WEEKLY ROUNDUP: Week of Nov. 21

TRENTON – The Statehouse was buzzing again Monday after what seemed to be an extended hiatus for lawmakers and lobbyists.

But after a long layoff that preceded the election, both groups were back in the swing of things, as 11 committee hearings took place.

Among the notable pieces of legislation to be released were “Caylee’s Law,” from the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee, and legislation that would prohibit drug stores from selling cough medicine to minors,  from the Assembly Law Committee.

Caylee’s Law would make it a crime for failing to report a missing person within 24 hours. It was inspired by the trial of Casey Anthony, the Florida woman who failed to report her daughter missing until more than a month passed by.

The Senate Health committee released a bill that would allow more expanded sales of syringes over the counter to those over 18 to prevent the spread of diseases.

In addition, that committee also released S2984, which requires health care facilities to annually offer influenza vaccinations to their health care workers.

Among other things, the bill sponsored by Sens. Joe Vitale, (D-19), Middlesex, and Jim Whelan, (D-2), Atlantic City, would have each health care facility establish an annual influenza vaccination program.

The bill’s critics said it amounts to government micro-management that will drive up the costs of business. However, supporters said there is a significant cost and public health risk associated with the flu that overcomes those concerns.

The Senate Commerce Committee approved a measure that would approve a small business loan program that is intended to increase employment opportunities, make capital improvements, and provide training, among other things. The maximum amount of the loan is $250,000.

Survey says

The annual New Jersey Business and Industry Association outlook survey revealed statewide what many see mirrored nationally: Companies are enjoying modestly improved profits and sales, but employment growth remains quite weak.

Still, the survey suggests there is some optimism that things eventually will improve, with the NJBIA saying the recession-fed era of major layoffs probably is over.

Crossed wires

A consumer-oriented telecommunications deregulation bill was showcased by Sen. Bob Smith, (D-17), Piscataway, on Monday.

However the author of a previous deregulation bill, Ray Lesniak, (D-20), Union, was unimpressed, saying it would do more harm than good.

The Lesniak bill, which got pulled from a vote earlier this year because of concerns it did not have the votes to pass, has the support of Verizon.

Groups that opposed that original bill, such as AARP, support the Smith bill, arguing it will maintain key consumer protections and provide for coverage of municipal meetings.

But Lesniak countered that the Smith bill actually will create more regulatory snarls, the very thing the original bill wants to address.

‘Fracking’ foes

Although the Delaware River Basin Commission postponed – yet again – a vote on whether or not to lift a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing gas-exploration, opponents did not cancel their planned protest.

Environmental advocates gathered Monday at the War Memorial in Trenton, several hundred strong, to raise their voices against the controversial method of drilling.

Activists such as Maya von Rossum of Delaware Riverkeeper believe that the continued delays by the Commission indicate there are not enough votes on the five-person board to lift the moratorium.


WEEKLY ROUNDUP: Week of Nov. 21