TRENTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee today approved a bill, sponsored by Senator Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, that would streamline a State board designed to provide financial awards to crime victims.
“This bill (S-218) will re-focus a good agency that got out of shape in middle age,” said Senator Weinberg. “”We want to ensure that victims of crime get the attention they deserve.”
Under the bill, the Victims of Crime Compensation Board would be re-structured to wipe out the four, full-time board positions with salaries each in excess of $100,000 annually with tenure after 10 years.
The current board would be replaced by a voluntary, five-member hearing board to determine awards for crime victims up to $25,000. The agency’s executive director would be appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate and would have final authority on all matters of victim compensation.
“Created in 1971, the crime victims compensation agency fulfilled a valuable mission, but grew bloated over more than 35 years of patronage appointments to the board,” Senator Weinberg said. “
The bill would set a $300 minimum for legal fees regardless of the outcome of the hearing. Lawyers would continue to receive up to 15 percent of a victim’s compensation or the $300 minimum.
Senator Weinberg told the panel that the bill will provide mental health counseling, child counseling and ensure “a much better way” of providing services to crime victims while saving close to $500,000 annually.
Senator John H. Adler, Chairman of the panel, credited Senator Weinberg and the bill’s co-prime sponsor, Senator Ellen Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer, for cutting the size of government while crafting a plan that will improve services.
“You are to be commended,” Senator Adler told Senator Weinberg.
Funding for the compensation awards for the crime victims comes primarily through monetary assessments that are imposed on convicted felons, Senator Weinberg said.
The panel vote 6-1 to release the measure. It now will be reviewed by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for a precise assessment of its projected savings.