The New Jersey state Senate voted 38-0 Monday to make unlicensed broadcasting a fourth-degree felony. Conviction can result in 18 months prison time and $10,000 in fines. The state Assembly passed an identical bill last March; acting governor Richard Codey is expected to sign without comment.

Shortly after Florida criminalized pirate radio in 2004, the state broadcasters’ association held special training for law enforcement officials on how to track and bust unlicensed stations. I guess we can expect a repeat performance in the Garden State.

Amateur radio enthusiasts in New Jersey are reportedly not happy with this development as they believe, like their colleagues in Florida, that the rightful and exclusive jurisdiction for regulation of the airwaves has been and should remain federal. Last February the American Radio Relay League formally petitioned the FCC to preempt Florida’s law. The agency pigeonholed that request and is likely to remain unresponsive unless heightened political pressure is applied to resolve the incongruity.

That the agency can selectively ignore such affronts to its fundamental authority still amazes me. A clever lawyer will find this useful someday…