Statehouse News, July 2008

Published Monday, July 21, 2008

CORZINE SIGNS FISCAL YEAR 2009 BUDGET

Governor Jon S. Corzine signed into law yesterday a $32.9 billion State budget, which reduces overall spending by $600.0 million from last year. Among the most noteworthy reductions, the spending plan cuts municipal aid to certain cities and towns by $162.4 million, charity care to hospitals by $75.0 million, and homeowner rebates by $382.0 million. The budget also decreases the State workforce by 3000 workers and eliminates the Department of Personnel. The Legislature passed the budget early last week along partisan lines as Republicans in both houses opposed the measure, arguing that the cuts in municipal aid will result in higher property taxes, and that the $3.9 billion in new debt for school construction will burden the State for years to come.

THE STATE OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Speaker of the General Assembly Joseph J. Roberts spearheaded legislation to reform the State’s affordable housing laws through both houses last week. Most significantly, the Speaker’s initiative eliminates the use of Regional Contribution Agreements (RCA) as a method to address a municipality’s affordable housing needs under the State’s Fair Housing Act (FHA), but permits such agreements entered into prior to the bill’s effective date. The legislation also establishes the minimum number of housing units statewide for very low-income persons, and requires developers of redevelopment projects to replace low and moderate-income housing units on a one-for-one basis under certain circumstances. The State Housing Commission will develop a strategic housing plan for the State and prepare an annual housing performance report for the Governor.

FLAVORED CIGARETTE BAN PASSES BOTH HOUSES

Legislation that prohibits the sale of certain flavored cigarettes passed both houses last week and is on the Governor’s Desk awaiting his signature. The American Cancer Society (ACS), a client of the Firm, strongly supports S-613 (Vitale/Buono) as studies consistently prove that flavored cigarettes appeal to young smokers and minors. ACS contends that the tobacco industry continues to market these products, despite a 2006 settlement agreement with the Attorney General’s Office, which bans the advertisement of flavored tobacco products such as “Kauai Kolada” and “Twista Lime.” Senator Vitale’s legislation takes the settlement agreement a step further, and bans the sale or distribution of cigarettes, which have a charactering flavor that is attractive to youth such as chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry. ACS expects the Governor to sign the bill into law over the summer.

STATEHOUSE TRIVIA

Did you know that the first session of the New Jersey Legislature convened on August 27, 1776 as British troops were about to invade the State?