Hospitals avoid new local-tax burden-Energy and Environment Bills Signed Into Law

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bipartisan proposal that would have required nonprofit hospitals to pay new fees to municipal governments to help cover the cost of police, fire, and other local services in exchange for maintaining the property-tax exemption they have long enjoyed. The bill was prompted by a landmark state tax-court ruling in 2014 that successfully challenged the property-tax exemption enjoyed by nonprofit Morristown Medical Center, given that it also operates several for-profit services at the same Morris County site.

The pocket veto encourages uncertainty where the bill could have secured the legal future of hospitals. Legislators intended their efforts to avoid similar lawsuits around the state, but with the veto the state may see an untimely increase in litigation.

The move was more of a disappointment than a surprise, legislators said.

Energy and Environment Bills Signed Into Law

S-2617/A-3944 (Cardinale/Garcia, McKeon, Auth, Eustace, Pinkin) – Requires DEP to adopt regulations to allow cultivation of commercial shellfish species in certain coastal and inner harbor waters for research, educational, or restoration purposes; requires community engagement process for revision thereof

S-2880/A-4704 (Lesniak, T. Kean/Diegnan, Wisniewski) – Provides up to $25 million in tax credits under Economic Redevelopment and Growth Grant Program for certain infrastructure at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

S-3321/A-4927 (Smith, Van Drew, Bateman/Spencer, Rumana) – Authorizes DEP to require public access to waterfront and adjacent shoreline as condition of waterfront development approvals and CAFRA permits

A-1726wGR/S-308 (Eustace, Lagana, Mosquera, Vainieri Huttle, Wimberly/Gordon) – Amends “Flood Hazard Area Control Act” to require DEP to take certain actions concerning delineations of flood hazard areas and floodplains

A-1812/S-2717 (Mosquera, Mazzeo, Andrzejczak/Cruz-Perez, Oroho, Jones) – Extends protections of the new vehicle “lemon law” to new farm tractors purchased or leased in New Jersey

A-1958/S-1848 (Allen, Van Drew) – Concerns exemptions from permits for certain agricultural activities under “Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act”

A-2839/S-2620 (Burzichelli, Space, Phoebus/Oroho, Turner) – “New Jersey Rural Microenterprise Act”

A-3257wGR/S-2125 (Andrzejczak, Mazzeo, Burzichelli/Van Drew) – Provides that determination by county agriculture development board or State Agriculture Development Committee as to what qualifies as farm-based recreational activity in pinelands protection area is binding on Pinelands Commission

A-3850/S-2467 (DeAngelo, Eustace, Mazzeo, Pintor Marin, Benson/Turner, Singer) – Requires BPU to establish procedures allowing electric power and gas supplier customers to switch energy suppliers

Energy and Environment Bills  pocket vetoed

S-564/A-4186 (Smith, Bateman/Eustace, McKeon, Spencer, Benson) – Establishes “Solar Roof Installation Warranty Program” in EDA and transfers $2 million from societal benefits charge to initially fund program

S-1414/A-2405 (Smith, Bateman/Eustace, Benson, Johnson) – Concerns low emission and zero emission vehicles; establishes Clean Vehicle Task Force

SCS for S-1420/ACS for A-1603 (Beach, Whelan, Smith, Sweeney, Bateman, Thompson/Spencer, Eustace, Quijano, Wimberly) – Requires paint producers to implement or participate in paint stewardship program

S-2491/A-4069 (Smith/Danielsen, Pinkin, Benson) – Establishes position of State Oceanographer

S-2711/A-4128 (Smith, Whelan/Mazzeo, DeAngelo, Spencer, Singleton, McKeon, Danielsen, Johnson) –Permits BPU to approve qualified wind energy project; requires BPU to provide application periods for those projects

S-2769/AS for ACS for A-4197, 4206 (Smith, Bateman/Andrzejczak, McKeon, Spencer, Pintor Marin, Dancer, Vainieri Huttle) – Implements 2014 constitutional dedication of CBT revenues for certain environmental purposes; revises State’s open space, farmland, and historic preservation programs

S-3416/A-4808 (Lesniak, Sarlo/Eustace, Gusciora) – Prohibits possession, transport, import, export, processing, sale, or shipment of parts and products of certain animal species threatened with extinction

A-2586/S-1796 (DeAngelo, Quijano, Benson/Greenstein) – Establishes “Energy Infrastructure Study Commission”

