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Dec. 10, 2008 - Tracking Legislation Important to the New Jersey Business Community from the NJ Chamber of Commerce

Governor Signs InvestNJ Business Grant ProgramA-3294/S-6 (Milam/D-1; Albano/D-1; Vas/D-19; Greenwald/D-6; Greenstein/D-14): Governor signed into law on Dec. 9. Establishes a grant program in the NJ Economic Development Authority to provide businesses with grants of up to 7 percent of their capital investment costs and $3,000 for each new job created and retained for one year. This new incentive program is designed to stimulate capital investment and job creation.


Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee Innovation Zones –A-830 (Chivukula/D-17; Greenstein/D-14; Lampitt/D-6): Committee passed. Codifies a 2004 Executive Order which establishes an “innovation zone” program within the NJ Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) to stimulate technology industry clusters around New Jersey’s public universities, colleges or research hospitals. This bill requires the NJEDA to modify its existing programs to give bonuses or other incentives to businesses that locate in an innovation zone. Additionally, this initiative requires the Commission on Science and Technology to promote and support networks and collaboration between the local technology industry and university or hospital researchers, and to increase federal funding to universities in areas of strategic importance to New Jersey's technology industry. This bill is designed to keep New Jersey on the cutting edge of development and discovery. The high tech business sector is an important segment of New Jersey's economy that generates significant revenue and high quality jobs.

Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee Urban Enterprise Zones–A-3451 (Green/D-22; Pou/D-35; Evans/D-35; Tucker/D-28; Vas/D-19): Committee passed. Changes parts of the Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) program to make it easier for businesses to utilize the program. The changes include requiring recertification every three years instead of annually, eliminating requirements that certain firm's employees meet residency or low-income criteria, requiring a program performance study to examine the effects of the 2006 law that enacted the rebate requirement, and requiring the State Treasurer to dedicate all revenues from reduced rate sales and use tax collections in the fund account of any UEZ that generates less than $5 million in annual sales and use tax revenue. This bill was amended to mandate prevailing wage requirements for UEZ businesses, a change the Chamber opposes.


Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee Improving the Site Remediation Program–A-2962 (McKeon/D-27): Committee received testimony only. Establishes a Licensed Site Professional (LSP) program for site remediation within the NJ Department of Environmental Protection. This legislation proposes to borrow aspects of a Massachusetts program to allow certified professionals to proceed through the investigation and remediation of selected sites with a minimum of NJDEP oversight. The State Chamber is working closely with a coalition of stakeholders to amend the legislation to make it better for all involved.


Senate Labor Committee Protecting the UI Fund– SCR-60 (Sweeney/D-3; Kean, T./R-21): The Committee held a public hearing as required. This measure proposes an amendment to the New Jersey Constitution that prohibits the state from collecting contributions from employers or employees by means of assessment on wages for any purpose other than to provide employee benefits. The State Chamber believes that this concurrent resolution will assist both employers and employees by keeping our Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund (UI) and Temporary Disability Insurance Benefit Fund (TDI) and various workers’ compensation funds solvent.


Senate Education Committee Moving the Election of School Board Members to November – S-1861 (Turner/D-15) and A-15 (Roberts/D-5; Wolfe/D-10; Green/D-22; DeAngelo/D-14; Moriarty/D-4): Committee passed. Provides for the election of school board members at the November general election and eliminates the vote on school budgets - except for separate proposals to spend above cap which will also occur at the general election.

Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee Bidding Requirement Exemptions – A-1059 (Biondi/R-16): Committee passed. Authorizes certain state authorities and local and county governments to purchase goods or services at a cost below that offered under state contracts without resorting to advertising for bids. This would provide state authorities, as well as local and county governments, the necessary flexibility to obtain goods and services at lower prices than those available under state contracts. Additional savings would also be achieved by avoiding costs and delays related to the bidding process.


Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee Pharmacy Quality Improvement and Error Prevention Act – S-409 (Van Drew/D-1): Committee passed with amendments. Establishes a 24-member Medication Error Prevention Task Force to provide guidelines for the NJ State Board of Pharmacy to utilize in implementing medication error prevention, pharmacy quality improvement and consumer education programs. The guidelines provided by the task force are required to address topics, including the type of situations in which a pharmacist should be required to report that a medication-related error may have occurred. The Chamber supports efforts to prevent medical errors and quality since they end up lowering the costs of premiums.

Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee Expanded Health Coverage for Eating Disorders – S-1940 (Vitale/D-19; Singer/R-30): Committee passed. Requires hospital, medical, and health service corporations, individual, small employer and larger group health insurers, health maintenance organizations, and the State Health Benefits Program, to provide insurance coverage for all eating disorders under the same terms and conditions as provided for any other covered sickness. This bill specifically amends the definition of “biologically-based mental illness” to include anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder. Continuing to mandate benefits severely restricts the ability of insurance companies to control costs, which in turn increases health insurance premiums for employers.