TRENTON, N.J. – Democrats tabled a Republican amendment to remove criminal liability for law enforcement officers encountering a minor with alcohol. Assemblyman Robert Auth introduced the amendment empowering police to enforce a proposed law (A5160) increasing penalties for underage drinking that is moving through the Legislature following thousands of drunk teens at the Jersey Shore over Memorial Day weekend.
“I am concerned about putting our police, who we need to be supporting, in a dangerous situation. It defeats the whole purpose of trying to keep the shore safe,” Auth (R-Bergen) said.
Police unions testified Thursday that the legislation makes cops who attempt to cite minors drinking alcohol criminals because it contains a provision that threatens officers with a deprivation of civil rights charge. They are telling their members to avoid underage drinking encounters altogether in light of risks of criminal charges.
“It’s patently unfair that we put police officers in a situation where they’re trying to do their job and keep the community safe, and they’re risking their pensions and risking their jobs. It’s totally absurd. So, I’ve introduced some amendments to the bill that will strip out the offensive paragraph,” Auth said.
Auth’s amendment failed along party lines with Democrats vocalizing their support of flawed legislation and denying fixes through the committee process if changes aren’t first presented to the bill’s sponsor.
“Out of respect for Assemblyman Greenwald, I am going to vote to pass the bill, but I am also going to table Assemblyman Auth’s motion. Assemblyman, I’m a big believer that if you’re going to propose amendments on somebody’s bill that you run it through the sponsor. I think in these types of committees and on the floor, wherever it is, unless you go through the sponsor, I’m always going to say ‘no’ to additional amendments, no matter how good they are,” Assemblywoman Carol Murphy (D-Burlington) said.
Auth noted the quick dismissal by Democrats illustrated why residents are upset with the government.
“The intent of the bill is fabulous and then we’re going to hamstring the people we are empowering to enforce it. What are we accomplishing? New Jersey Democrats are the reason we have chaos at the shore,” Auth said.
The assemblyman then highlighted their hypocrisy.
“New Jersey Democrats today demonstrated ‘rules for thee, not for me’ by waiving on a bill 15 minutes before the committee started and adding another measure last night, but refusing to consider an amendment that was distributed to members for review,” Auth said. “This is government at its worst and bad for democracy.”