Agriculture

A4909 - Horse Racing Fixed Odds Wagering

This bill authorizes fixed odds wagering on horse races and provides that the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement may issue a license to the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority to establish a system. Under the bill, fixed odds wagering may be conducted through a fixed odds wagering system by fixed odds wagering account holders.

Under the bill, “fixed odds wagering” is defined as a form of horse racing wagering against odds offered by a bookmaker in which account holders may lock in their odds when the bet is first placed and no fluctuation in potential payout may occur. Once the outcome of the race or races is determined, funds would be transferred from the fixed odds wagering licensee to the bettor or bettors that won wagers, and applicable transaction or other fees would be levied by the fixed odds wagering licensee for use and distribution as provided by the division’s rules and regulations.

A5284 - Value-added Agriculture Loan Program

This bill would require the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, in consultation with the Department of Agriculture, to develop and administer a value-added agricultural product loan program, to help farmers enter into activities directly related to the processing or marketing of value-added products. Each loan would be in an amount between $5,000 and $10,000. The goal of the program would be to generate new products, create and expand marketing opportunities, and increase producer income.

A5331 - Emerging Food Task Force

This bill creates a 13-member task force, to be known as the “Emerging Food Task Force.” The purpose of the task force is to encourage coordination and information sharing between farmers and retailers to plan for the growth and development of new varieties of produce that would be popular among consumers.

Consumer trends are constantly evolving and should be closely monitored in order to increase profitability among farmers and retailers. Consumer trends often consist of new and unique produce types, which can create an unexpected and increased demand on farmers. Heightened coordination and information sharing between farmers and retailers is necessary to ensure farmers are prepared and able to grow the new produce that is desired by consumers. Increased coordination between farmers and retailers will also ensure that new produce grown by farmers is sold efficiently within stores.

Economic Development

A5118 - Local Economic Development Clusters for Agriculture

This bill establishes the “Agro-based Cluster Development Program” within the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA).

The purpose the program is to strengthen the communication among producers and institutions within a specific area, to enhance access to markets and information for agro-based producers and institutions within the cluster, and to include collective marketing and promotion of the agricultural products within a cluster.

Additionally, the EDA would establish and administer a revolving loan program for municipalities and counties participating in the program for the purpose of funding certain plans included as a part of approve program applications. Prior to disbursing loan amounts to a municipality or county, the authority and the governing body of each participating municipality and county would enter into a loan agreement setting forth terms and conditions required by the EDA.

A5486 - Remote, Work-from-Home Tax Credit

This bill increases the remote work flexibility for current New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) tax credit awardees.

Businesses that received certain tax credit awards under the “New Jersey Economic Opportunity Act of 2013” prior to the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic agreed, as a condition of receiving the award, that 80 percent of the business’s employees are to be on-site for at least 80 percent of their worktime, known as the “80/80 policy.” Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent Executive Orders issued by the Governor in response to the unprecedented public health and economic impact it posed and still continues to pose, many businesses have been forced to allow their employees to work remotely. This situation has negatively affected EDA tax credit awardees, who, under current law, must forfeit tax credit amounts until the business can demonstrate the restoration of the number of full-time employees employed by the eligible business at its qualified business facility under the 80/80 policy. This bill allows businesses to retain and continue to be eligible for tax credit awards by letting employees work at any location, not just those deemed to be qualified business facilities.

Military and Veterans' Affairs

A5108 - Inspector General for Veterans' Facilities

This bill would create the Office of Inspector General for Veterans’ Facilities. The inspector general will be appointed to a five-year term by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. The inspector general must have experience as either a prosecutor or investigator, or in the operation of veterans’ facilities, nursing homes, or long-term care facilities. The inspector general will be independent of supervision or control by any other State officer or employee.

In light of the uncontrolled outbreak of COVID-19 at veterans’ facilities in Paramus and Menlo Park, there is need for additional State oversight of the policies and procedures at all State veterans’ facilities. By establishing the position of Inspector General for Veterans’ Facilities, the State can ensure that the health and well-being of New Jersey’s veterans are protected and that tragedies like those that occurred in Paramus and Menlo Park never happen again.

A5109 - Higher Sentencing for Crimes Against Veterans

N.J.S.A.2C:44-1 enumerates factors for consideration by a sentencing court in determining whether to withhold or impose a sentence of imprisonment, criteria including the existence of aggravating and mitigating circumstances. This bill adds the aggravating factor of having committed a crime offense against a servicemember because of the status of the victim as a servicemember. Under the bill, “servicemember” means any veteran or enlisted person or officer of the United States Armed Forces, or a reserve component thereof, or the organized militia of the State of New Jersey. "Veteran" means that the person had served at any time in such armed forces, reserve or National Guard capacity.

A5110 - Veterans Outdoor Recovery Task Force

Research has shown that being outdoors has restorative powers, helping to inspire people and heal their bodies and spirits. Research has also shown that outdoor recreation can be an effective form of treatment, rehabilitation, and healing for veterans. According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD, between 11 and 20 percent of veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom and 12 percent of veterans who served in Operation Desert Storm have post-traumatic stress disorder in a given year, and 30 percent of veterans who served in Vietnam will have had post-traumatic stress disorder in their lifetime. Veterans have given so much for this State and country that an effort to eliminate barriers and provide more public outdoor space for use by veterans is necessary and appropriate.

