As scandals have shadowed his second term, Gov. Chris Christie got back to work immediately this week, signing into law 100 bills following his inauguration on Tuesday - including one that beefs up Megan’s Law.
He showed his bipartisan side, too, signing many bills that were sponsored by Democrats. But he also scrapped 44 other pieces of legislation, irking some lawmakers and
Among the bills Christie signed was a Democrat-sponsored measure that requires Megan’s Law offenders to pay for their own supervision, among other changes to the state’s sex offender law.
Christie also signed Democrat-sponsored bills that:
- Make female genital mutilation of minor girls a crime,
- Protects consumers from misleading claims from electricity suppliers
- Prohibits workplace discrimination against pregnant women
- Make cyberbullying a crime
The anti-bullying law makes cyberbullying a fourth-degree crime, punishable by up to 18 months jail time and a fine, or both. The punishment is more severe for those adults convicted of cyber-bullying of a minor, according to the law.
"It's hard to police the 'Wild West' known as the Internet, but by toughening our laws on harassment, hopefully young people will understand that their actions online are not just a virtual reality, but ones with real life consequences," Assemblyman Tim Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic), a sponsor of the cyber-bullying bill.
Female genital mutilation – the partial or total removal of external female genitalia for non-medical reasons – is often thought to be a practice limited to third-world countries but it is estimated that 228,000 American girls are at risk for, or have undergone, the procedure, according to the bill.
The law makes genital mutilation on girls under 18 a crime of the third degree, punishable by three to five years in prison or a fine of up to $15,000, or both.
"This is a horrific practice that serves no medical purpose," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "It's meant to dehumanize women and should not be tolerated in any way shape or form. Anyone who would submit young girls and women to this torture must be held accountable."
Christie also signed a bill that prohibits workplace discrimination against pregnant women, requiring employers to make ‘reasonable accommodations’ for pregnant women who are working.
"It's no secret that pregnant women are vulnerable to discrimination in the workplace. We've seen reports that women who request an accommodation that will allow them to maintain a healthy pregnancy are being removed from their positions, placed on unpaid leave, or fired," said Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington), a sponsor of the bill. "This is about making sure that our laws reflect 21st century society where discrimination is not tolerated or condoned."
But among the stack of bills Christie allowed to die through “pocket veto’’ – the practice of letting bills expire without action -- was one that would have required new municipal police cars to be equipped with dashboard video cameras and some environmental legislation that has drawn fire from some Democrats and the Sierra Club.
Christie issued no statements on why he allowed any of the 44 bills to die.
“I’m deeply disappointed that Gov. Christie failed to act on my bill to require municipal police vehicles be equipped with video recording systems,” Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-Gloucester/Camden), sponsor of the police video camera bill, said in a statement. “It’s even more upsetting that the governor chose not to explain his reasoning behind not signing this bill designed to protect New Jerseyans and police officers alike.”
Among those bills Christie allowed to die was legislation that
- Put regulations on the use of drone technology in New Jersey skies
- Establish notification requirements of some combined sewer overflows
- Provide standards for home elevation contractors.
- Required the Department of Community Affairs to establish standards concerning mold hazards
- Provide funding for the Office of Clean Energy within the Board of Public Utilities
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, had strong words for Christie’s pocket veto of several bills that Tittel said would have protected New Jersey residents and reined in developers.
“When you look at the governor’s record on signing bills is he only signs bills that roll back environmental protections, takes side the polluters or subsidizes politically connected developers,’’ Tittel said. “It shows his agenda when it comes to the environment that he takes the side of polluters and fossil fuels over clean air, clean water, and clean energy.”