N.J. voters to decide on bail overhaul, open space funding

In a rare August legislative session in Trenton Monday, it took the New Jersey Assembly about 20 minutes to pass two highly anticipated constitutional amendments.

 

 

If voters sign off in November, one will reform the state’s bail system, while the other will fund open space preservation.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 84 – an amendment that will dedicate 4 percent of revenue from the corporate business tax to preserving open spaces and historical sites in New Jersey over five years – passed quickly and with an overwhelming majority.

If voters concur, eventually 6 percent of business tax money would go to open space and other environmental purposes. By then, it’s expected to generate more than $100 million a year for these projects.

A pair of bail reforms also passed easily and without discussion. One would change the constitutional guarantee of bail to allow judges to deny release to defendants considered to be dangerous. The other creates non-monetary bail alternatives for low-risk offenders who can’t afford to pay.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie advocated for the two bills last week during a news conference.

“How can we continue to allow a system to exist that fails our poor, that fails those who pose no risk to our communities and that fails our citizens because we’re allowing dangerous people to walk free just because they can afford to?” said Christie. “It’s not a fair system.”

The Assembly initially rebuffed Christie’s call for passage, electing instead to meet Monday, the last day to ensure the proposals appear on this November’s ballet.

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