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February 12, 2010 - Tracking Legislation and Other Items Important to the NJ Business Community


Office of the Governor

Balancing Fiscal 2010 Budget – Governor Chris Christie announced this week his $2.2 billion in budget solutions to balance New Jersey’s current-year budget through a combination of savings from over funded programs, targeting of waste, and the capture of unexpended balances from accounts in every corner of state government. The Governor advanced his budget solutions during a special Joint Session of the Legislature, where he advised the members that he had signed an Executive Order before the speech and declared a “state of fiscal emergency” in recognition of the state’s looming deficit for the balance of fiscal 2010. The Executive Order grants the Director of the Division of Budget and Accounting the authority to reserve or freeze funds at the Governor’s direction. The budget solutions focus on four general areas: targeting savings or areas of overfunding in programs and departments, targeting waste and ineffective programs, identifying areas for long-term reform and, above all, making hard choices in the form of program cuts, the use of unspent balances or withholding of aid. In all, 375 line items of cuts, efficiencies and program eliminations are found in the Governor’s plan.


Office of the Governor

Housing Opportunity Task Force – Governor Christie signed an executive order this week establishing a five-member Housing Opportunity Task Force that will analyze how to provide affordable and "workforce" housing -- and assess the state's current system. The Governor’s order halts all work by the Council, unless the acting commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs decides it would jeopardize the opportunity to create affordable housing. The Task Force shall issue a report to the Governor and the DCA Commissioner within 90 days.

Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee

Land Use/Time of Application – S-82 (Rice/D-28): Committee passed. This legislation states that development regulations which are in effect on the date of submission of a development application shall govern the review of the application and any decision made regarding the application. Current law allows zoning and land use regulations to be changed during the application process, adding instability to the development process. The State Chamber supports this legislation because it brings additional predictability for economic development. Reforming the process to provide developers with consistent rules could also serve to bolster business attraction and retention efforts and make New Jersey more competitive with our neighboring states. Contact: Jim Leonard

Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee S-82 Vote: Van Drew, Jeff (Chairman) – Yes; Rice, Ronald L. (Vice Chairman) – Yes; Connors, Christopher J. – Abstain; Haines, Philip E. – Yes; Ruiz, M. Teresa – Yes

Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee

Extending the Requirements of Wastewater Management Planning Agencies – A-2070 (Green/D-22): Committee passed. Provides additional time for the implementation of the Water Quality Management Planning (WQMP) rules. The bill would extend until April 7, 2011 the period of time allowed for wastewater management planning agencies to prepare and submit a wastewater management plan or a wastewater management update to the DEP. In addition, the bill would establish a specific requirement for notice and public hearing whenever a plan proposes to remove property from a sewer service area. Increasing transparency, certainty and predictability in planning activities by local government and business is critical to ensuring economic growth in our state. Contact: Jim Leonard

Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee A-2070 Vote: Green, Jerry (Chair) – Yes; Jasey, Mila (Vice Chair) – Yes; Carroll, Michael Patrick – Yes; Greenstein, Linda R. – Not Voting; Mainor, Charles – Yes; Riley, Celeste M. – Yes; Vandervalk, Charlotte – Yes


Senate Environment and Energy Committee

Exempting Solar Panels From Impervious Cover Designation – S-921 (Smith/D-17; Beck/R-12; Beach/D-6; Bateman/R-16): Committee passed. Exempts solar panels from being designated as an impervious surface or impervious cover. This legislation would apply to the various laws relating to municipal land use, agricultural development, storm water management, and the Highlands. Removing this impediment will help expedite solar projects around the state and show those in the solar industry that New Jersey is serious about promoting the “green economy”. Contact: Michael Egenton

Senate Environment Committee S-921 Vote: Smith, Bob (Chairman) – Yes; Gordon, Robert M. (Vice Chairman) – Abstain; Bateman, Christopher – Yes; Beach, James – Yes; Beck, Jennifer – Yes


Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee

Transparency in Government Act – S-708 (Pennacchio/R-26; Codey/D-27): Committee passed, referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. Provides for the creation of a single, searchable Web site that retains and displays data and information regarding the state’s annual revenues, expenditures, and total bonded indebtedness. The bill sets a target date of July 1, 2011 and creates a Public Finance Transparency Committee (within the Department of the Treasury) to assist in the creation of this website. Contact: Jim Leonard

Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee S-708 Vote: Whelan, Jim (Chairman) – Yes; Gordon, Robert M. (Vice Chairman) – Yes; Bucco, Anthony R. – Yes; O'Toole, Kevin J. – Yes; Turner, Shirley K. – Yes


Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee

Out-of-Network Health Insurance Issues – Health insurance experts provided the Committee with testimony on out-of-network health insurance issues. The committee members received testimony from health insurance companies and insurance associations, health care providers and provider associations, health care quality experts and other stakeholders regarding out-of-network provider reimbursement. Health insurance companies and associations told the committee that charges for out-of-network claims are excessively high and that there is a growing trend among providers not to participate in networks in order to increase their payments. These high charges result in increased premiums and higher overall health insurance costs. Providers countered that out-of-network payments are a symptom of a broken reimbursement system in which providers are underpaid for Medicaid, Medicare and charity care. They testified that it is sometimes necessary for providers to decline to participate in networks when they are unable to negotiate adequate reimbursement rates. Representatives from several unions expressed concern that these higher out-of-network charges impact their members access to affordable health care services. Contact: Jim Leonard


Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee

Regulatory Burden Review - Chairman Burzichelli held the first hearing of the new Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee. Mark Stanton, state contract manager for the Office of Administrative Law, provided the Committee with an overview of the regulatory process in the state. The Office of Administrative Law reviews regulations proposed by the 125 rulemaking agencies in New Jersey. The office reviews these proposals and their impact statements for accuracy, and ensures that the rulemaking agencies address any comments they may receive about a proposed regulation during the comment period. Chairman Burzichelli expressed concern regarding the impact of the regulatory burden on the state’s businesses and competitiveness.


Chamber-Commissioned Boston College Study Shows $70 Billion in Wealth Leaving New Jersey Nonprofit Organizations See $1.13 Billion Decline in Charitable Giving

Boston College’s Center on Wealth and Philanthropy released a study last week showing that from 2004 through 2008, $70 billion dollars in wealth left New Jersey, while the state’s charitable capacity declined by $1.13 billion. The study was commissioned by the Community Foundation of New Jersey and the Enterprise Trust at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and looked at New Jersey’s household wealth migration over the past decade, from 1999 through 2008. The study focused on wealth as opposed to income because wealthy households are the most charitable segment of our communities. From 1999 through 2003, New Jersey saw an in-migration of wealth of $98 billion and, in the same period, charitable capacity increased by $881 million. From 2004 through 2009, the complete reversal of that trend occurred, which amounted to a total decline in charitable capacity of approximately $2 billion. Click here for more.

Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee

State Budget Update – Dr. David Rosen, the Legislative Budget and Finance Officer for the Office of Legislative Services, provided an update to the Committee on the current Fiscal 2010 State Budget and discussed the outlook for the upcoming Fiscal 2011 Budget. There is a shortfall in the current budget of approximately $2.2 billion, which may increase prior to the end of the fiscal year in June. This shortfall is a result of a $1.2 billion revenue shortfall, largely from underperforming sales tax collections, $853 million in supplemental spending and an opening surplus shortfall of $121 million. However, Rosen noted that preliminary data indicates that sales tax revenues are growing. The state is facing a structural deficit of $8 billion to $10 billion for Fiscal 2011, stemming from the expiration of $1.1 billion in temporary tax increases, a $1 billion decrease in base revenues, and a loss of $1.6 billion in federal stimulus money that we do not have this year, increased school aid and pension obligations, and $1 billion for rebate programs.


Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee

Fixing the Bayonne Bridge – AR-54 (Coutinho/D-29): Committee passed. This resolution urges the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to formulate an engineering and funding solution regarding the Bayonne Bridge, which is too low to accommodate certain ships. David Stein of Nation’sPort testified at the hearing urging that decisive action is needed because shipping companies make long-term agreements and need to know years in advance whether there will be a solution. If this is not addressed, cargo will be delivered elsewhere and New Jersey will lose billions of dollars in Port revenue. Additionally, it is critical to resolve this before the newly-widened Panama Canal opens at the end of 2014. Contact: Michael Egenton

Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee AR-54 Vote: Coutinho, Albert (Chairman) – Yes; Lampitt, Pamela R. (Vice Chair) – Yes; Bucco, Anthony M. – Yes; DiCicco, Domenick Jr. – Yes; Fuentes, Angel – Yes; Quigley, Joan M. – Yes; Watson Coleman, Bonnie – Not Voting

*Information from the NJ State Chamber of Commerce