Weekly Advance: Week of Oct. 1

TRENTON – Senate lawmakers will return to the Statehouse in full force this week for a voting session Thursday.

Legislators will take action on bills that moved through committee hearings in recent weeks, including a bill that would increase penalties for those who sexually assault children.

The Jessica Lunsford Act, which would impose mandatory terms of imprisonment on persons convicted of aggravated sexual assault against a child under the age of 13, will likely be among the bills to make their way to the Senate floor.

New Jersey garnered national media attention after Fox News Channel’s host of The O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly, accused Senate President Steve Sweeney of being the sole person who prevented the bill from moving through the Legislature.

O’Reilly called the Senate president “a coward” on his July 26 show, telling viewers “one guy is blocking a vote” on the bill.

Sweeney, in turn, accused O’Reilly of taking “the easy way out” and failing to do his homework.

“”If Bill O’Reilly took the time to educate himself instead of having his producers do his homework for him, he would have learned that New Jersey has some of the nation’s toughest anti-pedophile laws and is on the cusp of making them even tougher,” Sweeney said in a statement. 

A day before the segment aired, Gov. Chris Christie was asked about the bill during a town hall.

“If they send it to my desk, … I’ve got a feeling I’ll put my signature on it,” Christie said during the Ocean City town hall.

Now, lawmakers will take the matter, among other legislation, to the Senate floor.

But before Thursday’s session, upper chamber lawmakers will meet Monday for a Senate quorum and nearly a half dozen committee hearings.

The most notable bill slated for discussion, perhaps, is S2135.

Health Benefit Exchange Act: Take II

Despite being vetoed by Christie in May, a health care exchange is again up for consideration.

The Senate Commerce Committee posted the bill for a vote Monday. It would establish the New Jersey Health Benefit Exchange Act, aimed at implementing a key provision in the U.S. Affordable Care Act.

When the governor vetoed the legislation he cited, among other things, the pending Supreme Court case as a reason for failing to sign the legislation, saying “the very constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act is cloaked in uncertainty.”

“I am concerned that a hastily created exchange in New Jersey will impose unnecessary obligations upon the State’s taxpayers,” Christie said in his veto message.

Now, Senate lawmakers are poised to move a revised version of the bill through the upper chamber months after the nation’s high court ruled the legislation didn’t overstep federal laws.

The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Nia Gill, (D-34), Montclair, originally called for a board composed of state officials and public members to operate an exchange designed to allow participants to purchase affordable coverage.

The new version retains language for the creation of a board, but with one big exception: It scraps the $50,000 salary for each board member.

A State Street Wire review conducted in March found that New Jersey’s proposed salary for its board members was easily the highest of states seeking to set up such mechanisms. Many states didn’t compensate their members, outside of travel expenses. 

When the legislation was first debated proponents argued the bill would improve health insurance quality, increase access to coverage, and reduce costs.

They fought to get the proposal passed before the state’s program is assessed by the feds beginning on Jan. 1, 2013, ahead of the January 2014 deadline for beginning an exchange program.

However, business groups fought it as detrimental to the economic recovery.

It’s likely many of the same battles will loom under the Golden Dome Monday and into the coming weeks. But, what’s left to be decided is whether the governor – who has been an outspoken critic of the massive health care overhaul – would ultimately sign any proposal that makes its way to his desk.

The governor

Speaking of Gov. Christie, New Jersey’s executive is tentatively scheduled to hold several public appearances in the state during the week.

It’s likely the governor will continue to hammer home a new, but not-so-new, message he delivered late last week:  “I’ve been nice up to this point, but now I’m calling them out.”

The message, delivered at a town hall and chamber of commerce event, is aimed at Democrats who have defied the governor by refusing to pass a tax cut proposal until they say the state can ensure the revenues will be there to permit one.

Calling Democrats hypocrites, Christie promised to veto all new spending bills until the Legislature sends him a tax cut plan.

 

Monday

Gov. Chris Christie

Not yet scheduled

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno

Not yet scheduled

Legislature

Senate

10 a.m., Environment and Energy Committee, Rm. 10, Statehouse Annex, Trenton

10 a.m., Labor Committee, Rm. 6, Statehouse Annex, Trenton

12 p.m., Quorum, Statehouse, Trenton

1 p.m., Commerce Committee, Rm. 6, Statehouse Annex, Trenton

1 p.m., Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, Rm. 1, Statehouse Annex, Trenton

2 p.m., Budget and Appropriations Committee, Rm. 4, Statehouse Annex, Trenton

 

Tuesday

Gov. Chris Christie

Not yet scheduled

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno

Not yet scheduled

Legislature

Nothing scheduled

Boards and Commissions

9:30 a.m., Governor’s School of N.J. Board of Overseers, Dean’s conference room, School of Engineering, Rutgers University, New Brunswick

6 p.m., Delaware Bay Shellfisheries Council, Haskin Shellfish Research Lab, 6959 Miller Ave., Port Norris

Daily Events

7:30 a.m., N.J. Chamber of Commerce, N.J. Economic Outlook Breakfast, Pines Manor, Edison

 

Wednesday

Gov. Chris Christie

Not yet scheduled

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno

Not yet scheduled

Legislature

Nothing scheduled

Boards and Commissions

9 a.m., Schools Development Authority, 1 W. State St., Trenton

9 a.m., N.J. State Board of Education, first-floor conference room, 100 Riverview Executive Plaza, Trenton

10 a.m., Tidelands Resource Council, 44 S. Clinton Ave., multipurpose conference room, Trenton

 

Thursday

Gov. Chris Christie

Not yet scheduled

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno

Not yet scheduled

Legislature

Senate

2 p.m., Voting Session, Statehouse, Trenton

Boards and Commissions

10 a.m., Board of Public Utilities, Rm. 12, Statehouse Annex, Trenton

3 p.m., Health Information Technology Commission, Department of Health, 369 S. Warren St., Trenton

 

Friday

Gov. Chris Christie

Not yet scheduled

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno

Not yet scheduled

Legislature

Nothing scheduled

 

Weekly Advance: Week of Oct. 1