Gov. Phil Murphy signed 123 bills into law and pocket vetoed another 16 measures in the final hours of his first term as governor.
The legislation – approved and rejected – ranges from awarding state subsidies for businesses to hire disabled workers, to money to the NAACP for a major conference in Atlantic City, and tax deductions for businesses to deal with the costs of last winter’s COVID-19 closures.
Murphy’s rejection of any legislation at this point is final as the legislative voting session from which the bills were sent to his desk has ended.
Lawmakers do not have the option to override those vetoes; instead they would need to get legislation passed through the new state Legislature, where Democrats saw their majority shrink by seven seats after November’s election.
“We also must continue to stress our ongoing concerns with policies that strike against affordability, hurt regional competitiveness and add more burdens to business, as we saw with several of the bills signed into law today,” reads a statement from Michele Siekerka, president and chief executive officer of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.
Here’s some of the bills Murphy approved in the final hours of his first term:
Bad faith insurance
Murphy signed the New Jersey Insurance Fair Conduct Act, which was billed by supporters as a means to offer recourse to policyholders if their insurance companies act in bad faith. Insurance groups in turn warn that the bill will do nothing but shift more insurance costs onto everyday New Jerseyans. The measure allows policyholders to file legal claims against insurers for unfair or unreasonable practices.
Murphy approved a tax break for New Jersey’s casinos and race tracks that can be deducted from in-person sports-wagering revenue at the state’s gambling halls. It comes on the heels of another major casino tax break that Murphy approved last year.
Brewery, distillery sampling and sales
The governor signed a measure Tuesday that loosens the state’s alcohol laws by allowing certain breweries and craft distilleries to sell their product at retail shops on-site and offer samples, as well.
A bill creating broader recycling standards for businesses as pertains to glass and rigid plastic containers, paper and plastic bags, and plastic trash bags was signed by Murphy. It also bans the sale of polystyrene loose fill packaging, also known as packing peanuts.
“By addressing the source of waste, we will see less of it in landfills and our waterways,” reads a statement from Ed Potosnak, executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters.
Siekerka in turn warned that the state’s manufacturing sector’s “technology and markets do not yet exist to meet” the recycling requirements outlined under the measure.
Starting May 4, a statewide ban will go into effect for carry-out plastic bags, as well as polystyrene or Styrofoam cups, plates, takeout cartons and other food containers.
The governor approved a package of six bills meant to help direct more workers with disabilities into New Jersey’s workforce.
One law would create a loan program under the New Jersey Economic Development Authority for businesses to provide accommodations to disabled workers. Another appropriates $4.5 million for the creation of county-college based adult centers for those with developmental disabilities. Two others are meant to prioritize disabled job applicants for the state’s workforce.
“These essential measures recognize the significant contributions that disabled individuals provide to our economy, will expand access to training and new employment opportunities, and positively impact the lives of many of our residents,” Murphy said in a statement.
One bill Murphy approved will appropriate $2 million in state taxpayer dollars to the NAACP for its national convention in Atlantic City.
Here’s some of the bills Murphy rejected before being sworn in for his second term:
Real estate incentives
One proposal Murphy nixed would have done away with a 1% tax on the sale of certain commercial properties – restaurants, shopping centers, malls, office buildings and theaters – on transactions over $1 million. The bill was pre-filed on Jan. 11 as S518 in the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, but still needs a formal introduction.
Murphy vetoed a bill that would have let businesses with less than 20 employees apply for tax refunds on any sales tax they paid to “winterize their operations” amid the pandemic.
That would allow them to recoup costs for equipment such as tents, space heaters and snow and ice removal, so long as they were bought between Sept. 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021. The measure was pre-filed on Jan. 11 to the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee as A1899.