Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in mid-March, the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey (CCSNJ)’s singular focus has been to help our members navigate the economic crisis created by the pandemic in every way possible.

A key component of this assistance comes in the form of advocacy at the state and federal level, providing CCSNJ members access to elected and appointed officials through a variety of virtual programs and obtaining answers or clarity on difficult issues many South Jersey businesses have faced through no fault of their own. The CCSNJ Government Affairs team continues to primarily monitor pandemic-related legislation that could impact businesses and the South Jersey region as an organization and through the New Jersey Business Coalition , a coalition of over 100 business organizations statewide, which the CCSNJ is a proud member of. As a result, much of the second quarter legislative review consists of COVID-19 bills the CCSNJ engaged on with policymakers, either supporting, opposing or seeking important amendments to help improve public policy that oftentimes was crafted and moved swiftly through the legislative process.

While the CCSNJ has kept a keen eye on public policy initiatives related to the health emergency, there has also been a series of non-COVID issues considered by the Legislature that impact member companies and the region, which the CCSNJ continues to engage on. And, as always, the state budget remains a critical priority as we enter an unprecedented FY2021 budget cycle over the summer months concluding on the new budget deadline of September 30, 2020.

The CCSNJ continues to be in constant contact with the Administration and Legislature to help ascertain the information and facilitate the connections that our valued members desperately need as the state continues to navigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. We welcome your feedback, comments and suggestions on how we can better serve you and your thoughts on the issues the CCSNJ has weighed in on during the second quarter of 2020. 
COVID-19 Legislation
The CCSNJ has been pleased to see the Legislature’s continued focus on assuring that businesses have the proper tools to mitigate the looming economic crisis a result of COVID-19. However, there are also bills that the CCSNJ has fought against, which would place an unfair burden on the employer community as they continue to struggle amid these unprecedented times. Below is a summary of the COVID-19 related bills that the CCSNJ weighed in on over the past three months.
COVID-19 Assistance Programs
A-4030/S-2347 (Mukherji/Benson/Sweeney/Kean) : Establishes the “ Employment and Business-Related Tax Deferral Assistance Program ” in the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA), which would allow small businesses to defer the payment and remittance of certain employment and business-related taxes during COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • The bill was passed by the Senate on April 14 and the Assembly Appropriations committee on May 7. It awaits a vote by the full Assembly.
A-3965 (Moen/Greenstein/Cruz-Perez) : Expands the existing New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) loan program to include certain small producers and retailers of alcoholic beverages.
  • The bill passed the Assembly unanimously on May 14 and was reported out of the Senate Economic Growth committee on June 25.
A-3959/S-2371 (Mukherji/Gopal) : Establishes the “ New Jersey Hospitality Emergency Loan Program ” within the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) to provide no-interest loans to qualified small hospitality businesses; makes $100 million appropriation to the NJEDA from federal funds.
COVID-19 Labor Mandates
A-4131/S-2478 (Sweeney) : Requires the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) to establish sanitization guidelines for hotels operating in New Jersey.
S-2380 (Sweeney/Singer/Greenstein) : Creates a rebuttable presumption that health care workers, public safety workers, and other essential employees who contract COVID-19 at work are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits and other employment benefits provided for work-related injuries and illnesses.
S2476 (Singleton): Concerns certain workers' compensation supplemental benefits for surviving dependents of essential employees who die in course of employment due to COVID-19.
S-2330 (Pou) / A-3908 (Jasey) : The “COVID-19 Financial Security for Consumers Act,” which would prevent any creditor from attempting to collect, even by a phone call, any debt as a result of COVID-19.
  • This bill passed the Senate on May 14, where amendments were made to the legislation making it much less onerous on business. It passed the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee and is on second reading in the Assembly.
S-2353 / A-3938 (Cryan/Quijano): Makes changes to the New Jersey "Millville Dallas Airmotive Plant Job Loss Notification Act," otherwise known as the New Jersey WARN Act, regarding mass layoffs resulting from COVID-19.
