Lawmakers are getting together again today for one of those rare summer session days.
The full state Senate has a session today, August 23rd.
The Assembly Budget Committee had a big confab Aug. 5, largely to bring attention to public worker pension systems that are in deep deficit and Gov. Christie’s decision not to put in his budget the $3 billion payment due from the state (Christie says he doesn’t want to contribute until fixes are made); part of that $11 billion budget gap the administration says it closed.
Last Thursday, the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee got together to talk about Emergency Medical Services.
And this coming Thursday, the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee will take testimony on state mandates on local towns and schools.
This is part of the “tool kit” the governor and lawmakers want to help make feasible that 2 percent property tax cap they came up with earlier this summer.
NJN News Senior Political Correspondent Michael Aron, State House Correspondent Zack Fink and the rest of the NJN News team are on top of all this.
Today’s Senate session features a bill that would commission a study of motor vehicle laws aimed at young drivers. The study would include the pros and cons of a new law dubbed Kyleigh’s Law, named for a Morris County 16-year-old killed in a car accident. Under the law, effective last May 1, drivers under 21 years old have to have little red decals affixed to the upper left-hand side of their license plate. The idea is to enable law enforcement to more readily ascertain whether a young driver is out past curfew or has too many passengers with them and the like.
Sounded like a good idea at the time. But soon after, other caring parents piped up in a firestorm of protest, saying their kids could now be targeted anytime of the day or night by robbers, rapists and other ne’er do-wells who mean their young harm.
So it’s back to the drawing boards for lawmakers; but a full-fledged study is in order first once the state Attorney General hears from the motor vehicle and highway safety directors and other movers and shakers in the driving and law enforcement world.
There’s also a bill on the list that would require downhill skiiers under 18 years old to wear helmets on the slopes. Myself, three brothers, our father and assorted other family members and friends skiied for years and years with just wool hats and made it through alright. Though my youngest brother broke a leg and my dad fractured a knee over, say, 30 years of the sport. I wear a helmet today when I get out there, as does another brother, not because anyone’s ordered us to do it but because it gives us a feeling of security; though that may be a false sense of same because anything can happen at anytime on big hills. Like the time several years ago that I fractured a rib or two after taking a spill. Maybe lawmakers want to pass a bill that would require skiiers to wear kevlar vests or those wraparounds llike some quarterbacks wear after they get this one passed. And maybe some kind of shin or leg guards, like baseball catchers wear.
The ski helmet law looks to mirror the one the New Jersey Legislature passed requiring bicyclists under 14 years old to wear them. Last night, while walking my dog, a few kids in the neighborhood went wheeling by; all care-free with the wind blowing through their hair and food sacks in their hands as they headed to chow down at one or the other’s house, I imagined.
It’s funny, because before even looking at today’s board list, I thought last night about that bicycle helmet law passed several years ago and how silly it was because kids everywhere aren’t going to pay it much mind. And I don’t recall a single kid in the ’60s and ’70s of my youth (Though I imagine it could help some parents who need the backing of the full force of state law behind their parental pleadings, er, edicts. “The police will arrest you if you’re not wearing your helmet, Jocelyn and Johnny”).
I don’t recall a single kid in my youth of the ’60s and ’70s wearing a bicycle helmet. And not a one of us paid the price New Jersey’s lawmakers are so busy trying to protect everyone from.
But one of us did get it pretty bad riding a flexible flier down our local and legendary “Suicide Hill.” Sal didn’t veer off quickly enough in the fork in the trail, burying his sled, and his helmetless head, into a tree trunk. A badly bloodied Sal did live to tell about his brush with death and the rest of us got to experience the heightened thrill of sledding at such a dangerous place. But maybe after safely tucking in bicyclists and skiiers (not to mention young drivers), lawmakers will want to get to the business of requiring helmets of sled riders. And in the interest of letting the kids have their fun without too much in the way of regulation, they could pen in a provision where it would only be required when sled riders are presented with hills with trees on them.
New Jersey is known in some circles as a Nanny state; these are just a few of a zillion examples that lend that moniker some credence. (Let’s not get started on the runny egg law of the Jim Florio years).
It all puts me in mind of that famous admonition from the incomparable Mark Twain: “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”