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March 8, 2010 - Tracking Legislation and Other Items Important to the NJ Business Community


Cabinet nominations reported from Senate Judiciary Committee The nomination of Bret Schundler to be the Department of Education Commissioner was released from committee without recommendation. James S. Simpson's nomination to be Department of Transportation Commissioner was released from committee. Schundler was the mayor of Jersey City from 1992 to 2001. He previously served as chief operating officer at King’s College in New York City. Simpson served as administrator for the Federal Transit Administration and as a commissioner of the New York State Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He also was the director of the New York City Partnership and Chamber of Commerce and Chairman of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce.


Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee

NJ Fair Debt Collection Practices Act – A-1700 (Burzichelli/D-3; Milam/D-1; DeAngelo/D-14; Moriarty/D-4; Vandervalk/R-39): Committee passed. Creates guidelines under which debt collectors may conduct business; defines rights of consumers involved with debt collectors; and prescribes penalties and remedies for violations of the bill. The State Chamber recognizes that the Attorney General’s Office does not have the ability to handle additional consumer issues with the resources they now have and suggests that the bill mirror the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Contact: Jim Leonard Assembly

Consumer Affairs Committee A-1700 Vote: Moriarty, Paul D. (Chair) – Yes; Vainieri Huttle, Valerie (Vice Chair) – Yes; Chiusano, Gary R. – No; Dicco, Domenick, Jr. – No; Diegnan, Patrick J., Jr. – Yes


Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee Land Use/Time of Application – A-437 (Green/D-22; McHose/R-24; Vandervalk/R-39): 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 this application and any decision made with regard to this 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 ensures predictability for applicants. Reforming the process to provide developers with consistent rules could also serve to bolster the state's business attraction and retention efforts and make New Jersey more competitive with neighboring states. Contact: Jim Leonard

Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee A-437 Vote: Green, Jerry (Chair) – Yes; Greenstein, Linda R. – Not Voting; Lampitt, Pamela R. – Yes; Riley, Celeste M. Yes; Scalera, Fredrick – Yes; Carroll, Michael Patrick - Yes; Vandervalk, Charlotte – Yes


Establishing Energy Conservation Programs – A-907 (Chivukula/D-17; Voss/D-38; Ramos/D-33; Quijano/D-20): Assembly passed 74-0. Directs the state Board of Public Utilities to establish programs to assist large commercial and industrial electric power customers with reduction of their energy usage through demand-side management programs offered by the PJM Interconnection, LLC, the regional electric power transmission organization serving New Jersey. These demand-side management programs would include the installation of various energy-saving devices such as hourly meters, real-time telemetry equipment and advanced meter technology, as well as other energy conservation programs that may be established by the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU). Contact: Michael Egenton

Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee Update from BPU President - The committee heard testimony from BPU President Lee Solomon regarding the Christie Administration’s decision to divert $128 million from the Retail Margin Fund and $158 million from the Clean Energy Fund. Solomon said the Clean Energy Fund amount was taken from reserves and would not impact programs this year. Additionally, he said there should be enough funds to pay for obligated contracts. Solomon said the overall Clean Energy Program needs to be reconfigured. It also needs to focus on economic development activities such as creating jobs, promoting growth and keeping companies in New Jersey.


Senate Environment Committee Mandated Public Access – S-919 (Smith/D-17; Ciesla/R-10): Committee held. Mandates public access to tidal waterfront areas and requires certain facilities to pay for off-site public access. While the State Chamber supports a reasonable public access policy, this legislation imposes a costly tax and burden to businesses and thereby jeopardizes the economic competiveness of our ports and marinas. Contact: Contact: Michael Egenton


Assembly Budget Committee Pension and Benefits Update – The committee heard testimony from experts and stakeholders on the status of the state pension and benefits systems in order to investigate the current viability of the programs. Pension Director Frederick Beaver told the members that the state’s pension and benefits system has an unfunded liability of $46 billion. He attributed this deficit to several factors, including decreased contributions to the fund, underperforming investments, increased benefits and more retired employees in the pension system. Director Beaver said that the fund was 100 percent funded in 2002, but since that time the state has failed to make adequate annual contributions. The state’s obligation for this year is $3.1 billon. Assembly Budget Chairman Louis Greenwald and others on the committee expressed concern about the condition of the funds and that the state will not be able to make the full payment due to the significant budget deficit. Contact: Mary Ellen Peppard


Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Increased Workers’ Compensation Benefits – S-935(Sweeney/D-3; Madden/D-4): Committee held. Creates an annual cost of living adjustment for workers’ compensation benefits at a cost of $48 million. The estimated 3 percent to 4 percent annual increase in benefits will be paid through a surcharge for policyholders. The State Chamber opposes this increase in costs of workers’ compensation costs at a time when the cost of doing business in New Jersey has led to an exodus of jobs and employers. Contact: Jim Leonard


Fixing the Bayonne Bridge – AR-54 (Coutinho/D-29): Assembly passed 75-0. 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 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 find and implement a solution before the newly widened Panama Canal opens at the end of 2014. Contact: Michael Egenton

Senate Law and Public Safety Committee

Communication Exemption For Truckers – S-1429 (Madden/D-4; Girgenti/D-35): Committee passed. Exempts the use of a citizen’s band radio or a two-way radio by operators of moving commercial motor vehicles or authorized emergency vehicles on a public road or highway from the current law that makes it a primary motor vehicle offense to use a hand-held wireless telephone or electronic communication device while driving. The bill also clarifies that the citizen’s band radio and two-way radio exemption applies to the entire act prohibiting the use of hand-held wireless telephones and electronic communication devices while operating a motor vehicle. Contact: Michael Egenton

Senate Law and Public Safety Committee S-1429 Vote: Girgenti, John A. (Chair) – Yes; Norcross, Donald (Vice Chair) – Yes; Ciesla, Andrew R. – Yes; Haines, Philip E. – Yes; Sacco, Nicholas J. - Yes

*Information provided by the NJ State Chamber of Commerce