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Tracking Legislation Important to the New Jersey Business Community from the NJ Chamber of Commerce


Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee

Commissioner Doria Provides COAH Update - StateDepartment of Community Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Joseph Doria provided Committee members with an overview of the history of the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) and the organization's process for certifying municipalities as compliant with affordable housing regulations. He highlighted key provisions of COAH's latest "third round" cycle of regulations, such as the creation of the growth share provision, which takes into account both housing and employment growth when determining affordable housing obligations. Under this provision, the obligations of municipalities are based on their actual development, not their projected growth. Doria told members of the Committee that DCA has proceeded with projects based on the new rules, despite pending litigation that challenges the regulations. In response to questions about pending legislation that would suspend the 2.5% developer fee enacted last year, Doria said he could support the concept of a moratorium on this fee, but such legislation would have to be carefully crafted.

Senate Economic Growth Committee

COAH Fee Moratorium - S-2485 (Lesniak/D-20; Bateman/R-16): Committee passed with amendments, referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. Implements an 18-month suspension on the collection of the 2.5% fee on commercial development as a funding source for affordable housing. The bill also authorizes municipalities to seek an adjustment of their fair share obligation as a result of this suspension and it directs COAH to adjust the obligation accordingly. In addition, the bill eliminates any growth share obligation or requirement to pay the 2.5% fee for projects that were underway when the original legislation was passed and it requires municipalities to refund any payment already made for those projects.


Senate Education Committee Teaching Personal Finance to High School Seniors -

S-2211 (Sweeney/D-3) / A-1943 (Schaer/D-36; Lampitt/D-6; Coutinho/D-29; Vas/D-19): Committee passed, referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. Establishes a three-year pilot program to provide high school seniors in selected districts with a personal financial literacy course. The goal is to ensure that high school graduates receive instruction on budgeting, savings and investment, credit card debt, and other issues associated with personal financial responsibility. At the conclusion of the pilot program, the State Education Commissioner will report to the Governor and members of the Legislature on whether to of implement the program statewide. The State Chamber supports this measure because it teaches students financial responsibility and hopefully will prevent excessive spending that leads to excessive personal debt and bankruptcy.

Assembly Education Committee

Chamber Supports Toughening High School Graduation Requirements - The Committee held a roundtable discussion focusing on the state Department of Education's High School Redesign proposal, which will change the qualifications for graduating high school so students are better prepared for the workforce and college. Dana Egreczky, senior vice president for workforce development at the State Chamber, expressed concern that companies are having a tough time hiring qualified individuals to fill positions ranging from high-end to office-support jobs. While New Jersey has the highest rate of students wanting to go to college, we are not ensuring those students are college-ready. Egreczky suggested that by mandating the recommendations put forth by the High School Redesign Committee, the state will begin to remedy the problem.


Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee

Energy Generation on Farms - A-2859 (Chivukula/D-17; Fisher/D-3; Wagner/D-38; McKeon/D-27): Committee passed, referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Allows a person who owns a preserved farmland to build, install and operate solar, biomass and wind energy facilities and equipment on the farm, provided it does not interfere with use of the land for farming. The State Chamber supports initiatives that encourage and promote the production of clean alternative sources of energy. This is a goal of the Platform for Progress Environment Coalition.

Assembly State Government Committee

Promoting NJ-Based Solar and Wind Energy Businesses - A-3616 (Lampitt/D-6; DeAngelo/D-14): Committee passed, referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Grants a preference to New Jersey businesses in the awarding of any government entity contracts for solar panels, wind turbines, or other related solar or wind energy devices in support of "green" businesses and jobs in the state. Additionally, the bill provides support to projects that aim to use a majority of parts manufactured or produced in the state for the assembly of a final product. The State Chamber supports incentives for businesses as a way to encourage and promote alternative sources of energy. This is a goal of the Platform for Progress Environment Coalition.


Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee and Senate Environment Committee

New DEP Commissioner Sets Priorities - State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Acting Commissioner Mark Mauriello discussed his Department's priorities for 2009. He said major focus will be given to the state budget, the federal stimulus package, site remediation reform, open space funding, the water supply plan, climate change and conducting vacant land analysis as it relates to COAH. Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-15) and Assemblyman John Rooney (R-39) asked the acting commissioner to add storm water management and flood mitigation to the list. Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt (R-9) suggested DEP create the position of business liaison so employer representatives have a direct contact within the Department. Senator Robert Gordon (D-38) suggested the state look at potential brownfield sites as a location for solar installations. Senator Andrew Ciesla (R-10) asked the DEP Commissioner to coordinate with the DOT Commissioner on creating more urban centers and transit villages.

Senate Environment Committee

Improving the Site Remediation Program - S-1897 (Smith/D-17): Committee received testimony only. The bill would establish a Licensed Site Professional (LSP) program for site remediation within the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). This legislation borrows aspects of a Massachusetts program to allow certified professionals to proceed through the investigation and remediation of selected sites with minimum DEP oversight. The State Chamber is working closely with a coalition of stakeholders to amend the legislation to make it better for all involved.

Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee Creating Crime of Exposure -

A-2951 (Moriarty/D-4; Love/D-4): Committee passed, referred to Assembly Judiciary Committee. Creates a crime of exposure to toxic pollutants. Under the provisions of the bill, a person who, purposely or knowingly, unlawfully causes one or more people to be exposed, through inhalation, ingestion or absorption, to any toxic pollutant commits a crime of the second degree. A person who, recklessly, unlawfully causes one or more people to be exposed, through inhalation, ingestion or absorption, to any toxic pollutant commits a crime of the third degree. The State Chamber is concerned that the legislation is broad in scope and interpretation and has committed to working with the sponsor and the Attorney General's Office on clarifying the bill's language.


Senate State Government Committee Moving Nonpartisan Elections - S-1099/A-351 (Buono/D-18; Diegnan/D-18; Barnes/D-18): Committee passed. Currently, regular municipal elections, which are nonpartisan, are held on the second Tuesday in May. This bill would allow any municipality that holds regular municipal elections to choose, by ordinance, to hold regular municipal elections on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

Senate State Government Committee Banning Duel Health Benefit Coverage - S-1172/A-1405/A-1433 (Sweeney/D-3; Weinberg/D-37; Beck/R-12; Fisher/D-3; Burzichelli/D-3; O'Scanlon/R-12; Bramnick/R-21; Moriarty/D-4): Committee passed, referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. Prohibits elected and appointed officials from receiving dual health benefit coverage. This is an important cost savings bill under the Platform for Progress Government Reform Coalition.


Improving NJ's Corporate Governance Laws - A-2881/S-2284 (Vas/D-19; Coutinho/D-29; Diegnan/D-18; Watson Coleman/D-15; Lampitt/D-6; Van Drew/D-1) and A-2883/S-2246 (DeAngelo/D-14; Chivukula/D-17; Coutinho/D-29; Diegnan/D-18; Vas/D-19; Watson Coleman/D-15; Lampitt/D-6; Gill/D-34; Sarlo/D-36): Governor Corzine signed into law Jan. 27. These bills are designed to update New Jersey's corporate governance laws to make it easier for corporations to conduct business in our state. Many of the legislative changes proposed are modeled on Delaware General Corporation Law.


Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee

Mass Transit Tunnel Funding Discussed - NJ Transit Executive Director Richard Sarles updated the Committee on the funding and status of the $8.7 billion Hudson River rail tunnel, which is scheduled to break ground this summer and is targeted for completion by 2017. The project received $3 billion in funding from the NY/NJ Port Authority, $2.7 billion from the State of New Jersey through the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and $3 billion in anticipated funding from the federal government. Committee Chairman John Wisniewski (D/19) and Assemblyman Scott Rudder (R/8) voiced some concern that the State of New York and New York City were not directly funding the project. Executive Director Sarles said that the $3 billion put up by the NY/NJ Port Authority is considered bi-state funding. Additionally, he said New York has been tied up with related projects, such as the Second Avenue Subway and extension of the No. 7 subway line. The tunnel project, he estimated, will create 6,000 construction jobs and stimulate creation of 44,000 permanent jobs.