Casino Smoking Ban Stalled in Senate Committee – Members of the New Jersey Senate Health Committee debated S264, which would eliminate the smoking ban exception for casinos and simulcasting facilities. Casino employees, their union representatives, and public health advocates strongly support this legislation, arguing that second-hand smoke endangers workers’ health. Representatives of the casino industry and other commercial groups warn the ban could diminish revenue, harming the already fragile Atlantic City economy. Without the votes to move the bill forward, Committee Chair Sen. Joseph Vitale expressed hope that the bill may be revisited later this month. (Source: NJ Spotlight News; NJ.com)
Union City Ordinance Restricts Leisure Activity and Clothing Choice in Parks – A new municipal ordinance, unanimously approved by the Union City Board of Commissioners on Nov. 21, prohibits tents, scooters, roller skates, e-bikes, e-scooters, eating, drinking, picnics, and lunches in parks, with exceptions for drinking water and for infants, small children, and those with specific medical needs. It also requires clothing to be appropriate for a ‘family-friendly atmosphere’. The ordinance does not stipulate an enforcement mechanism, except that all park attendants may enforce these restrictions. (Source: NJ.com)
Bill to Regulate Home Improvement Industry Advances – S1890 passed the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on Nov. 27 after passing the Assembly in February 2023. The bill will require home improvement contractors to demonstrate skills, business knowledge, and prove they have the financial means to compensate homeowners for any potential damage before conducting work in NJ. It also establishes a state board to determine a code of ethics, standards, and licensing requirements for the industry. This new legislation is a departure from current regulations, which simply require contractors to have liability insurance and pay a fee in order to secure a Home Improvement Contractor registration. These minimal regulations have led to widespread defrauding of consumers. The bill now awaits scheduling for a full Senate vote. (Source: NJ.com)
Advocates Call for Extension of Corporation-Business Tax Surcharge – A corporation-business tax surcharge established on a temporary basis in 2018 is set to end on Dec. 31. The surcharge raises the top-end tax rate from 9% to 11.5% for the highest-earning corporations, intended to increase the state budget in a time of higher spending by the Murphy administration on priorities such as pension funds. Advocates from groups such as the Working Families Party are calling for the surcharge to be extended and made permanent, especially as additional funding is needed for NJ Transit. Gov. Murphy has expressed support for the surcharge sunsetting on schedule. (Source: NJ Spotlight News; NJ Spotlight News)
Election Funding Reporting Reveals High Expenditures and Dark Money Group – A report released by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) showed high levels of spending – $70.3 million total – on the Nov. 7 elections, in which all 120 Legislature seats were up for election. Most of the spending was targeted toward hotly contested seats in seven districts: Monmouth County’s 11th District, South Jersey’s 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 8th, Central Jersey’s 16th, and North Jersey’s 38th. Democrats outspent Republicans overall and in these races in particular and gained five seats from these targeted races. ELEC reporting also confirmed suspicions that South Jersey Democrats were behind the group Jersey Freedom, which made a last-minute push for Republicans to vote for ‘phantom candidates.’ Republicans suspected this was an effort to divert votes from Republican candidates. (Source: NJ.com; NJ.com)
Murphy Signs Law to Eliminate Basic Skills Test for Teachers – Gov. Murphy signed into law S1553 on Nov. 27, which will eliminate the requirement for teachers in the state to pass the Praxis Basic Skills test and enable aspiring teachers to become eligible through alternative qualifications. Advocates, including those from the largest NJ teachers’ union, the New Jersey Education Association, say this move will enable promising educators to enter the field. Opponents, including those from the Parents Defending Education group, argue the new law will weaken standards for educators. The legislation will also remedy a teacher shortage in the state. The Senate Education Committee advanced other legislation aimed towards this goal on the same day, including A5416, which would expedite the certification process for people working as paraprofessionals, and A227, which would establish an income tax deduction for student teachers. (Source: NJ.com)
Transportation and the Environment
Murphy Vetoes Bill Allowing Christmas Tree Bonfires – Gov. Murphy vetoed on Nov. 27 a bipartisan bill S861 to permit the revival of a post-holiday tradition: a bonfire to dispose of Christmas trees, stating that allowing this celebration would conflict with the air quality regulations of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and potentially cause wildfires. The DEP did not enforce these regulations until 2019, when Gov. Murphy ‘discontinued’ the bonfires. The Murphy administration encourages municipalities to dispose of trees through mulching, dune construction, and recycling. (Source: NJ.com)
Renewable Gas Bill Fails to Advance Past Committee – A557, which would promote the use of renewable gas, failed to advance through the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee on Nov. 30. Clean energy advocates oppose the bill, arguing that enabling natural gas use fails to promote NJ’s clean energy agenda and would result in public health risks and rising prices to consumers. Proponents argue that this legislation would diversify energy supplies, retain the value of resources invested in utility infrastructure, and promote job creation. The bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak, acknowledged there is work to be done to improve the bill. (Source: NJ Spotlight News)
Final Legislative Actions
|Establishes Mobility and Transportation Innovation Program in Department of Transportation; appropriates $2 million.
|Allows the sale of malt alcoholic beverages in cans or bottles marked for deposit of another state.
|Requires the Department of Banking and Insurance to conduct a study on the impact of certain changes onto individual and small group health insurance markets.
|Establishes minimum NJ FamilyCare reimbursement rate for traumatic brain injury special care nursing facilities; establishes enhanced NJ FamilyCare reimbursement rate for nursing facilities under certain circumstances; makes an appropriation.
|Permits State Board of Education to authorize alternative teaching certificates.
|Requires certain transportation research to consider the needs of individuals with physical, sensory, intellectual, and developmental disabilities.
|Allows municipalities to conduct an annual event for open burning of Christmas trees.