TRENTON – Activity under the Golden Dome was looking more normal again this past week, with a smattering of committee hearings taking place, tackling various hot-button issues.
Minimum wage was front and center before the Senate Budget Committee, and once again the vote on the issue fell largely along party lines, with all but one Democrat approving and the Republicans voting no. Cape May Democrat Jeff Van Drew voted no, calling it one of the most difficult votes of his career.
The inclusion of the Cost of Living Adjustment was once again an issue that was of particular concern to opponents. Republicans suggested that if the bill omitted an automatic adjustment, then maybe it would get some bipartisan backing. But the Democratic leadership was not hearing it.
Senate President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), West Deptford, said if the governor doesn’t sign the minimum wage bill, there will be little choice but to go to the constitutional amendment route.
The Assembly Human Services Committee released a bill that would create a voluntary registry that would provide first responders with information on residents who need to be rescued first in case of emergencies.
The bill is sponsored by Assembly members Reed Gusciora and Valerie Vainieri Huttle. Supporters say the registry would provide a vital tool for police and others to address the needs of residents who need attention the most.
However, some opponents, like the National Association Against Mental Illness, believe the bill would violate the individuals’ privacy way too much, creating a point of no return.
The Assembly Labor Committee released a bill that would ban contractors who had committed violations regarding wages and taxes from winning public contracts. The bill was introduced by Assemblymen Troy Singleton, Dan Benson and Nelson Albano. Benson said the bill would provide more “teeth” in the sense that there’s a hard-and-fast punishment. Presently, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development has discretion on this issue.
The N.J. Business and industry Association released its annual survey, showing that optimism among the state’s businesses is up considerably, at a five-year high. Many of them reported that they expect to earn greater profits, will hire more people and expand their operations.
Even with the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy, the group expects the long-term prospects to be good. Despite the good news, the group’s president, Phil Kirschner, cautioned the state is still in a recovery stage.
And Gov. Chris Christie held a closed-door meeting with the N.J. congressional delegation. When the doors opened, participants said little but professed bipartisan support to gain as much federal money as possible to rebuild.