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Where does N.J. stand on requiring seat belts in school buses?

May 18 2018
The decision to require seat belts in large school buses, similar to the one involved in a fatal bus crash on I-80 Thursday, is left up to individual states.

New Jersey is one of seven states with laws requiring seat belts, but only California and Nevada mandate three-point seat belts, similar to the type used in passenger cars.

A state lawmaker has tried unsuccessfully for five years to change the law to require school buses to have the same type of shoulder and lap belts used in cars and other vehicles. 

What does New Jersey law require now?

New Jersey's law requires lap belts and high back seats that meet federal standards. It does not require three point belts with a shoulder harness as California and Nevada do.

What does federal law require in school buses?

Federal regulations were changed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in October 2009, requiring all smaller school buses built after October 2011 weighing 10,000 pounds or less to be equipped with seat belts.

The height of seat backs in buses built after 2009 were increased. High back, padded seat backs also had to be designed to withstand a certain amount of force without breaking or bending to hold passengers in place, a theory called compartmentalization. 

No Legalization Yet, But 'Shift' Sees NJ Firms Firing Up Cannabis Practices

May 16 2018
As the dialogue about possible legalization of marijuana in New Jersey once again ramps up, a number of firms have announced the formation of cannabis law practice groups.

As the dialogue about possible full legalization of marijuana in New Jersey once again ramps up, a number of firms have announced the formation of cannabis law practice groups.

There seems to be something of a blueprint: Lawyers who have experience with cannabis clients—or at least those whose practices are pertinent to the current market for medical marijuana, or the potential market for recreational marijuana—are brought together. Like any business, marijuana businesses generate a range of legal needs: land use, licensing and regulatory, to name a few.

Also ranging widely are the levels of experience that lawyers offer. Some say they’ve been advising on marijuana-related issues since New Jersey’s medical cannabis movement began years ago, while some have seen clients ask an increasing number of questions about an evolving, and apparently lucrative, industry.

In recent years, there’s been a “shift in midsize and big firms, and how they’re going to embrace cannabis practice,” and “people are trying to create full-service practices,” according to Shabnam Malek, a co-founder of the National Cannabis Bar Association and an Oakland, California-based attorney at virtual law firm Brand & Branch, which handles intellectual property law and represents numerous cannabis industry clients.

“It’s not just one area of law,” she said, adding, “Firms that are trying to grow cannabis practices really fast” run the risk of “ending up in situations where the wrong attorney is working on the wrong matter.”

Small firms specializing in cannabis work have cropped up, particularly in pot-legal jurisdictions in the West, in large part because “big and midsize firms hadn’t stepped up with those solutions yet,” Malek said.

But larger firms taking on representation of cannabis industry clients? “That is obviously the future,” she said.

Supreme Court's legal sports betting decision: Three key unanswered questions

May 14 2018
The day that many sports fans and gamblers have been waiting for is here. Nevada's monopoly on legal sports betting will come to an end after the U.S. Supreme Court voided the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a federal law which prevented states from making individual decisions on matters such as the legalization of sports betting.

The U.S. arm of Britain-based sportsbook operator William Hill intends to offer sports betting in New Jersey locations as "soon as responsibly possible," according to Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill US. "We're thinking in the realm of weeks."

MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren told CNBC on Monday that it will be able to offer sports betting around the country "very quickly."

"We have already established the architecture to deploy sports betting as soon as the states allow us to do that," Murren said. "We have already the software. We have our mobile app called PlayMGM that is already activated in Nevada."

Many casino stocks popped on the news, including MGM, and major sports team owners like Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said on Monday that the decision will increase team values by as much as double. But professional sports leagues are among the significant parties that still have major questions about how the legalized gambling rollout occurs across the states.

Here are a few of the biggest decisions yet to be figured out as states move to offer legalized sports bets.

Safe Haven law, sexting warnings may be taught in NJ

May 13 2018
Lawmakers are advancing a pair of bills requiring lessons on sexting and the state’s Safe Haven Infant Protection Act to be added to New Jersey schools’ curriculum standards.

The requirement to teach high-school students about the Safe Haven law, which designates locations such as police and fire departments where newborns can be safely abandoned by overwhelmed parents, was first proposed in 2004 but hadn’t gotten a legislative hearing until Monday.

In the past month, four babies were found abandoned in locations not designated as safe locations: along the PATH tracks in Jersey City, in front of homes in Trenton and Highland Park, and in a vacant building in Trenton.

“The news of the abandoned babies recently, two of whom were found dead, has rightly evoked feelings of sadness for we know there are so many individuals and couples who want these babies and would be glad to adopt them,” said Mary Tasy, executive director of New Jersey Right to Life.

Tasy was on a Safe Haven Task Force in 2007 that made a series of recommendations that weren’t adopted, including the requirement that high-school students be made aware of the law.

“Although it has taken 11 years to get to this point, this legislation is clearly a step in the right direction,” Tasy said.

The Senate Education Committee unanimously endorsed the requirement, bill S1126, Monday.

It did the same, as well, for a bill already approved in February by the Assembly (A2189/S2092) that would require instruction for middle-schools students on the social, emotional and legal dangers of sending sexually explicit images through electronic means, better known as sexting.