Business Flexibility & Workforce Development 
A-3919/S-2346 (Calabrese/Spearman/Sarlo/Sweeney) : Extends certain permits, approvals, and deadlines during COVID-19 emergency.
  • The bill was passed by both Houses on May 14. The Governor conditionally vetoed the bill on June 25, and the Assembly concurred with the Governor’s recommendations on June 29.
A-3996/S-2451 (Lopez/McKnight/Karabinchak/ Ruiz) : Provides for waivers of contract penalties and modification of contract terms on public contracts between non-profit organizations and State agencies for failure to perform due to COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The bill passed in the Assembly unanimously on May 14 and awaits a hearing in the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee.
S-2522/A-4190 (Sarlo/Sweeney/Schepisi) : Permits restaurants, bars, and breweries to sell food and beverages, including alcoholic beverages if so licensed, to customers while outdoor dining in certain public right-of-ways during the COVID-19 emergency.
  • The bill passed the Senate unanimously on June 15 and passed the Assembly State and Local Government Committee on June 18. The bill awaits a vote by the full Assembly.
S-2542 (Diegnan/Sarlo): Allows a municipality to suspend certain zoning requirements in order to facilitate the ability of a business to resume operations during the COVID-19 emergency.
  • The bill was passed unanimously by the Senate on June 15 and awaits a hearing in the Assembly State and Local Government Committee.
S-2437/A-3978 (Gopal/Cryan/DiMaso/Quijano) : Limits service fees charged to restaurants by third-party food takeout and delivery applications during COVID-19 state of emergency.
  • Governor Murphy signed the bill into law on June 26.
  • To read the Governor’s statement on the bill signing, click here.
A-4031/S-2398 (Greenwald/Sweeney/Brown): Requires the State Treasurer to allow for loans to casino gaming properties to assist in making the required payments in lieu of property taxes to Atlantic City amid the COVID-19 crisis.
A-3966 (Burzichelli/Freiman /Gopal/O’Scanlon) : Concerns the delivery and sale of alcoholic beverages during the COVID-19 pandemic and requires the Director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) to notify licensees of certain tax exemptions during the emergency.
  • Governor Murphy signed this bill into law on May 15.
  • To read the statute, click here.
A-4319 (Burzichelli) : Establishes certain temporary and permanent privileges for certain alcoholic beverage licensees; authorizes certain activities, events, and festivals in which certain alcoholic beverage licensees may participate.
  • The bill passed the Assembly on June 29. It awaits a hearing in the Senate.
SCR-111 (Holzapfel / Gopal) : Urges the President and United States Congress to enact legislation forgiving community disaster loans issued after Superstorm Sandy considering the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had in New Jersey.
  • This bill passed the Senate on June 15. It awaits a hearing in the Assembly.
South Jersey Economic Reopening
and Recovery Plan
On May 12, CCSNJ released the   South Jersey Economic Reopening and Recovery Plan , which is derived from the comprehensive feedback of more than 100 South Jersey business owners. This plan was submitted to Governor Murphy’s key staff, the co-Chairs of the Reopening & Recovery Advisory Council, the South Jersey Congressional Delegation, the South Jersey Legislative Delegation and other key staff.
Reopening Testimony
CCSNJ Testimony before the Senate Fiscal Recovery Strategists Committee on May 26: Invited to testify on the significant challenge’s small businesses, particularly small retailers, are facing as the state slowly reopens.
State Budget & Affordability Issues
Three Month Budget Appropriation Bill
The CCSNJ acknowledges that the financial implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on the state’s budget have been significant and will continue to grow. Difficult decisions had to be made to get us to this point and there is still much more work to be done. The CCSNJ commends Governor Murphy and Legislature for their hard work identifying a “holdover” budget A-3 (Pintor Marin/Burzichelli)/S-20 (Sarlo/Cunningham) - that bridged the state’s finances from July 1 until the new FY2021 state budget deadline of September 30, 2020.

The CCSNJ’s guiding principle during any state budget negotiation is that tax increases should be an option of last resort, instituted only after all responsible measures to control costs have been identified and implemented. As a result, we were pleased to see A-3 (Pintor Marin/Burzichelli)/S-20 (Sarlo/Cunningham) not rely on revenue from any new taxes or fees, as was initially proposed by the Governor in the FY2021 state budget pre-COVID-19. The CCSNJ has respectfully request ed Legislature’s continued restraint on tax increases as we look towards September 30.

