Policy Watch - October 2021

Policy Watch – October 2021

Courtenay D. Mercer
Executive Director, Downtown New Jersey

October 11, 2021

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.

Since our last Policy Watch, there has been movement on a few bills impacting downtowns:

What’s Moved or New

  • Legislation (S3600/A5580) restoring and revising the Urban Enterprise Zone program passed in both houses on June 24, 2021, and was signed into law as P.L.2021, c 197 by Lt. Governor Oliver on August 17, 2021. 
  • Legislation (A1653/S2142) encouraging development of zero-emission vehicle fueling and charging infrastructure in redevelopment projects passed in both Houses on June 3, 2021, and was subsequently signed into law as P.L.2021, c168 by Governor Murphy on July 9, 2021.
  • Legislation (A4630/S577) requiring any public body to include a labor harmony agreement as part of any contract it enters with a contractor in connection with a retail or distribution project in which the public body has an interest in the property passed in both houses on June 30, 2021, and awaits action by Governor Murphy.
  • Legislation (A2877) providing enforcement tools related to the maintenance of vacant and abandoned properties passed in the Assembly on June 21, 2021. There has been no recent movement on the Senate companion bill (S1149) since it was reported out of the Community and Urban Affairs Committee and referred to the Budget and Appropriations Committee on October 8, 2020.
  • Legislation (A4850/S3095) establishing an expedited construction inspection program passed in the in both houses on June 3, 2021, and awaits action by Governor Murphy.
  • Legislation (S1) that amends the Civil Service laws by removing barriers that made shared service agreements challenging between Civil Service and local non-Civil Service local units passed in the Senate on June 3, 2021. There has been no movement on the Assembly companion bill (A3389).

Activity on COVID-Related Legislation

While COVID-related legislative activity has slowed down, there has been movement on some bills. Below is a list of the legislation that has moved since our last policy watch. For more information about these bills or pending legislation, check out the “COVID-Related Legislation” section below.

  • Legislation (S2347/A4030) establishing a program in the NJEDA that would enable businesses to apply for a deferral of employment and business-related taxes collected by the State passed both houses on June 3, 2021, and awaits action by Governor Murphy.

Legislation We’re Watching Closely

While there has not been movement on the below items since our last Policy Watch, these are priority initiatives that Downtown New Jersey is keeping close tabs on. If you haven’t done so already, we hope you will show your support by joining the coalitions we have formed for both.

Liquor License Reform

The Liquor License Reform Alliance was formed to show broad and diverse support for changing New Jersey’s archaic liquor license laws that are an impediment to many restaurant’s ability to survive and thrive. The alliance is calling for reform in order to help our small businesses, promote equity, and enable New Jersey to better compete in the regional market. The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated how important a liquor license can be for a restaurant’s survival.

More information> 
Join the Coalition>

Legislation Impacting Downtowns

(Listed in order of most recent action. Highlighted text represents adopted laws.)

53 N.J.R. 1711(a): Creation of a permit system which will allow “cottage food” businesses to operate with special permissions from the New Jersey Department of Health. The rule allows individuals to sell baked goods that are baked in a kitchen in a private residence (and not in a commercial kitchen, which was the previous requirement). The NJ Department of Health adopted the rule on July 16, 2021, with an effective date of October 4, 2021. S1/A3389: Encourages shared services between Civil Service and non-Civil Service units. The legislation would amend the Civil Service laws by removing barriers that make it difficult to share services between Civil Service and non-Civil Service local units. The bill passed in the Senate on June 3, 2021. There has been no action on the Assembly companion bill, which was originally introduced and referred to the Commerce and Economic Development Committee on February 25, 2020. S283/A50: 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 Senate bill was reported out of the Economic Growth Committee on January 14, 2021. The Assembly companion bill was reported out of the Agriculture Committee on February 22, 2021. S73/A4580: Establishes requirements for sale of home baked goods. The legislation establishes requirements for the sale of home baked goods at the baker’s home, a consumer’s home, a farmer’s market, a farm stand, or a county, municipal, or nonprofit fair, festival, or event; the bill prohibits selling or offering for sale home baked goods over the Internet, wholesale, or to a commercial retailer for resale. The bill passed in the Senate on July 30, 2020. A companion bill was reported out of the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee on October 19, 2020. 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. The Assembly companion bill was introduced and referred to the Commerce and Economic Development Committee on March 16, 2020.

