Government Affairs Alert Blog

New Jersey’s Legislature Attempts to Override Governor’s Objections to “Equal Pay” Bill

The sponsors of pay equity legislation passed by the New Jersey Senate and Assembly earlier this year have announced that the State Senate will attempt to override Governor Christie’s veto of the bill on December 19, 2016. Senate Bill 992/Assembly Bill 2750 would amend the Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) to promote gender pay equality. The New Jersey bill follows a trend of recently enacted state laws, in California, New York, Maryland, and Massachusetts, that aim to make it easier for plaintiffs to bring pay equity claims and subject employers to potentially greater damages. The bill would make it an unlawful employment practice, under the LAD, to discriminate against employees on the basis of sex by compensating an employee of one sex at a lesser rate than an employee of the other sex for “substantially similar work.” The “substantially similar” standard, which diverges from the “equal work” standard of the federal Equal Pay Act, mirrors the California Fair Pay Act, which became effective in January 2016. Under the proposed legislation, an employer would be permitted to pay a different rate to an employee if it can show that the positions are not “substantially similar” and the difference in compensation is based on...

Equity Crowdfunding Turns Six Months Old: Looking at Title III for Investors and Businesses

November 16, 2016 marked the six-month anniversary of Title III of the JOBS Act of 2012 being fully implemented. Title III and the rules promulgated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) allow businesses to raise capital through “equity crowdfunding.” This is the act of raising capital from others via the internet, by seeking small investments from a large number of potential investors through the use of licensed broker-dealers or internet funding portals. These investments are exempt from the traditional security registration requirements. People are generally familiar with existing “crowdfunding” platforms such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and GoFundMe which have been in existence since at least 2008. These platforms practice rewards-based crowdfunding.  Backers give a “campaign” money, and the backer gets back a “reward,” i.e., a thank you note or the first edition of a product. Title III, however, allows for “equity crowdfunding,” which is the ability to buy ownership in an early-stage company and hopefully reap a monetary return on that investment. Instead of getting that thank you note or new product, the investor is getting a piece of equity in the company he or she just invested in. Many industry professionals and...

N.J.’s Proposed Changes to Low Income Housing Tax Credit Qualified Allocation Plan Limit Projects per Developer and Encourage Development in Smart Growth Areas

The N.J. Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (“HMFA”) recently proposed changes to the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (“LIHTC”) Qualified Allocation Plan (“QAP”). State housing credit agencies, like HMFA, are required to create plans which outline the selection criteria for awarding tax credits for the development of low- and moderate-income housing. The proposed amendments update the QAP to reflect procedural changes to the way in which affordable housing is constructed, but also include some substantive changes to both the allocation of tax credits among developers and the scoring system for awarding tax credits. To review the full proposed changes to the QAP, as well as the agency analysis of the impact of these proposals, please click here. Comments on these proposed changes are due no later than December 2, 2016. Allocation of Tax Credits Two changes are proposed regarding the allocation of tax credits to municipalities, and the allocation of funded tax credit projects among developers. Currently, the QAP encourages the equitable distribution of tax credits throughout the State by capping the number of awards per municipality at two per year. HMFA proposes increasing this number to three awards annually for those municipalities that have a population of 100,000 or...

Are New Jersey’s Business Loan, Incentive, and Grant Programs Right for You?

Ronald Reagan famously said that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” But for businesses starting up, expanding, or relocating into New Jersey, state government can be helpful, if you know where to start. We regularly counsel clients on government incentives, loans, and business assistance offered through the nationally-recognized New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) and other State agencies. The NJEDA’s programs assist businesses of all sizes access loans/loan guarantees, as well as business and tax incentives. A few of the many programs offered are listed below. Loan Programs The NJEDA offers several loan programs that support small and mid-sized companies acquiring fixed assets, obtaining working capital, and refinancing debt: The Premier Lender Program provides loan and line of credit participations/guarantees in varying amounts. The NJEDA has a group of preferred lenders, and rates are generally at or below traditional loans. In return for the NJEDA’s assistance, the business has to agree to add one new full-time employee for every $65,000 of NJEDA exposure. The Small Business Fund provides up to $500,000 for small businesses, minority or woman owned businesses, and nonprofits that have been in business for...

Sufferers of PTSD Gain Access to Medicinal Marijuana

On September 14, 2016, New Jersey amended its medicinal marijuana law to add post-traumatic stress disorder (‘PTSD’) as a qualifying condition, permitting PTSD sufferers to gain access to this unconventional therapy for the first time. Some background — In 2009, New Jersey became the 14th state to allow access to medicinal marijuana. Over the past seven years, 11 additional states have expanded their laws to allow access to medical marijuana. In New Jersey, the original law provided access to medical marijuana for the following conditions: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Multiple sclerosis; Terminal cancer; Muscular dystrophy; Inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease; Terminal illness, if the physician has determined a prognosis of less than 12 months of life; Seizure disorder, including epilepsy; Intractable skeletal muscular spasticity; Glaucoma; Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus; Acquired immune deficiency syndrome; and Cancer. Under the amended law signed by Governor Christie, a patient with PTSD would be eligible for medicinal marijuana if she has been unsuccessful alleviating her symptoms with conventional medical therapy. Additionally, the patient would have to obtain certification of her condition from a physician with whom she has a “bona fide physician-patient relationship.” Several other recent developments on this issue merit a brief...

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...