Additionally, the state’s decision to not borrow in the short-term was another welcome decision, one that the CCSNJ believes is responsible given the long-term implications associated with doing so. As for cost savings, the ratification of the deal announced between Governor Murphy and the Communications Workers of America-New Jersey (CWA-NJ) in late June was a welcome one; although, the CCSNJ respectfully argues that much more can be done to identify greater public sector savings given the state’s unprecedented revenue shortfall.

Still, no one can predict what state finances will look like as the economy reopens and the pandemic continues. It is fair to assume that COVID-19’s impact will be felt for months, if not years in New Jersey and the so-called “fifth quarter” budget that is next to be negotiated will be an important first step on the state’s path forward for residents and businesses alike. As the Executive and Legislative branches of government continue to weigh the necessities of what the state needs now, the CCSNJ respectfully requested adequate consideration be given to the long-term implications and affordability of each decision as budget negotiations continue.

The CCSNJ looks forward to engaging in the budget process as it progresses over the next 13 weeks. To provide feedback on the FY2021 state budget, which must be finalized by September 30, 2020, click here .

To read the CCSNJ testimony on A-3 (Pintor Marin/Burzichelli)/S-20 (Sarlo/Cunningham), click here.
Agreement on New Jersey Educators Health Plan (NJEHP)
The CCSNJ was proud to support  S-2273/A-20 (Sweeney/Cryan/Greenstein/
Coughlin/Pinkin/Dancer) , the legislation which stemmed from a landmark agreement between Senate President Steve Sweeney and the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) on health insurance policies and contributions.

Under the proposal, the state would eliminate some existing health care plans currently available to teachers and introduce two lower-cost alternatives, called the” New Jersey Educators Health Plan” (NJEHP) and the “Garden State Health Plan.” The new plan will be tied to a new salary-based contribution schedule; those electing to remain in the School Employees' Health Benefits Program (SEHBP) will be required to pay for their healthcare based on a percentage of their premium as determined under Chapter 78 requirements.

The agreement also calls for the creation of the new Garden State Health Plan in 2021, which will offer NJEA members the voluntary option of a plan that produces even more savings with a network of New Jersey-only healthcare providers. The plan will generate annual savings of at least $100 million, shared by employees and employers.

Over the years, the CCSNJ urged state government to reduce expenses by adopting best business practices. The reforms contained in  S-2273/A-20(Sweeney/Cryan/Greenstein/Coughlin/Pinkin/Dancer) make important and necessary changes that will provide real and lasting savings for property taxpayers.  
 
The bill passed in Senate on June 29 and was sent to Governor. The Governor signed the bill on July 1.
 
