A bill sponsored by 9th District legislators granting New Jersey municipalities permission to offer free or reduced-fee beach badges to military personnel and their families passed in the Assembly this week, clearing the way for shore towns to enact ordinances in time for the summer season.
The measure, passed by the State Senate last February, amends existing rules, which only authorize beach towns to grant low- or no-cost beach access to seniors and certain disabled residents. The new rules would allow towns to extend the same privileges to active military and New Jersey National Guard personnel, their spouses and their children over the age of 12.
The bill had long lists of co-sponsors in both the Senate and the Assembly, and received strong bi-partisan support.
When the bill was most recently introduced in the Assembly in March, Sen. Christopher J. Connors, who sponsored the legislation along 9th District Assembly members Brian E. Rumpf and DiAnne C. Gove, said the legislators hoped it would encourage more municipalities to offer free badges to members of the military, and would protect the practice where it’s already happening.
Several municipalities in the area already make a point of interpreting an existing state statute as allowing towns to offer free badges to military, Connors said, “but you always wonder whether some unpatriotic soul who has an ax to grind would raise a complaint about a municipality doing it,” since towns weren’t explicitly allowed by the state to do so. “With this legislation, we want to avoid that,” he said.
Rumpf said Tuesday night that lawmakers were pleased the measure finally cleared both houses.
“We’re very happy to see that pass,” he said. “It’s something we’ve advocated for a number of years. Even more so today than at any other time, we feel we have to find ways to give back to our veterans. This is a very small thing for the sacrifices they have given to us.”