A-4384/S-3145 (DeAngelo, Pintor Marin, Danielsen, Schaer, Johnson/Whelan) – Requires BPU to render decision on case within 12 months of final public hearing or hold another public hearing prior to deciding case

A-4763/SS for SCS for S-2973 (McKeon, Spencer, Pinkin/Smith, Bateman, Greenstein, Codey) – Revises “Electronic Waste Management Act”

A-4773/S-3146 (Eustace, Garcia, Gusciora/Lesniak) – Prohibits possession and transport of parts and products of certain animals at PANYNJ airports and port facilities

 

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New Jersey Legislation & Regulation Watch For 2016

New Jersey’s weakened gaming industry, workforce pressures and vulnerable environment have driven legislative developments in recent months, giving interested folks plenty of pending bills to watch in 2016.

Atlantic City, the state’s only constitutionally-allowed gaming revenue resource, has suffered  from casino bankruptcies, closures and competition, driving lawmakers to consider tax incentives that would boost the resort town, along with a proposal to geographically expand the market share of casinos.

Casino employees, some of whom have gone on strike in the past year, represent just one industry characterized by a labor pool that wants a better work-life balance. Lawmakers have heeded their calls with legislation that has drawn objections from a recession weary business sector still struggling to cope with ongoing economic uncertainty.

On the natural resources front, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s proposed changes to rules governing the state’s flood hazard areas have riled conservationists who fear the updates lessen protections and pander to developers.

Here’s a summary of critical legislation and regulation that could affect significant  New Jersey State changes in 2016:

Atlantic City Fiscal Recovery Package

Pinning their hopes on reviving Atlantic City, lawmakers are continuing to push a financial incentive package spearheaded by Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney and Sen. Jim Whalen, D-Atlantic.

Three of the bills have passed both houses of the Legislature as of the Assembly’s Dec. 17 voting session and are awaiting Gov. Chris Christie’s signature. The anchor of the proposal, A3981, calls for a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes plan to stabilize the town’s fiscal health.  A3984 would reallocate a casino tax that’s being used for redevelopment projects to help the city pay debt service on municipal bonds, and A3985 would drop a five-year obligation to use casino revenue for marketing purposes so those funds can be redirected to the city.

In November, Christie signed into law another part of the package, A3983, that would provide additional state money to the city’s struggling public schools, but implemented an  absolute veto to A3982, that would have required casinos to provide proof they are providing “suitable” health care and retirement benefits to employees.

Constitutional Amendment to Expand Gambling

Looking beyond Atlantic City, lawmakers are considering  advisiability of  casinos in the Meadowlands and the Monmouth Park racetrack.  Legislation would reverse the state’s constitutional restriction, and the topic could be left up to voters.

The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on Dec. 17 approved Sweeney’s SCR185, that would pose the question of non-Atlantic City gaming in a public referendum next November, while the Assembly passed a twin version of the bill on to that house’s Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee.

The legislation would make for a “potentially huge” expansion of the New Jersey’s gaming industry, although the passage of a constitutional amendment is difficult to predict given the expected high turnout due to the presidential election.

Supporting New Jersey Families Act

Casino employees and the state’s labor force in general also stand to get a boost from pending legislation aiming to improve work-life balance and increase paid time off. Along with legislation that would help displaced casino workers prepare to re-enter the workplace, lawmakers are also considering a family-geared legislation package that was unveiled in May by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen. The Supporting New Jersey Families Act, which has yet to undergo committee review, would require employers in all industries to provide shift workers with predictable schedules and time off to attend school activities, expand state employee family leave privileges and establish a commission to do a gender pay disparity study. The bills have twin legislation in the Assembly.

The first prong of Weinberg’s package, the Schedules that Work Act, S2933, provides a private right of action for employees seeking to change their work schedules.

Paid Sick Leave

Among the most controversial legislatative actions are those advocating for employees is the proposed Paid Sick Leave Law, S785 and A2354, under which workers would get the better of five to nine sick days or more generous packages provided under local laws.

The Senate bill, also sponsored by Weinberg, got full approval in Dec. 17, while the Assembly version is poised for a second reading by the chamber. That bill counts Assembly members Pamela R. Lampitt, D-Camden, Shavonda E. Sumter, D-Passaic, Raj Mukherji, D-Hudson, Jerry Green, D-Passaic, and Benjie E. Wimberly, D-Bergen-Passaic as primary sponsors.

During a Senate committee hearing in June, the legislation was hailed by unions, think tanks and groups such as the New Jersey Working Families Alliance. Business-centered organizations, such as the New Jersey Farm Bureau and the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce, criticized  the administrative and expense ramifications.

