By Brad J. Lachut, Esq.
2013 was the second year of New Jersey’s 2012-13 legislative cycle; the conclusion of this year’s legislative activity is the perfect opportunity to reflect on PIANJ’s legislative accomplishments. A number of issues were tracked by PIANJ and multiple items of legislation were acted on. PIANJ worked to support the passage of some bills and also worked to amend some problematic legislation.
Certificates of insurance
Certificates of insurance have been one of PIANJ’s signature issues for the past few years. PIANJ continues to work for passage of a bill to assist insurance producers who are faced with impossible certificate of insurance requests—requests that a producer create a certificate that purports to amend, expand or alter the underlying policy. 2013 saw bills dealing with this issue being introduced in both the Assembly and Senate. A-3731 and S-2624 would regulate certificates of insurance by prohibiting changes to certificate forms and asserting that certificates are not insurance policies and don’t provide different or extra coverage than the policy does. A-3731 was introduced in February 2013 and referred to the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee. In March 2013, the committee voted unanimously to release A-3731. In the Senate, S-2624 was introduced and referred to the Senate Commerce Committee in March 2013. Unfortunately, the legislative session concluded before either bill could be voted on by the Assembly or Senate, respectively. PIANJ continues to fight for its members on this issue and has already begun work on getting both bills re-introduced for the 2014-2015 legislative session.
One-page policy summary of coverage on homeowners policies
Following the devastating events of Superstorm Sandy, numerous legislative bills were introduced designed to protect and inform consumers about their insurance coverage. One such bill was the PIANJ-supported A-3642, which requires homeowners policies’ consumer information booklet to contain a plain-language, one-page summary of the policy that includes information on the policy’s hurricane deductible, other flood insurance provisions and notable coverages and exclusions. In a testament to how quickly government can work, this bill was introduced into the Assembly and referred to the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee in January 2013 and was amended and passed unanimously by both houses by March 2013. Gov. Chris Christie signed the bill into law on May 6, 2013. Following the passage of A-3642, the Department of Banking and Insurance was tasked with proposing rules on how to implement the new law. PIANJ attended a meeting hosted by the Department of Banking and Insurance to achieve this purpose. During the meeting, PIANJ was able to discuss and comment on the summaries with several top DOBI officials and representatives.
Discretionary suspension of driver’s license bill
A-1844 makes the current mandatory driver’s license suspension period for the first offense of driving without required motor vehicle liability insurance coverage discretionary. Originally introduced in the Assembly in January 2012, this bill passed the Assembly by an overwhelming majority (74-4) and was sent to the Senate in June 2012. Following the addition of an amendment by the Senate Transportation Committee, the Senate passed the bill unanimously and sent the amended version back to the Assembly on Jan. 13, 2014. The House took up the amended bill that same day and passed it unanimously. The bill was then sent to the governor who signed the bill into law on Jan. 21, 2014.
Home sprinkler bill
A-1570 would require that fire suppression systems be mandatory in all new single- and two-family homes. This bill spent time working its way through both houses of the Legislature. Originally introduced in the Assembly on Jan. 10, 2012, the bill was not reported out of committee and passed by the Assembly until December 2012 (44-30). The bill was received by the Senate in February 2013 where it spent time being considered by two different committees. The bill was finally passed by the Senate (25-13) on Jan. 9, 2014, almost two years to the day after its introduction and sent to the governor. However, the governor failed to sign this bill within the necessary time resulting in a pocket veto.
Home elevation contractors bill
S-2976 would require all home elevation contractors to register with the state and certify that they have the requisite amount of experience as a home improvement contractor, in the elevation of homes and with the correct elevation equipment. S-2976 moved quickly through the New Jersey Legislature. This bill was introduced in the Senate at the end of September 2013. It was passed unanimously and sent to the Assembly in December. The Assembly amended the bill and passed it unanimously on Jan. 13, 2014. The Senate considered the amended legislation that same day and passed it by a vote of 38-1. Despite nearly unanimous passage by both houses, the governor decided to exercise his pocket veto on this bill.
The New Jersey Legislature also tackled a number of bills that will affect business owners.
Unemployment insurance surcharge delay
S-2404 was introduced in the Senate in December 2012 and was passed unanimously in February 2013. The Assembly took up the bill in June 2013 and like the Senate, passed the measure unanimously. The governnor signed S-2404 into law at the end of June 2013. S-2404/A-4112, now P.L.2013, C.75, delays the 10 percent unemployment insurance surcharge that employers would have been required to pay on each of their employees. The surcharge was supposed to take effect July 1, 2013. It is important to note the law does not eliminate the surcharge, only delays its payment until the next fiscal year. The law went into effect July 1, 2013.
Domestic violence leave bill passes both houses
S-2177, originally introduced in the Senate in September 2012, passed the Senate and Assembly in May and was signed by the governor in July 2013. This bill, entitled the New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act or the N.J. SAFE Act, would require employers to grant up to 20 days of leave time for an employee who is the victim of domestic violence or sexual assault or whose family or household member is a victim, provided the incident took place within one year of the request for leave.
Social-network password bill
Gov. Christie issued a conditional veto of A-2878 in May 2013. A-2878 would have prohibited employers from requiring a current or prospective employee from disclosing their user names, passwords or other related information concerning the individual’s personal social-media account. In his conditional veto, Gov. Christie commended the sponsors of the legislation for their work and focus issue of social media privacy, but felt the bill was overbroad. Among other things, the governor recommended that the bill be amended to remove the prohibition against employers inquiring as to whether a current or prospective employee has a personal social networking site of any kind.
Public safety workers' workers compensation bill
Gov. Christie also issued a veto on S-1778 in July 2013, the Thomas P. Canzanella Twenty First Century First Responders Protection Act. This bill would have created a presumption that illnesses and disorders suffered by public safety workers stemmed from their employment, thus making them eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. The governor vetoed this bill because he felt it altered the already balanced system in place that determines workers’ compensation awards to public safety workers. In addition, there was concern about the long-term financial impact of the bill. 3/14