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Minimum Wage Bill Advancing

May 26, 2016 (A-15/S-15)

What Happened:
The full Assembly approved legislation increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, making New Jersey only the third state in the nation to do so.  A-15 would phase in what amounts to a 79 percent increase and provide for annual cost-of-living-increases on top of that.

What It Means:
The bill would artificially inflate the value of a minimum wage job, forcing businesses to pay up to $15 an hour regardless of whether business conditions can support it.  The minimum wage would also impact salaries and wages above $15 an hour because workers who make more would want a similar adjustment in their compensation.

Where We Stand:
NJBIA opposes the bill and is leading a coalition of businesses and organizations to defeat it. Testifying against the bill, NJBIA President and CEO Michele Siekerka said, “It’s a recipe for economic disaster, especially for small businesses.”

What’s Next:
The bill awaits action in the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.


Paid Sick Leave Mandate Stalls

May 9, 2016 (S-799)

What Happened:
The New Jersey Senate did not hold a scheduled vote on legislation that would have mandated all businesses provide paid sick leave to each employee. The bill would have required all employers to provide either five or nine days of protected paid leave, depending on the size of the business, and would have allowed workers to carry over unused paid sick leave from one year to the next.

What It Means:

In addition to providing paid sick leave, this bill would force businesses to comply with numerous rules regarding record-keeping, documentation, replacement workers and preventing abuse of paid sick leave. Businesses would be prohibited from requiring employees to make arrangements to have their work covered, even for a foreseeable absence, and if employers asked for a doctor’s note, they would have to pay workers’ mileage and other expenses for them to obtain it. The creation of a new cause of action would make businesses vulnerable to frivolous lawsuits.

Where We Stand:
NJBIA opposes the bill.  This bill would punish the more than 70 percent of businesses that already provide paid sick leave by subjecting them to more regulation, red tape and higher costs even if they are already providing their employees with this benefit.

What’s Next:
The bill awaits further amendments and/or final action in the full Senate.


Higher Education and Business Partnerships for Innovation

May 12, 2016 (A-1668)

What Happened:
Another initiative to make it easier for businesses and higher education to collaborate on developing new technologies and products was approved by the Assembly Higher Education Committee. A-1668 would create the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education and Business Partnerships to foster innovation by making it easier for businesses to leverage the extensive research and facilities of the state’s colleges and universities.

What It Means:
The commission would be an effective tool in creating an innovation ecosystem that is competitive in the global economy. New Jersey has all the pieces to have a world-class innovation hub: strong research based industries, outstanding academic institutions, a supportive state government, dynamic entrepreneurs, accessibility to capital and a highly educated workforce. This legislation would be charged with making sure businesses and academia work together to make the most of these assets.

Where We Stand:
NJBIA supports the bill. Innovation is critical to the future of the economy because it is crucial for businesses in life sciences, information technology and other high-tech industries. According to the New Jersey Policy Research Organization’s report “The Road to an Innovation Ecosystem,” New Jersey has made dramatic progress over the past five years in coordinating and leveraging its resources into building a functioning and competitive innovation ecosystem. A-1668 continues this upward innovation trend to foster collaboration and improve the partnerships between academia, business and government.

What’s Next:

The bill awaits action in the full Assembly.


Mandates for Wage Equity

May 2, 2016 (S-992)

What Happened:

Governor Christie conditionally vetoed the bill that would have, among other things, required all public contractors to report information regarding their employees’ gender, race, job title, occupational category and total compensation as part of the process to guarantee equal pay.

What it Means:

The Governor’s action aligns state law with federal statutes as requested by NJBIA and provides for a process that is less burdensome for business.

Where We Stand:

NJBIA believes that employers should provide equal pay for equal work. However, the Governor’s Conditional Veto recognizes that sentiment and recommends that New Jersey’s pay equity law be aligned with the federal Lily Ledbetter Act and NJ Supreme Court case law. We support the Governor’s action and urge the Legislature to accept the conditional veto.

What’s Next:
The bill now heads back to the Senate and Assembly where both houses must decide whether to agree with the Governor’s action.


Mandates for Work Schedule Changes

April 4, 2016 (A-1117)

What Happened:
The Assembly Women and Children’s Committee voted to require employers to provide justification for denying work schedule changes and pay certain workers for changes made on short notice or if they are sent home early.

What It Means:

Employers would have to explain in writing that there is a “bona fide business reason” for denying employee requests or risk financial and legal penalties. Employers also would have to pay retail, food service or cleaning employees for a minimum of four hours’ work whenever those employees are sent home early due to an unanticipated change in work circumstances. The bill also requires employers to post schedules two weeks in advance, pay employees who are asked to call in to see if they are needed, and provide extra pay for shift changes made with less than 24 hours’ notice.

Where We Stand:

NJBIA opposes the bill because it fails to take into account that many scheduling changes are beyond an employer’s control and exposes employers to additional legal liability. Moreover, state law already accommodates time-off requests for workers with serious health conditions and caregiver responsibilities.  Adding more mandates will only drive up the cost of doing business.


Bottle Deposit Bill

April 4, 2016 (A-2281)

What Happened:
Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee voted to impose deposits on beverage bottles of between 10 cents and 20 cents each to fund water infrastructure projects.

What It Means:
Consumers would be required to pay a 10-cent deposit on all plastic and glass bottles and aluminum cans (other than refillable containers) less than 24 oz. and a 20-cent deposit on such beverage containers over 24 oz. up to 3 liters. Customers would have to return the bottles to recoup their costs via credit, and retailers would have to collect and store the bottles to recycle them in addition to paying new compliance costs. Additionally this would impact local recycling and cost municipalities and counties recycling grant money.

Where We Stand:
NJBIA opposes the bill for several reasons.  The impracticality of collecting and storing bottles at retail establishments; the increased costs of necessary cleaning machinery, transportation, submission of reports, and disbursement of the deposit moneys; and, the complete disregard for New Jersey’s current county recycling infrastructure.

What’s Next:

The bill awaits action in the Assembly Appropriation Committee.


Basic Skills Workforce Training

April 4, 2016 (A-1460)

What Happened:
Better metrics on basic skills training programs provided by county colleges would help measure the value of a popular employee workforce training program under legislation approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Colleges would include the impact it has on employees’ wages and salaries as part of its annual report to the Legislature.

What It Means:

The Basic Skills Training Program is a partnership with NJBIA, the state Labor Department and the County College Consortium that provides training for computer applications, mathematics, communications and English as a second language or workplace Spanish. Better metrics would help secure funding for this training program in the future by showing the tangible benefits it provides to workers as well as employers.

Where We Stand:
NJBIA supports A-1460. The Basic Skills Training Program is tremendously successful, having provided training to 92,000 workers at 6,000 businesses since 2007.

What’s Next:

The bill awaits action in the Assembly.

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