Given New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s previous opposition to mandated sick leave, the future of the legislation remains uncertain, since in the aggregate, the  legislative proposals would create new administrative burdens on employers, including smaller businesses and start-ups, and increase the risk of litigation as traditional employer prerogatives are legislatively  prescribed.

Flood Hazard Area Rules

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s planned changes to flood hazard area rules, announced in June drew not only a backlash from environmentalists but twin bills proposed explicitly to overturn the changes. They are presently pending public comment.

Among the biggest changes in store is the increase in the amount of vegetation in riparian zones — where regulated water meets land — that can be disturbed for construction, and the extension of that allowed disturbance to building projects that would normally require a hardship exemption.

Sen. Raymond J. Lesniak, D-Union, served as a primary sponsor of SCR180 that received full Senate approval in October and is pending before the Assembly. Identical legislation, ACR249, was introduced in November by Assemblyman John F. McKeon, D-Morris, and Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer, D-Essex. Both bills have been advanced by the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee.

These rules affect virtually all development in all sectors across the state, and also serve as one of the state’s few points of leverage over federally authorized projects, like pipelines and utility facilitiesThese rules also dictate rebuilding and resiliency policy in and near flood prone areas. The impact would reach beyond the shore to industrial sites, many in low-lying areas along New Jersey Rivers.

Where the state goes on these issue affects not only environmental quality but also the value of properties, and the costs and likelihood of future business expansion.

House Considers Sweeping Energy Bill

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a long-awaited comprehensive energy bill late Monday that implicates pipelines, the electric grid and energy efficiency.

The panel’s Energy and Power subcommittee on Wednesday will mark up the 95-page bill that is designed to mirror a similar effort in the Senate.

Republicans and Democrats have thus far avoided loading the bill with partisan provisions that risk derailing the legislation- it steers clear, for example, of calling for an end to the 40-year-old ban on exporting crude oil, language that might lead many Democrats to reject the bill if it were included.

A committee aide expected broad bipartisan support for the bill when the subcommittee votes. (Credit AP).

Still, the legislation addresses a number of policy areas that have long been simmering on Capitol Hill.

The bill seeks to streamline permitting decisions for interstate natural gas pipelines, a move that proponents say is necessary to ramp up infrastructure that’s failed to keep pace with the boom in shale gas production.

On electric reliability, the bill would give broad discretion to power plants to relax environmental rules “to meet the emergency and serve the public interest” if federal regulators deem electric reliability is severely threatened.

The bill also amends a 1978 federal law by directing electric utilities to develop a plan to withstand power outages, using as smart grid technology to remotely locate and repair problems, distribute power systems and self-sustaining “microgrids,” that exist largely apart from the traditional electric grid, by linking disparate energy sources. The change also implores state regulators to consider approving rate increases so utilities can pass costs onto customers to pay for those investments.

Another provision would give the Energy secretary authority to step in to declare emergency measures when the electric grid is under cyberattack. The move has been long sought by federal regulators and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to clear up confusion the locus of authority of the nation’s electric grid infrastructure in such situations.

The nation’s emergency energy supplies and how they’re distributed also would get a revamp, as natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy in 2012 exposed shortcomings. The bill  calls for submitting a plan to create a “Strategic Transformer Reserve” to place backup electric infrastructure in various locations in case major electric grid assets are damaged, a concern that’s mounted following an armed attack at a San Jose electric substation in 2013.

Lastly, the bill calls for studying regional electricity systems that might inform how best to build new energy infrastructure such as natural gas pipelines and transmission lines to connect renewable power to the grid.

—By Martin J. Milita, Jr., Esq. Senior Director

Visit his blog at: https://martinmilita1.wordpress.com

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http://www.dmgs.com/

Please feel free to contact the author or your other Duane Morris Government Strategies LLC contact to learn more about this article and what it may mean to you.

About Duane Morris Government Strategies, LLC (DMGS):

Comprised of 19 experienced professionals representing U.S. and foreign clients at the federal, state and local levels, DMGS is as an ancillary business of international law firm Duane Morris LLP, one of the 100 largest law firms with more than 700 attorneys in the U.S. as well as in the UK and Asia. The firm operates in eight offices including Newark, NJ; Trenton, NJ; Albany, NY; Harrisburg, PA; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Columbus, OH; and Washington, DC.