P.L. 2021, c.99, (A4806/S3188): Permits municipalities to authorize programs to encourage shopping at local businesses through property tax rewards. The legislation also validates certain related municipal actions
The legislation permits the governing body of a municipality to authorize the creation of a property tax reward program to encourage residents of the municipality to shop locally. The bill passed in both houses on March 25, 2021, and was subsequently signed into law by Governor Murphy on May 12, 2021.

P.L.2020, c.117 (S864/A1978): Prohibits the provision and sale of single-use plastic carry-out bags.
The legislation prohibits the provision and sale of single-use plastic carryout bags, single-use paper carryout bags, polystyrene foam food service products, and single-use plastic straws. The bill passed in both houses on September 24, 2020, and was subsequently signed into law by Governor Murphy on November 4, 2020.

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 Assembly bill was reported out of the Commerce and Economic Development Committee and referred to the Appropriations Committee on December 14, 2020. The Senate companion bill was reported out of the Economic Growth Committee and referred to the budget Committee on March 11, 2021.

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. The Senate companion bill was reported out of the Economic Growth Committee and referred to the Budget and Appropriations Committee on December 10, 2020. 

S1157/A3064: Establishes Emerging Technology Urban Grant Program in EDA
The 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 Senate bill was reported out of the Economic Growth Committee and referred to the Budget and Appropriations Committee on February 24, 2020. A companion bill was introduced in the Assembly and referred to Commerce and Economic Development Committee on February 20, 2020.

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.

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. This legislation was addressed in the New Jersey Economic Recovery Act of 2020 (P.L.2020, c.156, A4/S3295).

P.L. 2020. c, 138 (S3046/A4875): Extends certain document submission deadlines for Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit program and Economic Redevelopment and Growth Grant Program.
The legislation extends for two years the document submission deadlines applicable to a business or developer that is seeking to receive tax credits under the Economic Redevelopment and Growth Grant Program (ERGG) and the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit Program (UTHTC). The bill passed in both houses on December 17, 2020, and was subsequently signed into law by Governor Murphy on December 23, 2020.

A4360/S577: Concerns labor harmony agreements in retail and distribution center projects.
The legislation requires any public body to include a labor harmony agreement as part of any contract it enters with a contractor in connection with a retail or distribution project in which the public body has an interest in the property. The bill passed in both houses on June 30, 2021, and awaits action by Governor Murphy.

ACS A1571 & A1576/S1956: Imposes prevailing wage for public work on properties receiving tax abatements or exemptions.
The original legislation imposes prevailing wage on any project receiving tax incentives. A subsequent combination bill also expands the application of prevailing wage to work on a property or premise leased by a public body – current law only applies to properties 55% leased by a public body; the new bill reduces the percentage to 35%. The Assembly bill was reported out of the Labor Committee on January 25, 2021. The Senate companion bill was introduced and referred to the Labor Committee on February 25, 2020.

Downtown New Jersey sees this legislation as detrimental to a municipality’s ability to incentivize and support downtown redevelopment. We oppose the state mandate of such requirements on local tax incentives. We believe it should be up to the locality to determine policy directives related to tax incentives that are most appropriate to local circumstances. We urge our members to contact their legislators to voice opposition to these types of encumbrances on your redevelopment and revitalization abilities. More information>

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 reported out of the the State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee and referred to the Budget and Appropriations Committee on July 22, 2020. Downtown New Jersey submitted testimony to the committee in writing in support of the bill. A companion bill was introduced in the Assembly and referred to the Community Development and Affairs Committee on February 25, 2020.  This legislation was addressed in the New Jersey Economic Recovery Act of 2020 (P.L.2020, c.156, A4/S3295).

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 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.

