Policy Watch - March 2020

Policy Watch – March 2020

Courtenay Mercer, PP, AICP
Executive Director, Downtown New Jersey

Rachael Thompson Panik
Associate Planner, Mercer Planning Associates

March 11, 2020

Downtown New Jersey acts as an advocate for downtown commercial districts in New Jersey, tracking legislative, regulatory, and policy issues that can affect the success of the state’s downtowns and then informing and educating members on these issues.

The 2018-2019 Legislative Session ended since our last Policy Watch. Below is all the legislation that we watched in 2018/9 that could impact downtowns. We summarized the bills into three categories: (1) legislation that passed in the last session, (2) legislation that did not pass but was reintroduced in the 2020 session, (3) and legislation that did not pass and has not been reintroduced.

Bills DNJ was watching in the 2018/19 Legislative Session were passed into law:

  • L.2019, c.121 (S731/A1810): Regulates operation of low-speed electric bicycles and low-speed electric scooters.
    The legislation permits the operation of low-speed electric bicycles on streets, highways, sidewalks, and bicycle paths. An operator of a low-speed electric bicycle is not required to register the low-speed electric bicycle, furnish proof of insurance, or have a driver’s license. The bill further provides that all statutes, rules, and regulations that are applicable to bicycles are to apply to low-speed electric bicycles.
  • L. 2019, C381 (S521/A4378): Requires NJ State Council on Arts to establish “Artist District” designation and select certain municipalities or areas within municipalities for such designation.
    The legislation requires the NJ State Council on Arts to establish rules and process by which a municipality can designate an Arts District. The general benefit of enhanced marketing opportunities are cited in the legislation, but specific benefits are not. 
  • L. 2019, C289 (A5070/S3507): Authorizes certain municipalities to impose parking taxes to fund projects to improve pedestrian access to mass transit.
    The legislation allows municipalities with a population over 100,000 to impose a parking tax of three and a half percent to fund projects that improve pedestrian access to mass transit stations. 
  • 2018, C97 (A2041/S1840): “Economic Redevelopment and Growth Grant Bond Financing Act,” authorizing issuance of bonds secured by pledge of Economic Redevelopment and Growth Grant proceeds, municipal liens, and special assessment; expands “Redevelopment Area Bond Financing Law;” extends time to complete certain projects under “Long Term Tax Exemption Law.”
    The legislation authorizes municipalities to raise cash to assist private development by issuing bonds backed by Economic Development Authority tax incentives.
  • L. 2019, c. 159 (S1214/A3797): Permits municipal land banking in conjunction with online property database development.
    The legislation enables the establishment of land banking agreements, which authorize a land banking entity to hold, maintain, sell, lease, or convey municipal property that is not needed for a public purpose. 
  • 2018, C74 (S1247/A2779): Authorizes certain local government utilities to impose additional connection fees; requires certain new credits and reductions for these fees.
    The legislation allows new connection fees to be imposed for an addition, alteration, or change in use to certain connected properties. The legislation also requires credits if the reconnection does not require any new physical connection, does not increase the nature or size of the service or the number of services units, or does not expand the use of the utility system. Finally, the legislation provides fee reductions to all affordable housing, including affordable housing units in inclusionary projects. 
  • L. 2019, c.229 (A1700/S1583): Specifies vacant shopping malls and office parks as eligible for designation as areas in need of redevelopment.
    The legislation expands the conditions under which an area in need of redevelopment can be delineated to include “[a]eas with buildings used, or previously used, as a shopping mall, shopping plaza, or professional office park, which buildings have been vacant or partially vacant with less than 50% occupancy, for a period of at least one year.” 
  • 2018, C19 (S846/A3549): Reinstates and extends duration of certain UEZs; requires DCA to study UEZ program and report recommendations to the Legislature.
    The legislation reinstates expired UEZs until December 31, 2023; and extends the term of those UEZs that expire prior to that date. It also requires the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to study the UEZ program and to submit to the Legislature a report and recommendations. 
  • L.2019, c.506 (A5580): Extends availability period for tax credits for certain expenses incurred for production of certain film and digital media content, raises annual cap related to film production, and provides for annual administration of film tax credits.
    The legislation extends the film tax credit 5 years to 2028.
  • L.2019, c.424 (S3227/A261): Requires restaurants to post signs advising customers to notify servers of food allergies; requires restaurant managers to complete food allergen training.
    Requires the Department of Health to create and deploy food allergen awareness fact sheets, posters, and training for restaurants.
  • L.2019, c.466 (A1478/S1648): Permits theaters with 50 seats or more to apply for liquor license.
    Authorizes the Alcoholic Beverage Control to issue a plenary retail consumption license to a nonprofit corporation that regularly conducts musical or theatrical performances or concerts at theaters with a seating capacity of 50 persons or more. 
  • L.2019, c.333 (A3101/S247): Increases minimum annual amounts for appropriation for certain arts, historical heritage, and tourism purposes from hotel and motel occupancy fee revenues.
    Increases the minimum annual appropriations to the NJ Arts Council, NJ Historical Commission, Division of Travel and Tourism, and the New Jersey Cultural Trust. 
  • L.2019, c.335 (A3832/S2459): Authorizes municipal tax levy through public question for certain purposes; clarifies ability of local government entities to issue non-recourse bonds; appropriates $100,000.
    The legislation enables a municipality to impose an annual levy for an “arts and culture trust fund” to be used exclusively for arts and culture.

