Government Affairs Alert Blog

Privately Financing the Public Good: Using Public-Private Partnerships to Inject Private Financing into Public Projects in New Jersey

New Jersey has a higher inventory of worthy infrastructure projects than it has money to fund sorely needed improvements. Although New Jersey has the seventh highest revenue of any state, the pressures of being a densely populated commuter state often impose significant liabilities on those revenues such that the State is often faced with having to choose between worthy projects because available financing is limited. One common sense solution gaining significant traction is the injection of private financing into public projects in order to relieve some of the State’s financing burdens. Often referred to as public-private partnerships or P3s, these agreements trade a limited, future revenue stream over time to a private corporation in exchange for a fiscal commitment allowing a project to put shovels in the ground. These projects can take various forms: construction of state college dormitories in exchange for rents, maintenance of highways in exchange for availability payments, or construction of a bridge in exchange for toll rights, to name a few. The State entity receives an influx of capital to address infrastructure needs and the private entity receives a long term profit from rents, tolls, availability payments, or maintenance agreements. The elegance of this type of...

With the Budget Done, Line Item Veto Shapes the FY17 Budget

On June 27, 2016, the New Jersey Legislature sent S17, the FY 2017 budget bill, to Governor Christie. S17 makes various language changes and adds $275 million to the Governor’s proposed budget. Usually, the Governor is limited to three options when reviewing passed legislation. He can accept the bill as it is written, veto the bill in its entirety or suggest changes, or send it back to the Legislature. The budget bill is different. The New Jersey Constitution gives the Governor the ability to enact laws, that appropriate money, while reducing or removing specific line items. Article V, Section I, paragraph 15 provides that “If any bill presented to the Governor shall contain one or more items of appropriation of money, he may object in whole or in part to any such item or items while approving the other portions of the bill. In such case he shall append to the bill, at the time of signing it, a statement of each item or part thereof to which he objects, and each item or part so objected to shall not take effect.” That same section also grants the Legislature the ability to override the Governor’s line item veto by a...

Governor Christie Acts on BEIP Conversion Tax Credit Payment Changes

On June 30, 2016, Governor Christie signed to law Senate Bill 2376/Assembly Bill 4002, which modifies the tax credit payment schedule for Business Employment Incentive Program (“BEIP”) Grant recipients converting their cash grants to tax credits. The Legislature and Governor enacted a law in January allowing businesses to convert outstanding BEIP Grants into tax credits. The law provided that BEIP Grants accrued but not paid during years 2008-2013 were to be redeemable as tax credits over a five-year period starting in the 2017 tax accounting or privilege period of the business. S-2376/A-4002 revises the tax payment credit schedule so that only 5 percent of the tax credit is redeemable in 2017. Twenty percent would be redeemable in 2018, with 25 percent redeemable in years 2019, 2020, and 2021. The change was required due to the projected budgetary shortfall in Fiscal Year 2017, which the State Treasurer announced on May 18, 2016. If your business is still considering a BEIP conversion, the deadline to opt-in is the close of business on July 11, 2016. Gibbons can assist your company with the process of evaluating and implementing a conversion.   Paul J. St. Onge, a Director in the Gibbons Government Affairs Department,...

Legislative Fixes to Keep Pharmaceutical Companies in NJ

In recent years, New Jersey has — at times — been deemed a “Judicial Hell Hole” by the American Tort Reform Association. The expense of defending thousands of mass tort products liability cases in New Jersey, as well as other costs of doing business in New Jersey, have resulted in some pharmaceutical companies relocating out of state. To halt the trend of businesses leaving New Jersey, the legislature could consider the following three actions to incentivize New Jersey companies to remain in-state. Provide an absolute defense to pharmaceutical companies sued for a failure to warn claim if the warning was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”). Michigan has adopted, MCL 600.2946(5), which, subject to two exceptions, establishes an absolute defense for drug manufacturers and sellers in a products liability action, where the drugs complied with FDA standards and labeling. In New Jersey, a bill similar to MCL has been introduced. While N.J.S. 2A:58C-4 of the New Jersey Products Liability Act (“NJPLA”) provides for a rebuttable presumption of adequacy with respect to a drug label where the drug is approved by the FDA, an absolute defense in these circumstances would be more appropriate. The pharmaceutical industry is among the most...

New Jersey Moves Forward with Attempts to Regulate E-Cigarettes

On May 16, the New Jersey Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee heard more than three hours of testimony from a variety of groups on a bill — S.298, introduced by Senator Joe Vitale — that would prohibit the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes. New Jersey banned the sale of flavored traditional cigarettes in 2008 because of concerns regarding their attractiveness to children. The sponsor believes that the same concerns apply to electronic cigarettes today, making this legislation necessary to create uniformity in the state’s public health laws, all of which are designed to keep children from starting a smoking habit. Opponents contend that this bill would reduce adults’ access to a product that has enabled many tobacco-addicted people to quit smoking. According to NCSL, 48 states and two territories currently prohibit sales of electronic cigarette products to minors. (Michigan and Pennsylvania still permit the sale of electronic cigarette products to minors.) In 2010, New Jersey was one of the first states to include electronic cigarettes among other tobacco items that would not be sold to minors when it expanded the New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act. S.298 was released from committee by a vote of 6-2 and now...

