(TRENTON) - A legislative package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Vincent Prieto, Angelica M. Jimenez, Daniel R. Benson, Troy Singleton, Paul D. Moriarty, Craig J. Coughlin, Cleopatra Tucker, Gilbert "Whip" L. Wilson and Herb Conaway that would make way for veterans' organizations to use the net proceeds from games of chance to support their organizational expenses received final legislative approval Thursday and now head to the governor's desk.
The bill (A-2519) would allow bona fide veterans' organizations or associations, registered with the New Jersey Legalized Games of Chance Control Commission and licensed by a municipality, to use the net proceeds from games of chance to support their organizations. Currently, these net proceeds can only be used for educational, charitable, patriotic, religious or public-spirited purposes.
The bill is sponsored by Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen), Jimenez (D-Bergen/Hudson), Benson (D-Middlesex/Mercer), Singleton (D-Burlington) and Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester).
"Cost increases in electric, gas, oil and other utilities support the need for this provision," said Prieto. "These proceeds can help these organizations better balance their expenses and focus their energies on helping our veterans, instead of worrying about how they will be able to afford them."
"Many veterans' organizations must deal with increased living expenses amid dwindling donations and membership fees," said Jimenez. "We already offer this courtesy to senior citizen associations and clubs. I don't see why we can't extend it to these groups who assist veterans in need."
"These groups provide a refuge for our veterans," said Benson. "It would be a disservice if we allowed these organizations to falter. Allowing them to use these proceeds to support their organizations is the proper gesture for a group that has contributed so much to our state and country."
"The economy has forced many people to tighten their belts and think twice about making donations to groups like veterans' organizations," said Singleton. "These organizations provide valuable services for our veterans. This bill helps ensure that they can continue to do so."
"These organizations assist not just veterans, but the communities where they are located," said Moriarty. "Many double as community centers and provide financial aid to local fire and EMS volunteers. We have a responsibility to help them so they can continue to offer these services."
The bill is contingent upon the passage of a constitutional amendment to allow a veterans' organization or association to use net proceeds from games of chance to support its organization.
The resolution (ACR-114) proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow veterans' organizations to use net proceeds from games of chance to support their organizations. The proposed constitutional amendment would be put before the voters in the next general election.
The resolution is sponsored by Coughlin, Tucker, Singleton, Wilson and Conaway.
"These organizations depend on member fees and donations, that in this economy, simply can't be stretched wide enough to cover their operational expenses," said Tucker (D-Essex). "This infusion of funds could really help these organizations cover these funding gaps and continue their work."
"Many people today must supplement their income in order to make ends meet, and these organizations are no exception," said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). "I hope the people of New Jersey will allow this tweak to the state constitution so we can help support these veteran groups stay afloat."
"Proceeds from these games can really help these organizations, but we cannot move on legislation to authorize this without a constitutional amendment," said Singleton. "Our veterans put their lives on the line for us. My hope is that come Election Day, New Jerseyans will return the favor."
"The disparity between what they take in and what they put out threatens the ability of our veterans' organizations to assist not just our veterans, but the communities they call home," said Wilson (D-Camden/Gloucester). "The services they provide are too important to let them falter."
"Our veterans' organizations are facing a harsh financial reality," said Conaway (D-Burlington). "By making this small change to the state constitution, voters can help breath new life into these organizations which provide needed financial support to local military and veteran families."
Approval of the amendment would allow bona fide veterans' organizations, registered with the New Jersey Legalized Games of Chance Control Commission and licensed by a municipality, to use the net proceeds from existing games of chance such as bingo, lotto, or raffles to support their organizations. Currently, the net proceeds of these games of chance can only be used for educational, charitable, patriotic, religious or public-spirited purposes. Only senior citizen associations or clubs are currently allowed to use the net proceeds of existing games of chance to support their organization.
The bill (A-2519) was approved 72-0 and the resolution (ACR-114) was approved 75-0 by the full Assembly on Thursday. Both measures were approved 38-0 by the Senate in May.