The task force will:

  • identify opportunities to formalize coordination between the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, public land agencies, and organizations regarding the use of public lands or other outdoor spaces for medical treatment and therapy for veterans;

  • identify barriers that exist to providing veterans with opportunities for medical treatment and therapy through the use of outdoor recreation on public lands or other outdoor spaces; and

  • develop recommendations to better facilitate the use of public lands or other outdoor spaces for preventative care, medical treatment, and therapy for veterans.

A5111 - Periodic Increases in Personal Needs Allowance

This bill increases from $50 to $90 the monthly personal needs allowance of residents of the veterans’ memorial homes operated by the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs who have no source of income. In addition, the bill increases the prepaid burial allowance from $12,000 to $15,000 required to be prepaid by all residents of the veterans’ memorial homes operated by the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs. The bill requires the State Treasurer to adjust the allowances every four years based on the Consumer Price Index.

The current monthly personal needs allowance of $50 and the prepaid burial allowance of $12,000 are provided for in regulations, but they are not adjusted regularly on a periodic basis to account for the effects of inflation. The $50 monthly personal needs allowance was last increased more than 20 years ago and the prepaid burial fund allowance was last increased in 2008.

A5112 - Veterans' Affordable Housing Preference

This bill would establish a veterans’ affordable housing preference, and would offer municipalities bonus fair share credits for veterans’ affordable housing. Specifically, the bill would require the developer, residential development owner, or administrative agent for affordable housing in a municipality to provide a preference to low to moderate income veterans, regardless of war service, of the United States Armed Forces, or a Reserve Component thereof, or the New Jersey National Guard, with regard to no less than 50 percent of the affordable units in a project. This requirement would apply to both rental and ownership affordable housing. Under existing law, municipalities are permitted to enter into agreements with owners and developers to establish similar veterans preferences for up to 50 percent of the housing in a development. This bill would require a veterans preference for no less than 50 percent of the housing in a development.

Senior Citizens

A5331 - Emerging Food Task Force

This bill creates a 13-member task force, to be known as the “Emerging Food Task Force.” The purpose of the task force is to encourage coordination and information sharing between farmers and retailers to plan for the growth and development of new varieties of produce that would be popular among consumers.

Consumer trends are constantly evolving and should be closely monitored in order to increase profitability among farmers and retailers. Consumer trends often consist of new and unique produce types, which can create an unexpected and increased demand on farmers. Heightened coordination and information sharing between farmers and retailers is necessary to ensure farmers are prepared and able to grow the new produce that is desired by consumers. Increased coordination between farmers and retailers will also ensure that new produce grown by farmers is sold efficiently within stores.

School Funding Crisis

A5480 - School Funding Restoration

The bill provides a supplemental appropriation from the Property Tax Relief Fund to the Department of Education to provide additional State school aid to: 1) Old Bridge Township School District; 2) Freehold Regional School District; 3) Manalapan-Englishtown Regional School District; 4) Millstone Township School District; and 5) a school district in which the school district’s equalized property valuation per pupil is less than the State average equalized property valuation per pupil or the school district’s income per pupil is less than the State average income per pupil.

There are over 100 school districts that are estimated to qualify for additional aid under subsection e. of the bill, including: the New Hanover Township School District, the Roosevelt Boro School District, the Upper Freehold Regional School District, the Jackson Township School District, and the Plumsted Township School District. The intent is to ensure that these school districts receive the same amount of total State aid in the 2021-2022 school year as they received in the 2017-2018 school year.

Student Safety and Transportation

A5400 - School Bus Safety Coordinator in Education Department

This bill establishes the Office of the School Bus Safety Coordinator in the Department of Education. The purpose of the office is to oversee the school busing industry and to coordinate enforcement and accountability among the department, school bus drivers, school bus contractors, and the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.

Under current law, a board of education is required to award a contract for the transportation of pupils to and from school to the lowest responsible bidder. This bill amends that law to provide that the board of education will not award the contract to the lowest responsible bidder if the Office of the School Bus Safety Coordinator determines that the bidder has a poor performance record or has committed multiple violations.

The provisions of this bill are based on an editorial that appeared in the Asbury Park Press on December 29, 2020 concerning ways to ensure the safe transportation of school students.

A5526 - MVC Random Bus Inspections, Fines for Non-compliance

This bill amends the “School Bus Enhanced Safety Inspection Act” to require the Chief Administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (commission) to establish an unscheduled school bus inspection program in addition to an in-terminal school bus inspection program. Under the bill, the commission is required to conduct unannounced inspections of a certain percentage of all school buses per calendar year.

The bill clarifies that an operator is prohibited from withholding a school bus from an unscheduled inspection and provides that a school bus that is inspected pursuant to the unscheduled school bus inspection program that fails the inspection based on out-of-service criteria is to be immediately removed from service.