Senate blasts through agenda, approving anti-fracking and winery bills

TRENTON – Moving at lightning speed today, the state Senate bulled through a dense agenda this afternoon after passing a state budget earlier and putting off a millionaire’s tax vote for later today.

The body passed a number of bills, including two protested measures: a legislative ban on fracking and a bill allowing home wine shipments.

The anti-fracking bill, S2576, prohibits hydraulic fracturing in the state for natural gas exploration or production. The drilling technique expands existing fractures or creates new fractures in rock-bed by injecting water, chemicals, sand, or other substances under pressure into or underneath the surface of the rock. The measure passed 32-1, with state Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-26) voting against the measure. State Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-13) motioned to table the bill for amendment, but was overturned.

The winery bill, S2782, makes various statutory changes to the sale and distribution of products by state wineries, and creates a new out-of-state winery license governing wineries licensed in other states. An amendment removed a provision permitting wineries to sell their products by the glass at the salesrooms, and also included language specifically prohibiting wineries from operating joint salesrooms.

In odd voting blocs, the measure was approved, 21-4-15. Neither the yeas, nor the neas, nor the abstentions were cast along party lines.

State Sen. Ron Rice has been pushing for passage of S2565, which would require the State Comptroller to conduct a compliance audit of municipalities, namely Newark, to verify that it has implemented a corrective action plan following a performance audit. The bill also permits the Division of Local Government Services in the Department of Community Affairs to refer findings that may constitute alleged criminal conduct to the Attorney General or other appropriate prosecutorial authority for further civil or administrative action.

When the fast-paced session came to Rice’s bill today, the Newark senator wasn’t even in the room, but the vote went forward anyway with his motion to move the bill announced while he was absent from the proceedings. By the time he arrived back, the bill was approved, 26-9.

Senate blasts through agenda, approving anti-fracking and winery bills