year-old with severe epilepsy from Scotch Plains whose parents have drawn national attention to the issue.

"We owe it to her to allow the program to go forward," Gusciora said.

Another bill the Assembly will take up Monday would require police to report seized or recovered firearms to federal and state databases.

The bill would codify a directive from the Attorney General's Office with the same requirements, according to Christie, who didn't object to the provisions when he sent the bill back last month.

But he struck a requirement that state police make public gun tracing data from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, including the identity of the firearm's source vendor.

The requirement would violate federal law, "leading to wasteful litigation, inconsistent enforcement, and widespread uncertainty" for police, Christie said in a statement accompanying his conditional veto.

On its website, the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs warned that the ATF's trace system "could be exploited and manipulated to falsely suggest that law abiding citizens are a source of 'crime guns.' "

Also on the Assembly's agenda Monday is a bill that would increase penalties for home invasion, making offenders subject to prison sentences without early release.

The bill, sponsored by Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R., Union), was drafted in response to a home invasion and beating caught on a nanny cam in Millburn in June.

Contact Maddie Hanna at 609-989-8990 or mhanna@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @maddiehanna

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