Atlantic City
The CCSNJ was pleased to see the Legislature focus on helping Atlantic City over recent months. Before the pandemic, Atlantic City casinos directly employed more than 26,000 people and gaming revenue was up approximately 23 percent in early 2020. However, that drastically changed on March 16 when Governor Murphy closed all casinos as the coronavirus pandemic’s impact quickly approached New Jersey. According to the Spring 2020 edition of The South Jersey Economic Review released by Stockton University, the economic output lost during the casino shutdown is only a portion of the problem. Deemed the “COVID-19 drag” the gaming and hospitality industries are slated to have an elongated operational strain due to the need for spacing and capacity issues as they reopen on July 2. The CCSNJ supported the following bills:
A-4031/S-2398 (Greenwald/Sweeney/Brown): Requires the State Treasurer to allow for loans to casino gaming properties to assist in making the required payments in lieu of property taxes to Atlantic City amid the COVID-19 crisis.
A-299 (Mazzeo/Armato) : Allows alcoholic beverages to be consumed outdoors in the Atlantic City Tourism District.
  • The bill passed the full Assembly on June 18 and was referred to Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.
S-2257 (Gopal/Sarlo) : Allows for the deduction of promotional gaming credit from gross revenue on sports wagering.
  • The bill passed the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee on June 25. It awaits a hearing in the Assembly. 
Non-COVID-19 Legislation
Labor Mandates
A-805/S-972 (Verrelli/Madden/Sweeney) : Requires the use of union labor and mandates the prevailing wage rates during certain circumstances at some New Jersey-based refineries and chemical manufacturing facilities.
Energy & Environmental Issues
A-3919/S-2346 (Calabrese/Spearman/Sarlo/Sweeney) : Extends certain permits, approvals, and deadlines during COVID-19 emergency.
  • The bill was passed by both Houses on May 14. The Governor conditionally vetoed the bill on June 25, and the Assembly concurred with the Governor’s recommendations on June 29. 
S-232 (Singleton/Weinberg) : Requires the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to evaluate environmental and public health impacts of certain facilities on overburdened communities (otherwise known as the environmental justice legislation).
  • Governor Phil Murphy announced his support of the legislation on June 19. The full Senate passed the bill on June 29. It awaits consideration by the Assembly.
  • To read the CCSNJ position, click here.
Workforce & Economic Development Issues
A-2773 (Mazzeo) : Allows certain preserved farms to hold 14 special occasion events per year; imposes further event restrictions on residentially exposed preserved farms.
  •  The bill passed the Assembly on June 29. It awaits consideration by the Senate.
S-1522 (Greenstein) : Creates the “New Jersey Battlefield to Boardroom Act” that provides corporation business tax credits and gross income tax credits for qualified wages of certain veterans.
  • The bill passed the Senate Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee on June 25. It awaits consideration by the Assembly.
Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives 
S-2525 (Rice/Singleton/Turner) : Expands the powers and duties of New Jersey Chief Diversity Officer to promote diversity in state government and public contracting.
  • The bill passed the Senate unanimously on June 15. It awaits consideration by the Assembly.
A-723 (Johnson/Wimberly/McKnight) : Modifies the eligibility criteria for a business to qualify as a minority-owned or women-owned business under State law.
  • The bill passed the Assembly on June 29. It awaits consideration by the Senate.
S-973/A-1408 (Ruiz/Singleton/Lopez/Reynolds-Jackson/Timberlake) : Requires the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJLWD) to establish an apprenticeship mentoring program for women, minorities, and persons with disabilities.
A-3201 (Murphy/Johnson): Recognizes the Howell House in Cape May as Harriet Tubman Museum in New Jersey.
  • The bill passed the Assembly on June 29. It awaits consideration by the Senate.
S-19 (Sweeney/Cunningham) : Designates June 19, known as Juneteenth Day, as State and public holiday.
  • The bill passed the Senate unanimously on June 29. It awaits consideration by the Assembly.
Transportation
South Jersey Transportation Authority (SJTA)
Capital Improvement Program
The CCSNJ provided comments on the South Jersey Transportation Authority (SJTA) Capital Improvement Program in April. The improvements included in the Proposed Capital Improvement Plan will greatly benefit the entire South Jersey region and spur economic growth at a time when the region needs it the most. However, the CCSNJ expressed concerns with any public policy that would place New Jersey at a competitive disadvantage and did not support the toll increase on the Atlantic City Expressway.

The projects included in the Proposed Capital Improvement Program, including the Gloucester Camden Rail Line (GCL), the upgrades to the Atlantic City Rail Line (ACL) and the Atlantic City International Airport (ACY) are much needed infrastructure improvements for South Jersey. They will improve the commutes of hardworking casino employees – thousands of which live throughout the South Jersey region, as well as impact and improve upon the ability of tourists to visit the Atlantic City region. It is essential that South Jersey’s economy is given all the tools possible to re-start its economy after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed.

However, all the aforementioned projects should not be tied to toll increases on the Atlantic City Expressway, which the CCSNJ cannot and does not support. Instead, the CCSNJ respectfully encourages the SJTA, and by extension the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) and New Jersey Transit (NJT), to think creatively about different funding streams that will not put South Jersey residents, and the Atlantic City tourism community, at a competitive disadvantage.

As always, your feedback is important to us.

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions please contact Hilary Chebra, Manager, Government Affairs, at hchebra@chambersnj.com or by clicking here .
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