Attorney-Client Protections Do Not Extend to Lawyers Providing Government Affairs Counseling in Non-Law Firm Settings

A December 10, 2015, joint decision from the Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics and the Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law (‘Committees’) provides clarity to lawyer-lobbyists working in non-law firm settings. Both Committees examined this issue after receiving an inquiry whether an attorney representing clients at a lobbying and government affairs services company that is not a law firm may use the designation “Esq.” after her name on company letterhead. The decision concludes that a lawyer may “associate with non-lawyers in lobbying and government affairs services companies, outside a law firm, provided the company communicates to their customers that they do not provide legal services or offer the protections of a lawyer-client relationship and the lawyers do not hold themselves out as acting in the capacity of lawyers.” The decision also directs attorneys, working in a non-legal setting, to not use the “Esquire” or “Esq.” designation. As part of its analysis, the Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law determined that many of the activities associated with lobbying are the practice of law, but also determined that it is in the public interest to allow registered non-lawyers to provide these services as well. They felt that “potential harm was...

BEIP Conversion Update: State Treasurer Recommends Amending Law

With projected revenues for State Fiscal Year (“SFY”) 2017 decreasing, on May 18, 2016, the NJ State Treasurer recommended that the Legislature amend the Business Employment Incentive Program (“BEIP”) conversion law (P.L.2015, c.194) to reduce the percentage of BEIP tax credits redeemable in SFY 2017 from thirty (30) percent to five (5) percent. In testimony before the Assembly and Senate Budget Committees, the Treasurer stated that any legislation implementing his recommendation should not change (1) the conversion election deadline of July 11, 2016; (2) the total number of years for the tax credits to be issued; or (3) the overall amounts convertible to tax credits. The only change sought by the Treasurer’s Office is to shift a greater percentage of BEIP tax credit redemptions to SFY 2018 through SFY 2021. If your business is a BEIP Grant recipient and you have questions regarding the BEIP conversion process, please contact a member of the Gibbons Government Affairs Department. We will continue to monitor the BEIP conversion program and any action to amend the existing law.   Paul J. St. Onge, a Director in the Gibbons Government Affairs Department, and Michael D. DeLoreto, an Associate in the Gibbons Government Affairs Department, authored...

Update: Waterfront Access Stakeholder Group Reports to Senate Committee

As previously reported, the New Jersey State Senate Environment and Energy Committee convened a stakeholder group to explore legislative action to address waterfront and shoreline public access. On April 21, 2016, the Committee took testimony from the stakeholder group, which will provide a full report to the Committee in a few weeks. Legislation based on the stakeholder’s report may be up for consideration in the fall. The stakeholder group received comments and participation from roughly 80 different entities. The stakeholder group members testified that a general consensus existed between all stakeholders regarding the need to protect critical infrastructure and hazardous sites from public access. This includes the State’s ports, nuclear facilities, chemical and petroleum locations, and environmentally compromised areas (i.e., locations subject to environmental cleanup). Consensus did not exist among the stakeholder group regarding access to waterfront property on or near industrial or commercial locations that are non-critical. There is also a lack of consensus regarding urban waterfront access near residential and commercial buildings. We will continue to monitor the Committee’s work towards drafting a legislative proposal on waterfront access. Should you or your organization have an interest in engaging on this issue, please contact a member of the Gibbons...

Clock Starts on BEIP Grant Conversion Program

Hundreds of New Jersey Business Employment Incentive Program (“BEIP”) Grant recipients may be eligible to convert their BEIP Grant to a refundable tax credit under Senate Bill 3232/Assembly Bill 4834 (S-3232/A-4834), which the State Legislature approved on December 17, 2015 and Governor Christie signed into law on January 11, 2016. If your business is a BEIP Grant recipient, Gibbons can assist you with the process of evaluating and implementing a BEIP conversion. Since the enactment of BEIP in 1996, New Jersey has entered into 499 BEIP agreements with businesses creating approximately 110,000 jobs and resulting in $12 billion in total economic activity. In 2013, the New Jersey Legislature enacted the “Economic Opportunity Act of 2013” which sunset BEIP and created the Grow New Jersey Assistance Program. The State has subsequently not fully funded BEIP Grant payments in the annual State budget. S-3232/A-4834 allows a business that is eligible to receive a BEIP Grant to direct the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (“NJEDA”) to convert its BEIP Grant to a refundable tax credit that would not be subject to the annual appropriations process. These tax credits may be applied against the business’ corporate tax liability, insurance premium tax liability, or foreign...

New Jersey State Pay-to-Play Rules and Federal Elections

New Jersey has its own individual pay-to-play rules that do not apply to federal candidates regardless of the state office that the candidate holds. The two sets of New Jersey pay-to-play rules (“Pay to Play Rules”) of concern are: (i) New Jersey statutory rules for state contracts under N.J.S.A. 19:44A-20.13-20.25, and (ii) New Jersey regulations of the New Jersey State Investment Council (“SIC”) pursuant to N.J.A.C. 17:16-4.1 to 4.11. The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (“ELEC”) and the New Jersey State Treasurer have stated that contributions to a federal account that are to be used only in federal elections will not trigger the New Jersey pay-to-play rules. See Advisory Opinion No. 03-2006; Letter of Bradley I. Abelow, New Jersey State Treasurer, June 23, 2006. The SIC regulations are applicable to political contributions and payments to political parties. See N.J.A.C. 17:16-4.2. Political contribution is defined as a contribution for the purpose of influencing any election for New Jersey state office, and under certain circumstances, any election for New Jersey local office. Since candidate committee for President is a candidate committee for a federal office, contributions to the committee are not political contributions. The SIC regulations define a “political party” as...