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Senate Budget Chair Paul Sarlo made big news this week at NJBIA’s Public Policy Forum by saying that a ban of the sale of new gas cars is “not happening” by 2035. 

While many legislators on both sides have also come out against the DEP’s adopted Advanced Clean Car Act II rule, the outspoken nature of the comments from such a high-ranking lawmaker raised the question of could the Legislature actually stop it from happening. 

According to NJBIA’s Deputy Chief Government Affairs Officer Ray Cantor, it absolutely could – without requiring a signature from Gov. Phil Murphy. 

“The Legislature does have the authority to repeal a regulation without needing a governor to sign anything or to approve it,” Cantor said. “They can act on their own by passing a concurrent resolution, finding the rule inconsistent with legislative intent.” 

A concurrent resolution is adopted by both the Senate and General Assembly to express the policy or opinions of the Legislature. While it is mostly used to propose amendments to the State Constitution, it also can be used to adopt joint rules – requiring no action by the governor. 

CONNECTICUT OPTS OUT

The timing of Sarlo’s comments coincided with the news that Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont was withdrawing his state from the ACCII rules because its bipartisan Legislature’s Regulation Review Committee was poised to vote against the adoption of the rules. 

“Connecticut handles its regulations a little differently than in New Jersey,” Cantor said. “But the opposition we’re seeing from lawmakers there and in states like Virginia can ultimately turn into action here. 

“The fact of the matter is the large majority of our legislators know that this rule is not in any way feasible or affordable. We would hope they wouldn’t wait this long, but once lawmakers see the impact it will have upon our residents, particularly our lower- to-middle population, they really will have an obligation to act.  

“It would just be nice not to get to that point where people, and our economy, are harmed.” 

During NJBIA’s Public Policy Forum, co-moderator Eric Scott, News Director of NJ101.5 and Townsquare Media, asked whether the Legislature should step in. 

“I know everybody in this room fully understands the need to invest in green energy and move in that direction,” Sarlo responded. “I don’t think anybody here is opposed to that. However, let’s be practical about it – 2035 is not happening.  

“First of all, the automakers don’t have the ability and the capacity to build those vehicles for us. Number two is the infrastructure is not here to actually support it.  The grid needs to be strengthened to support the electric charging stations. There is a significant amount of federal investment in our infrastructure that needs to go on before we tell everybody to go out and buy an electric car.  

“So, I am sure somebody at the DEP thought this was a great idea to get a great headline. But it’s not practical,” Sarlo said. 

STRONG OPPOSITION 

After Labor Day, NJBIA mounted a campaign to stop the ban of new gas-powered cars. It resulted in nearly 10,000 letters being sent to the Legislature to step in and stop the mandate. 

Additionally, more than 100 business and labor groups asked the Legislature to intervene. Groups representing minorities and lower-to-middle income residents publicly opposed. Overwhelmingly, comments sent to the Department opposed the ACCII rule, or recommended changes. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle were included in those commenters. 

Despite the massive opposition, the DEP elected to adopt the rule on Nov. 21.