Public health emergency powers
Lawmakers are considering whether to extend dozens of Gov. Phil Murphy’s COVID-19 emergency powers for 45 days, rather than the 90 days he is seeking amid record case counts stemming from the highly infectious omicron variant.
Under a deal struck last May, Murphy’s emergency powers are slated to expire on Jan. 11. Murphy said he needs the extension to keep school masking requirements in place, to funnel more resources toward vaccinations and testing for school employees and health care workers and provide more flexibility and resources to hospitals for their COVID-19 responses.
Should lawmakers fail to deliver a 90-day extension, Murphy would also have the option to sign a new set of executive orders granting himself the power, as was done at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. Republicans have promised to vote against the measure in both chambers.
Film and TV tax breaks
Lawmakers are rushing through a series of major expansions of the state’s film, television and digital media economic incentive programs.
Proponents contend that the subsidies have been key to reigniting New Jersey’s film industry and drawing in some of the businesses that typically goes to New York City.
The proposal creates new bonuses and tax breaks for big-name actors, directors and screenwriters and broadens the awards available for digital media productions. The program would be extended to 2034, and production companies could get new bonuses for diversifying their film crews, and for building new film studios.
A proposal in both houses would create recycling standards for glass and rigid plastic containers, paper and plastic bags and plastic trash bags. It also bans the sale of polystyrene loose fill packaging, also known as packing peanuts.
Starting May 4 this year, 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 senate version passed last June, and the proposed A4676 and S215 would need a final vote before heading to Murphy’s desk.
The proposed New Jersey Insurance Fair Conduct Act, Assembly Bill 1659, is 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 would allow policyholders to file legal claims against insurers for unfair or unreasonable practices. A1659 and its companion bill S1559 are slated for a noon Assembly vote, while just the upper house version will be heard in the Senate.
A series of bills would protect the rights of workers at certain businesses being sold or transferred – namely hospitals, hotels and motels. The proposed Assembly Bill 6246 would require the new owner of a hotel to keep employees on the payroll at the same pay for at least 90 days, and enact tighter requirements for lay-offs. Both the Senate and Assembly are considering the measure.
Meanwhile, the proposed Senate Bill 4048 would require new owners of a health care facility to keep in place the wages, benefits and employment of the existing workers.
Oil train transparency
A bill that has been stalled in the Legislature for years bolster requirements for large oil trains traveling through New Jersey.
It was sponsored by the now-retired Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, who introduced the bill in response to several high-profile oil spills in heavily populated communities across the nation, and was in the past vetoed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
The measure would require train operators to have plans in place for the response and cleanup of oil and other hazardous materials carried by trains through New Jersey. The proposal has been criticized by industry groups, who argue that such rules are already in place.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]