South Jersey Action Banker Council Council Convenes for Inaugural Meeting
By Robert J. Tartaglia
It’s been a busy couple of months in the NJBankers government relations department. Here are some of the highlights:
NJBankers’ South Jersey Action Banker Council (ABC) had its inaugural meeting April 14 to introduce the group to Sen. Leonard Lance, R-23, and Senate Minority Office Executive Director John Samerjan. The meeting was a result of months of hard work by Chairman Michael Quick, who provided his statistical survey information and presented it to Sen. Lance. Chairman Quick’s survey demonstrated the importance of our member banks to the communities they serve and provided crucial background information on taxes, employees and much more.
The ABC is the NJBankers’ first-ever grassroots initiative that will provide the association a more active role in the legislative process in Trenton. With the number of pro-consumer legislative proposals being introduced, it will be very important for the ABCs to reach out and discuss the bills affecting the banking industry.
The Central Jersey Action Banker Council is coming together and is currently looking for members. If you have an interest in serving, please contact me at NJ Bankers headquarters.
ASSEMBLY DEMOCRATS PUSH FOR IDENTITY THEFT REFORM
There has been a flurry of legislative activity in Trenton this spring, and it has kept with the same pro-consumer themes of the past year. The Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee heard A-1080 (Cryan), “The New Jersey Identity Theft Prevention Act,” on May 13. NJBankers opposes the bill in its current form. The legislation would require that a financial institution that discovers a consumer’s nonpublic personal information must promptly notify the customer of the breach of security. Additionally, the financial institution must assist the consumer in remedying the situation and reimburse for any losses they have incurred.
NJBankers testified that identity theft has been ranked as the No. 1 threat against the industry and cost the financial services institutions $48 billion in 2002. Additionally, banks work diligently to protect their customers from identity theft, including the use of fraud-detection software, employee training, strict privacy policies, rigorous security standards and encryption systems. Banks move quickly by closing accounts when appropriate and then investigate. Furthermore, there are special toll-free numbers and Web sites that assist victims of identity theft. Assemblyman Joseph Cryan, D-20, had graciously agreed to hold the bill and will work with interested parties in crafting amendments.
A-2048 is similar legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Upendra J. Chivukula, D-17, and would require businesses to disclose any breach of security of computer systems to customers and destroy certain personal information no longer retained. That bill was held as well, and the sponsor is working with NJBankers on crafting amendments.
Ironically, NJBankers is taking the fight against financial crime to the World Wide Web. On June 1, the association launched FinCrime, a Web-based anti-crime network aimed at stemming the tide of crimes such as identity theft, check fraud and other financial crimes. FinCrime, in fact, is the cover story of this issue of New Jersey Banker and is detailed in an article beginning on page 16.
Vice President and Director of Communications Timothy E. Doherty testified during the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee hearing about FinCrime and described it as a “secure, centralized, Internet-based financial crimes reporting, tracking and alerting system owned by the NJ Bankers and 12 other state banking associations and operated by the Iowa Bankers Association. The system will permit New Jersey financial institutions to share information with each other and with law enforcement about financial crimes.”
HIGHLANDS DEVELOPMENT BAN SEEKS PROTECTION OF WATER
Legislation that would preserve a northwestern swath of forest in New Jersey was held by the joint Senate and Assembly Environment Committees on May 10. S-1 (Smith-Martin)/A-2635 (McKeon-Manzo) would protect 800,000 acres in the Highlands, an area where the state gets much of its water.
NJBankers raised concerns with the bill. While the population density of New Jersey requires careful protections for its water resources, the legislation needs to balance environmental concerns with the need for sustainable economic growth. NJBankers appealed to the sponsors that the bill should protect the value of existing development in the region and that it needs to ensure property owners can maintain and improve their properties.
Also, the legislation as it has been introduced does not provide the necessary incentives and directives to accommodate reasonable growth in the Highlands region. NJBankers agrees that the legislation should specifically include incentives for communities to accept targeted and reasonable growth. S-1/A-2635 was scheduled for another vote on May 17.
Sen. Stephen M. Sweeney, D-3, a powerful South Jersey Democrat, has raised concerns that the Highlands bill is unfair to the Pinelands and could take precious open-space funds away from South Jersey. His vote is crucial in moving the legislation forward and there is no guarantee that the legislation won’t face similar scrutiny on the floor of the Senate and Assembly.
ATM 9-1-1 SECURITY LEGISLATION REFERRED TO COMMERCE COMMITTEE
S-1335 (Bucco) was introduced by Sen. Anthony R. Bucco, R-25, on March 22. NJBankers opposes S-1335, which would require 9-1-1 access devices at most ATM locations. NJBankers opposes the bill on the advice of the New Jersey law enforcement and security professionals, who indicated such devices could actually provoke an attack by a perpetrator if the ATM user reached for the button or phone.
Additionally, false alarms, equipment failure or misuse of such devices are a distraction and nuisance to law enforcement.
To date, no other state in the country has enacted this sort of legislation. The bill was referred to the Senate Commerce Committee and has yet to be heard for discussion. Assemblyman Neil M. Cohen, D-20, has introduced similar legislation, A-2910.
STATE CONTRACT OUTSOURCING TARGETED IN NEW LEGISLATION
Senate Bill 494 (Turner), which was introduced on Feb. 24, would affect outsourcing of state contracts. Sen. Shirley K. Turner, D-15, introduced her bill after she had learned that operators in Bombay, India, were handling telephone inquiries by welfare and food stamp clients under New Jersey’s Families First Program. The company, eFunds, had moved its operations outside the United States as a cost-cutting measure. NJBankers has cited concerns with Sen. Turner’s bill in that, if it expands to the private sector, it could severely impact financial institutions in New Jersey.
The bill was released from the Senate State Government Committee on March 3 and is scheduled for consideration before the Senate Budget Appropriations Committee.
Robert J. Tartaglia is vice president and director of government relations for the New Jersey Bankers Association. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.