State Street

Jessica Perry//July 16, 2012

State Street

Jessica Perry//July 16, 2012

The race is on among municipalities across New Jersey to attract the two distribution centers Amazon.com is planning for the state, and a pair of dark horses is emerging in Central Jersey.

The race is on among municipalities across New Jersey to attract the two distribution centers Amazon.com is planning for the state, and a pair of dark horses is emerging in Central Jersey.

Amazon representatives have met with officials in South Brunswick and Robbinsville, according to a source familiar with the issue.

South Brunswick is adjacent to Turnpike Exit 8A, while Exit 7A is in Robbinsville.

While officials in both townships declined to discuss whether discussions have occurred, both Robbinsville Mayor David Fried and South Brunswick Township Manager Bernard P. Hvozdovic Jr. have touted their towns as good locations for distribution centers.

Fried is supporting tax incentives for Matrix Development to build a 1 million-square-foot building in its distribution-center business park near 7A.

When asked if this site could be occupied by Amazon, Fried declined to comment.

Gov. Chris Christie announced in May that Amazon and the state reached an agreement in which the company would start collecting sales tax on purchases in the state in July 2013, while the company plans to hire 1,500 employees for the two distribution centers.

Bill allowing direct appeals of class-action suits advances

A bill allowing companies to directly appeal the determination that a class exists for a class-action lawsuit advanced in the Assembly this spring.

The bill, A-894, is one of the key pieces of the New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance this year. The Assembly Judiciary Committee released the measure May 21. Currently, companies must ask a lower-court judge for the ability to appeal a class-action determination to the Appellate Division.

Alliance Executive Director Marcus Rayner has touted the bill as a way to promote efficiency, while critics say it will allow companies to delay legal cases by making appeals easier.

While tort-reform advocates were hopeful about advancing their agenda heading into 2012, their optimism has been met with skepticism by plaintiff attorneys. These lawyers have noted the difficulty tort reform has had in gaining Democratic legislative sponsors in one or both houses.

The measure has primary sponsors from both parties in the Assembly: Assemblyman Gary R. Chiusano (R-Sparta) and Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski (D-Sayreville).

Rayner said he is working to have a Senate sponsor for the class-action appeal bill.

O’Scanlon declines to push Booker criticism further

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Red Bank) had strong words for Newark
Mayor Cory Booker’s fiscal management last week, though he seemed disinclined to push the issue further.

While O’Scanlon questioned Booker’s handling of a dispute with the New Jersey Devils, the ranking Republican on the Assembly Budget Committee said he would not push for a hearing on the matter.

“I think there were mistakes made, but I don’t think they were made in bad faith,” O’Scanlon said July 12, two days after questioning $24 million in state aid to the city. “I bet you that the mayor himself, in a reasonable conversation, would concede that there might have been some different choices that might have been made.”

When asked if the Devils situation should make businesses wary of dealing with Newark, O’Scanlon said it shouldn’t. He added that his criticism of Booker’s handling of the Devils isn’t a “wholesale indictment” of the mayor and his administration.

“I think the mayor is doing his best to enhance those aspects” of the city that could attract business, including work force development, transportation and infrastructure, O’Scanlon said. “I think a business would have to look at both sides of that coin.”

Booker and the Devils are in a long-running dispute over revenue sharing. The city owes the team $600,000, and has racked up $3.7 million in legal fees.

Business lobbying helped slow sex abuse liability bill

A bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations for sex abuse cases and extend the liability for employers faced resistance from business-backed groups, including insurers.

Both the Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committees released their versions of the bill.

The Assembly version would allow all past claims to be revived for two years.
This has troubling implications for business advocates, who say they are open to a compromise.

“The bottom line is that this is a very sensitive issue, obviously, and no one wants to stand in the way of sex abuse victims having some recovery for some of the things that have been done to them,” said Marcus Rayner, executive director of the New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance.

While employers may be open to expanding the statute of limitations, completely eliminating it — along with changing the standard for finding employers negligent for abuse — could harm businesses, according to Rayner.
Rayner said the “simple negligence” standard in the bill would expand the liability for employers to include those that “should have known” about abuse, rather than those who knew about abuse and failed to act against it.

“You get a very dangerous liability situation that will undoubtedly increase rates,” Rayner said.

New York City is requiring special insurance for organizations that serve children that would specifically insure against abuse claims.