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As the 219th legislative session drew to a close this Monday, several bills that NJBIA strongly opposed didn’t make it to the finish line. And a few others where NJBIA took a lead support role did make it to the governor’s desk. 

These successes do not always come easy, but NJBIA Chief Government Affairs Officer Chrissy Buteas said she and her team look forward to building upon them and other recent ones in the 220th legislative session. 

“We were happy to see the Legislature and the Governor’s office listen more intently to the concerns of the business community, particularly over the past year,” Buteas said. “We look forward to staying vigilant in advocating for legislation that will help businesses and opposing bills that will challenge our economic recovery, all while working with our policymakers.” 

Three key bills which previously passed committees, but were strongly opposed by NJBIA, did not get full chamber votes on Monday as the session ended.  

One bill would have codified the DEP’s Energy Master Plan, leading to an eventual ban of natural gas in the state. Another required New Jersey and other public entities to include labor harmony agreements as part of any retail and distribution center project. Another allowed government to set price controls on New Jersey pharmaceutical companies, potentially hurting the state’s economy. 

Also on Monday, the Senate unanimously approved a bill (S-3809), supported by NJBIA, that would provide a tax credit to businesses that employ workers with developmental disabilities. 

FOCUS AREAS 

Bill A-6230, also strongly supported by NJBIA, was unanimously approved by the Assembly on Monday. The legislation appropriates $1 million to address the recruitment challenges faced by organizations that employ direct support professionals caring for developmentally disabled people. 

The progress of these bills is a continuation of the pivotal role NJBIA played last year in being a leading voice for hiring workers with disabilities. The association built a coalition to advance these and other bills, while also hosting a webinar with experts who provided guidance and information for businesses seeking to hire employees with disabilities.  

“Seeing momentum in this space has been a proud mission this past year,” Buteas said. “We want to see more businesses lean into hiring individuals with disabilities because of the great value they bring to the workforce, especially when there are hiring challenges.” 

NJBIA also took a lead role in 2021 in addressing continued COVID-based challenges whether on its own, or through the New Jersey Business Coalition (NJBC) of more than 100 business and nonprofit organizations that the association convened. 

Most notably, it was NJBIA and the NJBC that rang the bell loudly to describe the full extent of the hiring challenges small businesses faced in 2021. In addition to hosting multiple virtual and in-person press conferences with employers, NJBIA also submitted multiple recommendations to Gov. Phil Murphy’s office and lawmakers to help improve the worker shortages. 

Several of those recommendations were put into action by policymakers, including a new law loosening teen worker rulesthe new Return and Earn incentive program, and a new Division of Labor and Workforce portal that allows employers to report work refusals amid skyrocketing unemployment claims. 

PROACTIVE EFFORTS

NJBIA also continued to carry the torch for the industry-specific recovery throughout the state. It lobbied for the ability for cosmetology teachers to receive teaching permits again, an administrative order that was just extended this week and lauded by the New Jersey Salon and Spa Alliance. 

NJBIA joined the many federal voices opposing the proposed increased taxes of the original Build Back Better plan, which would have given New Jersey the highest combined corporate business tax rate in the industrialized world – hitting manufacturers the hardest. 

NJBIA lobbied hard for the childcare industry through its town halls, ultimately seeing an expansion of a childcare tax credit signed into law. The association also joined several health groups in fighting for and urging extensions on several crucial extensions on COVID-19 waivers. 

It was also a boon year for funding to bolster workforce development in New Jersey, thanks to NJBIA’s efforts. Gov. Murphy signed a law committing $3 million for worker basic skills training and another $8.5 million for collaboration with New Jersey Community Colleges to structure a multi-faceted plan to help the state’s higher education system to build the workforce of the future. 

On taxes and the economy, NJBIA and the NJBC were the strongest and most persistent voice   in urging the governor to use federal American Rescue Plan act dollars to replenish New Jersey’s depleted Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. NJBIA also repeatedly urged pro-growth spending of ARPA funds by policymakers. 

On energy and environmental policy, NJBIA continually stepped out to urge the Murphy administration to step away from outlier projections that galvanized new flood hazard rules – bringing more costs and limitations to future development 

The association also went above and beyond in legally challenging all the way to the Supreme Court the constitutionality of extended business closure orders, which plagued businesses in 2020 and threaten to in the future. 

“While this legislative session was historically challenging for New Jersey’s business community, there were many victories to be counted – and that’s without mentioning the bad bills which would have been so much worse without our mitigation,” NJBIA President and CEO Michele Siekerka said. “I’m incredibly proud of this Government Affairs team and their tireless and passionate work on behalf of New Jersey business community, and I’m equally as grateful for all of the amazing partners we have joined to fight as one.” 

“Looking ahead to the next session, we know New Jersey’s businesses will continue to be challenged. But together, we will advance the need to make our great state more affordable and less adverse to business. Our resolve to respond to these challenges, to be proactive on comprehensive solutions and improve our state’s standing remains undaunted.”