Christie signs bills for veterans aid, Megan's Law changes
TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie’s pen received a workout Tuesday as he signed 100 measures into law while also nixing 44.
Among the bills receiving Christie’s signature was one updating Megan’s Law to specify that minors found guilty of sexting would not be placed on the state’s sex offender registry.
The bill also requires parole officers to receive additional training to detect sex offenders who use computers or other electronic devices to communicate with minors, and for most convicted sex offenders to pay a $30 monthly fee to help pay for their supervision and monitoring.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who was among several lawmakers who sponsored the measure, said the additional training for parole officers was key.
“What has always been a large task to ensure that sex offenders do not prey on our children has grown exponentially as more offenders have been added to the registry, and technological advances have provided offenders with new outlets to recommit,” Sweeney, D-3rd of West Deptford, said in a statement. “We must provide our parole officers with the training and resources necessary to effectively monitor these individuals’ online footprints, notify families of dangerous individuals in their neighborhoods, and ensure that sex offenders do not recommit these heinous crimes and harm another child.”
Another sponsor, Sen. Kevin O’Toole, said the updates would provide a balanced approach to dealing with sex offenders that provides more resources to monitor them.
“They will face higher penalties, and convicted sex offenders will be forced to pay for their supervision,” said O’Toole, R-40th of Cedar Grove.
The governor also signed several veterans-related measures. One specifies that the state will pay for the burial of any indigent veteran, even those who did not serve during wartime. Another gives New Jersey residents the option of contributing to programs aiding homeless veterans on their gross income tax returns, and a third creates a pilot program to recruit and train veterans for positions as school security guards.
Assemblyman Troy Singleton, who sponsored the homeless veterans bill, said the measures were a way of assisting the men and women who served and protected their country.
“The number of homeless veterans is staggering,” Singleton, D-7th of Palmyra, said Wednesday. “We need to do more to help, and this (law) makes it easier for people to help those who served and have fallen on hard times.”
Several bills aiding women were signed, including one exempting tattoos and other cosmetic makeup services from the state’s sales tax if they are performed in conjunction with reconstructive breast surgery for breast cancer patients.
Sen. Diane Allen, R-7th of Edgewater Park, was a co-sponsor.
Christie also signed a domestic violence bill that he previously vetoed.
The bill, named Lisa’s Law after a domestic violence victim from Toms River, creates a pilot program in Ocean County where certain offenders who violate restraining orders would be electronically monitored so that victims could be notified if they come within a certain proximity.
Christie conditionally vetoed the bill because of concerns that the required technology doesn’t exist. His veto requires the state attorney general to investigate its availability and report back within 120 days.
Although the Legislature voted to concur with Christie’s veto, Singleton, who was a sponsor of the bill, said he was still disappointed with the delay. He said 18 other states have similar programs up and running.
“That being said, if this is the process we need to go through to get it up and running here, I’m for that,” he said. “I think the study will certainly prove the technology exists.”
In addition, Christie signed a fire safety measure requiring buildings with solar panels affixed to their roofs to be labeled with emblems notifying firefighters of the potential electrocution danger. It also requires fire departments or companies to be notified of the location of any external shutoff switch for the panels.
The issue received extra attention in the wake of the massive Sept. 1 fire at the Dietz & Watson distribution center in Delanco. Firefighters battling that fire said they were hampered by the panels on the roof of the giant warehouse.