DMGS offers a full range of government relations and public affairs services, including lobbying, grant identification/writing/administration, development finance consulting, procurement, grassroots campaigning, public relations, and crisis planning/crisis management needs.

http://www.dmgs.com/

NJ Lawmakers Pass Resolution Against $1B Pipeline Project

The New Jersey Senate on Monday passed a resolution in opposition to the proposed $1 billion, 178-mile Pilgrim Pipeline set to carry oil from the Bakken Shale through New Jersey and New York, urging permitting agencies to reject the project as currently proposed.

The resolution, proposed by Sens. Richard J. Codey, D-Essex, and Tom Kean Jr., R-Morris, calls on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the New Jersey Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council, and other federal, state and local commissions reviewing the pipeline to reject it as currently proposed, positioning the pipeline as a threat to communities and water sources along its route.

“As proposed, the pipeline passes through densely populated, environmentally sensitive, and preserved lands, and any spill or incident involving this highly explosive fuel would have disastrous consequences to the New Jersey and New York residents, communities and the environment along that route,” Codey said in a statement.

The proposed pipeline, which will cost an estimated $900 million to $1 billion dollars to build, would run two parallel pipelines from Albany, New York, to Linden, New Jersey, according to Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings LLC’s website.

At least part of the 178-mile route would pass through the New Jersey Highlands Region, considered “an exceptionally valuable” area that is protected by the New Jersey Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act and the Highlands Conservation Act, the senators said in a press release.

The resolution will be passed on to the state assembly, according the news release. There, and in the state senate, another bill concerning the Pilgrim Pipeline is still in committee, according to the chief of staff for Assemblyman John F. McKeon, D-Essex. (Credit AP).

McKeon and assembly member Mila Jasey, D-Essex, proposed the bill in February. The bill would make companies like Pilgrim show the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities that pipeline projects are in the public interest before they could exercise eminent domain against a private property.

Current law doesn’t expose private pipeline companies to the same BPU scrutiny as public utility pipelines when they want to access property for its use, according to the lawmakers.

By: Martin J. Milita, Jr. Esq., Sr. Director.

Please feel free to contact the author or your other Duane Morris Government Strategies LLC contact to learn more about this article and what it may mean to you.

About Duane Morris Government Strategies, LLC (DMGS):

Comprised of 19 experienced professionals representing U.S. and foreign clients at the federal, state and local levels, DMGS is as an ancillary business of international law firm Duane Morris LLP, one of the 100 largest law firms with more than 700 attorneys in the U.S. as well as in the UK and Asia. The firm operates in eight offices including Newark, NJ; Trenton, NJ; Albany, NY; Harrisburg, PA; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Columbus, OH; and Washington, DC.

DMGS offers a full range of government relations and public affairs services, including lobbying, grant identification/writing/administration, development finance consulting, procurement, grassroots campaigning, public relations, and crisis planning/crisis management needs.

GOP lawmaker target Obama’s climate plan.

House Republicans on Monday released a bill to delay the Obama administration’s plan to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants.

Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky unveiled a draft bill that would allow governors to veto compliance with the federal rule if the governor determines it would cause significant rate hikes for electricity or harm reliability in the state.

The bill also would delay the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate rule until all court challenges are completed.

Whitfield, chairman of the energy and power subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce panel, said the EPA’s proposed rule to limit carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants is riddled with problems and faces an uphill battle in the courts.

Whitfield and other Republicans cited testimony from an unlikely ally, Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe, an Obama mentor who has said the proposed EPA rule is unconstitutional.

Tribe, a one time champion of the environmental movement, said the EPA is attempting what he called “an unconstitutional trifecta: usurping the prerogatives of the states, Congress and the federal courts — all at once.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also cited Tribe’s comments in a letter urging the nation’s 50 governors to defy Obama’s power plant rules by refusing to submit compliance plans to Washington.

Democrats and environmentalists have criticized Tribe, noting that his testimony follows comments he submitted in December on behalf of Peabody Energy Corp., the world’s largest private-sector coal company.

The measure unveiled Monday does not block the EPA rule outright, as previous GOP bills have intended, but Whitfield said he is confident the measure would protect states and consumers.

A spokesman for Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who has worked with Whitfield on previous EPA legislation, said the senator is reviewing Whitfield’s proposal.

Whitfield said he has scheduled an April 14 hearing on his bill.

Democrats and Republicans may find a common cause with electric cars.

