Passed in committee: Bills on development fee moratorium, cable TV outages

TRENTON – The Senate Economic Growth Committee released bills Monday dealing with cable TV outages, the state’s wine industry, and fee moratoriums on certain kinds of development.

S981/A1528: This bill requires the Office of Cable Television to permit cable television companies that have a service outage lasting six hours or longer to offer their subscribers other forms of compensation, in lieu of credits or rebates. It was released unanimously.

CATV companies would have additional options to reimburse subscribers affected by service outages such as providing access to CATV premium programming channels. Current regulations limit cable TV companies to providing credits or rebates.

In addition, this bill requires the director to exempt CATV companies from having to send periodic written notices to subscribers describing the procedures for obtaining service credits, rebate checks, or other forms of compensation if the companies make the same information available to subscribers on their Internet websites. 

A CATV company would be required to offer the option to each of its subscribers to continue receiving the notices in written form on at least an annual basis.

S2845: This bill would replace the New Jersey Wine Industry Advisory Council with the New Jersey Wine Board, and empower the board with additional responsibilities, such as engaging in revenue-producing activities. It passed unanimously.

The bill provides that funds in the Wine Promotion account would be used for  research and development concerning the wine-making processes; promotion of New Jersey wine; payments for services such as products, equipment, materials or other goods supplied.

Currently, the account is credited annually with an amount equal to 47 cents per gallon on all sales of wines, vermouth and sparkling wines sold.  The bill would increase the amount credited to the account to 87 and a half cents per gallon, and further provide that the account would be credited with any interest or other investment income earned on monies in the account and 15 cents per gallon on all sales of alcoholic cider. 

S2716:  This bill extends through June 30, 2018, the moratorium on the imposition of fees on non-residential construction projects.  It passed 3-2 along party lines.

In 2011, the moratorium was extended by two years, until July 1, 2013.

Additionally, the bill creates the “New Jersey Residential Foreclosure Transformation Act,” which establishes a temporary program within the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency for the purpose of purchasing foreclosed residential properties from institutional lenders and dedicating them for occupancy as affordable housing.  The HMFA shall cease the program’s operations on December 31, 2017.

The bill empowers the HMFA to purchase foreclosed residential property and mortgage assets from institutional lenders in order to produce affordable housing and dedicate it as such for 30 years. 

The bill directs the HMFA to enter into contracts or loans, or both, with no more than two experienced, financially sophisticated, community development financial institutions to enhance the ability of the HMFA to fulfill its purpose of producing affordable housing.

“I’m hoping that third time’s the charm on this one,’’ sponsor Sen. Ray Lesniak said.

Amendments would give towns 60 days to commit their affordable housing funds toward this program, he said, to help relieve the foreclosure crisis in the state.

“Economists universally say revival of the real estate market is key to revival of the economy and employment rate,’’ he said.  “The Governor has vetoed it twice,’’ but he hopes this version will gain acceptance.

Supporters included the state Chamber of Commerce.

  Passed in committee: Bills on development fee moratorium, cable TV outages