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.

2014 MID-TERM ELECTION ANALYSIS

INTRODUCTION

 Republicans gained a substantial majority in the U.S. Senate.

Republicans won eight formerly-Democratic held seats by defeating four incumbents and winning four open seats. They also retained all three “at-risk” Republican Senate seats (Georgia, Kansas, and Kentucky). (See below for a breakdown of the Senate elections.) The biggest surprise was the razor-thin Senate race in Virginia where incumbent Democrat Mark Warner held on to a narrow lead over Republican Ed Gillespie.

The U.S. House of Representatives retained a substantial Republican majority. The GOP reached their largest majority since 1931, when Herbert Hoover was president. Some Democratic Party leaders worry that they could be locked out of the House majority until the next round of redistricting in the 2020s.

In gubernatorial races, incumbent Republicans in Wisconsin (Scott Walker), Michigan (Rick Snyder), Ohio (John Kasich), Florida (Rick Scott), Kansas (Sam Brownback), and Georgia (Nathan Deal) were reelected, with Deal defeating Jason Carter, grandson of former President Jimmy Carter. In Wisconsin, in a setback for organized labor, overwhelming union opposition failed for a third time to unseat Governor Scott Walker—in 2010, in a 2012 recall vote, and now in Walker’s 2014 reelection—whom they considered the nation’s most blatantly anti-union governor in a historically pro-union state. In the closely-watched    race in Florida, incumbent Republican Governor Scott narrowly defeated former Governor Charlie Crist running as a Democrat. The biggest surprise was Republican Larry Hogan’s victory over Democrat Anthony Brown in predictably blue state Maryland. No one saw that coming.

 

What Do These Election Results Mean?

First, the election results mean the start of the 2016 presidential campaign. Leading potential candidates from both parties were omnipresent on the stump in the 2014 mid-term elections, especially in early presidential election-year states such as Iowa and New Hampshire. If you are fed up with this year’s political campaigns, get ready for 2016. In fact, since there will be more incumbent Republicans up for reelection in 2016 (just the reverse of this year), congressional majorities will once again be at stake, especially where voter turnout will be much higher with the White House at stake.

Second, the election results could redirect congressional attention to economic issues, which voters overwhelmingly proclaimed as their top concern. This could mean passage of legislation where both parties are able to make concessions, without compromising principles, on issues such as tax reform, infrastructure, the Keystone XL pipeline, and trade policy. Also, look for votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or at least to “fix” it.

However, other than possibly passing multi-employer pension plan reform and some form of immigration legislation, do not expect passage of major labor and employment legislation. Organized labor was the biggest loser in the mid-term elections. The result may also mean the start of debate on Republican proposals for major labor law reform.

Third, it means there will be more presidential executive orders, starting with immigration reform and climate change, as well as federal regulations where the administration cannot achieve its agenda through Congress.

Fourth, now that Republicans in both houses can set the congressional agenda and will have subpoena powers, it means much more aggressive oversight of agency actions at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). It also could trigger possible appropriations riders to prohibit or restrict funding to enforce certain regulations, such as the imminent NLRB “ambush election rules” and the Labor Department’s regulatory overhaul of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s Part 541 overtime exemptions for bona fide executive, administrative, professional, outside sales, and computer employees.

Fifth, with a Senate majority, it means much greater scrutiny of White House judicial and federal agency nominations, even in the face of the Senate’s “nuclear option,” which removed Senate filibusters. The Republican Senate majority will try to stop nominations of progressive judicial candidates to the federal courts of appeals.

Sixth, unions took it on the chin across the country, especially in gubernatorial races. In August, the AFL- CIO said it would take out six key anti-union governors: Rick Scott of Florida, Rick Snyder of Michigan, Paul LePage of Maine, John Kasich of Ohio, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania. Only Corbett was defeated.

The reelections of embattled incumbent governors in blue states such as Wisconsin, in Governor Scott Walker’s race, and Michigan, in Governor Rick Snyder’s race, who faced the furies of an all-out union assault, will embolden other governors to take on public sector unions. There may even be an effort to pass a right-to-work law in Kentucky.

