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John Prato, the Consul General of CanadaCanada's largest energy companies are seeking suppliers from New Jersey to help them tap into the vast oil reserves of Alberta - a region estimated to hold almost two trillion barrels of oil in the form of a petroleum that occurs naturally in the sands of western Canada.

Governor Christie is lowering taxes when other governors are raising theirs.

Economic Development
Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee
Thumbs Up

Permit Extension Act - A-1338
(Greenwald/D-6; DeCroce/R-26; Green/D-22; Milam/D-1; Moriarty/D-4):

Committee passed. This bill extends the expiration date of permit approvals to December 31, 2014. The bill also clarifies that the extension applies to smart growth areas. The poor economic climate has severely affected the state's banking, real estate and construction sectors. Businesses cannot easily obtain financing under existing economic conditions and in some cases are forced to delay scheduled projects that have already been approved by a government entity and granted permits. Such delays result in some of these permits expiring before the projects are completed. Given that the permit application process is extremely time consuming and expensive, it makes sense to allow additional time for stalled projects to be completed.

Assembly Housing and Local Government A-1338 Vote: Green, Jerry (Chair) - Yes; Mila, Jasey (Vice Chair) - Yes; Carroll, Michael Patrick - Yes; Clifton, Robert D. - Yes; Jimenez, Angelica M. - Yes; Quijano, Annette - Yes

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Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
Thumbs Up

Military Support - S-234
(Oroho/R-24; Bucco/R-25; Beach/D-6):

Committee passed. This bill provides corporation business tax or gross income tax credits to businesses that have employees in the National Guard or a reserve component of the Armed Forces that are mobilized for active duty. The credit is equal to 20 percent of the salary and wages paid by the businesses, with a limit of $2,000 per employee

Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee S-234 Vote: Beach, James (Chair) - Yes; Van Drew, Jeff (Vice Chair) - Not Voting; Allen, Diane B. - Yes; Connors, Christopher J. - Yes; Norcross, Donald - Yes

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Education
Assembly Education Committee and Senate Education Committee
Thumbs Up

School Attendance - A-1411
(Watson Coleman/D-15; Wilson/D-5) & S-647 (Pou/D-35; Ruiz/D-29):

Committees passed. These bills raise the age requirement for compulsory school attendance from 16 to 18 years of age, except for students who graduate from high school prior to their eighteenth birthday.

Assembly Education Committee and Senate Education Committee A-1411 Vote: Diegnan, Patrick J., Jr. (Chair) - Yes; Watson Coleman, Bonnie (Vice Chair) Singleton, Troy - Yes- Yes; Caputo, Ralph R. - Not Voting; Jasey, Mila M. - Yes; Jimenez, Angelica M. - Yes; Rumana, Scott T. - No; Wagner, Connie - Yes; Wolfe, David W. - No

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Energy
Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee
Thumbs Down

RGGI - A-1998
(McKeon/D-27; Chivukula/D-17; Stender/D-22; Barnes/D-18; Gusciora/D-15; Vainieri Huttle/D-37):

Committee passed. This bill requires participation 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, only ten northeastern states were part of RGGI, while states like our neighboring Pennsylvania declined.

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Environment
Senate Environment and Energy Committee
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Hydraulic Fracturing - S-246
(McKeon/D-27; Chivukula/D-17; Stender/D-22; Barnes/D-18; Gusciora/D-15; Vainieri Huttle/D-37):

Committee passed. This bill prohibits hydraulic fracturing in New Jersey for the purpose of natural gas exploration or production. While the State Chamber recognizes that New Jersey, due to its underlying geology, has not deployed this technology, we believe that an outright ban would set a bad precedent and have consequences for our natural gas and oil development both in New Jersey and regionally. The State Chamber supports the Governor's one-year moratorium that directs the DEP to engage in a study that further evaluates the issue of "fracking."

Senate Environment and Energy Committee S-246 Vote: Smith, Bob (Chair) - Yes; Greenstein, Linda R. (Vice Chair) - Yes; Bateman, Christopher - Yes; Beck, Jennifer - Yes; Whelan, Jim - Yes

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Health
We are Seeking Amendments
Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee
Split

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

Committee passed. This bill establishes the New Jersey Health Benefit Exchange. States must pass legislation establishing a state-based Exchange, a marketplace where individuals and small employers will be able to purchase health insurance by June of 2012 in order to qualify for federal grant funding. While we are pleased that the Legislature is moving forward with Exchange implementation, we have concerns with certain provisions of the bill, 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.

Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee A-2171 Vote: Conaway, Herb, Jr. (Chair) - Yes; Benson, Daniel R. (Vice Chair) - Yes; Angelini, Mary Pat - No; Eustace, Timothy J. - Yes; Green, Jerry - Yes; Handlin, Amy H. - Abstain; Jimenez, Angelica M. - Yes; Munoz, Nancy F. - Abstain; Peterson, Erik - No; Sumter, Shavonda E. - Yes; Tucker, Cleopatra G. - Yes

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Labor
Senate Labor Committee
Thumbs Down

Prohibiting Credit Checks - S-455
(Turner/D-15; Gill/D-34):

Committee passed. This bill prohibits an employer from requiring a credit check on a current or prospective employee, unless the employer is required to do so by law, or reasonably believes that an employee has engaged in a specific activity that is financial in nature and constitutes a violation of law. The use of credit histories has historically been an additional tool for employers in assessing potential job candidates. Employers should not be precluded from conducting certain kinds of background checks. This legislation will add to the cost of doing business in our state by imposing new mandates and restrictions on business.

Senate Labor Committee S-455 Vote: Madden, Fred H., Jr. (Chair) - Yes; Codey, Richard J. (Vice Chair) - Yes; Addiego, Dawn Marie - Yes; Bucco, Anthony R. - No; Cunningham, Sandra B. - Yes

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Thumbs Up

Workforce Training - S-873
(Cunningham/D-31):

Senate passed 39-0. This bill permits the New Jersey Community College Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development to request additional funds from the Supplemental Workforce Fund for Basic Skills to provide basic skills training at the discretion of the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development.

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Senate Labor Committee
Thumbs Up

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 Labor Committee S-1121 Vote: Madden, Fred H., Jr. (Chair) - Yes; Codey, Richard J. (Vice Chair) - Yes; Addiego, Dawn Marie - Abstain; Bucco, Anthony R. - Abstain; Cunningham, Sandra B. - Yes

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Regulation
Senate Commerce Committee
Thumbs Up

Limited Liability Companies - S-742
(Sarlo/D-36; Oroho/R-24):

Committee passed. This bill repeals 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.

Senate Commerce Committee S-742 Vote: Gill, Nia H. (Chair) - Yes; Lesniak, Raymond J. (Vice Chair) - Yes; Beach, James - Yes; Cardinale, Gerald - Yes; Kean, Thomas H., Jr. - Yes; Scutari, Nicholas P. - Yes

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Economic Development
Thumbs Up

New Business Incentive - S-3033
(Lesniak/D-20; Kyrillos/R-13; Coutinho/D-29; Conaway/D-7; Bucco/R-25; Chiusano/R-24; Ramos/D-33):

Governor signed P.L.2011, c.149. This law establishes a $200 million "Grow New Jersey" tax credit program. 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. 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 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.

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Thumbs Up

Codifying Business Action Center - A-4337
(Madden/D-4; Oroho/R-24):

Assembly passed 47-29-2. Senate passed 34-3 and sent to Governor. 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

Societal Benefits Charge - A-2528
(Chivukula/D-17; Quijano/D-20):

Senate passed 33-4. Assembly passed 68-6 and sent to Governor. This bill provides for the allocation of a societal benefits charge among residential, commercial and industrial utility customers. The bill allows commercial and industrial ratepayers to take a credit of up to 50 percent of the societal benefit charge to offset the cost of BPU-approved energy efficient projects.

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Environment
Thumbs Up

Wastewater Management Planning - S-3156
(Sarlo/D-36; Oroho/R-24; Coutinho/D-29; Greenwald/D-6; DeCroce/R-26; McHose/R-24):

Assembly passed 56-14-3. Senate passed 27-5 and sent to Governor. This bill extends designated wastewater and sewer service areas for at least 180 days, but no longer than three years; and revises aspects of the wastewater management planning process.

