Moriarty bill, drone measure among Christie pocket-vetoes

Posted: January 24, 2014

TRENTON Gov. Christie this week vetoed nearly four dozen bills passed by the Legislature in a flurry of end-of-session votes.

He allowed the 44 bills to expire in "pocket vetoes" and issued veto statements for two of them Tuesday. Among those he pocket-vetoed were:

A bill that would have regulated how New Jersey law enforcement and safety agencies use unmanned aerial aircraft, or drones. Police would have had to obtain a warrant to use drones for surveillance.

Drones could be used without warrants by fire departments to monitor forest fires, and by emergency management officials in the event of a hurricane or other disasters.

Legislators pushed the bill as an attempt to prevent potential abuse of drones before they become common tools for law enforcement.

A proposal that would require installation of cameras in some municipal police vehicles. Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D., Gloucester) introduced the bill after he was arrested in July 2012 on suspicion of drunken driving. The charges were dismissed after he obtained a video recording of the traffic stop, which contradicted the police officer's claims and showed Moriarty easily passing sobriety tests.

Not all police cars are equipped with such devices.

Moriarty said Wednesday he was disappointed and shocked by Christie's inaction but planned to reintroduce the legislation.

"Gov. Christie's inaction means New Jerseyans and police officers remain unnecessarily at risk of being falsely prosecuted," Moriarty said in a statement Wednesday.

A bill that would require new single- and two-family homes to be built with sprinkler systems. Proponents say such systems would reduce fire hazards and deaths; others worry about the costs and say legislators should focus on other safety precautions, like ensuring that existing smoke detectors are functional.

Those bills "expired" without any action from Christie, meaning lawmakers must restart the legislative process if they want to continue pushing for them. The governor did not say why he did not sign them.

Of the 44 bills the governor pocket vetoed, he issued statements explaining his decision on only two. Christie said one, which would train and license "common interest community managers," was too expensive.

The other bill called for the installation of silent alarms in all public schools that would be linked to local or state police. Christie said legislators should refer the proposal to a state task force that is studying how to improve school security.

Christie signed 100 bills into law, ranging from a ban on female genital mutilation for girls 18 and under to an increase in the amount of time a faculty member must work at state colleges before attaining tenure. Faculty must now work at those institutions for six years to get the benefit, up from five.

Genital cutting for females is a custom in some countries. The World Health Organization considers it a human rights violation. New Jersey joined 21 other states that have passed similar bans, according to the AHA Foundation in New York, which advocates against the practice.

Under the New Jersey law, individuals who commit the crime or those, such as parents, who permit it to happen face three to five years in prison and a fine.

Christie also signed a bill revising Megan's Law, which was first adopted in 1994 and established a sex-offender registry. The new law exempts juveniles caught "sexting" - sharing explicit nude photographs over electronic devices - from having to register as sex offenders.

Christie also signed into law a bill changing eligibility and benefit provisions in Jersey City's troubled pension system. The bill had become a flash point among Democrats jockeying to try to succeed Christie as governor.

The city's mayor, Steven Fulop, accused Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) of stalling the bill for political reasons. Both are considered leading contenders for the governor's mansion in 2017.


aseidman@phillynews.com

856-779-3846

@AndrewSeidman

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