Bills DNJ was watching in the 2018/19 Legislative Session that were reintroduced in 2020/21:

 Potentially Impacting Downtown Management
  • A503 & S283: Concerns baked goods sold at farm markets.
    The legislation allows producers to sell their freshly-baked products at farm markets in wrapped or covered containers without being weighed. The bill was introduced to the Assembly and Senate on January 14, 2020 and referred to the Agriculture Committee and Economic Growth Committee, respectively. Last session bill numbers: A2201 & S410
  • S976 & A3665: Establishes “Art in Storefronts” initiative within the Main Street New Jersey program.
    The legislation establishes a program within the Department of Community Affairs that offers “Main Street New Jersey” municipalities technical assistance and information to help the municipality facilitate arrangements between artists and property owners for the temporary placement of original artwork in downtown vacant storefront windows. The bill was introduced in the Senate and referred to the Economic Growth Committee on January 30, 2020. A companion bill was introduced in the Assembly (date and committee not yet assigned). Last session bill numbers: S520 & A1721
Potentially Impacting Downtown Businesses
  • A1287 & S1479: “Food Desert Elimination Act”; provides incentives to supermarkets and grocery stores that locate in “food deserts.”
    The legislation provides a state tax credit equal to property taxes for the first supermarket or grocery to open in a designated food desert. The bill was introduced in the Assembly on January 14, 2020 and referred to the Assembly Human Services Committee. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate and referred to the Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee on February 13, 2020. Last session bill numbers: A4700 & S3233
  • A996 & S1476: Creates “Economic Gardening Program” in Department of State to provide customized services to certain businesses.
    The legislation directs the Business Action Center to establish a program to provide personalized counseling or management consulting assistance to existing small businesses that qualify as “second-stage growth businesses.” The bill was introduced in the Assembly on January 14, 2020 and referred to the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate and referred to the Economic Growth Committee on February 13, 2020. Last session bill numbers: A1104 & S1311
  • S1157 & A3064: Establishes Emerging Technology Urban Grant Program in EDA
    This legislation establishes the Emerging Technology Urban Grant Program to award grants to qualifying emerging technology businesses to encourage the businesses to locate in one of three urban technology zones to acquire cloud computing services that will facilitate the businesses to grow and create full-time employment. The bill was introduced in the Senate and referred to the Economic Growth Committee on February 3, 2020. It was reported out of committee on 2nd reading on February 24, 2020 and referred to the Budget and Appropriations Committee. A companion bill was introduced in the Assembly and referred to Commerce and Economic Development Committee on February 20, 2020. Last session bill numbers: A3536 & S1837
  • S1649: Establishes Main Street Assistance Program to encourage business development in small municipalities
    The legislation authorizes corporate business tax and gross income tax credits, as well as loans and technical assistance to businesses in Main Street areas within small municipalities, which are defined as having a population under 20,000 and is over 75 percent developed. The bill was introduced in the Senate and referred to the Economic Growth Committee on February 13, 2020. Last session bill numbers: A1183 & S2256 
  • A1345 & S1997: Establishes Main Street Economic Growth Program to encourage business development in small, highly developed municipalities.
    The legislation provides loans, loan guarantees, tax credits, and technical assistance to area businesses located within a Main Street area in a municipality with a population of under 11,000 persons and over 70 percent developed. The bill was introduced in the Assembly and referred to the Commerce and Economic Development Committee on January 14, 2020. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate and referred to the Economic Growth Committee on March 5, 2020. Last session bill numbers: A2441 & S3532
Redevelopment – Financial
  • S412 & A3561: “Historic Property Reinvestment Act”; provides credits against certain taxes for certain costs of rehabilitating historic properties.
