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Tracking Legislation and Other Items Important to the NJ Business Community

OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR

Gov. Christie Last Night Vetoed An Income Tax Increase That Would Have Impacted Businesses – S-10 (Sweeney/D-3) and A-10 (Oliver/D-34; Cryan/D-20): The Senate passed S-10 by a vote of 23-17. The Assembly passed A-10 by a vote of 46-32. The Governor vetoed. The Chamber has actively lobbied against the bill. The measure called for increasing the income tax rate for one year from 8.97 percent to 10.75 percent on taxpayers with income greater than $1 million. Many small businesses, such as S-Corporations, LLC’s, Partnerships or Sole Proprietorships, pay taxes through their owners' incomes, so such an income tax increase is also a business tax increase. This tax hike would discourage these business owners from creating and retaining jobs or expanding their investments in New Jersey. Employers who would be paying this higher income tax are already facing higher federal taxes and state unemployment insurance taxes this year.

Assembly Appropriations Committee A-10 Vote: Pou, Nellie (Chair) – Yes; Ramos, Ruben (Vice Chair) – Yes; Barnes, Peter – Yes; Chivukula, Upendra – Yes; Conaway, Herb – Yes; Greenwald, Louis – Yes; McKeon, John – Yes; Stender, Linda – Yes; Addiego, Dawn Marie – Abstain; DiMaio, John – No; Peterson, Erik – No; Thompson, Samuel - No

Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee S-10 Vote: Sarlo, Paul (Chair) – Yes; Stack, Brian (Vice Chair) – Yes; Beach, James – Yes; Buono, Barbara – Yes; Cunningham, Sandra – Yes; Ruiz, Teresa – Yes; Smith, Bob – Yes; Van Drew, Jeff – Yes; Bucco, Anthony – No; O’Toole, Kevin – No; Oroho, Steven – No; Pennacchio, Joseph - No

Cabinet Nominations Reported from the Senate

The Senate confirmed Lori Grifa to be Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs by a vote of 40-0, and Hal Wirths to be Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development by a vote of 38-1.

Grifa, a lawyer, was most recently a member of Wolff & Samson's Government and Regulatory Affairs Group. She focused on the areas of administrative, regulatory and government affairs, and handled commercial and employment litigation. In 2002 and 2003, she served as chief of staff to state Attorney General David Samson.

For nearly 20 years, Wirths owned and managed two furniture stores before selling the successful business. Wirths also helped establish Noble Community Bank which today is part of Highlands State Bank. He served as a Sussex County Freeholder for nearly a decade.

Gov. Christie announced the appointment of Dr. Allison Blake to be Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families. Dr. Blake currently serves as the director of the Institute for Families at the Rutgers School of Social Work, and spent 18 years at the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services. Dr. Blake is also a faculty member at the Rutgers School of Social Work.

EDUCATION

Senate Education Committee

Interdistrict Public School Choice Program – S-1073 (Turner/D-15; Kean, T./R-11): Committee passed. Creates a permanent interdistrict public school choice program. A five-year pilot program was established in 2000 and expired in 2005. Like the pilot, the permanent program would allow students to enroll across district lines in designated schools within a district. The permanent program doesn’t limit the number of districts that can participate in the choice program.

Senate Education Committee S-1073 Vote: Ruiz, M. Teresa (Chairman) – Yes; Whelan, Jim (Vice Chair) – Yes; Allen, Diane B. – Yes; Kean, Thomas H., Jr. – Yes; Turner, Shirley K. – Yes

ENVIRONMENT

Senate Environment and Energy Committee and Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee – NJ Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin discussed his Department’s priorities for 2010. He highlighted several key areas including major staff changes at DEP. He informed the committee members that he plans to a release a “transformation” plan that will detail changes to how the Department operates. He discussed the Christie administration’s opposition to offshore drilling, offshore Liquefied Natural Gas facilities (natural gas that has been converted to liquid form for ease of storage or transport) and the dredging of the Delaware River in South Jersey. Commissioner Martin said his Department is committed to renewable energy projects, the LSRP program to assist in the cleanup of contaminated sites, and the retrofitting of diesel engines.

GOVERNMENT REFORM

Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee

Transparency in Government Act – S-708 (Pennacchio/R-26; Codey/D-27): Committee passed. Provides for the creation of a single, searchable Internet website that retains and displays data and information regarding the state’s annual revenues, expenditures and total bonded indebtedness. With the assistance of the Chief Technology Officer in the Office of Information Technology, this bill directs the State Treasurer to design and develop a State public finance website on or before July 1, 2011 and requires the Treasurer to maintain and operate the site.

LABOR

Assembly Labor Committee

Unemployment Insurance Fund – A-2624 (Egan/D-17; Albano/D-1) and S-1813 (Madden/D-4; Sweeney/D-3)The Assembly passed A-2624 by a vote of 46-0. Senate passed S-1813 by a vote of 28-9, and sent it to the Governor. The bill is designed to soften the blow of a $1 billion ($400 per employee) UI payroll tax increase on employers due to take effect July 1. Under the bill, the tax increase would be reduced to $300 million this year, but the remainder of the $1 billion increase would go into effect next year unless further legislative action is taken. The State Chamber requested amendments to lengthen the phase-in of the tax increase by three years and add structural reforms to decrease the overall cost of providing unemployment benefits. These changes would provide employers with budget predictability and give them the resources to invest in hiring.

Assembly Labor Committee A-2624 Vote: Egan, Joseph V. (Chair) – Yes; Evans, Elease (Vice Chair) – Yes; Albano, Nelson T. – Yes; Coughlin, Craig J. – Yes; Dancer, Ronald S. – No; DeAngelo, Wayne P. – Yes; Scalera, Frederick – Yes; Schroeder, Robert – No; Webber, Jay – No

LEGAL

Eliminating Certain Attorney Fees Under the Consumer Fraud Act – A-1064 (Gusciora/D-15; Chiusano/R-24): Assembly passed 76-2, referred to the Senate Commerce Committee. Prohibits the award of attorney's fees under the Consumer Fraud Act where there is only a technical violation. The bill defines a technical violation as one in which the person held in violation made a good faith effort to comply with the provisions of the Consumer Fraud Act and the resulting violation did not impact the quality of the product or service provided, or result in an ascertainable loss to the consumer.

TRANSPORTATION

Fixing the Bayonne Bridge – SR-47 (Sacco/D-32; Cunningham/D-31): Senate passed by a voice vote. 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 en route to the Port of New York and New Jersey. A 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.

Communication Exemption For Truckers – S-1429/A-2542 (Madden/D-4; Girgenti/D-35; DeCroce/R-26; Rible/R-11): Assembly passed 76-0, and sent it to the Governor. Exempts the use of a CB or two-way radio by operators of commercial or authorized emergency motor vehicles from the current ban on the use of wireless telephones or electronic communication devices while driving.

* Information provide by the NJ State Chamber of Commerce.