TRENTON – A package of bills sponsored by Senator Ellen Karcher to head off federal efforts to close down many local New Jersey military bases and make base continuation a more attractive option to the federal government was introduced last week in the Senate.
“Aside from contributing to our continued homeland security and maintaining our national relevance as a major depot for military weapons and personnel, the bases also are a driving force in our State’s economy, employing thousands of New Jerseyans in civilian and military posts,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer. “It would be a huge mistake, and a huge misfortune for the State of New Jersey, to close these bases. In this time of international strife, we need to continue our financial support to the troops, not cut back.”
The first bill in the package, S-2205, expands the definition of State resident to include a dependent child whose parent or guardian has been transferred to a military base in New Jersey. The expanded residential status would make these children eligible for in-State tuition aid grants for which they would not otherwise qualify.
“By opening up the in-State tuition benefit to so-called ‘military children,’ we’re giving them incentive to stay permanently in New Jersey, and ensuring the development of a highly-trained and educated workforce,” said Senator Karcher. “Many of these kids move from base to base and never really have any roots from which to grow. In New Jersey, we are going to work to give them some sort of permanent anchor.”
The second bill, S-2206, would expand the membership of the Council on Armed Forces to include mayors of municipalities surrounding some of New Jersey’s bases to give the Council a local perspective. The bill would also expand the powers and mission of the Council to include addressing quality of life issues for military personnel and their dependents; increasing public awareness of military missions performed in New Jersey and the economic impact they have on the State; facilitating coordinated planning and expedited review of military permits; and discussing how New Jersey can more effectively support military and Coast Guard installations in the State.
“By directing the Council to focus on how New Jersey can best support its troops, we will make the Garden State a far more attractive option in keeping bases active,” said Senator Karcher. “The Council’s mission is to ensure the ease of service for our military personnel, and with these added areas of responsibility, they will be able to do just that.”
The final bill, S-2207, would require applicants of building permits that may impact on a military installation to give prior notice of the development under the “Municipal Land Use Law” to a military facility commander who is registered with the municipality under the bill. The bill would require the notice if the property to be developed was within 3,000 feet of a military facility.
“By giving military facility commanders prior notice of pending development, we’re allowing them to come to the permit process with any problems they might foresee in the operation of the military installation,” said Senator Karcher. “Military bases are a valid and necessary use of municipal property, and site commanders are better equipped than anyone else in determining if a development might interrupt military operations. This is a common sense approach that will allow the military to have input on problematic development before it happens.”
The three bills are pending consideration by the Senate Law, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee..