Public Administration

Amended Bill to Create Mental Health Diversion Program Passes Senate – After receiving a conditional veto from Gov. Murphy on Nov. 27, S524 passed the Senate on Dec. 11. The legislation creates a mental health diversion program to redirect from the criminal justice system people who have committed nonviolent offenses and received a mental disorder diagnosis, providing them with case management and mental health services. Twenty-three percent of people in the custody of the NJ Department of Corrections have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Gov. Murphy’s conditional veto came at the request of one of the bill’s sponsors and led to an amendment of the bill to exclude people convicted of Megan’s Law triggering crimes, including aggravated assault, kidnapping, and endangering the welfare of children. An identical bill must be reviewed in the Assembly. (Source: NJ Spotlight News)

Bill to Allow Utilities to Easily Recoup Costs Passes Assembly – On Dec. 7, the Assembly voted 68-4 to approve A4791 which would allow utilities to recover costs incurred to improve their sewer and drinking water systems without regulatory review. This change comes at a time when utilities companies face expenses of tens of billions of dollars to upgrade decaying pipelines and address widespread PFA contamination. The measure was opposed by the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel, which argued that utilities companies have an obligation to ensure the resilience, health, and safety of the water they provide, and passing on the costs of improvement would hurt ratepayers. The bill now faces review in the Senate. (Source: NJ Spotlight News)

Bill to Ban Smoking in Atlantic City Casinos Fails Again – Legislators failed to pass S264, which would ban smoking in casinos in Atlantic City and close a loophole which allows smoking on about 20% of the casino floor. The bill failed despite strong support from dozens of legislative sponsors and casino workers organized with the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, who say the secondhand smoke they experience is a health hazard. Casinos lobbied hard against the bill, citing concerns that the change would hurt revenue, despite a new poll which shows that nearly 75% of Philadelphia residents and the majority of NJ residents would be more likely to visit the city if it were 100% smoke free. One of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Vince Polistina, canceled the vote scheduled for Dec. 14, agreeing to compromise with casino industry demands, including enclosed smoking rooms. In protest, on Dec. 14, seven UAW members lit cigarettes in the committee meeting where the vote had been scheduled to take place. (Source: NJ Spotlight News; WHYY)



NJ Considers Penalties for Underage Marijuana Consumption and Drinking – When NJ legalized marijuana in 2021, it chose to downgrade offenses for minor possession of alcohol and marijuana as part of progressive legislation which sought to preempt racialized legal enforcement. At the time, social justice advocates advocated to shield minors from disproportionate enforcement as well, but parents have expressed concern, and there is a growing outcry that teens are abusing this allowance. Now, lawmakers are looking to reverse this policy with A5610, passed by the Assembly in June and two Senate committees in December, which would fine those under 21 $50 if found with alcohol and notify the parents of those under 21. No fines would be imposed for marijuana possession, and police could be charged with criminal deprivation of civil rights if found searching a minor for drugs or alcohol, which carries a prison sentence of 3 to 5 years. Social justice advocates oppose the new legislation, reiterating that imposing fines and requiring minors to appear in criminal court would push young people of color into the criminal justice system. (Source:



Controversy over Seaside Heights-Toms River School District Merge – School boards in Seaside Heights and Toms River recently voted to merge the two districts. The plan would allow Seaside Heights students, whose performance is suffering, to access better resourced schools, and Toms River would receive more funding from increased enrollment. The Seaside Heights teachers’ union and some community members oppose the plan, as closing the only Seaside Heights school would make the town the only municipality without a school within its borders. Leaders of the Central Regional School District also oppose the plan, expressing concern that losing Seaside Heights would cost taxpayers money in nearby municipalities. (Source: NJ Spotlight News)

Lawmakers Move to Push Through an End to NJ High School Exit Exams – NJ high schoolers are performing poorly on the NJ Graduation Proficiency Assessment, which tests students’ knowledge of grade 10 English Language Arts, Algebra 1, and Geometry. Black, Hispanic, and economically disadvantaged students, multilingual learners, and students with disabilities are scoring below average. NJ is one of only nine states with a high school exit exam, and lawmakers have been pushing for a decade to eliminate the test. Senate Education Committee Chair Vin Gopal and education groups wish to push through S3308, which passed the Assembly on June 30, by the end of the lame duck session. Opponents of eliminating the test argue there are many pathways to graduate high school – including scoring at a sufficient level on other standardized tests or by submitting a portfolio appeal to the state Department of Education – and that the test scores provide important data to inform education policy. (Source: NJ Spotlight News)



NJ to Receive Federal Funds for Street Safety – The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded $6.71 million to 22 NJ municipalities for projects to decrease pedestrian and biker deaths. Jersey City plans to use its grant of $1.004 million to test bike safety improvements on Ocean Avenue and new technology to track safety data; Newark will use its $800,000 grant to pilot different safety and traffic calming initiatives and develop a comprehensive plan for the city. Thirteen NJ municipalities will use the funds to develop safety and action plans. In NJ, 156 pedestrians and 21 cyclists have been killed in collisions in 2023. (Source:


Final Legislative Actions


Bill No. Bill Title


Pass ACR178 Commemorates the 100th anniversary of Rowan University. 12/11/2023
Enroll S553 Adds technology transfer duties to the New Jersey Commission on Science, Innovation and Technology. 12/11/2023
Enroll A649 Expands purposes for which civil asset forfeiture funds may be used by a law enforcement agency. 12/11/2023
Enroll A1475 Requires the court to consider information concerning coercive control in domestic violence proceedings. 12/11/2023
Enroll A1707 Establishes the presumption that VCCO will order payment to a victim of crime. 12/11/2023
Enroll S1438 Allows unions to file wage claim suits on behalf of workers regardless of their union affiliation. 12/11/2023
Enroll S1680 Designates each community college in the State as a provider of allowable services under the SNAP employment and training program. 12/11/2023
Enroll A3093 Authorizes the court to include in domestic violence restraining orders a provision making the order applicable to a pregnant victim’s child upon the birth of the child. 12/11/2023
Enroll A4033 Extends the deadline for completion of a school district’s annual audit. 12/11/2023
Enroll S3013 Revises the definition of women’s business enterprise and minority business enterprise. 12/11/2023
Enroll S3079 Establishes the School Safety and Security Task Force. 12/11/2023
Enroll A5036 Requires an “Electronic Permit Processing Review System” in the Department of Community Affairs to enable an applicant to submit an electronic signature and certain other submission materials for permit application review. 12/11/2023
Enroll A5208 Extends the provision of current law that permits a retired member of the Public Employees’ Retirement System to return to employment with the Legislature under certain circumstances.  12/11/2023
Enroll A5281 Eliminates the position of constable; removes statutory references to constable; repeals various parts of statutory law; implements the recommendation of the State of New Jersey Commission of Investigation report concerning the elimination of constables. 12/11/2023
Enroll A5648 Authorizes the State Treasurer to sell as surplus property certain land and improvements in the Township of Morris in Morris County. 12/11/2023

Enroll = passed by both houses, sent to the governor for signature.