The New Jersey Senate on Monday passed proposed legislation that would allow Tesla Motors Inc. to sell its electric vehicles directly to consumers in the Garden State and undo a controversial regulation that requires manufacturers to sell cars through dealerships.

The bill passed the Senate on a 30-2 vote and will now be sent to the desk of Gov. Chris Christie for his signature. The proposal received overwhelming support in the New Jersey Assembly, passing on a 77-0 vote, with only one abstention.

If approved, the legislation would override a New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission decision from last year that requires new vehicle sales go through brick-and-mortar franchise agreements.

The legislation allows manufacturers to sell the vehicles at four locations in the state so long as it owns or operates at least one retail facility in New Jersey for servicing vehicles.

On June 5, the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee advanced the litigation in a 5-0 vote, with Eustace telling the panel he doesn’t expect the changes to disrupt the existing auto market in the near future.

The legislation is part of a multipronged effort to overturn the MVC’s decision, which made New Jersey the third state to ban direct-to-consumer auto sales after Arizona and Texas. The New Jersey ban got a combative response from Tesla, which accused the MVC of buckling under pressure from auto dealership advocates in an official blog post.

Tesla is also attacking the MVC’s decision with a formal challenge in the state Appellate Division and the filing of a Superior Court complaint against the MVC in April alleging it is violating New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act by withholding documents related to its decision. That litigation is pending.

Direct-sales bans in various states have been backed by auto dealer associations that see the new model as a threat to their business model. Tesla only accounts for a fraction of U.S. auto sales: a little more than 22,000 out of 15 million cars sold in the U.S., according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Auto dealers could be left out of the loop if General Motors Co. or another large U.S. automaker decides in the future to make a shift in its business model and also choose to go with direct sales.

Tesla is one of the few areas where Democrats and Republicans could find a common cause. Congressional Republicans, including 2016 presidential hopeful Marco Rubio, have criticized the Tesla sales ban on free-market grounds. Democrats, meanwhile, have backed Tesla’s innovation and the environmental benefits of electric cars. Tesla has sought to leverage the public backlash against the sales bans to pressure lawmakers for a legislative fix.

NJ Senate Passes Bill To Force Offshore Wind Approval

The New Jersey Senate passed a bill Thursday that would force the state Board of Public Utilities to approve a wind power plant that could be one of the first in the nation, a plan the board has blocked twice.

The bill, which now goes to the Assembly, would require the BPU to greenlight Fishermen’s Energy LLC’s $188 million, 25-megawatt demonstration plant off the coast of Atlantic City. The Senate also passed a resolution urging the board to adopt regulations from a 2010 law that was meant to push the Garden State to the forefront of wind-generated power.

The New Jersey project has hit administrative roadblocks since Fishermen’s first filed its application in 2011. The matter is back before the New Jersey Appellate Division after the BPU again denied the plans Nov. 21. The regulator previously shot down the application in March, which Fishermen’s appealed, but the court returned the case to the agency in August to consider the $47 million grant commitment from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Bill S2711, sponsored by Democratic state Sens. Bob Smith and Jim Whelan, passed the Senate 22-14 and will now go to the Assembly. Democratic Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo, head of the Telecommunications Committee and one of the Assembly bill’s sponsors, says he intends to bring the bill up at his committee’s meeting next month.

In addition to mandating approval of the wind farm, the bill also removes language from the New Jersey Offshore Wind Economic Development Act (OWEDA) that requires an applicant to submit an economic cost-benefit analysis to the BPU for approval. That was the grounds for the board’s rejection of the Fishermen’s project.

The BPU has refused to budge from its view that the project wouldn’t provide a net economic and environmental benefit to New Jersey ratepayers, as the OWEDA requires. The regulator also has found that Fishermen’s hasn’t demonstrated financial integrity.

According to the BPU, Fishermen’s hasn’t shown that the project is viable at its proposed price for those subsidies — $199.17 per megawatt-hour — without $100 million in federal funding, and it doesn’t have that money in hand. Uncertainties remain over Fishermen’s receipt of the DOE grant, and there’s still the issue of absent funding from an investment tax credit that would help the developer reach that $100 million figure, the BPU said in its November decision.

The second measure, SR112, sponsored by Smith and Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney, would push the BPU to implement OWEDA and another law, the Electric Discount and Energy Competition Act.

The law directed the agency to develop an offshore wind renewable energy certificate program that would mandate a percentage of electricity sold in the state to be from wind energy. The offshore wind renewable energy certificates will help finance the project and ultimately be passed on to ratepayers.