9th District-Backed Veterans Housing, Nuclear Power Plant Trespassing Bills Make Headway
Good news for veterans seeking housing opportunities comes as the State Assembly has overwhelmingly passed the 9th District delegation’s veterans initiative. The legislation (S-260/A-452/A-984), sponsored by Sen. Christopher J. Connors, Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove, would reserve a portion of the tenant-based rental assistance vouchers under the State Rental Assistance Program for grants to veterans.
The legislation passed the Senate unanimously this past May.
“In light of veterans’ service to our country, it is incumbent upon the state to expand housing opportunities for those brave individuals struggling with New Jersey’s high cost of living,” the delegation said in a joint statement following the recent Assembly floor vote. “Importantly, this is an issue that crosses party lines as demonstrated by the bipartisan support our legislation has gained since being introduced in 2008.”
To tackle the issue, the members of the delegation, who serve on the Senate and Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs committees, want to expand on the state’s current veterans’ housing programs, such as Veterans Haven. This would be especially alluring to veterans, the members believe, since it would give them more liberty to decide where they want to live in this form of housing.
“Having passed both houses of the Legislature, we are very hopeful the governor signs this legislation with all deliberate speed in an effort to bolster state services for our veterans,” the members stated.
A bill sponsored by Rumpf and Gove in the Assembly to increase the penalty for trespassing in a nuclear power plant from a fourth degree to third degree crime was recently advanced by the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee as well.
“Security at our nuclear generating facilities has taken on a greater level of importance since 9/11,” the members stated. “Obviously, this is an issue that hits close to home for us and our constituents, as the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station is located in our legislative district.”
Trespassing in a nuclear generating plant, under current law, is a fourth degree crime, which is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000, imprisonment for up to 18 months, or both. The delegation members don’t believe these penalties adequately reflect the gravity of trespassing in a nuclear power plant, especially considering the potentially dangerous resources kept on site and the harmful impacts that any disturbance to these facilities’ critical operations may cause. A third degree crime is punishable by a fine of up to $15,000, imprisonment for three to five years, or both.
“Trespassing is a very serious crime and should be treated as such under the law, especially in this age of terrorism,” the members stated. “In the case of trespassing in a nuclear facility, it’s appropriate to strengthen the statutory penalties in view of the fact that domestic terrorist incidents have increased in the United States.
“While we certainly recognize that nuclear facilities in the state take the appropriate measures to protect their facilities, our legislation would enhance deterrents for trespassing at these sites and more effectively prosecute those who would threaten public safety,” they added.
Connors is expected to introduce the Senate companion measure. He was a sponsor of the 9th District delegation-led effort that updated state law in 2003 to allow nuclear facility security personnel to use hollow nose ammunition and semi-automatic firearms on site. —K.A.E.