A3387/S1639: “New Jersey Transit Villages Act.”
The legislation encourages municipalities to promote intensive mixed-use development within close proximity to mass transit by amending the MLUL (NJAC 40:55D-et al) to allow for the creation of a transit village plan, and prioritizing existing funding to and creating a grant program for projects within designated transit village zones. The bill was introduced in the Senate and referred to the Community and Urban Affairs Committee on February 13, 2020. A companion bill was introduced in the Assembly and referred to the Commerce and Economic Development Committee on February 25, 2020.

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. A companion bill was introduced in the Assembly and referred to the Commerce and Economic Development Committee on February 24, 2020.

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.

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.

P.L.2021, c.168, (A1653/S2142): 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 passed in both Houses on June 3, 2021 and was subsequently signed into law by Governor Murphy on July 9, 2021.  P.L.2021, c.69, (S3414/A5378): Promotes workforce diversity in public works projects. The legislation promotes workforce diversity in public works projects by providing provisions for on- or off-the-job outreach and training programs for minority group members, members of disadvantaged groups, and women. The legislation also expands the use of project labor agreements (PLAs) to include highway, bridge, pumping station, water, and sewage treatment plant projects. The passed in both houses in February/March, and was subsequently signed into law by Governor Murphy on April 30, 2021. 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 passed in the Assembly on June 21, 2021. There has been no recent movement on the Senate companion bill since it was reported out of the Community and Urban Affairs Committee and referred to the Budget and Appropriations Committee on October 8, 2020. A4850/S3095: Establishes expedited construction inspection program. The legislation authorizes a property owner to retain a private agency to perform construction code inspections if the local code enforcing agency is unable to complete an inspection within three business days of the time the owner requests the inspection to be performed. The bill passed in both Houses on June 3, 2021, and awaits action by Governor Murphy. 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 on March 16, 2020 and referred to the Community and Urban Affairs Committee. 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.

The Liquor License Reform Alliance was formed to show broad and diverse support for changing New Jersey’s archaic liquor license laws that are an impediment to many restaurant’s ability to survive and thrive. The alliance is calling for reform in order to help our small businesses, promote equity, and enable New Jersey to better compete in the regional market. The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated how important a liquor license can be for a restaurant’s survival.

Currently, the alliance is not supporting a specific piece of legislation, as the pending liquor license reform bills are still in their early stages and will doubtless change over time. The Alliance supports general reform of New Jersey’s outdated liquor laws, and will work with the NJ Legislature to create reasonable and equitable legislation that recognizes the needs of NJ’s small business owners, as well as existing license holders.

We welcome you to join the Liquor License Reform Alliance to be listed on this webpage, receive call to action emails, and generally provide moral support to this reform initiative. More information>

S2964/A4925: Establishes restricted beer, wine, and cider license; provides tax credit under corporate business tax and gross income tax for loss in value to certain alcoholic beverage licenses.
The legislation would create a special liquor license that allows table service of beer, wine, and establishes a 10 year tax credit program for existing plenary retail consumption licensees. The bill was introduced in the Senate on September 24, 2020 and referred to Referred to Senate Law and Public Safety Committee. A companion bill was introduced in the Assembly on November 5, 2020 and referred to the Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee.

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. 

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 on March 16, 2020 and referred to the Law and Public Safety Committee.

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 on March 16, 2020 and referred to the Law and Public Safety Committee. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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.  

P.L.2021, c.16 (A21/S21): “New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act.”
This legislation will regulate the medical and adult-use industries and oversee the applications for licensing of cannabis businesses. It also allows for the Legislature to reinvest cannabis revenues in designated “impact zones” and directs the county Community Resource Center to promote diversity and inclusion in business ownership. The legislation also contains critical employment protections for people who engage in lawful behavior with respect to cannabis. The bill was approved and signed by Governor Murphy on February 22, 2021.

P.L.2021, c.19 (A1897/S2535): Provides criminal and civil justice reforms pertaining to marijuana and hashish possession.
This legislation reforms criminal and civil penalties for marijuana and hashish offenses, such as using unlawful low-level distribution and possession offenses in pre-trial release, probation, and parole proceedings. It also stipulates remedies for people who are facing marijuana charges currently. The bill was approved and signed by Governor Murphy on February 22, 2021.

