Netflix Wins Approval to Move Forward with Monmouth County Studio Development – The Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority board voted unanimously on Feb. 21 to approve a zoning amendment to allow Netflix to develop a $903 million production complex in northern NJ. Now, the Authority’s staff must review the site plans before the Eatontown and Oceanport planning boards consider the project. In 2022, Netflix won a bid to purchase a 292-acre parcel of the decommissioned Fort Monmouth army base in Monmouth County, whose 2011 closure led to the loss of thousands of jobs. A 45-day public comment period yielded questions from Oceanport Mayor John Coffey about the project’s location and timeline, as well as concerns from others about the project’s potential economic and environmental impacts. 

Assembly Committee Advances Bill to Certify LGBTQ-owned Businesses – On Feb. 22, the Assembly Commerce, Economic Development and Agriculture Committee voted 9-2 to advance A3330, a bill which creates a procedure to certify LGBTQ-owned businesses, making them eligible for funding and contracts available to business owners of marginalized backgrounds. The legislation codifies a procedure created by Gov. Murphy’s Executive Order 295, emitted in May 2022. Its Senate equivalent, S1313, passed the Senate Commerce Committee on Feb. 5. 

Bill Advances to Enact Protections for Hotel Franchisees Ahead of 2026 World Cup – A3495, a bill which would protect hotel franchisees from predatory franchisers, advanced with amendments from the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee on Feb. 22. In the hearing, franchisers expressed strong opposition to the legislation, arguing it would diminish their capacity to enforce standards ahead of large events in coming years, such as the 2026 World Cup and the nation’s 250th anniversary, leading to hotel closures and a poor reputation for the state. Franchisees argued the inverse: that system-wide abuses from franchisors have led many franchisees to go independent, default on loans, or file for bankruptcy, forcing them to leave the hospitality industry. The bill now awaits review in the Assembly Commerce, Economic Development, and Agriculture Committee, and its senate equivalent remains pending. 



Federal Funding Awarded to Support School Bus Electrification in NJ – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus Program, created through the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will award $19 million to five of NJ’s largest school districts to purchase and operate more electric school buses. The program, which will distribute $5 billion nationwide for school bus electrification, awarded these funds to NJ school bus manufacturer Van-Con, Inc., which serves Union City, Elizabeth, Newark, Bloomfield, and Lakewood.


Public Administration

Eighteen Shore Towns to Receive State Grant for Boardwalk Capital Improvements – Gov. Murphy announced on Feb. 23 that $100 million in grants will be disbursed to 18 municipalities for capital improvements to their boardwalks. Funded through surplus pandemic aid, the initiative will promote the economic development of shore towns through the construction or reconstruction of resilient boardwalks using longer-lasting materials. Top recipients are Asbury Park and Atlantic City, which will receive $20 million each. Funds must be disbursed by Dec. 31, 2024 and used by Dec. 31, 2026.



Advocates File Federal Lawsuit Against NJ Psychiatric Hospitals – On Feb. 20, advocates at Disability Rights New Jersey filed in federal court a lawsuit against the state departments of Health and Human Services and their commissioners, alleging the state’s four psychiatric hospitals violate patients’ constitutionally guaranteed due process rights through delayed discharge. Twenty percent of patients remain confined for months or even years after they are approved for release as they await the availability of a community placement. The lawsuit argues that this status of “conditional extension pending placement,” as well as abusive and violent conditions, violate patients’ rights. The suit seeks remedies including improved conditions, community placements for patients within 60 days of approved discharge, a monetary penalty for each day that hospitals hold a patient approved for release, and the retention of consultants or an advisory board to develop implementation recommendations.

Assembly Advances Bill to Lower Age for Minors to Consent to Mental Health Services – The Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee voted 5-1 on Feb. 22, to advance S1188, which lowers the age at which minors may consent to access mental health services to 14. The law currently sets the minimum age at 16.  At the hearing, many came forward to express concern about the diminution of parental rights, while advocates asserted the importance of mental healthcare for those with abusive or unsupportive parents. Its assembly equivalent remains pending.

Health Insurance Companies to Face Mandate for Faster Coverage Decisions in Jan. 2025 – Legislation passed in January 2024 will address delays in health care provision caused by complex prior authorization policies which determine whether or not an insurance company deems a health care service, medication, or treatment plan medically necessary.  Last session’s A1255, passed and codified as P.L.2023, c.296, takes effect in January 2025. The new law will require insurance companies to make a prior authorization decision within three days or, in emergency cases, 24 hours.