Governor Signs Military Base Bills to Promote Viability of New Jersey, One More Pending Approval
TRENTON – Two bills sponsored by Senator Ellen Karcher which would aid military facilities in New Jersey in an effort to avoid closings under the federal Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process were signed into law today by Acting Governor Richard J. Codey, while a third is pending consideration by the full Senate.
“Our State’s military bases are valuable partners in our communities and in our economies, and we cannot stand idly by while they are targeted for extinction by the BRAC,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer. “We must show the federal government that New Jersey has the perfect economic and regulatory climate to allow our bases to thrive. These bills will prove to the BRAC Commission that New Jersey’s bases have the tools necessary to serve our nation’s Armed Forces well.”
The first bill, S-2206, will expand the membership of the Council on Armed Forces from 10 to 22 members, with the new members including the State Commissioners of Education, Environmental Protection, Community Affairs and Transportation, as well as the Treasurer and the Chair of the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education. Additionally, six public members will be added to the Council, bringing the total public members to nine, and of that nine, eight public members would be required to represent community and business support groups for New Jersey’s military installations.
The scope and mission of the Council will also be expanded, and the newly restructured Council will be required to address quality of life issues for New Jersey’s military personnel and their dependents, and facilitate coordinated planning and expedited military construction permits to make base operation easier in the Garden State.
“With the Council on Armed Forces serving as a proactive group to meet the needs of our State’s fighting men and women, we can quickly and efficiently improve the quality of life of New Jersey’s soldiers,” said Senator Karcher. “By increasing the input into the organization to include representatives of New Jersey’s military bases, we are also empowering the State to quickly and efficiently meet the unique needs of the State’s military installations.”
S-2206 was approved by the Senate by a vote of 36-0, and was approved by the Assembly by a vote of 74-0.
The second bill, S-2207, would require developers to notify military facility commanders of any proposed development within a 3,000 foot radius of the military facility which might impact on the operations of the facility. Under the bill, a military facility commander would register with the municipality in which a facility resides, and would be allowed to provide input on the potential negative impact that development would have on the facility.
“A buffer zone to spare military installations from encroaching development is a necessity in a State where suburban sprawl is more the rule than the exception,” said Senator Karcher. “Civilian development within close proximity of our military bases poses a threat not only to the integrity of operations on the base, but to the safety of every civilian living close by when soldiers are practicing with live ammunition. We cannot allow routine military operations to end in tragedy because someone’s home is too close to a military base.”
S-2207 was approved by the Senate by a vote of 36-0, and cleared the Assembly with a vote of 74-0.
The third bill in the package, S-2205, which was approved by the Senate Education Committee last Monday, would expand 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.
“Military children are almost encouraged not to get too attached to their surroundings, as they move from base to base as their parents get assigned to different locations,” said Senator Karcher. “Through this bill, we’re giving them the incentives to stay and learn at one of the many fine institutions of higher education in the Garden State. With all that our soldiers do to defend our liberties on a daily basis, their children deserve the right to quality higher education afforded to other citizens with the luxury of remaining in one State, at one home, for an extended period of time.”
If approved by the Senate, the bill would then go to the Governor’s Desk to be signed into law. An identical bill, A-3705, was approved by the Assembly last month by a vote of 74-0.