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Government Reform
Thumbs Up

Pension and Benefits Reform - S-2100
(Sweeney/D-3; Ruiz/D-29; Moriarty/D-4; Barnes/D-18; Addiego/R-8; Vainieri Huttle/D-37; Greenstein/D-14):

Assembly passed 76-0 and sent to Governor. This bill prohibits new employees of certain organizations from enrolling in a state-administered retirement system or public employee health care benefits plan.

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Thumbs Up

Cost Savings - S-3148
(Norcross/D-5; Turner/D-15; Greenwald/D-6; Moriarty/D-4; DeAngelo/D-14; Singleton/D-7; Green/D-22; Bramnick/R-21):

Assembly passed 62-11-2. Senate passed 33-2 and sent to Governor. This bill establishes procedures for districts, municipalities or voters to move annual school elections to the date of the general elections in November, and eliminates a general vote on school budgets for such districts, except in cases of separate spending proposals that exceed the tax cap.

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Health
twatch-down

Health Insurance Mandate - S-1834
(Madden/D-4; Sarlo/D-36; Egan/D-17; Singleton/D-7):

Assembly passed 68-2-5 and sent to Governor. This bill requires health insurers to cover oral cancer medications on the same basis as they cover 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.

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Labor
Thumbs Up

Unemployment Insurance - S-3186
(Madden/D-4; Sarlo/D-36; Egan/D-17; Singleton/D-7):

Senate passed 38-0. Assembly passed 74-0 and sent to Governor. This bill allows unemployed New Jersey workers to continue to receive unemployment benefits.

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Regulation
Thumbs Up

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

Senate passed 37-0. Assembly passed 73-0 and sent to Governor. This bill requires an agency to conduct a review of rules that are up for re-adoption, ensuring that they have minimal impact on small businesses. The bill updates the NJ Regulatory Flexibility Act so that it is consistent with the provisions of a model bill endorsed by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

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Thumbs Up

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

Governor signed P.L.2011, c.164. 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 state in the region that does not allow consumers to earn discounts on gasoline through frequent shopper cards or debit cards. This would give New Jersey consumers the same access to these promotions as other states.

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Gov. Chris Christie is flanked by New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Chairman Jeff Scheininger (left) and Chamber President and CEO Tom Bracken at the 75th Annual Congressional Dinner. (Photo by Russ DeSantis)The 75th Annual Walk to Washington and Congressional Dinner on Jan. 26 and 27 brought to Washington a who's who of New Jersey business and government leaders, all of whom participated in what The Star-Ledger called the Walk to Washington's "time-honored exercise in extreme networking."

Gov. Christie adresses the crowd at the 2012 NJ Chamber Walk to Washington

New Jersey businesses will be essential in the effort to cut taxes and rein in government spending, Gov. Chris Christie told the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce on Thursday night in Washington.

Governor Chris Christie told a group of business leaders that Democrats in the Legislature may jeopardize New Jersey’s economic recovery by putting social issues ahead of job creation and tax cuts.

A crowded car aboard the annual New Jersey Chamber of Commerce train ride to Washington. - John O'Boyle/The Star-Ledger

TRENTON — For New Jersey’s power brokers, the annual chamber-sponsored schlep from Newark to Washington is a time-honored exercise in extreme networking.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski talks with Senator Loretta Weinberg during the annual New Jersey Chamber of Commerce train ride.

Governor Christie told an audience of state business leaders who traveled to Washington on Thursday that legislative critics of his proposed income tax cut were hypocrites because they had supported fiscally irresponsible budgets before.

2012 New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Walk to Washington.

WASHINGTON — Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday ripped Democrats in the Legislature as misguided for trying to legalize gay marriage and for their criticism of his income tax plan during a speech at the state’s annual Chamber of Commerce congressional dinner.

Gov. Christie, pictured on Wednesday when he announced his plan, with Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Sol J. Barer, chairman of the UMDNJ advisory committee, to merge Rutgers-Camden into Rowan University. (Mel Evans, Associated Press)

WASHINGTON - Without uttering the words "gay marriage," Gov. Christie delivered a fiery attack on Democrats for pushing ahead with a same-sex marriage bill when the state should be focused on job creation.

WASHINGTON - Solving social issues can wait. Jobs can't.