Weekly Roundup: Week of Oct. 8

TRENTON – The Legislature took up issues regarding health care, public safety and personal safety this past week.

The Assembly Health Committee released the so-called home-baked goods bill (A1761), which would allow home bakers to sell cupcakes, pies, cookies and other kinds of foods so long as the sellers make it clear to the consumer that the pastries and breads were prepared in kitchens not inspected by the Health Department.

But some food and health groups said two different rules should not be made for commercial bakeries and those based from one’s home.

Despite some concerns and issues raised by Assemblyman Erik Petersen, (R-23), of Flemington – including whether a cap could be imposed on sales from such home-based bakeries – the bill was released unanimously.

Health exchange bill

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled months ago that the American Health Care Act is constitutional and one of the act’s first components is for states to create health benefit exchanges that serve as clearing houses for customers.

On Thursday, the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee released a revised “New Jersey Health Benefit Exchange Act,” A3186, that would set up an exchange to assist smaller employers in providing affordable health care to their workers.

Despite its passage, the bill remains a partisan issue and it’s not certain Gov. Christie will sign the bill. Several business groups are also opposed to the bill, saying it will hurt small businesses with increased costs.  

Urban boost

To not stifle promising urban development projects, the Economic Development Authority voted to modify the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit, lifting the 20 percent cap and increasing the maximum tax credit award to 35 percent.

EDA officials said the increased credit was necessary to not grind development to a halt, especially when the economy remains tepid. Some nine municipalities are eligible for the credit.

Rolling the dice

Casino revenues were down from last September.  But more disturbing is that Revel has failed to make headway in moving up the rankings.

For several months now, the high-end casino/resort has ranked eighth out of Atlantic City’s 12 casinos. Revel is one of the first experiments to make Atlantic City less dependent on gaming, and more of a family-friendly destination resort town.

Fighting drugs 

As conventional street drugs continue to be big targets of law enforcement, drug dealers and even businesses have found other ways to make sure customers continue to experience the highs the normal street drugs would provide. That explains, in recent years, the proliferation of such things as bath salts’ usage.

But on Thursday, the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee released a bill that targets so-called synthetic marijuana, whose  use has also skyrocketed in recent years.

Sen. Shirley Turner, (D-15), of Trenton told the Committee Thursday that the product is still readily available in many stores, despite the temporary ban afforded by the state Attorney General’s office. Turner’s bill would simply codify that ban.

The same committee had its eye on another drug – PCP. The committee released a bill that would hike the penalties of anyone who sells or possess the drug, known to give users superhuman strength and produce delusions. The drug was at the center of a murder-suicide in Camden, in which a baby boy was beheaded and the mother killed herself, authorities said.

Plain speaking

What would a week be like without a blunt observation from Gov. Chris Christie. 

This past week, you couldn’t help but give him credit. Even when a certain poll gives him favorable news, he doesn’t change his view on it.

When describing the Rutgers poll, Christie said a few months ago the poll was “always wrong.” But when that same poll group said most residents like the job he’s doing, Christie said the poll was “crap.”

It reinforces Christie’s image of saying exactly what he means, and sticking by it.

 

Weekly Roundup: Week of Oct. 8