GORDON BILL GIVING TOWNS FLEXIBILITY WHEN PUNISHING VIOLATORS OF LOCAL SMOKING LAWS PASSES SENATE

Senator Bob Gordon, D-Bergen, speaks at a Budget Committee meeting in support of his bill to provide flood control funding for Bergen County.

TRENTON — Legislation sponsored by Senator Bob Gordon that gives municipalities the power to treat violations of local public smoking laws as a civil offense instead of a criminal one gained approval by the Senate today.

This bill, S-1731, would permit a municipality to adopt an ordinance establishing a civil penalty of up to $200 for smoking in a public place where it is prohibited by the municipality or the owner or person responsible for the operation of a public place. The civil penalty would serve as an alternative to the criminal penalty of disorderly persons that a municipality may charge under current law.

“Criminal penalties can be time-consuming, costly and can create a host of unintended consequences,” said Gordon (D-Bergen, Passaic). ”Municipalities want to have strong laws in place that deter smoking in public places, but they also want the option to levy penalties that don’t unduly punish the violator.”

The bill was approved by a vote of 38-1. It next heads to the Assembly for consideration.