NJBIA’s Government Affairs Policy Committee held a hybrid meeting last week to discuss priorities in the new legislative session with Kevin Drennan, Executive Director of the Senate Majority Office, and Seth Hahn, Executive Director of the Assembly Majority Office.
Drennan and Hahn stated the focus of the Democratic caucuses will be on the themes of affordability, efficiency and sustainable equity. They explained that the legislative process will be slowed down this session in order to fully deliberate legislation and focus on these key areas.
Both Drennan and Hahn stressed that affordability means different things to different people. The Legislature, they said, will be taking a balanced approach to address affordability for the various constituencies in the state.
Hahn added that Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin will continue to focus on hunger and food insecurity throughout New Jersey. Assessing how we come out of the pandemic and return to normalcy without disruption is a goal of the legislature, he said. Issues such as maintaining housing and utilities for vulnerable residents, learning loss, childhood mental health and small business development and retention are all post pandemic priorities for Speaker Coughlin. Hahn highlighted that uncertainties from Washington, D.C. complicate some of the legislative priorities going forward, such as childcare initiatives and supporting the restaurant industry.
During Q&A, Drennan and Hahn covered many topics of interest to the business community. Drennan explained the workers’ compensation presumption that was triggered by Governor Murphy’s new public health emergency was unintended from the legislature’s perspective. He explained that the Legislature and Governor will be reviewing how best to move forward on the public health emergency, administrative order extensions and best practices for the future.
When addressing the remaining American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, Hahn noted they will be spent on critical needs through smart investments that will improve the lives of New Jerseyans well into the future. Both Drennan and Hahn mentioned that various stakeholders have weighed in on how best to spend these federal funds and the funding will never be enough to meet demand.
While addressing the upcoming budget, Drennan said he does not see much changing from the priorities of the last four years. Hahn reiterated the need to balance affordability with smart investments in the FY23 budget to return to a path of relative fiscal health.
The prospect of using federal funds to offset the nearly $1 billion tax increase on employers to replenish the unemployment insurance trust fund was raised to the Executive Directors. Drennan noted that the Legislature has acted to spread the increase over a 3-year period and hold businesses harmless on experience rating impacts.
Additionally, the NJBIA Government Affairs team gave a brief update on significant bills and initiatives they are monitoring.
Chief Government Affairs Officer Chrissy Buteas highlighted the dangerous precedent being set through S-315 (Vitale) which would require collective bargaining agreements to remain intact after the sale of a healthcare facility and S-329 (Singleton) which would create a prescription drug affordability board and price controls on the pharmaceutical industry. She mentioned NBA’s efforts to address the continuation of COVID-19 administrative orders and waivers benefiting the healthcare industry.
NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Christopher Emigholz highlighted positive legislation such as S-4068 (Sarlo), which revised the business alternative income tax (BAIT) and the Film and Digital Tax Credit bill being signed into law last session.
Emigholz highlighted that he is working with Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald and Sen. Fred Madden to advance A-2152/S-733 to offset the cost of the unemployment insurance tax increase on the business community.
He highlighted the unique positive cash position the state is in heading into budget season. Emigholz asked NJBIA members to contact him with any challenges they are facing regarding remote work requirements for various tax incentive programs and the impact the state’s high global intangible low-taxed income (GILTI) is having on businesses.
Ray Cantor, NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs, discussed the war on plastic and natural gas in New Jersey. He noted single-use paper and plastic bags will be banned in the state later this year. He highlighted the recycled content bill. which was signed into law during the lame duck session and will lead to rising costs in the coming years for consumers and a decrease in certain products being available in New Jersey due to strict recycled content percentage requirements.
Cantor discussed concerns with new environmental initiatives in the Legislature focusing on extended producer responsibility. Finally, he discussed the push by the Legislature, Gov. Phil Murphy and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to eliminate natural gas in New Jersey.
Alexis Bailey, NJBIA Director of Government Affairs, discussed concerns with two pieces of legislation, A-571 (Karabinchak) and A-2138 (Moriarty), that would create licensure processes for general contractors and home improvement contractors. She also discussed concerns with A-795 which would expand accommodation requirements on employers for their employees that are breastfeeding. Lastly, she highlighted NJBIA’s proactive goal of modernizing and revising the state’s teen worker laws.
Lastly, NJBIA Director of Economic Policy Research Kyle Sullender stated New Jersey still has the third highest unemployment rate in the nation at 6.3%, significantly trailing the national average of 3.9%. He noted that the Northeast and New Jersey have not seen the impacts of the “great resignation” to the same extent as other areas of the nation.