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Cornerstone NJ event at MorvenNew Jersey Chamber of Commerce Cornerstone members heard an exclusive breakfast presentation on June 20 by some of Governor Chris Christie's top advisors, including Chief of Staff Kevin O'Dowd, Chief Counsel Charles McKenna and their top deputies.

2012 NJ Chamber Open HouseThe 15th Annual N.J. Chamber of Commerce Open House, the summer's premier networking event, was a smash.

best-places-to-workThe New Jersey Chamber of Commerce congratulates our members who were named the Best Places to Work, as determined by NJBIZ newspaper. The honorees include North Highland, a global consulting firm with offices in Princeton, which led the category of large companies.

Thomas A. Bracken

New Jersey should reduce its dependency on its income tax revenue if it wants to create a stable budget environment, according to a new study released today by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.

NJ Chamber 2012 Business Achievement Awards

The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce honored the state's 50 fastest growing companies as identified by NJBIZ at a breakfast ceremony at the Wyndham Princeton Forrestal Hotel and Conference Center this morning.

Consumer Affairs
Assembly Consumer Affairs
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Social Media - A-2878
(Burzichelli/D-3; Greenwald/D-6):

Committee passed. This bill prohibits an employer from requiring a current or prospective employee from providing or disclosing any user name or password, or in any way providing the employer access to a personal account or service through an electronic communications device. The State Chamber is seeking amendments that would address concerns of the employer community, such as liability issues.

Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee A-2878 Vote: Moriarty, Paul D. (C) - Yes; Diegnan, Patrick J., Jr.(V) - Yes; Brown, Chris A. - Not Voting; Connors, Sean - Yes; Gove, DiAnne C. - Abstain

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Education
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Math and Science Certification - A-2311
(Jasey/D-27; Coutinho/D-29; Benson/D-14; Caputo/D-28):

Governor signed P.L. 2012, c.11. This law establishes a program to issue subject area endorsements in mathematics or in the sciences to certified New Jersey teachers who do not currently have a subject area endorsement in those fields. The program is designed to reduce the shortage of teachers in mathematics and science.

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Environment
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Waiver Rule - ACR37
(Barnes/D-18; McKeon/D-27; Gusciora/D-15; Spencer/D-29; Giblin/D-34):

Assembly passed 47-31. This resolution states that the rules and regulations for the "waiver rule" proposed by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) are inconsistent with legislative intent. The State Chamber believes the waiver rule, which allows the DEP to waive strict compliance with regulations in certain limited circumstances, is consistent with the findings of the state's Red Tape Review Commission which calls for flexibility and predictability for regulated businesses.

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RGGI - S-1322
(Sweeney/D-3; Smith/D-17; Vainieri Huttle/D-37; Wagner/D-38; McHose/R-24; Ramos/D-33; Handlin/R-13; Wisniewski/D-19):

Senate passed 22-16. Assembly passed 45-33 and sent to Governor. This bill requires that New Jersey participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The State Chamber opposes this measure because the two-year-old RGGI program was not effective in cutting emissions of carbon dioxide and the program ultimately contributed to higher energy prices for residents and businesses in New Jersey. Additionally, Pennsylvania does not participate in RGGI and New Jersey is the recipient of its air emissions.

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Pollution Prevention Act - A-1534
(Burzichelli/D-3; Quijano/D-20):

Assembly passed 72-4-2. This bill requires the DEP to conduct an analysis of the Pollution Prevention Act (enacted in 1991) and evaluate the effectiveness of the law and the impact upon the environment, public and occupational health, and the industrial facilities subject to the act. In the report, the DEP is also directed to provide a comparison of the pollution prevention program rules to other hazardous substances reporting requirements.

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DEP Permitting Reform - A-2584
(Ramos/D-33; Caputo/D-28; Amodeo/R-2; Burzichelli/D-3; Moriarty/D-4):

Assembly passed 77-1. This bill requires the DEP to amend minor technical and administrative violations of permitting rules. The bill would establish a new class of minor DEP violations for companies whose violations are not the result of purposeful, knowing, reckless or criminally negligent conduct; or if the violation is based on an administrative, technical, clerical or other non-substantive error or omission in a notice, report, manifest, or document; and if the activity or condition constituting the violation is capable of being corrected and compliance can be achieved within 45 days.

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Health
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Health Insurance Exchange - A-2171
(Conaway/D-7; Singleton/D-7; Chivukula/D-17; Ramos/D-33):

Governor vetoed. This bill establishes the New Jersey Health Benefit Exchange, a marketplace where individuals and small employers would be able to purchase health insurance. The State Chamber supports Governor Christie's veto. We have concerns about many of the provisions of the legislation, including committing New Jersey to establishing a Basic Health Plan without knowing the full financial impact; restricting certain individuals, such as those employed by carriers, providers and hospitals from participating on the governing board; financing that places the burden solely on one industry; and setting up an "active purchaser" model, which would limit competition and consumer choice.

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WatchingSeeking
Amendments

Healthcare Disclosure and Transparency Act - A-2751
(Schaer/D-36; Spencer/D-29):

For discussion only. This bill changes aspects of payment collection and disclosure requirements pertaining to out-of-network services and charges. The State Chamber supports the provisions in the bill that enhance disclosure requirements to provide consumers with additional information about their out-of-network benefits and costs. However, this increased transparency does not solve the problem of excessive charges and routine waiver of cost sharing - the practice of a health care provider waiving a patient's financial responsibility in order to incent them to utilize out-of-network services. The routine waiver of cost sharing as a business model adds significantly to the cost of health care. While we support appropriate penalties for routine waiver of cost sharing, we are not certain that the penalties contained in the bill serve as adequate deterrents to improper charging practices.

