Appellate Court Affirms NJ Recreational Cannabis Law May Coexist with Federal Law – A New Jersey Appellate Court ruled on May 1 that state laws enabling recreational cannabis sales may coexist with federal law. Residents of Highland Park, NJ, challenged two 2021 ordinances allowing cannabis retail, lounges, and delivery services in the borough, arguing the ordinances and the NJ Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance and Marketplace Modernization Act (CREAMMA) violate the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), NJ municipal land use law, and other state and federal laws. Affirming a lower court ruling, Judge Jack Sabatino wrote in the May 1 decision that CREAMMA does not violate the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which establishes that state law cannot violate federal law. The panel cited a 2021 NJ Supreme Court decision, Hager v. M&K Construction, which held that the CSA leaves room for state law to operate.



Attorney General and Casino Workers’ Union Ask Judge to Dismiss Smoking Ban Lawsuit – A grassroots group of casino workers filed a lawsuit in early April to end an exception in the state’s 2006 Smoke-Free Air Act, which allows indoor smoking on casino floors. They argued that the exception violates state constitutional provisions which guarantee a right to safety and forbid exclusive privileges to corporations like casinos. On April 29, NJ Attorney General Matt Platkin and Unite Here Local 54 (the union representing most casino workers) asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit. Platkin argued the allowance of smoking on casino floors does not violate equal protection or safety guarantees; the union stated a total smoking ban would put many casino industry jobs at risk. Gov. Murphy reiterated that he would sign into law pending legislation which would eliminate the smoking ban exception on casino floors. 


New State Funding Plan Would Bump Funding for Many NJ Hospitals – A proposed plan embedded in the fiscal year 2025 budget currently under review for approval by July 1 would increase state funding of hospitals by leveraging federal funding. The proposal aims to improve the funding available for underserved communities. It would shift $205 million in state funding from charity care, a program which helps to cover hospital bills for the uninsured, to Medicaid, as the state holds a smaller funding obligation for the latter (50% versus 33%). The change should yield higher state funding amounts for most hospitals without any cost to taxpayers. However, a few hospitals would see little to no increase in funding, and Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth would see a sharp state funding decrease. 


Public Administration

Murphy Supports Reinstatement of Jury Duty for People with Felony Convictions – Gov. Murphy announced on May 1 his support for S292/A834, a bill which would end the disqualification from jury service of people who hold a past indictable offense (what the state calls a felony conviction). The legislation would still disqualify incarcerated people and people convicted of murder or aggravated sexual assault from serving as jurors. Though all U.S. states bar people convicted of serious crimes from jury duty, New Jersey holds one of the strictest policies, excluding anyone convicted of an indictable offense. The change would add half a million people to the pool of eligible jurors, many of whom are Black and Latino. The bill currently awaits review in the judiciary committees of both legislative houses.



Congestion Pricing for Vehicles Entering Manhattan to Begin June 30 – The contested congestion pricing plan, which will charge vehicles entering Manhattan south of 60th St., a base rate of $15, is set to start June 30. Through this initiative, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority aims to raise $1 billion for capital improvements for transit infrastructure managed by the Authority as well as to reduce traffic and pollution in midtown Manhattan. The plan is set to proceed despite various legal challenges, including one from Gov. Murphy, who argues congestion pricing will exacerbate traffic and pollution in North Jersey. NJ is also fighting for a portion of the initiative’s revenue.



Newark to Begin Curfew Enforcement for Teens – On May 3, Newark will begin enforcement of a long-existing curfew for youth under the age of 18 between the hours of 11 pm and 5 am Friday through Sunday while school is in session and seven days a week during the summer. The effort aims to curb violence against youth. Newark police will stop young people outside during curfew hours to request their home address and information before contacting the Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery, whose staff will escort them home. If the parent cannot be reached, youth will be redirected to the city’s new reengagement center. There are no fines or penalties for youth who break curfew.