P.L.2021, c.25 (A5342/S3454): Clarifies penalties of use and possession of marijuana and cannabis for individuals under the age of 21. 
This legislation also corrects inconsistencies in A21 and A1897 regarding use and possession penalties for  those who are under the age of 21. The bill was approved and signed by Governor Murphy on February 22, 2021.

  • There were previous bills (A5211/S3320) that are no longer under consideration.

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. 

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. 

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. 

P.L.2021, c.197 (S3600/A5580): Restores and revises Urban Enterprise Zone program.
The legislation restores and revises the Urban Enterprise Zone program. The bill passed both houses on June 24, 2021, and was signed into law by Lt. Governor Oliver on August 17, 2021. 

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.

COVID-Related Legislation

(Listed in order of most recent action.)

P.L.2021, c.90, S3234/A5149: Allows deduction from tax of certain expenses when taxpayer’s federal paycheck protection program loan is forgiven and excludes those forgiven loans from gross income tax.
The legislation allows a tax deduction of expenses forgiven under a paycheck protection program loan and excludes those forgiven loans. The bill passed in both houses in March and was subsequently signed into law by Governor Murphy on May 11, 2021.

P.L.2021, c.46, A5446/S3519: Makes $15 million in federal funds available to the EDA to support businesses and non-profits in need.
The legislation appropriates federal funds to be allocated by the EDA to support businesses and non-profit organizations, to prevent additional business and non-profit closures, to support and create jobs, and to spur economic recovery.  The bill passed in both houses on March 25, 2021 and was subsequently signed into law by Governor Murphy on April 12, 2021. 

P.L.2021, c.45, A5444/S3524: Makes $35 million in federal funds available to the EDA to support food and beverage establishments in need.
The legislation appropriates federal funds to be allocated by the EDA to support restaurants, dining establishments, bars, breweries, wineries, and brewpubs, or other similar establishments with 100 or fewer workers. The bill passed in both houses on March 25, 2021 and was subsequently signed into law by Governor Murphy on April 9, 2021. 

P.L.2021, c.42, S3523/A5443: Makes $25 million in federal funds available to the EDA to support microbusinesses in need.
This legislation appropriates federal funds to be allocated by the EDA to support entities that produce goods or services and have 10 or fewer full-time equivalent employees. The bill passed in both houses on March 25, 2021 and was subsequently signed into law by Governor Murphy on April 1, 2021. 

P.L.2021, c.15 (S3340/A5246): Expands opportunities for restaurants, bars, distilleries, and breweries to provide outdoor dining and permits certain sales at seasonal farm markets in response to COVID-19 public health emergency. 
The legislation provides expanded outdoor dining for restaurants, bars, distilleries, and breweries and permits certain alcohol sales at seasonal farm markets in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill passed in both houses on January 11, 2021 and was subsequently signed into law by Governor Murphy on February 5, 2021.

P.L.2020, c.156 (A4/S3295): The “New Jersey Economic Recovery Act of 2020” provides administration of programs and policies related to jobs, property development, food deserts, community partnerships, small and early-stage businesses, etc., and makes appropriations.
The legislation is in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and replaces corporate tax incentives that expired in 2019 with new programs and policies to support New Jersey’s communities, specifically those communities most affected by the pandemic. The bill passed in both houses on December 21, 2020 and was subsequently signed into law by Governor Murphy on January 7, 2021. Read more about the established programs in DNJ’s special COVID-19 policy watch update.

P.L.2020, c.146. (A4589/S2597): Extends time period during which seasonal retail consumption license holders may sell alcoholic beverages following COVID-19 pandemic. 
The legislation extends the ability to sell alcoholic beverages under a summer seasonal retail consumption license until January 14, 2022  (the typical season is May 1 through November 14). The bill passed both houses in November and was subsequently signed into law by Governor Murphy on December 30, 2020. 

