Explainer: New Jersey’s 2 statewide ballot questions

Public Question 1: Constitutional Amendment To Allow a Court to Order Pretrial Detention of a Person in a Criminal Case

The first question on the New Jersey ballot is: “Do you approve amending the Constitution to allow a court to order pretrial detention of a person in a criminal case? This would change the current constitutional right to bail. The change to the Constitution would mean that a court could order that a person remain in jail prior to trial, even without a chance for the person to post bail, in some situations. The amendment also removes language in the Constitution about bail eligibility for death penalty cases. The death penalty no longer exists in New Jersey.”

Currently, the state Constitution guarantees defendants the right to bail — although judges have denied bail in the past for murder defendants. This question would give judges the ability to deny bail to people accused of lower-level crimes, as well if they believe the person might not show up for trial if released on bail; is a threat to the safety of another or the community; or will attempt to obstruct the criminal justice process. It would give the Legislature the authority to pass laws regarding bail and pretrial release. It would take effect January 1, 2017.

Public Question 2: Constitutional Amendment Dedicating State Funds for Open Space, Farmland, and Historic Preservation, and Changing Existing Dedication For Water Programs, Underground Storage Tanks, and Hazardous Site Cleanups

New Jersey’s second public ballot question is: “Do you approve amending the Constitution to dedicate certain State revenues each year for environmental programs? The Constitution now dedicates four percent of the money collected from the Corporation Business Tax to help pay for some environmental programs. This amendment raises the amount from four percent to six percent beginning on July 1, 2019. The amendment also changes, beginning July 1, 2015, some of the programs funded by the current dedication. The new dedication would be used mostly to preserve and steward open space, farmland, historic sites, and flood-prone areas. Funds would also be used to improve water quality, remove and clean up underground tanks, and clean up polluted sites. Lastly, the amendment dedicates money received from leases and other uses of State open space lands to pay for open space, farmland, and historic preservation.”

This question would increase the percentage of money taken from the Corporation Business Tax (CBT) for environmental programs from 4 percent to 6 percent and redirect that money into preserving open spaces, which generally had previously been purchased or preserved using bond money. Proponents say the dedication is needed to replenish the state’s empty Green Acres fund and would do so without raising additional taxes or putting the state in additional debt. Opponents either do not support using more corporate tax dollars for environmental purposes or argue that the question would cut funding for state water resource programs and hazardous waste cleanups, and leave little money for capital projects at state parks and historic sites.

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Related: NJSpotlight’s 2014 Election Guide


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