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James Weinstein, executive director of NJ Transit

NJ Transit is going straight to its 500,000 daily riders and asking them to grade its performance and customer service. Not only that, it's posting the results online.

"We frankly are only as good as your last bus or train ride," said James Weinstein, executive director of NJ Transit, at a Dec.16 roundtable breakfast in Monroe presented by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.

Economic Development
Assembly Appropriations Committee
Thumbs Up

Grow New Jersey Incentive Program - A-4306
(Coutinho/D-29; Conaway/D-7; Bucco/R-25; Chiusano/R-24):

Committee passed. This bill establishes a $200 million tax credit program. The program's cost would fall under the $1.5 billion cap established under the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit program, and the initial allocation could be increased at the discretion of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. An eligible business must have a minimum of 100 new or retained full-time employees and make a capital investment of at least $20 million. The credit is $5,000 per employee per year for up to ten years with the potential for a bonus award of an additional $3,000 per employee per year.

Assembly Appropriations Committee A-4306 Vote: Pou, Nellie (Chair) - Yes; Ramos, Ruben J., Jr. (Vice Chair) - Yes; Barnes, Peter J., III - Yes; Chivukula, Upendra J. - Yes; Conaway, Herb, Jr. - Yes; DiMaio, John - Yes; Greenwald, Louis D. - Yes; McKeon, John F. - Yes; Nardello, Gerry - Yes; Peterson, Erik - Yes; Stender, Linda - Yes; Thompson, Samuel D. - Yes

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Thumbs Up

Business Action Center - A-4337
(Coutinho/D-29; Singleton/D-7):

Assembly passed 47-29-2.This bill creates the New Jersey Business Action Center (BAC) within the Department of State and transfers the majority of responsibilities of the Business Retention and Attraction Division to the BAC, which will act as the state's liaison to the business community and provide information on incentives, permits, taxes, regulations and other key areas of concern to employers.The bill also requires the BAC to provide, upon request and free of charge, businesses within the state that have fewer than 99 employees with individualized competitive intelligence information.

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Energy
Thumbs Up

Renewable Energy - S-2126
(Whelan/D-2; Haines/R-8; Quijano/D-20; DeAngelo/D-14; Ramos/D-33; Wagner/D-38):

Assembly passed 75-2-2 and sent to the Governor. This bill permits development of solar and wind facilities and structures on landfills and resource extraction operations under certain circumstances. This measure will assist the renewable energy industry by eliminating the need to obtain a use variance and will add certainty to the local land use approval process for solar or wind generation projects.

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Assembly Environment & Solid Waste Committee
Thumbs Down

Renewable Energy Standards - A-4279
(McKeon/D-27; Benson/D-14):

Committee passed. This bill would amend provisions of the Electric Discount and Energy Competition Act pertaining to renewable energy and energy efficiency. The State Chamber supports the reasonable and realistic goals contained in the final Energy Master Plan.

Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee A-4279 Vote: McKeon, John F. (Chair) - Yes; Gusciora, Reed (Vice Chair) - Yes; Barnes, Peter J., III - Yes; Coyle, Denise M. - No; Lampitt, Pamela R. - Yes; Mainor, Charles - Not Voting; Rudder, Scott - No

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Environment
Assembly Environment & Solid Waste Committee
Thumbs Down

Hydraulic Fracturing - A-4231
(Wagner/D-38; Gusciora/D-15; Vainieri Huttle/D-3):

Committee passed. This bill prohibits the treatment, discharge, disposal or storage in New Jersey of any wastewater resulting from hydraulic fracturing for the purpose of natural gas exploration or production in any state.

Assembly Environment & Solid Waste Committee A-4231 Vote: McKeon, John F. (Chair) - Yes; Gusciora, Reed (Vice Chair) - Yes; Barnes, Peter J., III - Yes; Coyle, Denise M. - Abstain; Lampitt, Pamela R. - Yes; Mainor, Charles - Not Voting; Rudder, Scott - No

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Health
Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee
Thumbs Down

Mandated Benefits - S-1834
(Weinberg/D-37; Gill/D-34):

Committee passed. This bill requires health insurers to cover oral cancer medications on the same basis as intravenous cancer medications. The bill also prohibits a contract or policy from imposing an increase in patient cost sharing for either intravenous or oral cancer medications that are covered under the contract or policy as of the effective date of the bill. This mandate will increase health care costs for employers, who are already struggling to afford health insurance premiums.

Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee S-1834 Vote: Sarlo, Paul A. (Chair) - Yes; Stack, Brian P. (Vice Chair) - Yes; Beach, James - Yes; Bucco, Anthony R. - Not Voting; Buono, Barbara - Yes; Cunningham, Sandra B. - Yes; Doherty, Michael J. - No; Greenstein, Linda R. - Yes; O'Toole, Kevin J. - Yes; Oroho, Steven V. - Not Voting; Pennacchio, Joseph - Yes; Ruiz, M. Teresa - Yes; Van Drew, Jeff - Yes

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Labor
Thumbs Down

Increased Workers Compensation Costs - S-676
(Oliver/D-34; Coughlin/D-19; Wisniewski/D-19; Moriarty/D-4; DeAngelo/D-14):

Assembly passed 59-15-4 and sent to the Governor. This bill increases workers' compensation for loss of hand or foot. This bill will raise the cost of workers' compensation, which will ultimately be passed on to employers in this difficult economic climate.

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Thumbs Down

Back to Work NJ Program - A-4332
(Oliver/D-34; Coughlin/D-19; Wisniewski/D-19; Moriarty/D-4; DeAngelo/D-14):

Assembly passed 47-32. This bill establishes the Back to Work NJ Program within the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to provide workplace training to certain eligible unemployment insurance beneficiaries. The State Chamber is concerned that employers who participate in the program may inadvertently subject themselves to wage and hour violations due to confusion over what is considered training versus what is considered employment. Additionally, the State Chamber is concerned about the estimated $3 million cost of this program.

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Regulation
Senate Economic Growth Committee
Thumbs Up

Small Business Regulatory Relief - A-2129
(Chivukula/D-17; McHose/R-24; Burzichelli/D-3):

Committee passed. This bill updates the NJ Regulatory Flexibility Act so that it substantially reflects all the provisions of the model regulatory flexibility legislation presented for consideration to all state legislatures by the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Under the bill, an agency is required to conduct a review of rules that are up for re-adoption, ensuring that they have minimal impact on small businesses.

Senate Economic Growth Committee A-2129 Vote: Lesniak, Raymond J. (Chair) - Yes; Cunningham, Sandra B. (Vice Chair) - Yes; Codey, Richard J. - Yes; Kyrillos, Joseph M., Jr. - Yes; Oroho, Steven V. - Yes; Singer, Robert W. - Yes; Vitale, Joseph F. - Not Voting

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Senate Commerce Committee
Thumbs Up

Consumer Benefits - A-3133
(Riley/D-3; Coughlin/D-19; Burzichelli/D-3):

Committee passed. This bill permits the use of rebates, allowances, concessions, or benefits for motor fuel purchases on credit, debit or rewards cards. Currently New Jersey is the only the only state in the region that does not allow consumers to earn discounts on gasoline through frequent shopper cards or debit cards. This bill provides New Jersey consumers with the same access to these promotions as other states.

Senate Commerce Committee A-3133 Vote: Gill, Nia H. (Chair) - Yes; Lesniak, Raymond J. (Vice Chair) - Yes; Cardinale, Gerald - Not Voting; Kean, Thomas H., Jr. - Yes; Scutari, Nicholas P. - Yes

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Roundtable Breakfast with NJ Assembly Executive Directors

Getting the political parties to work together, reforming education and putting people back to work will be issues headlining the current lame-duck session and the next Legislative session, said Bill Caruso, executive director of the Assembly Democratic Office and Rick Wright, executive director of the Assembly Republican Office.

Jeff Chiesa, chief counsel to Gov. Christie, during a Q&A session with members

Gov. Chris Christie's chief counsel told a group of New Jersey Chamber of Commerce members on October 14 that the administration will press ahead with education reform this fall and "concrete steps" could be seen between the elections in November and the end of the Legislative session in January.

Most Would Back a Run for President by Christie Once He Finishes His Work in NJ

Most New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce members are optimistic about the state's business climate over the next 12 months, according to a recent survey conduct by the State Chamber.

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