Weekly Roundup: Week of Feb. 13

TRENTON – High emotions were once again on full display under the Golden Dome, as  supporters and opponents  came to see where the legislators stand on the same-sex marriage issue.

As predicted, both houses, with healthy Democratic Party margins, approved the respective Senate and Assembly  bills, S1/A1, on Monday and Thursday.

The parties mostly stuck to their scripts, with the Democrats saying giving same-sex couples the right to marry is a civil rights issue. However, Republicans continually called for a ballot referendum instead, saying the opinions of the voters should be considered.

Gov. Chris Christie had said he will issue a “swift” veto on the bill.  It reached his desk Friday early.

Urban Transit Hub Tax Credits

In an effort to make the program more effective, the Economic Development Authority approved an amendment to the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit program, mainly by putting a moratorium on accepting new applications for residential projects. Commercial project applications would still be accepted.

Also, the Senate Economic Growth Committee released a bill that would increase the tax credit from $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion. The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Ray Lesniak, said the program has been proven successful and this bill would make sure nothing would happen to stifle it.

Another one of the longtime senator’s bills was released by the committee, this one concerning  foreclosed homes. The bill would help revitalize neighborhoods by turning blighted and boarded-up homes into affordable housing. The bill, S1566, would establish a central agency under the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency to use funds from the State Affordable Housing Trust Fund to buy and deed-restrict foreclosed properties for affordable housing.

Consolidations

The zeal for home rule just may be fading, at least in some regions. First Cherry Hill and Merchantville studied the idea of a merger. Then, the Princetons actually made the trip down the aisle to the altar after residents in both of those towns approved a public ballot question to merge the towns.

And, on Wednesday, a citizens group submitted a petition to the Local Finance Board calling for a commission to be set up to study the possible merger of the Union County municipalities of Scotch Plains and Fanwood.

Education

Gov. Christie continues his quest to reform public education, this time from the ground up.

At a press conference in West New York, Christie announced that some 20 school districts in the poorest areas will move forward with construction projects. New Brunswick, Perth Amboy, Orange, Elizabeth and a long-delayed project in Phillipsburg, among others, will all move forward, he said.

While these new projects were hailed as a sign of progress, some groups pointed out that projects that were  announced last year are nowhere near completion.

RGGI’s dollars and cents

Environmental groups didn’t hesitate to remind the Christie Administration about the potential setbacks the state could suffer for pulling out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Environment New Jersey released a report saying the state is missing out on hundreds of millions of dollars by having pulled out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. They said that the money could have gone toward creating green energy jobs, cutting down on fossil fuels, and improving clean energy efforts.

Between now and 2018, the state could lose out on approximately $171 million in revenue that could be available for clean energy programs, customers could continue seeing high bills and the global warming problem could grow, according to their report.

 

Weekly Roundup: Week of Feb. 13