Finally, Republicans proved that primary elections are important in selecting qualified candidates. Now, having been elected, Republicans have two years to prove they can govern before facing a much more challenging 2016 election–when it will no longer be enough simply to attack a lame duck president.

To be continued.

Author Martin Milita, a Senior Director at Duane Morris Government Strategies, is a member of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Bars and has lobbied state and federally and in Canada.

Duane Morris Government Strategies is a bipartisan government relations firm. Duane Morris Government Strategies represent clients before the federal government and in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Ohio. Duane Morris Government Strategies professionals offer a full complement of government-affairs services, including legislative and executive branch advocacy, policy analysis, assistance with government procurement and funding programs, and crisis management.

Duane Morris Government Strategies professionals have held high-level political positions in both Republican and Democratic administrations, and have run and played active roles in federal, state, and local political campaigns. They have also worked for members of Congress, congressional and state committees, and presidential and gubernatorial transition teams. Also at Duane Morris Government Strategies disposal are hundreds of seasoned attorneys from the Duane Morris law firm who have handled complex legal issues in the public and private sectors across a multitude of industries.

 

Lobbying 101-The Best Time to Lobby

The Best Time to Lobby

Several weeks before a bill is considered at any level, Elected’s  and their staffs’ meet to plan strategies and take positions on a bill. If your lobbying effort is too late, a decision may have already been made. If you lobby too early, the impact of the lobbying effort may have been lost in the intervening time.

The best time to lobby is when a representative or senator is considering writing or sponsoring a bill that will benefit or harm your cause. If you make your position known at this stage, you have a greater opportunity to influence the legislation or even kill the Bill.

For example, Preservationists can participate in many different ways as a bill progresses through its many stages toward enactment. You should inform your representative or senators of your position on a bill soon after it is introduced and suggest any changes you would like to see made. If its positive for you, encourage them to show their support by becoming a cosponsor of the bill, or, if a negative, ask them to oppose the legislation.

Two or three weeks before a proposal is at a decision point in the legislative process, reinforce your position with a letter, phone call, e-mail, or personal visit..

Follow the bill’s process closely. You will need to reinforce your position with your member and other members as the bill reaches each step of the legislative process.

Lobbying during election time: Election time and during campaigns offer a perfect opportunity for grassroots lobbyists.  Candidates of both parties will spend time in their districts, giving you the chance to attend candidate forums, debates, or other gatherings to ask for their views on preservation to keep to our example. These public forums will expose preservation issues and the candidate’s stand on them to a broader audience. This is also the time to submit questions on preservation to candidates during meetings, public forums, or when they are canvassing a neighborhood. Try to elicit specific commitments of support. These become powerful lobbying tools later.

Candidates at all levels of government respond to voting power. Your vote can be a positive force. After the election, congratulate the winning candidate and offer your assistance on legislation affecting historic preservation.

Remember, a bill must be passed by both the lower and upper houses.  If your representative is not sympathetic to an issue, lobby your senator and vice versa.

Martin Milita is a senior director  with Duane Morris Government Strategies, a consultancy and lobbying firm that represents clients seeking the support of state- and federal-level government agencies. Commanding a career that spans more than three decades, Martin Milita possesses extensive experience serving private and public sector clients in legislative affairs and activities. Martin Milita holds a Bachelor’s degree in Government and Politics from King’s College and a Juris Doctor from the James E. Beasley School of Law at Temple University.

Lobbying 101.5: “Who & Where to Lobby”

Who & Where to Lobby

As a continuation of Lobbying 101 we now explore “who & where to lobby”. There is no restriction on how many members of Congress or your state legislature or a city council you may lobby. You will find, however, that your own state congressional delegation or your state senator or representative—those who are there to represent your interests—will be the most responsive.

Take Congress as the example: support or opposition can have the greatest influence at the committee level. Members of Congress who are not members of the committee handling your legislation have far less influence on how it is shaped. If your congressional member sits on a committee that is considering your issue, your lobbying will be crucial.

If your state is not represented on the committee, ask your congressman to speak with the chairman or members of the committee and endorse your position.