 P.L.2020, c.74 (A3971/S2475): Authorizes the issuance of “coronavirus relief bonds” by municipalities and counties.
The legislation allows counties and municipalities to borrow moneys (through the issuance of bonds and notes) to cover the revenue shortfalls and additional costs that are directly attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill passed both houses in July, but was conditionally vetoed. The Senate and Assembly concurred with the Governor’s recommendations on August 27, 2021 and the bill was subsequently signed into law by Governor Murphy on August 31, 2020.

P.L.2020, c.60. (A4175/S2697): “New Jersey COVID-19 Emergency Bond Act,” authorizes issuance of State bonds totaling $5 billion and authorizes borrowing from federal government.
The legislation authorizes the issuance of $9.9 billion in State general obligation bonds with a 35-year maturity to be used for the purpose of responding to the fiscal exigencies caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic. The bill also authorizes the Governor to apply for and receive federal stimulus loans for the benefit of local government units. The bill passed in both houses and was signed into law by Governor Murphy on July 16, 2020.

Related News: With $9.9B State Borrowing Bill Now Law, Business Groups Urge Spending Restraint (NJBIA, July 17, 2020)

P.L.2020, c.53 (S2346/A3919): Extends certain permits during COVID-19 emergency.
The legislation extends existing permit approvals six months after the end of the declared COVID-19 public health emergency. The bill passed in both houses in May 2021, but was conditionally vetoed.  The Senate and Assembly concurred with the Governor’s recommendations on June 29, 2021 and was subsequently signed into law by Governor Murphy on July 1, 2020.

P.L. 2020, c.42 (S2437/A3978): Limits service fees charged to restaurants by third-party food takeout and delivery applications during COVID-19 state of emergency.
The legislation prohibits third-party take-out and delivery websites/apps are prohibited from a fee greater than 25% of the order where delivery is being provided by the third-party, or greater than 10% where delivery is being provided by restaurant staff during a state of emergency. The bill passed in both houses in May/June 2020 and was subsequently signed into law by Governor Murphy on June 26, 2020.

P.L. 2020, c.35 (A4157/S2387): Extends time period for filing and processing certain property tax appeals in 2020.
The legislation extends the deadline to file an FY20 tax appeal to July 1, 2020, and extends the deadline for decision to September 30, 2021. The bill passed in both houses on May 14, 2020 and was subsequently signed into law by Governor Murphy on May 28, 2020.

P.L.2020, c.33 (A3966/S2413): Concerns delivery and sale of alcoholic beverages during declared state of emergency; requires ABC director to notify licensees of certain tax exemptions during emergency.
The legislation allows establishments with consumption liquor licenses the ability to sell and deliver alcoholic beverages. The bill passed both houses on May 14, 2020 and was subsequently signed into law by Governor Murphy on May 15, 2020.

P.L.2020, c.19., S2338/A3918: “COVID-19 Fiscal Mitigation Act”
The legislation extends filing and payment deadline for gross income tax or corporation business tax return taxpayers to July 15, 2020. The legislation passed in both houses and was was subsequently signed into law by Governor Murphy on April 14, 2020.

P.L.2020, c.17, (S2304/A3900): Concerns family leave and disability benefits during epidemic-related emergencies.
The legislation makes a COVID-19 illnesses (or suspected illness) eligible for earned sick leave and disability insurance, as well as the care of a family member with COVID-19 illnesses (or suspected illness) an eligible reason for family leave protections. The bill passed in both houses, and was subsequently signed into law by Governor Murphy on March 25, 2020.

P.L.2020, c.8 (A3845/S2284): Authorizes EDA to make grants during periods of emergency declared by Governor and for duration of economic disruptions due to emergency; allows EDA to grant certain business documentation submission deadline extensions.
The legislation authorizes the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) to provide grants during periods of emergency declared by the Governor for the planning, designing, acquiring, constructing, reconstructing, improving, equipping, and furnishing of a project, including, but not limited to, grants for working capital and meeting payroll requirements. The bill also extends the uses of the economic growth account in the Economic Recovery Fund to small and medium-size businesses and not-for-profit corporations. Finally, the bill extends the deadline for Grow NJ projects. The bill passed in both houses, and was subsequently signed into law by Governor Murphy on March 20, 2020.