    The legislation authorizes an income tax credit for a portion of the rehabilitation costs of qualified historic owner-occupied residential and commercial properties. DNJ made statements in support of a historic preservation tax credit in its January 5, 2018 Memo to the Murphy Transition Team. A prior version of this bill was passed out of the Legislature with bipartisan support but vetoed by then Governor Christie. The Governor’s office has proposed an alternative historic tax credit program as part of a broader economic tax incentive package to replace expiring Economic Development Authority programs. Legislation reflecting the administration’s proposal has not yet been introduced in the legislature. This bill was introduced in the Assembly on January 14, 2020 and referred to the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee. A companion bill was introduced in the Assembly and referred to the Community Development and Affairs Committee on February 25, 2020. Last session bill numbers: A1311 & S2031
  • A1571 & S1956: Imposes prevailing wage for public work on properties receiving tax abatements or exemptions.
    The legislation imposes a prevailing wage on any project receiving tax incentives. DNJ made statements on a prior version of this bill in a December 8, 2017 article, and its January 5, 2018 Memo to the Murphy Transition Team. The bill was introduced to the Assembly on January 14, 2020 and referred to the Labor Committee. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate and referred to the Labor Committee on February 25, 2020. Last session bill numbers: S867 & A3691
  • S984 & A3332: Requires municipalities to share certain payments received in lieu of property taxes with school districts; informs counties and school districts of application for property tax exemption.
    The legislation requires that a municipality remit a portion of its annual service charge revenue to its school district(s) in an amount calculated by multiplying the number of schoolchildren in the approved project by the average budgetary cost per pupil in the district. See DNJ statements on this bill in a January 5, 2018 Memo to the Murphy Transition Team and May 17, 2019 Article. The bill was introduced in the Senate on January 30, 2020 and referred to the Community and Urban Affairs Committee. It was reported out of committee on 2nd reading on February 13, 2020 and referred to the Budget and Appropriations Committee. A companion bill was introduced in the Assembly and referred to the Community Development and Affairs Committee on February 25, 2020.  Last session bill number: S59
  • A2822: Requires cost-benefit analyses and local government financial impact findings for approval of long term property tax exemption.
    The legislation requires a cost-benefit analysis of the project’s impact on the finances of the affected local government for any project seeking a long term tax exemption. The bill was introduced in the Assembly and referred to the State and Local Government Committee on February 20, 2020. Last session bill numbers: A345 & S1701
  • S1509 & A3119: Allows corporation business tax credits as incentives for redevelopment of distressed shopping centers.
    The legislation establishes a program to certify taxpayers that make retail investments to redevelop partially or completely vacant shopping centers in New Jersey as eligible to receive a corporation business tax credit of up to $15,000, but not exceeding the amount of 50 percent of corporation business tax owed by the taxpayer. The bill was introduced in the Senate and referred to the Economic Growth Committee on February 13, 2020. The bill was introduced in the Assembly and referred to the Commerce and Economic Development Committee on February 24, 2020. Last session bill numbers: A2561 & S2234
  • A1862: Limits amount of real property that may be exempt from property taxation under “Long Term Tax Exemption Law.”
    The legislation precludes a municipality from issuing additional tax exemptions once it meets a 5% threshold (as defined by the law). The bill was introduced in the Assembly and referred to the Housing Committee on January 14, 2020. Last session bill number: A1637
Redevelopment – General
  • A2726: Permits municipalities to require registration of vacant and abandoned properties and use registration fee proceeds to maintain these properties.
    The legislation clarifies the authority of municipalities to require registration of vacant and abandoned properties. It further allows municipalities to impose escalating fees on said property, the proceeds of which may be used to maintain the same. The bill was introduced in the Assembly and referred to the Housing and Community Development Committee on February 13, 2020. Last session bill numbers: A4610 & S3482
  • S1149 & A2877: Requires registration of certain vacant and abandoned properties with municipalities and provides enforcement tools related to maintenance of these properties.
