Assembly Advances Measures to Promote Base Viability in New Jersey
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 approved today by the Assembly, receiving final legislative approval, while a third will be considered by the Senate Education Committee on Monday.
“Our military bases are under attack from ‘efficiency’ experts with partisan leanings who consider bottom-line costs without considering the quality of the bases they’re cutting,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer. “The BRAC process, which decides on cuts based on cost without taking into account the value of the installations they’re devastating, has bases like Fort Monmouth and the Picatinny Arsenal in the crosshairs, and it’s our duty to protect them by any means necessary. These bills will, hopefully, offer a shield, to allow our bases to avoid the BRAC cuts and closures, and deflate any argument that New Jersey is not a viable, cost-efficient location for military presence.”
The first bill, S-2206, would 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 would 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 would also be expanded, and the newly restructured Council would 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 a revamped Council on Armed Forces serving as a vital link between the military and State government, New Jersey would have the input needed to make military operations and training exercises in this State much easier,” said Senator Karcher. “The retooled Council on Armed Forces would be charged with making the relations between military bases and the surrounding communities as smooth and seamless as possible, and given our commitment to the troops in so many other areas, I believe they will be successful.”
S-2206 was approved by a vote of 74-0 and now heads to the Governor to be signed into law. The bill was approved by the Senate earlier this month by a vote of 36-0.
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.
“Development that encroaches on military operations is unsafe for both soldiers and civilians, and a rational buffer zone should have been instituted years ago,” said Senator Karcher. “In exercises concerning live ammunition, commanding officers need to focus on the safety of their troops, not the safety of every civilian who has a home within 100 feet of a military base because of overdevelopment and sprawl in New Jersey. Establishing a buffer zone for new development would allow military training exercises and other operations to run without outside interference.”
S-2207 was approved by a vote of 74-0 and now heads to the Governor’s Desk. It was approved by the Senate earlier in the month by a vote of 36-0.
The third bill in the package, S-2205, which will be considered by the Senate Education Committee on 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 often are shuffled from base to base, and never get to develop any feelings of attachment to their transient homes,” said Senator Karcher. “By expanding tuition assistance to military children, we would provide incentives for these kids to stay in New Jersey and take advantage of our quality higher educational system. Considering all that our troops have done for us in securing and maintaining liberty, it’s really the least that we, as a State, can offer.”
If approved by the Education Committee, the bill would then go to the full Senate for a vote