P.L.2020, c.9 (A3848/S2301): Concerns time off from work in connection with infectious disease.
The legislation prohibits an employer, during the COVID-19 State of Emergency declared by the Governor in Executive Order 103, from terminating or refusing to reinstate an employee if the employee requests or takes time off from work based on the recommendation from a medical professional because the employee has, or is likely to have, an infectious disease. The bill passed in both houses, and was subsequently signed into law by Governor Murphy on March 20, 2020.

P.L.2020, c.16 (A3865/S2291): Limits return of items purchased from retail food stores under certain circumstances.
The legislation prohibits retail food stores to accept returns of any groceries  purchased during the state of emergency declared in response to COVID-19 and for 30 days following. The bill passed in both houses, and was subsequently signed into law by Governor Murphy on March 20, 2020.

LATEST MOVEMENT IN JUNE

S2347/A4030: Establishes Employment and Business-Related Tax Deferral Assistance Program in NJEDA.
The legislation establishes a program in the NJEDA that would enable businesses to apply for a deferral of employment and business-related taxes collected by the State. A reconciled version of the legislation passed both houses on June 3, 2021, and awaits action by Governor Murphy.

S3613/A5764: Provides tax credits to small employers who rehire employees laid off for reasons of economy due to COVID-19 public health emergency.
The legislation provides qualified businesses with tax credits in an amount equal to $250 for each qualified employee called back or re-hired to their original position after a layoff due to COVID-19. A qualified employee is an individual employed by a qualified small business working an average of 20 hours or more over a 13-week period. The Senate bill was introduced and referred to the Economic Growth Committee on April 19, 2021. An Assembly companion bill was introduced and referred to Commerce and Economic Development Committee on May 18, 2021.

A5133/S3374: Expands indoor capacity for food or beverage establishments and banquet and wedding venues under certain circumstances during COVID-19 pandemic.
The legislation enables any food or beverage establishment, or banquet or wedding venue to increase capacity if it certifies that it has taken measures to mitigate risk. The bill passed in the Assembly on March 25, 2021. The Senate companion bill was also reported out of the Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee with amendments on May 6, 2021, meaning a reconciliation vote will have to occur if the amended version passes in the Senate.

A5135/S3316: Established Statewide standards for use of heater and tents by restaurants during COVID-19 public health emergency.
The legislation establishes requirements for the use of tents and heaters for outdoor dining. The bill passed in the Assembly on March 25, 2021. The Senate companion bill was reported out of the Community and Urban Affairs Committee on May 6, 2021.

LATEST MOVEMENT IN APRIL

A5139/S3337: Concerns restaurant tents during COVID-19 pandemic.
The legislation would allow restaurants to seat patrons in an open air space with a fixed roof or temporary or season cover with at least two sides for egress. The roof or awning must not have accumulated more than 2 inches of snow. The intent of the bill is to exempt restaurants from certain requirements on snow certification during the pandemic. The bill passed in the Assembly on March 25, 2021. The Senate companion bill was introduced and referred to the Commerce Committee on January 11, 2021.

LATEST MOVEMENT IN MARCH

S3305/A5389: Allows tax credits for non-residential and multi-family building improvement expenses to reduce the spread of COVID-9.
This legislation would allow corporate business tax and gross income tax credits for non-residential and multi-family building improvement expenses intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  The bill passed in the Senate on January 28, 2021. An Assembly companion bill was introduced on February 23, 2021, and was subsequently reported out of the Housing Committee with amendments and referred to the Appropriations Committee on March 8, 2021. A reconciliation vote will need to occur if the amended version passes in the Assembly.

LATEST MOVEMENT IN JANUARY

A5137/S3317: Requires ABC to waive fee for alcoholic beverage COVID-19 Expansion Permit.
The legislation waives the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control fee for COVID-19 Expansion Permits. The Assembly bill was reported out of the Commerce and Economic Development Committee and was referred to the Appropriations Committee on January 13, 2021. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate on January 7, 2021, and referred to the Law and Public Safety Committee.