    The legislation requires the responsible party for a vacant and abandoned property to register the property with the municipality in which the property is located and would provide enforcement tools related to the maintenance of these properties. The bill was introduced in the Senate on February 3, 2020 and referred to the Community and Urban Affairs Committee. A companion bill was introduced in the Assembly on February 20, 2020 and referred to the Community Development and Affairs Committee. Last session bill numbers: S1155 & A5084
  • A250 & S2051: Establishes fire safety standards and protocols for certain light frame residential construction; requires placards identifying primary structural systems of buildings.
    The legislation establishes a number of fire safety standards for light frame construction of new multiple dwellings, hotels, and 18 rooming and boarding houses with more than two dwelling or sleeping units. The bill was introduced in the Assembly and referred to the Housing Committee on January 14, 2020. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate (date and committee not yet assigned). Last session bill numbers: A135 & S1261
  • A1653: Encourages development of zero-emission vehicle fueling and charging infrastructure in redevelopment projects.
    The legislation adds definitions of electric vehicle charging stations (EVCS), authorizes EVCS to be included in redevelopment plans and projects, and allows municipalities to use redevelopment funding streams to build public EVCS. The bill was introduced in the Assembly and referred to Commerce and Economic Development Committee on January 14, 2020, then reported out on 2nd reading on January 27, 2020. Floor amendments were passed on February 24, 2020. A companion bill has not yet been introduced. Last session bill numbers: A3075 & S597
Liquor Licenses
  • A2274 & S1592: Permits sale of certain alcoholic beverages and related products at seasonal farm markets.
    The legislation authorizes the Director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control to issue a daily or annual permit to the holder of a limited brewery license, restricted brewery license, craft distillery license, plenary winery license, farm winery license, or cidery and meadery license to sell the licensee’s products at a seasonal farm market for consumption off the premises. The bill was reintroduced in the Assembly and referred to the Agriculture Committee on January 27, 2020. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate and referred to the Environment and Energy Committee on February 13, 2020. Last session bill numbers: A3921 & S2580 
  • A725 & S1712: Allows municipality to issue permits to sell alcoholic beverages in residential redevelopment areas.
    This legislation allows for the issuance of permits to sell alcoholic beverages within the redevelopment district of certain municipalities that have adopted a Smart Growth Redevelopment Plan. The bill was introduced to the Assembly on January 14, 2020 and referred to the Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate and referred to the Law and Public Safety Committee on February 13, 2020. Last session bill numbers: A1029 & S2168 
  • A1128 & S2109: Permits municipalities to hold certain inactive liquor licenses reserved for smart growth developments for an additional five years.
    The legislation allows a municipality that acquired an inactive plenary retail consumption license that remains inactive on the bill’s effective date to maintain that license in an inactive status for up to five additional years. The bill was introduced in the Assembly and referred to the Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee with Amendments on January 14, 2020. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate (date and committee not yet assigned). Last session bill numbers: A2011 & S1199 
  • A1700: Creates new permits to allow certain restaurants to sell alcoholic beverages and allows for issuance of additional alcoholic beverage licenses; provides tax credit under corporate business tax and gross income tax for loss in value to certain alcoholic beverage licenses.
    The legislation creates new permits to allow certain restaurants to sell alcoholic beverages and allows for issuance of additional alcoholic beverage licenses. It also provides tax credits under corporate business tax and gross income tax for loss in value to certain alcoholic beverage licenses. The bill was introduced to the Assembly on January 14, 2020, and referred to the Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee. Last session bill number: A3494
  • A1125 &S2108:Provides for transfer and sale of inactive liquor licenses for use in qualifying smart growth municipalities.
    The legislation repeals sections P.L.2007, c.351 (C.33:1-24.1 and 33:1-24.2) which permits special permits for the service of alcoholic beverages in smart growth development projects; and allows for the purchase of inactive plenary retail consumption licenses private interests. The bill was introduced in the Assembly and referred to the Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee on January 14, 2020. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate (date and committee not yet assigned). Last session bill numbers: A2008 
