Government Affairs Alert Blog

NJ Legislators Look to Prohibit Asking Applicants about Salary History

The New Jersey Legislature is poised to take up another thorny issue for employers, salary history. Described by legislative sponsors as an effort to promote pay equity, the legislation would amend the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination to bar employers from asking job applicants about their salary history, or relying on it to determine salary at any stage in the hiring process. Two separate pieces of legislation have been introduced that prohibit an employer from inquiring about the salary history of an applicant. Assembly Bill 4119 was introduced on September 15, 2016 and referred to the Assembly Labor Committee. Senate Bill 2536 was introduced on September 15, 2016 and referred to the Senate Labor Committee. New Jersey would be the second state to pass pay equity legislation prohibiting asking applicants about salary history. In August 2016, Massachusetts became the first state to pass such an Act. The Massachusetts Act banned employers from inquiring into an applicant’s salary history until “after any offer of employment with compensation has been made to the prospective employee.” The bill introduced to the New Jersey Assembly similarly provides that an employer may “confirm, or permit the prospective employee to confirm, the wage or salary history...

Why and How – Basics of Government Affairs (Part 1 of 2)

“Don’t you know someone in the Governor’s Office?” “You know the Senate President, right?” “That woman we met at that Chamber of Commerce event last month, she is the Chief of Staff to the Assembly Speaker, right?” After a lobbyist hears these words, most times the next sentence goes something like this: “We are having a problem with … and our CEO asked me to see what we can do in order to …” Then the client relates to us the sad tale of a difficult piece of legislation, or regulation, or land use development that will negatively impact the client’s core business. The CEO then asks you to fix the problem and save the day. And more times than not, the final nail in the coffin necessary to sink the client’s business interest in this bill, regulation, or development is being acted upon by the government … in a matter of days. In these types of cases, it is simply too late. Too late to begin to think about a government affairs strategy. The cake has already been baked. These scenarios happen, unfortunately, more frequently than one would think, even among sophisticated businessmen and-women across a myriad of industries....

Innovation Brewing in the New Jersey Legislature

Every summer, New Jersey legislators travel to the annual conferences of the National Conference of State Legislators (“NCSL”), the Council of State Governments (“CSG”), and the American Legislative Exchange Council (“ALEC”) to educate themselves about policy innovations occurring throughout the United States. While we wait to learn about their experiences, right now is a good opportunity to focus on innovative legislation currently before the New Jersey Legislature. As of August 15, 2016, 7,068 bills have been introduced in the New Jersey Legislature, 4,379 in the Assembly and 2,689 in the Senate, and only 87 have been signed into law. The following list of bills currently in committee represent examples by legislators looking to encourage innovation in New Jersey: S158 (Madden)/A3631 (Quijano) would promote investment in New Jersey by broadening the types of New Jersey emerging technology businesses that are eligible to receive investments under the New Jersey Angel Investor Tax Credit Act; A3187 (Munoz)/ S948 (Singer) would create a program within the New Jersey Economic Development Authority that would create a pathway to the commercial market for technology developed at a New Jersey college or university. Under this legislation, New Jersey would stimulate the economy while recapturing the state’s investment...

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...