LATEST MOVEMENT IN DECEMBER 2020 OR EARLIER

S2354/A3920: Prohibits cancellation or non-renewal of insurance for a period of at least 60 days.
The legislation prohibits the cancellation or non-renewal of insurance for a period of at least 60 days during a public health emergency. The legislation also waives late fees and penalties, finance charges, delinquency charges, and prohibits late payment reporting to credit rating agencies. The bill passed both houses on October 29, 2020, but the Governor conditionally vetoed the bill on December 14, 2020. The Senate concurred with the Governor’s recommendations on December 17, 2020, and referred the bill back to the Assembly for concurrence.

S2872/A5170: Establishes Essential Employees Hazard Compensation and Employer Liability Limited Program.
The legislation affords COVID-19 liability protections and incentivizes employers to provide hazard pay to eligible employees who perform work in essential jobs that subject them to an elevated risk of being exposed to coronavirus disease or contracting COVID-19. The bill was introduced in the Senate and referred to the Labor Committee on September 14, 2020. A companion bill was introduced in the Assembly and referred to the Labor Committee on December 17, 2020.

S3048/A5182: Appropriates $5 million to EDA to assist certain event-related businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19 pandemic.
The legislation directs to the NJEDA to use $5 million of CARES Act funding to provide grants to event-related businesses in this State including, but not limited to, event venues, disc jockeys, caterers, and photographers, that have been required to cancel events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill was introduced in the Senate and referred to the Economic Growth Committee on October 22, 2020. A companion bill was introduced in the Assembly and referred to the Commerce and Economic Development Committee on December 21, 2020.

S2542/A4418: Allows a municipality to suspend certain zoning requirements during COVID-19 emergency.
The legislation allows a municipality, by resolution, to suspend or temporarily modify specific provisions of a zoning ordinance, or grant temporary relief from the terms and conditions of a prior land approval, in order to facilitate the ability of a business to resume operation during the COVID-19 emergency. The bill passed in the Senate on June 15, 2020. A companion bill was introduced on July 20, 2020 in the Assembly and was referred to the State and Local Government Committee.

S2485/A4228: Authorizes municipality to prohibit eviction as a remedy of nonpayment of rent due during time surrounding COVID-19 pandemic.
The legislation authorizes municipalities to prohibit eviction as remedy for nonpayment of residential or commercial rent through the COVID-19 State of Emergency. The bill passed the Senate with an amendment excluding commercial tenants on June 29, 2020. A companion bill was reported out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee on June 25, 2020. Subsequent to the Assembly bill, the amended Senate bill was received in the Assembly, without assignment, for a second reading, on July 2, 2020.

Liability Protection Bills Introduced (NJBIA – July 10, 2020)

  • S2634/A4440: Establishes general immunity for entities against actions relating to Coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic or related viral strain in subsequent years.
    The bill was introduced in the Senate and referred to the Judiciary Committee on June 29, 2020. A companion bill was introduced in the Assembly and referred to the Judiciary Committee on July 23, 2020.
  • S2628/A4377: Establishes general immunity for businesses against actions relating to Coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic or related viral strain in subsequent years.
    The bill was introduced in the Senate and referred to the Judiciary Committee on June 29, 2020. A companion bill was introduced in the Assembly and referred to the Judiciary Committee on July 2, 2020.

Related News: Reopening and COVID-19 Liability (NJBIA – June 30, 2020)

A4190/S2522: Permits certain entertainment and retail activity during current public health emergency and state of emergency.
The legislation would allow a municipality to designate one or more days per week, from Thursday through Sunday, during which any municipal street, road or sidewalk, or county street, road, or sidewalk, that traverses a business district of the municipality shall be closed to vehicular traffic and shall be accessible by pedestrians only. It also directs the ABC to issue a special ruling to allow for the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages in outdoor places in a manner that adheres to current social distancing practices. The bill passed in the Senate on June 15, 2020. The Assembly companion bill was reported out of the State and Local Government Committee on June 18, 2020.