  • A1955 & S615: Allows certain qualifying projects to sell alcoholic beverages.
    The legislation authorizes municipalities to issue two special permits for alcohol consumption to historic buildings in qualifying redevelopment project areas. The bill was introduced in the Assembly and referred to the Law and Public Safety Committee on January 14, 2020. A companion bill was also introduced in the Senate and referred to the Law and Public Safety Committee on January 14, 2020. Last session bill numbers: S3454 & A5030
  • S1315: Permits municipalities to issue retail liquor licenses for use in certain historic taverns.
    The legislation authorizes municipalities to issue permits to sell alcoholic beverages for on-premise consumption in abandoned historic taverns. The bill was introduced in the Senate and referred to the Community and Urban Affairs Committee on February 10, 2020. Last session bill numbers: A1318 & S2219
  • A1218: Revises law governing theater liquor licenses.
    The legislation clarifies expands the authority of a municipality to issue plenary retail consumption license to a nonprofit corporation that regularly conducts musical or theatrical performances or concerts for which admission is charged. The bill was introduced in the Assembly and referred to the Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee on January 14, 2020.  Last session bill numbers: A1478 & S1648
Cannabis
  • A1661: Decouples State tax provisions from federal prohibition on cannabis business expense deductions.
    This bill decouples the corporation business tax from the federal income tax provision that prohibits deductions and credits for cannabis businesses. The bill also decouples corporation income under the gross income tax from the federal provision. The bill was reintroduced to the Assembly on January 14, 2020 and referred to the Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee. Last session bill number: A5268 
  • A2408: Provides medical cannabis dispensaries permitted use status in certain zoning districts.
    This bill would provide that a medical cannabis dispensary is a permitted use in a commercial or business district of a municipality, and in any other zoning district within which a pharmacy, a drugstore, or a retail business is a permitted or conditional use. A medical cannabis dispensary is defined here as an organization that has been issued a permit by the State to, among other things, purchase medical cannabis and sell it to qualifying patients. The bill was reintroduced to the Assembly on February 3, 2020 and referred to the Commerce and Economic Development Committee. Last session bill number: A5794 
  • A2254 & S65: Provides medical cannabis is not subject to State sales tax.
    This bill provides that medical cannabis dispensed to a registered qualifying patient from a medical cannabis dispensary or clinical registrant will not be subject to any tax imposed under the “Sales and Use Tax Act.” The bill was reintroduced to the Assembly on January 14, 2020 and referred to the Health Committee. A companion bill was also introduced in the Senate on January 14, 2020 and referred to the Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. Last session bill number: A5776 & S4054
Urban Enterprise Zones
  • A353: Changes State assistance to Urban Enterprise zones over seven years by increasing reduced sales tax in enterprise zones and dedicating increase to zone municipalities.
    The legislation changes the proportional split and length of availability of reduced sales tax associated with an urban enterprise zone. The bill was introduced in the Assembly and referred to the Commerce and Economic Development Committee on January 14, 2020. Last session bill number: A256 

Bills DNJ was watching in the 2018/19 Legislative Session that were not reintroduced in 2020/21:

  • S81: Requires retail food establishments to donate surplus unused baked goods and surplus canned and packaged goods close to retail sale date to local nonprofits and charities. 
  • A4985: Concerns parking reserved for charging plug-in electric vehicles. 
  • A2926 & S2483: “New Jersey Transit Villages Act.” 
  • A1505: Creates new liquor licenses for certain restaurants and permits the issuance of additional liquor licenses; provides tax credit under corporate business tax and gross income tax for fair market value of certain alcoholic beverage licenses.
  • A2982 & S2367: Allows certain municipalities to establish lower property tax rate on improvements than land and eliminates urban enterprise zone program. 
  • A4497 & S2703: “New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory and Expungement Aid Modernization Act.”