NJ Laws Taking Effect Include Ban on Puffing on Beaches

TRENTON (AP) -

A ban on smoking at public beaches, a state mandate for health insurance and the ability for courts to take away guns from people who pose a danger are among the laws going into effect in the new year in New Jersey.

There are about two dozen new laws taking effect in 2019, according to a tally kept by the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services. A handful of them grabbed headlines when they passed.

Smoking Ban: Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill banning smoking at the state’s public beaches and parks in July, though local communities can opt out and designate small smoking sections. The law takes effect Jan. 16.

The law doesn’t specify who will be responsible for enforcing it. Murphy said it shouldn’t be lifeguards, but he left it up to towns to decide. Senate President Steve Sweeney, who sponsored the bill, said lifeguards or local police could be called on to enforce the ban.

The ban also bars vaping but allows towns to set up smoking areas on 15 percent of any given beach or park. Smokers will also be allowed to light up in parking lots.

Health Insurance Mandate: Murphy and the Democrat-led Legislature enacted a state law requiring health care coverage in response to a 2017 federal tax overhaul removing the Obamacare mandate. The law takes effect Tuesday.

Residents face a penalty of 2.5 percent of income or $695 per taxpayer, whichever is greater. A family’s maximum penalty is $2,085.

Gun Violence Protective Order: Murphy signed a package of gun violence-related bills in June that he and legislators said amounted to New Jersey’s response to a national crisis. One of those bills goes into effect Sept. 1.

Known as the Extreme Risk Protective Order Act of 2018, the measure allows state courts to issue a protective order when someone poses a “significant risk of personal injury” to themselves or others. The so-called red flag law makes it easier to take a firearm away from someone who is a danger to themselves or others, the measure’s sponsors say.

The law authorizes family or household members or a police officer to petition the court for the order.