A4189/S2502: Establishes immunity for businesses against damage claims for COVID-19 exposure; excludes reckless or intentional conduct.
The bill was introduced in the Assembly on June 1, 2020 and referred to the Judiciary Committee. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate and referred to the Judiciary Committee on June 4, 2020.

S2493/A4195: Allows commercial property owner to claim tax credit against CBT or GIT for providing commercial tenant rent forgiveness during COVID-19 emergency.
The legislation allows commercial property owners who grant their tenants rent forgiveness because of the COVID-19 pandemic, to claim a tax credit against the taxpayer’s Corporation Business Tax or Gross Income Tax liability. The bill was introduced in the Senate on May 28, 2020, and referred to the Budget and Appropriations Committee. A similar bill was introduced in the Assembly on June 1, 2020, and referred to the Commerce and Economic Development Committee.

S2348/A3960: Allows tax credits to certain taxpayers that retain employees during COVID-19 pandemic.
The legislation provides a 20% match of the employment tax credit authorized under the federal CARES Act. The legislation passed the Senate on April 13, 2020. The bill was introduced in the Assembly on May 1, 2020, and was referred to the Budget Committee.

S2341: Authorizes Governor to restrict rent increases on certain commercial tenants during emergency circumstances.
The legislation enables the Governor to prohibit a commercial rent increase greater than twice the rate of inflation as indicated by increases in the consumer price index for the immediately preceding nine-month period. The bill passed the Senate on April 13, 2020, and was referred to the Assembly Housing Committee.

A3902: Permits extension of certain deadlines applicable to local government units under emergency circumstances.
The legislation would give a municipality to extend the grace period for quarterly property tax payments and other municipal charges. (We presume this would extend the grace period for SID assessments as well.) The bill passed in the Assembly on April 9, 2020, and was referred to the Senate without committee assignment.

S2339: Concerns certain benefits and leave provided to workers.
The legislation increases unemployment benefit maximum amount, and reduces the minimum earnings for eligibility. The bill was introduced in the Senate on April 9, 2020. A companion bill has not been introduced in the Assembly.

A3844: Concerns business interruption insurance during coronavirus disease 2019 state of emergency.
The resolution indemnifies the insured of businesses with less than 100 eligible full-time employees for any loss of business or business interruption for the duration of a declared State of Emergency. The insurer may apply to the Commissioner of Banking and Insurance for relief and reimbursement of such claims. The Emergency Resolution was introduced and passed by the Assembly on March 16, 2020. So far, it has not moved further in the legislative process.

S2363/A3921: Authorizes Governor to permit emergency rent suspension for certain small business tenants during COVID-19 pandemic.
The legislation authorizes the Governor to issue executive order allowing rent suspension of up to 3 months for distressed small business tenants. The rent would be repaid over 6 to 9 months, commencing the 2nd month after the end of the emergency declaration. The bill passed both houses on April 13, 2020. Governor Murphy issued an absolute veto of this legislation on May 28, 2020.

A3846/S2293: Creates “Temporary Lost Wage Unemployment Program;” allows persons to claim for lost wages due to coronavirus disease 2019, and employers to pay wages to workers ordered under quarantine by licensed healthcare practitioner; appropriates $20,000,000.
The legislation provides provide, to the extent funds are available, monetary relief to individuals for actual lost wages in an amount that is equivalent to the individual’s average weekly rate of compensation from the past calendar year, if the individuals do not have fully paid leave and to employers who pay wages to workers who are ordered under quarantine by a licensed healthcare practitioner as a result of coronavirus disease 2019. There will also be moneys, not to exceed $10,000,000, to pay the lost wages of individuals due to (1) the individual’s absence from work due to the need to care for a family member; (2) the individual’s absence from work due to the illness of the individual; (3) the individual’s absence from work due to school or childcare facility being closed; and (4) for such other purposes as determined by the commissioner. The bill passed both houses on March 19, 2020. Governor Murphy issued an absolute veto of this legislation on May 4, 2020.