Remember, a bill must be passed by both the House and the Senate. If your representative is not sympathetic to an issue, lobby your senator and vice versa

Where to Lobby

Washington, D.C., Office: Your first communication to the office of a member of Congress is likely to be directed to the legislative assistant who handles your issue. The receptionist may not immediately know who that is, unless your member has consistently been involved with your immediately relevant issue.

  • Legislative assistants are generally scrambling to assemble briefings on short deadlines and not inclined to engage in extensive discussions or policy debates with constituents.
  • They want concise, well-organized presentations, including material on how this issue plays out in their member’s district.
  • They do not want long position papers that will take huge amounts of time to read and then summarize.
  • They are busy and focused on short-term demands, so if your issue is way off in the future, they will be less interested in speaking with you.
  • Keep your communications short and to the point, letting them extend the discussion if they become interested.
  • District Office: Senators may have six or so offices around their state. A congressman in a small district would only have one, in a larger district, two or three.

Staff members who work in the district office are not directly involved in the legislative process, however, they are a valuable lobbying resource. The district office is readily accessible and the staff is familiar with local issues. Usually the district director or another senior advisor is the member’s eyes and ears in the district and provides important feedback on the priority of local issues. The member’s schedule in his home district is usually arranged by these offices as well. Use District folks often.

Author Martin Milita, a Senior Director at Duane Morris Government Strategies, is a member of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Bars and has lobbied state and federally and in Canada.

Duane Morris Government Strategies is a bipartisan government relations firm. Duane Morris Government Strategies represent clients before the federal government and in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Ohio. Duane Morris Government Strategies professionals offer a full complement of government-affairs services, including legislative and executive branch advocacy, policy analysis, assistance with government procurement and funding programs, and crisis management.

Duane Morris Government Strategies professionals have held high-level political positions in both Republican and Democratic administrations, and have run and played active roles in federal, state, and local political campaigns. They have also worked for members of Congress, congressional and state committees, and presidential and gubernatorial transition teams. Also at Duane Morris Government Strategies disposal are hundreds of seasoned attorneys from the Duane Morris law firm who have handled complex legal issues in the public and private sectors across a multitude of industries.

 

Lobbying 101.4: Why Lobby

Why Lobby?

All elected officials, from the president of the United States to city council members, hold their positions because they won a majority of the votes cast in an election. Your role in the political process does not end at the voting booth. Once you have put these officials in a position of power, it is important to ensure that they are informed and can make decisions that will benefit your town, city, and the Nation writ large. Chances are you have expertise that may be a valuable resource for your elected officials.

Congress passes hundreds of bills during each legislative session. To do this, the members must depend on their small staffs, both in the district and in Washington, to research issues, recommend positions, and draft legislation. Your expertise—offered through lobbying—is critical to the legislative process.

Federal legislation, such as the yearly appropriation of funds and changes in tax policy, can directly affect matters important to you and your community.

When you lobby with facts, figures, and strong arguments, your representative and senators will be able to assess the legislation and make an informed decision about how to vote. Always remember, those on the other side of the issue are lobbying too!

Every voter should lobby because it produces more responsive legislators and a more responsive government.

Author Martin Milita, is a Senior Director at Duane Morris Government Strategies, where he offers clients a singular blend of business savvy, political acumen, and policy know how.

Duane Morris Government Strategies is a bipartisan government relations firm. Duane Morris Government Strategies represent clients before the federal government and in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Ohio.  Duane Morris Government Strategies professionals offer a full complement of government-affairs services, including legislative and executive branch advocacy, policy analysis, assistance with government procurement and funding programs, and crisis management.

Duane Morris Government Strategies professionals have held high-level political positions in both Republican and Democratic administrations, and have run and played active roles in federal, state and local political campaigns. They have also worked for members of Congress, congressional and state committees, and presidential and gubernatorial transition teams. Also at Duane Morris Government Strategies disposal are hundreds of seasoned attorneys from the Duane Morris law firm who have handled complex legal issues in the public and private sectors across a multitude of industries

Lobbying 101 Continued: Strong Voices

We have already seen that for many folks, lobbying conjures up dark  images of back rooms, back slaps and spoils. But we have also seen that those images are far from the truth. Casting your ballot in the voting booth may be the most fundamental of democratic acts, but talking to your elected and appointed officials—lobbying–is the indispensable step.

