ECONOMIC STIMULUS, JOBS, SPORTS WAGERING & CONSUMER PROTECTIONS TOP ASSEMBLY’S MONDAY COMMITTEE AGENDAS

Panels Also to Discuss Easing Burdensome Biz Regs & Saving Port Jobs
(TRENTON) – Legislation to update New Jersey’s economic stimulus legislation, help pave the way for sports wagering at Atlantic City casinos and racetracks and protect consumers from check scams and toxic jewelry top Monday’s Assembly committee agendas, with panels also set to discuss ways to ease burdensome business regulations and save thousands of port jobs.

Assembly panels will also hear bills to help businesses save on energy use, combat bedbugs in apartment complexes and protect consumer debit card account numbers.

All hearings will be streamed live at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/media/live_audio.asp

The Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee will consider legislation (A-2059) sponsored by its new chairman, Albert Coutinho (D-Essex), to update the landmark New Jersey Economic Stimulus Act of 2009. Coutinho was the prime sponsor of that 2009 law.

“Democrats took a broad approach last year toward jumpstarting local economic development projects and creating new jobs, but clearly we have more work to do and this bill is a step toward that goal,” Coutinho said.

The panel will also hear testimony on the need to address the Bayonne Bridge’s low clearance and keep New Jersey’s port economy vibrant. The Bayonne Bridge is too low to allow new super-sized cargo ships to reach Port Newark and Port Elizabeth.

The new Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee will hear testimony on ways to improve New Jersey’s regulatory environment. It will also consider legislation (ACR-98) to ask voters to authorize the Legislature to enact laws allowing sports wagering at casinos in Atlantic City and at racetracks.

“Sports betting already exists in New Jersey, but only the criminals are enjoying the profits,” said Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem), the panel’s chairman.

The sponsors noted Las Vegas expects to see $100 million in wagering on Sunday’s Super Bowl, while Atlantic City will see no such activity on professional football’s biggest day.

“There are multiple dividends for New Jersey if sports gambling were to be provided at Atlantic City’s casinos,” said Assemblyman Nelson Albano (D-Cumberland/Atlantic/Cape May). “Atlantic City’s casinos again lose out as bettors flock to Las Vegas.”

The Assembly Higher Education Committee chaired by Assemblywoman Pamela R. Lampitt (D-Camden) will hear testimony on the positive economic impacts institutions of higher education have on the state.

The Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee will consider two bills (A-207 and A-2031) to help laid-off police officers and firefighters. The bills are sponsored by Assembly members Ralph Caputo (D-Essex), Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen), Cleopatra Tucker (D-Essex) and Coutinho.

The Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee will consider legislation (A-658) to make it illegal to mail unsolicited checks that once cashed enroll consumers in costly programs.
Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-Gloucester/Camden) drafted the bill after a constituent showed him an unsolicited $8.25 check they received from a company. Cashing the check would enroll the consumer in an automotive roadside assistance program that costs $15.99 per month.

“These so-called free money offers are at their best deceptive and, at their worst, downright dishonest,” Moriarty said.

The panel will also mull legislation (A-2076) targeting unsafe jewelry. The bill comes after 55,000 “Princess and the Frog” necklaces were recalled because they may contain high levels of a toxin.

“Buying a necklace or a charm bracelet shouldn’t bring about fears of toxic poisoning,” said sponsor Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. (D-Middlesex).

It will also consider legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Matt Milam (D-Cumberland/Cape May/Atlantic) to protect consumer debit card account numbers. The bill (A-310) clarifies that credit and debit card account numbers must be truncated on sales receipts.

“This bill just makes common sense,” Milam said. “In this day and age, when identity theft is proving all too common, there’s no reason why a consumer’s credit or debit card number should ever be made available to others. This is a simple step that protects consumers.”

The Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee will consider legislation sponsored by Assemblywomen Joan M. Quigley and L. Grace Spencer to provide additional tools for landlords and tenants to address bedbug infestations. The sponsors crafted the legislation after news reports detailed severe outbreaks of bedbugs in several Hudson County apartment complexes.

In these instances, the tenants, some of whom had nothing to do with the initial infestation, were being charged for extermination.

“Renters should not have to live silently with bedbug infestations,” said Quigley (D-Hudson). “Tenants who want to live in a clean and safe environment need the piece of mind that their landlord will work with them to ensure the sanctity of their home.”

“Bedbugs are hardy pests and if not reported quickly to a landlord can infest an entire building,” said Spencer (D-Essex). “Because piecemeal extermination is virtually impossible, it only makes sense that landlords be part of the equation to eliminate bedbugs in their buildings.”

The Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee will consider three bills (A-907-909-911) to make it easier for consumers and businesses to pay utility bills and to help businesses save on energy costs The bills are sponsored by Assembly members Upendra Chivukula, Dr. Joan M. Voss (D-Bergen), Ruben J. Ramos Jr. (D-Hudson), Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen) and Coutinho.

“Technology is so readily at our fingertips in this day and age, but our laws haven’t kept pace when it comes to paying a utility bill or finding ways to help businesses save on energy,” said Chivukula (D-Somerset), who chairs the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee.

The full committee agendas can be found at: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/legislativepub/legcal.asp

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