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TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Nilsa Cruz-Perez and Jeff Van Drew providing military members and veterans with enhanced protections from discrimination cleared the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today.

“The men and women who have stood up on behalf of this country as a member of the US Armed Forces, Reserves, or National Guard, represent the very best we have. They should never face harassment, abuse, or discrimination in any arena,” said Senator Cruz Perez. “With these bills, we are acknowledging that the individuals who defend freedom at home and abroad are the foundation of our democracy and should be protected to the fullest extent possible.”

“It is so important we update these laws and make sure our military members are fully protected,” said Senator Jeff Van Drew, a sponsor of S-713. “By amending these laws, we are closing loopholes to ensure that members of our military have the proper protections they need from discrimination when they enter the workforce. They have fought for our freedoms and it is right that we as lawmakers fight for them.”

The first bill (S-713) provides employment protection for military personnel. Currently, any person who knowingly deprives, prevents or obstructs a member of the organized militia in his employment because he is a member of the organized militia, or is performing or about to perform his duty or dissuades a person from enlistment by threatening or harming his employment, is guilty of a misdemeanor.  This bill adds members of the United States Armed Forces and the Reserves to those protected under the statute.

The bill would replace the term “misdemeanor” with the current equivalent designation of a crime of the fourth degree. Currently, a fourth degree crime can result in a fine limit of $10,000 and/or up to 18 months in prison. The bill would also add a mandatory minimum fine of $2,500 for a violation of the statute.

The second bill, S-714, would provide that anyone who excludes members of the United States Armed Forces or reservists because of the uniform, from the equal enjoyment of any public accommodation such as places of amusement, resorts, or other public facilities, would be guilty of a fourth degree crime.

Any fines collected under S-714 would be deposited in the “NJ National Guard State Family Readiness Council Fund.” Which is a program that provide financial assistance to deployed military personnel and their families.

Both bills cleared the committee unanimously  and will now head to the full Senate for further consideration.

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