Amazon tax credits head to Christie in voting marathon
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Billions of dollars in potential tax credits to attract Amazon, legislation to bar flying a drone while under the influence of alcohol and a crackdown on reckless driving could be among New Jersey’s newest laws after Monday’s marathon final voting session before a new governor and lawmakers are sworn in.
The Democrat-led Legislature was set Monday to close out the legislative year by considering more than 100 measures before returning Tuesday to swear in new and returning members. Republican Gov. Chris Christie hands over the reins of state government to Democratic Gov.-elect Phil Murphy on Jan. 16.
Lawmakers considered legislation well into the evening in Trenton as freezing rain began to fall on roadways near the capital.
A closer look at what lawmakers did — and didn’t do:
PRIME TAX CREDITS
The Assembly and Senate sent Christie legislation that could authorize up to $5 billion in tax credits for Amazon if the online retailer locates its second headquarters in the state.
Christie has called for the bill and signaled he’d sign it.
The legislation calls for offering tax credits of up to $10,000 per job over 10 years, in return for at least a $3 billion capital investment and the creation of 30,000 jobs. Amazon has said its second headquarters would lead to 50,000 jobs.
The company’s call for proposals has touched off an intra-continent competition, with 238 cities and regions in the U.S., Canada and Mexico applying to house the new headquarters.
New Jersey has selected Newark in its bid. The city has promised $1 billion in property tax abatements, according to Christie.
Lawmakers also considered barring operating drones while drunk.
The bill specifically would make operating a drone under the influence of alcohol a disorderly persons offense, which carries a sentence of up to six months in prison, a $1,000 fine or both. It also would make using a drone to hunt wildlife and endanger people or property a similar offense.
New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection issued a rule in 2015 barring drones in state parks, but lawmakers say this legislation would be the first statewide law on drones, if enacted.
The Legislature sent Christie a bill to make failing to maintain a lane while driving a third-degree crime, punishable by three to five years in prison, a fine of up to $15,000 or both.
The bill is named at 34-year-old Eileen Marmino, who was killed in 2015, when she was struck by a vehicle while riding her bike.
Lawmakers are seeking to tighten the state’s driving law after the woman charged with hitting Marmino paid only a $239 fine.
Legislative leaders disagreed on whether to advance a $300 million bill to bail out the state’s nuclear power industry.
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto declined to hold a vote on the legislation, which was sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney.
The state’s biggest utility, PSEG, had called for the measure, arguing its two southern New Jersey nuclear plants would cease to be profitable and shut down within two years without state help.
The bill could cost ratepayers up to $41 a year.
A bill allowing a handful of public officials to re-enroll in the pension system after being kicked off when elected to a new office is headed to Christie’s desk.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney said the bill that passed corrects an oversight in the 2007 law that established a 401(k)-style retirement plan for newly elected officials
Former Democratic Camden Mayor Dana Redd is among the officials who would benefit. Sweeney confirmed that Democratic lawmakers James Beach, a Camden County state senator, and Ralph Caputo, an Essex County assemblyman, could also benefit from the legislation.
New Jersey has one of the worst-funded pensions in the country, with a liability estimated at about $80 billion to $90 billion.
Lawmakers bid farewell to a number of colleagues who are retiring or who failed to win re-election. In the Assembly, Democrat John Wisniewski, a failed candidate for governor and the co-chair of the committee investigating the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal, said goodbye. Republican Jack Ciattarelli, who also ran for governor and failed to capture his party’s nomination, was given a send-off by colleagues.
In the Senate, former Philadelphia-area TV newscaster GOP Sen. Diane Allen is retiring. She said her next act will include writing a book. Longtime Democratic state Sen. Ray Lesniak, another failed gubernatorial candidate, also delivered his farewell remarks.