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McKeon, Vainieri Huttle, Tucker, Jones & Jasey Bill to Keep State Parks Open in Event of Government Shutdown Clears Assembly

Legislation would Keep State Parks Open for First Seven Days of Shutdown

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John F. McKeon, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Cleopatra Tucker, Patricia Egan Jones and Mila Jasey to require state parks and other state attractions to remain open for the first seven days of a state government shutdown was approved Saturday by the General Assembly.

During last year’s government shutdown, several of the Jersey Shore’s beaches, a major tourist attraction, were closed for much of the Independence Day weekend. Island Beach State Park and the Liberty Island ferry were also closed during what would have normally been one of their busiest holidays and Liberty State Park’s planned fireworks were also cancelled.

“It is unfair that people who frequent our parks and beaches are collateral damage in a budget process that will ultimately be resolved,” said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). “No more.”

“Having these tourist attractions close during a major holiday not only hurts families, but businesses who benefit from the increased foot traffic,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “This ensures that in the event of a government shutdown, families can still enjoy the many wonderful sites that our state has to offer, and the businesses that normally cater to these crowds are not adversely affected.”

“Families should not be inconvenienced by a government shutdown that they had nothing to do with,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “This legislation will prevent any further disruption of services, during a government shutdown, for families who wish to spend July 4th holiday at a state park or forest or just taking in historic sites.”

“Ideally, we would have a budget signed before the deadline, but that is obviously not always the case,” said Jones (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Residents should not be caught in the middle. This would allow state parks, beaches and other attractions to remain open long enough for people to enjoy them during the July 4th holiday while negotiations continue.”

“Having to cancel or rearrange plans made in advance because of a budget impasse is not fair to residents,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “This will allow residents to fully enjoy all that the state has to offer, while providing the Legislature and the governor with more time to reach a consensus.”

The bill (A-1237) would require that state parks and forests, state recreation areas, state historic sites, state natural areas, and state wildlife management areas would continue to be open to the public for a period not to exceed seven calendar days, if a state of emergency is declared due to the failure to enact a general appropriation law by the deadline prescribed by the New Jersey Constitution. Under the bill, the Department of Environmental Protection would be required to develop a plan for the continued operation of those locations if such a state of emergency is declared which would designate those state employees necessary to continue to provide services.

The bill would take effect immediately.

The bill was approved 74-0 and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.