Weekly Roundup: Week of Sept. 24

TRENTON – The proposal to increase the minimum wage by putting it up for a public vote yielded a characteristically blunt response from Gov. Chris Christie, who called it a “stupid way” to do it.

Senate President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), West Deptford, is one of Christie’s most effective working partners in the Legislature. Yet, that didn’t stop the governor from dismissing the idea this past week.

However, Sweeney and several other Democrats said other states have done it and with ever-increasing expenses, the time has come for such a hike to take place in New Jersey, one of the most expensive states in the country in which to live.

A bill that would drastically increase the financial penalties for not putting a child strap on young children while driving was released by the Assembly Transportation Committee. However, one member, Assemblyman John Amodeo, (R-2), Northfield, voted against it, finding the proposed increase too high.

Other familiar bills were released by committees again, but it’s uncertain if they will be able to get the governor’s signature.

They include:

Sen. Jennifer Beck’s “Farmland Assessment” bill, which attempts to weed out (figuratively speaking) “fake farmers” who receive a gargantuan property tax reduction as a result of selling relatively few crops.

“Tabitha’s Law”- S721, which requires parents to notify school administrators whenever their child will be absent from school, and requires administrators to contact parents whenever a pupil is absent without the parents having provided prior notice.

“Jessica Lunsford Act” – A2027 would impose mandatory terms of imprisonment on persons convicted of aggravated sexual assault against a child under the age of 13.   It would also impose mandatory terms on certain persons convicted of harboring or concealing another person who is required to register under Megan’s Law.

A bill enabling municipalities to keep energy tax receipts revenues.

Longer school days

As the country continues to lag behind other nations in education, various reforms have been proposed. And the state is now piloting the idea of longer school days.

Bill S2087 would set up a three-year pilot program to increase the length of the school day and school year in public school districts and provide tax credits totaling $144 million for corporate contributions to fund the program.

School districts would submit an application to the Education Department to participate with information on the number of hours by which the school day would be increased and the number of days that the school year would be extended, as well as documentation that participation in the pilot program would be supported by a majority of school district staff and parents of students enrolled in the district.

The Commissioner would select up to 25 school districts for participation based on factors related to the program’s potential impact on student achievement.

Fatherhood 

An interesting approach to a social problem received bipartisan support.

The Responsible Fatherhood Bill, A2410, would set up a 21-member council to find fatherhood programs in the state to develop a Responsible Fatherhood Initiative. The initiative will consist of a public awareness campaign “on the legal, financial, and emotional responsibilities of fatherhood and the benefits of paternity establishment,” according to the bill.

Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, (R-11), Freehold, expressed some hesitation regarding the bill because of the more than $100,000 fiscal estimate to cover the cost of a new administrator for the program. However, she ultimately voted to release it.

Lottery winners 

In order to not make a celebratory experience a problematic one, the Assembly Gaming Committee released a bill that provides Lottery winners anonymity for one year after their win. Information on those winners cannot even be accessed through public records requests, according to the released bill, A2982.

Gridiron

And Senate President Steve Sweeney was so incensed over the outcome of the Green Bay Packers-Seattle Seahawks game that he said he wanted to introduce legislation to prevent replacement referees from working in New Jersey.

The replacements were at the center of controversy, calling the game-ending play that gave the Seahawks a win that more than a few fans felt they did not deserve. There had been other replacement ref problems in the football season’s first three weeks, but the prime-time gaffe stood out as an embarrassment for the NFL.

But such legislation won’t be needed, at least not this season.  As a result of that Monday night debacle, the NFL and the regular referees quickly came to an agreement that ended their labor impasse.

 

Weekly Roundup: Week of Sept. 24