NJAFED Article January - 2017

By Paul Bent

As we enter into 2017 we reach the half way point of a two year legislative cycle.  Here is a brief summary of what we saw in 2016.

While there was very little legislative activity that focused solely on the Fire Protection industry, there was considerable action on bills that directly impact businesses in general.  These bills include:

Minimum Wage – Legislation to increase the minimum wage in New Jersey to $15 an hour was passed by the legislature, however, the Governor exercised his Veto power and returned the bill to the legislature without his consent.

There were also efforts in 2016 to push for a ballot question which would amend the state constitution to raise the minimum wage.  While the legislature did not pass this in 2016 you can expect it to be an issue in 2017.

Paid Sick Leave – While the original proposal would have required companies to provide workers with either 5 or 9 days of paid time off (depending on the size of the company) amendments were adopted in the Senate that would exempt companies with fewer than 10 employees for these provisions.  Both houses of the legislature still need to act before this can be sent to the Governor.

Flexible Scheduling – Legislation that would place new mandates on companies with 15 or more employees regarding scheduling received committee approval during 2016.  These bills would require employers to provide a bona fide reason when they deny a scheduling request by an employee.  Additionally, employers could face monetary fines and other legal actions for failure to comply with this law.

While this has been passed by one committee the legislature has slowed down this bill to give it further consideration.

Pay Equity – Legislation that would have lifted the existing two year cap on the amount of back pay a claimant could recover in a wage violation case was passed by the legislature and sent to the Governor.  The Governor used his Veto power and returned the bill to the legislature without his approval.

Besides lifting the cap, this bill would also have expanded the reporting requirements for all businesses that had public contracts.

Salary History – Legislation prohibiting the use of salary history at any stage of the hiring process by a prospective employer received committee action in the Assembly.  This bill is still pending before the legislature and may see action in 2017.

Having just wrapped-up a very contentious campaign season, I am afraid 2017 won’t be much better for the residents of New Jersey.  With all 120 seats in the legislature as well as the Governor being up this year we can expect to be inundated with campaign ads promoting the various candidates.

As Governor Christie completes his final year as Governor he suffers from having a very low approval rating.  As of the beginning of 2017 it was less than 20%.  Because of term limits, he is unable to seek another term as Governor. 

At this time, the leading contender for the Democratic nomination is former Ambassador to Germany and Goldman Sachs executive Phil Murphy.  He is being challenged by State Senator Ray Lesniak and Assemblyman John Wisniewski. 

On the Republican side, the only declared candidates are Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadano and Assemblyman Jack Cittarelli, however, Actor/Comedian Joe Piscapo is believed to be actively considering entering the race.

The primary election is scheduled for June 6th and the general election will be held on November 7th.
While 2017 may be more politics than policy, the association will certainly stay engaged to push issues of concern to our members.

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