Weekly Roundup: Week of Oct. 15

TRENTON – The increasingly emotional issue of raising the minimum wage was taken up for a vote by the Senate Budget Committee.

The measure pushed by Senate President Steve Sweeney, (D-3),  West Deptford, to post a public question on the ballot asking voters to raise the minimum wage to $8.25 and tie future increases to hikes in the consumer price index, was passed largely along party lines, with Democrats voting yes and Republicans no.

One Democrat, however, Sen. Jeff Van Drew, (D-1), of Dennis, voted no, fearing it would hit hard the large tourism industry that makes up much of his legislative district.

Also this past week, the Assembly conducted its first full voting session since the summer, but the Republicans were miffed the bill on tax relief (A3235) was not on the board list.

The minority leader, Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, (R-21), Westfield, went so far as to say that the snub largely had to do with the Democrats not wanting to give Gov. Chris Christie more bragging rights.

However, Democrats countered they have their own legislation ready to go to provide middle-class residents relief, but have yet to gain any support from the lawmakers on the other side of the aisle.

Two of the most crucial bills – addressing unemployment benefits and sex offenders (the Jessica Lunsford Act) – were held, as they needed to be further revised.

 

 Betting

Now that the state intends to allow legalized sports betting,  the NCAA announced this past week it was going to  pull out the six championship events scheduled to take place in the Garden State.

While the decision by the NCAA was blasted by the likes of Sen. Ray Lesniak, (D-20), Elizabeth, and the Governor’s Office, it serves as something of a mixed blessing since gambling will be allowed to take place on those events now that they are out of state. The law signed by the governor explicitly said bets couldn’t be placed if the games were taking place here.

Jobs 

Good news is that the state’s unemployment rate went down. Bad news is that it wasn’t by much, slipping from 9.9 percent to 9.8 percent. That translated to the creation of a few thousand jobs. Still, it prevented the rate from cracking into the double digits, which in this economy is probably welcomed by everyone.

Marijuana 

A Montclair-based dispensary will soon be able to provide medical marijuana, state Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd said earlier this week.

Greenleaf Compassion Center is the first center in the state permitted to operate as an Alternative Treatment Center.

There are more than 300 patients in the state who have either registered or are in the process of registering in the program.

While it’s not exactly known when Greenleaf  will be open to the public, O’Dowd said that receiving the permit marks a big step forward.

 

Weekly Roundup: Week of Oct. 15