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Senate Commerce Committee
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Health Insurance Mandate - S-792
(Weinberg/D-37; Gill/D-34):

Committee passed. Referred to Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. This bill requires insurers to cover comprehensive ultrasound breast screening under certain circumstances. The State Chamber is concerned that this mandate will increase health care costs for employers, who are already struggling to afford their health insurance premiums. Premiums in the small employer market have increased significantly in recent years, and employers have had to make difficult decisions, such as increasing employee cost sharing or reducing benefits, in order to continue offering health insurance coverage. In some cases employers have been unable to continue to offer coverage. Additionally this legislation will not be referred to the Mandated Health Benefits Advisory Commission, so we will not have the benefit of a comprehensive review of the social and financial impact of the legislation.

Senate Commerce Committee S-792 Vote: Gill, Nia H. (C) - Yes; Cardinale, Gerald - Yes; Cunningham, Sandra B. - Yes; Kean, Thomas H., Jr. - Yes; Norcross, Donald - Yes; Scutari, Nicholas P. - Yes

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Labor
Senate Labor Committee
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Supplemental Benefits - S-613
(Sweeney/D-3; Madden/D-4):

Committee passed. This bill provides, from July 1, 2013 forward, an annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) in the weekly workers' compensation benefit rate for any worker who has become totally and permanently disabled from a workplace injury at any time after December 31, 1979 and for the surviving dependents of any worker who died from a workplace injury after December 31, 1979. An increase in the workers' compensation system would be structured in a way that adds to New Jersey's uncompetitive position with other states for attracting business.

Senate Labor Committee S-613 Vote: Madden, Fred H., Jr. (C) - Yes; Codey, Richard J. (V) - Yes; Addiego, Dawn Marie - Abstain; Bucco, Anthony R. - Not Voting; Cunningham, Sandra B. - Yes

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Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee
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UI Rates - S-1121
(Madden/D-4; Oroho/R-24):

Committee passed. This bill modifies the experience rating provisions of the unemployment insurance (UI) law used to set employer tax rates for certain employers. Currently, employers with positive reserve ratios are effectively subsidizing employers with negative reserve ratios. This situation is also delaying efforts to restore the solvency of the UI fund.

Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee S-1121 Vote: Sarlo, Paul A. (C) - Yes; Stack, Brian P. (V) - Yes; Beck, Jennifer - Yes; Bucco, Anthony R. - Not Voting; Cunningham, Sandra B. - Yes; Greenstein, Linda R. - Yes; O'Toole, Kevin J. - Yes; Oroho, Steven V. - Yes; Pennacchio, Joseph - Yes; Pou, Nellie - Yes; Ruiz, M. Teresa - Yes; Van Drew, Jeff - Yes; Weinberg, Loretta - Yes

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Minimum Wage Increase - A-2162
(Oliver/D-34; Greenwald/D-6; Green/D-22; Johnson/D-37; Prieto/D-32; Wisniewski/D-19):

Assembly passed 46-33. This bill increases New Jersey's hourly minimum wage rate to $8.50 on July 1, 2012 and then requires the minimum wage rate be adjusted annually, based on increases in the consumer price index. A minimum wage increase of 17 percent would be harmful to business owners, who will ultimately have to make difficult economic decisions to meet their bottom line by either passing costs on to consumers, scaling back the hours of current employees or not hiring additional employees.

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Legal
Assembly Judiciary Committee
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Tort Reform - A-894
(Chiusano/R-24; Wisniewski/D-19):

Committee passed. This bill permits litigants who are contesting a judicial determination as to the certification or decertification of a class of plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit to immediately appeal that ruling to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court.

Assembly Judiciary Committee A-894 Vote: Barnes, Peter J., III (C) - Yes; Carroll, Michael Patrick - Yes; Johnson, Gordon M. - Yes; Schepisi, Holly - Yes; Vainieri Huttle, Valerie - Yes; Wagner, Connie - Yes

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Modernizing LLC Rules - A-1543
(Burzichelli/D-3; Rumana/R-40; Singleton/D-7; Wisniewski/D-19):

Assembly passed 77-1. This bill revises the New Jersey Limited Liability Company Act, and replaces it with a more modern regulatory system for the creation and operation of limited liability companies in New Jersey.

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2012-nj-business-dayHundreds of executives and decision makers descended on the New Jersey Convention and Expo Center for NJ Business Day.

NJ Chamber Breakfast Series

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.

2012 Tax StudyTo return to a stable and more manageable fiscal structure, New Jersey must reduce its dependency on its gross income tax - a source of revenue that fluctuates widely depending on the health of the economy, according to a new report released today by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce. The report presents options that would help New Jersey solve its systemic budget issues and help attract new capital investment.

The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce says business leaders apparently are more optimistic about the state's economy than they were a year ago.

Members of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce are more optimistic about the state's business climate than they were a year ago, and more than a quarter report that they expect to hire additional staff over the next 12 months, according to a recent survey conducted by the State Chamber.

NJ Chamber Roundtable BreakfastThe Port Authority of New York & New Jersey is improving efficiency and transparency in a "culture shake-up" that follows years of insulation at the agency, said David Samson, the chairman of the New York & New Jersey Port Authority, during a breakfast roundtable yesterday sponsored by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.