Weekly Roundup: Week of May 21

TRENTON – The hot-button issues of minimum wage, marijuana possession and teen tanning  were on full display this past week.

The issues were discussed at committee hearings and – except for the pot bill that was held – voted on by the full Assembly, whose members assembled for the first time since March 15.  

Minimum wage

The bill sponsored by Speaker Shelia Oliver, (D-34), of East Orange to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 fell along party lines, with virtually all Democrats voting in favor of it, (only Assemblyman Matthew Milam, (D-1), of Cape May, voted against it)  and all Republicans voting against it.

The battle lines were familiar, with the supporters saying it would serve as an economic stimulus and do little to no harm to businesses. However, opponents of the bill said it would result in reduced hours, higher prices for consumers, or lost jobs.

Tanning salons

New Jersey inspires a lot of things and people. Count legislators in that category, who were inspired by a Nutley mother who allegedly took her child into a tanning booth (a charge she denies) to revisit a bill to prevent young teens from receiving tanning services at salons.

The bill was passed by the Assembly.

Marijuana decriminalization

After a large amount of support was expressed by various groups at an Assembly Judiciary Committee hearing, the marijuana decriminalization bill was scheduled to be heard at the Assembly session Thursday, but was pulled that morning for amendments.

They include putting in a requirement for a mandatory drug evaluation after the third offense and putting a portion of the fines toward educational programs. In the current bill, the fines would go entirely to the municipality where the offense took place.

Revenue projections

The news was not good, so Gov. Chris Christie did what he often does with political opponents: lashed out strongly – some would say personally – publicly blasting a Statehouse official. 

This week it was David Rosen, budget officer for the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services, which he’s previously labeled a tool of the Democrats.

This past week, Christie resorted to hyperbolic statements, calling Rosen the “Dr. Kevorkian” of numbers because he said the state is facing a $1.3 billion revenue shortfall.

The Treasury said there will a $676 million shortfall within the next 14 months, much less than the OLS projection.

Regardless of which forecast is right, there were rumblings this past week about the fate of proposed tax cut plans.

And Democrats on budget committees came out with statements of support for the professionalism of Rosen and OLS.

And Christie would not let gloomy revenue forecasts derail his plan for an income tax cut, saying that if there is no tax cut next fiscal year, it’s the fault of Democrats in the Legislature.

Weekly Roundup: Week of May 21