We used an example of historic preservationists- but every other group of citizens- preservationists or not-, have the prerogative and the responsibility to let elected and appointed officials, federal, state and local know their actions have consequences, positive and negative.

Lobbying  (or Lobbying 101) is designed to acquaint you with the lobbying techniques, and resources available to aid in advocacy.  Its information and recommendations can be applied to federal, state and local advocacy for executive, legislative, grassroots, procurement and finance.

Remember:

Lobbying is nothing more than simply being a strong voice for things that are important to you in your community.

The most fundamental part of lobbying is establishing positive long-term, working relationships with your elected and appointed representatives, laying the groundwork for taking specific action when the need or the opportunity arises.

Martin Milita, is licensed to practice law in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He has successfully lobbied for statutes, agency rules, and agency permits in the United States, both state and federal governments, in Canada and within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Europe and North America.

New Jersey legalized Internet gambling last year- but is the fight over?

New Jersey lawmakers on Oct. 2 took up a measure that they and Gov. Chris Christie hope will finally allow the state’s casinos and racetracks to offer sports betting. The committee’s passage is the latest move in the ongoing fight between the state and the sports leagues over sports betting. Christie and legislators are banking on the idea that legalized sports betting, combined with online gambling, will help revive struggling and, in some cases, closing, Atlantic City, N.J., casinos, and boost racetrack attendance.

In a 7-0 vote, the Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee recommended passage of a bill, A-3711, that would repeal all statutory prohibitions on sports betting. The legislation is likely to be passed by both the Assembly and Senate and signed into law by Christie. The nation’s four largest professional sports leagues and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), however, already are challenging the legislation in federal court, and the Christie administration also is taking action, even before the measure is enacted.

The state is moving to legalize sports betting despite rulings from two federal courts that earlier said attempts by the Legislature and New Jersey voters ran afoul of the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), which the leagues said outlawed sports betting in all states except for Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon.

While upholding PASPA as an appropriate exercise of Congressional authority, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in NCAA v. New Jersey, said it did not read PASPA “to prohibit New Jersey from repealing its ban on sports wagering.”

Christie last month issued a directive allowing sports betting at casinos and race tracks after acting Attorney General John Hoffman, in a formal opinion, directed law enforcement to not prosecute casinos or racetracks if they operate sports-wagering pools.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear New Jersey’s appeal of the Third Circuit’s ruling, but both Christie and legislators pointed to language used by the U.S. Solicitor General in its briefs to the court that said “PASPA does not even obligate New Jersey to leave in place the state-law prohibitions against sports gambling that it had chosen to adopt prior to PASPA’s enactment.”

The state, the federal government said, “is free to repeal those prohibitions in whole or in part.”

The legislation passed by the Assembly committee would do just that. Christie has also asked U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp for permission to begin sports betting based on the language used by the Third Circuit in its opinion and by the federal government in its briefs.

None of the leagues or the NCAA testified against the bill, but already have filed challenges with Shipp to stop any action by the state. The fight appears to continue.

Duane Morris Government Strategies LLC (DMGS) is comprised of 19 experienced professionals representing clients at the federal, state and local levels. The firm operates in eight offices including Newark, NJ; Trenton, NJ; Harrisburg, PA; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Washington, D.C.; Albany, NY; and Columbus, OH. DMGS commenced operations as an ancillary business of international law firm Duane Morris LLP, one of the 100 largest law firms with more than 700 attorneys in 20 offices in the U.S. as well as in the UK, Saudi Arabia and Asia.

Martin Milita is a Senior Director providing public affairs services to Fortune 100 companies, privately-held firms and nonprofit organizations in the areas of legislative, executive branch and grass roots lobbying, business development, procurement, issues management and business-to-government outreach. As a New Jersey State Deputy Attorney General, he served as Chief of Tax Fraud and Chief of the Solid Waste Unit of the Antitrust Section of the Division of Criminal Justice. Martin Milita has a  J.D. from Temple University School of Law and graduated from King’s College, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.