The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce awarded five state lawmakers – two Republicans and three Democrats – with the “Legislator of the Year” award for helping build out a business-friendly climate.
That’s on top of “Business Advocate of the Year” awards for New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli and WithumSmith+Brown Chief Executive Officer William Hagaman, which were also awarded at a ceremony the evening of Oct. 20 at Bell Works in Holmdel.
Tom Bracken, who heads the New Jersey Chamber, commented Wednesday evening that the awards come amid the “great medical crisis we faced,” referring to the COVID-19 pandemic, and on top of that “probably the greatest economic crisis we faced in our lifetimes.”
The seven honorees are figures that helped navigate New Jersey’s businesses through these dire economic conditions.
“Each has been proactive in their support for employers and employees, particularly in a time when there is no blueprint for action,” Bracken said in a statement earlier this week.
Persichilli spearheaded the state’s COVID-19 response over the past 19 months along with Gov. Phil Murphy, thrusting her into a highly publicized spotlight.
“The economy has been able to open safely and New Jersey has reached its original goal of vaccinating 70% of eligible adults by June 30,” Bracken said.
Each has been proactive in their support for employers and employees, particularly in a time when there is no blueprint for action.
– Tom Bracken, president and CEO, NJ Chamber
Republicans Sen. Michael Testa, 1st District, and Assemblyman Chris DePhillips, 40th District were also recognized Wednesday.
“The most effective way to boost the standard of living for all New Jerseyans is through a growing economy and thriving businesses hiring more workers at higher salaries,” reads a Wednesday statement from Testa.
The NJ Chamber highlighted the South Jersey state senator for playing a lead role in GOP-led opposition in court last year to the Murphy administration’s plans to borrow more than $4 billion in debt to plug COVID-blown holes in the state budget.
That effort ultimately failed in the state Supreme Court, but soaring state revenues have raised doubts about whether the state needed to borrow those funds in the first place.
Democrats Sen. Vin Gopal, 11th District, Senate Education Chair Teresa Ruiz, 29th District, and Assemblyman Roy Freiman, 16th District, also received the Legislator of the Year award.
“If our public school system and our child care system are not working … then you will not have employees who will show up for work,” Ruiz said at the award ceremony.
Ruiz’s sponsorship of the New Jersey Economic Recovery Act of 2020, which created a massive $14.5 billion state incentive program, was highlighted by the NJ Chamber, as was legislation Freiman sponsored adding $20 million of pandemic-relief to restaurants and bars.
Gopal’s sponsorship of a bill letting teens work up to 50 hours a week during the summer, in response to the months of hiring shortages, was particularly helpful, the NJ Chamber said.l