Statehouse: Legislature to handle gaming bills, leave toolkit for later

TRENTON – Both houses of the state legislature are having full voting sessions today with many very important bills on the agenda, and some that aren’t.

The lawmakers are taking on bullies, rewriting the history of casinos and racetracks, and tackling some of Gov. Chris Christie’s minor municipal toolkit items.

But as Democrats embark on a mission for shared services, Republicans are wondering what happened to the big-ticket toolkit bills: arbitration reform, civil service reform, and most of all, pension reform.

The Senate and Assembly are voting on S2392 and A3466, the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, which would be one of the toughest anti-bullying laws in America.

The bills are sponsored in the Senate by Majority Leader Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen) and Deputy Minority Leader Diane Allen (R-Edgewater Park) and in the Assembly by Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood) and Mary Pat Angelini (R-Ocean Twp.) among others.

An update to the 2001 anti-bullying law, it would require public schools to conduct anti-bullying programs and colleges to include language in codes of conduct to address bullying.

Several bills are being heard related to the Hanson Report, commissioned by Christie to solve myriad state problems from casinos to harness racing.

The Democrats held their own summits to address the problems, and many of these bills are a result of their deliberations.

State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth) is pushing S490, which would establish internet betting based out of Atlantic City.

If this bill is passed, New Jersey would be the first state to legalize intrastate and international online gaming.

Earlier today the Senate Economic Growth Committee approved, SCR132, which would allow voters to decide next November if the state should allow sports betting.

The federal government has a ban on sports betting for all states except Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon, but Lesniak has already begun suing the feds for unfairly excluding other states.

Several other bills also are trying to beef up racetrack revenues following the removal of Atlantic City subsidies.

Bills A1705 and S1980 address concerns about off-track wagering establishments; A2926 and S829 would authorize exchange wagering.

Others include  S2390, which decreases the number of standardbred races per year; S2229, which allows racetrack permit-holders to use parimutuel pool; and S2394, which breeding-enhanced incentives for horseracing.

For Atlantic City, the legislature is considering S11, which would establish a Tourism District, broaden powers and duties of Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, and transfer Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority and its functions to CRDA.

Other bills are S12, which revises various aspects of casino industry regulation, and S1866 and A2612, which establish alternate methods for casino licensing.

For the municipal “toolkit”-ish bills, S2208 allows municipalities to certify complaints over unfunded local mandates through the League of Municipalities.

Another, S2012, allows gross income tax refunds to be credited against a taxpayer’s delinquent local property taxes and adjusts administration of setoffs against gross income tax refunds and homestead rebates or credits.

The Senate is also considering SCR130, a legislative veto of Christie’s medicinal marijuana regulations.

On the education front, A406 would mandate a model employment contract for superintendents developed by the Commissioner of Education addressing salary, health insurance, pension benefits, sick days and vacation leave.

The Democrats are also pushing A3273, which would appropriate $5 million to restore funding to women’s health programs and require the state to apply for federal matching dollars.

Statehouse: Legislature to handle gaming bills, leave toolkit for later