Chamber applauds passage of bills aimed at helping those with disabilities

Michael Egenton has spent a career at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce advocating for the business community. But it’s not always big business — or the mom-and-pop shops that dot the state.

After Monday’s marathon day of voting — the last day of the lame-duck session of the Legislature — Egenton noted an appreciation for the passage of a series of bills aimed at making it easier for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities to enter the workforce.

Michael Egenton. (File photo)

Egenton, executive vice president/government relations at the chamber, said the bills were supported by the chamber because they feel these individuals bring a lot to the table.

“They’re extremely loyal, dedicated and hard workers,” he said. “And isn’t that what all employers try to look for?” (See the bills in the box with this story.)

Overall, Egenton applauded the work the Legislature has done and said it really has tried to work with the chamber to continue to move the needle on behalf of the business community.

But, he said, more certainly needs to be done.

“It’s never the one issue in and of itself that causes (the business community) to need assistance, it’s all of it together,” he said. “Whether it’s the increase in minimum wage, taxes, etc., that an employer has to pay for and comply with or staff shortages. There’s a lot going on.

“And to add insult to injury — now, add the labor shortage and the pandemic.”

Bills to help those with disabilities

  • A5294/S3418: Provides fast-track hiring and advancement employment opportunities by state for persons with significant disabilities;
  • A6062/S4210: Requires Economic Development Authority to establish loan program to assist certain businesses with funding to provide reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities;
  • S3426: Provides for employment by the state of certain persons with disabilities.

Egenton said the chamber’s wants are basic. But he said he understands the pandemic has made everything much more difficult.

“We’ve been asking the Governor’s Office and the Legislature to give more funding, to help out the mom-and-pop businesses,” he said. “They have done a number of bills to help small businesses, but Omicron is only making it that much more difficult for them.”

Egenton noted the following bills that passed both the Senate and the Assembly that will especially help the business community, which now head to Gov. Phil Murphy.

  • A6155/S4139 (Extension of health care licenses): This bill extends temporary emergency licensure of certain health care professionals. In light of the ongoing health care needs and the challenges in ensuring the health care workforce is able to meet the demand for health care services, Egenton said the chamber was happy to have the Legislature authorize out-of-state health care workers practicing under a temporary emergency reciprocal license, and recently graduated health care workers practicing under a temporary emergency graduate license, to continue to practice in the state to the same extent, and subject to the same requirements.
  • A6070/S4094 (Film/TV tax credit): This bill increases the film and television tax credits, which further incentivizes movie, television and other digital media projects to come to New Jersey. The measure would increase the maximum tax credit amount for digital media productions to 30% of qualified expenses or 35% in South Jersey — similar to the amount for which film productions are currently eligible. It would also increase the total amount of tax credits these projects could receive from $10 million to $30 million. “This will really open the doors for New Jersey,” Egenton said. “Having digital media production going on is a win-win-win for the state. There is a trickle effect for offshoot businesses that can benefit from that this.”

Egenton said there also are bills heading to the governor’s desk that the chamber was in opposition to.

  • A1659/S1559 (Insurance Fair Conduct Act): Also known as the bad faith bill, it is billed by supporters as a means to offer recourse to policyholders if their insurance companies act in bad faith. Insurance groups, in turn, warn that the bill will do nothing but shift more insurance costs onto everyday New Jerseyans. Egenton said, ultimately, the bill translates to higher cost for all policyholders. “The price of insurance as a whole continues to be a struggle for employers,” he said. “Any tinkering around in the insurance arena is going to have an effect on the policyholders and, ultimately, the higher costs. It’s just going to be you know, another of many things that impact business owners.”
  • A4676/S2515 (Recycling Rules Bill): The bill establishes postconsumer recycled content requirements for rigid plastic containers, glass containers, paper and plastic carryout bags, and plastic trash bags; and prohibits sale of polystyrene loose fill packaging. Egenton said that, while the state chamber absolutely supports the increased use of recycled content, this bill has set the goals too aggressive without necessary foundations. “The mandates within this bill have the potential to have a significant unintended consequence on the material market and what they do and production,” he said.