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(TRENTON) - The General Assembly on Monday approved a package of bills sponsored by Assembly Democrats John Burzichelli, Ruben Ramos, Jr., Joseph Egan, Linda Stender, John Wisniewski and Benjie Wimberly that will cut bureaucratic red tape to help save businesses money and streamline state services.
The bills are part of a comprehensive job creation effort recently laid out by Assembly Democrats.
"If we're going to get New Jersey back on its feet and get our economy humming again, we need to eliminate as many unnecessary hurdles as possible so businesses can get up and running more quickly," said Burzichelli (D-Cumberland/Salem/Gloucester), who served on the state's Red Tape Review Commission. "These bills are part of an ongoing effort to cut red tape, make New Jersey more business-friendly and revive our economy."
The first bill (A-3319), sponsored by Burzichelli, Ramos, Egan and Stender, would prohibit state government departments and agencies from imposing a fee, fine, or penalty on any applicant when it is imposed solely to correct clerical errors made by the applicant on an application for a permit, certificate, or any other purpose. The bill, however, would not apply to an applicant who provides false, misleading, or fraudulent information on an application. The bill was approved by a vote of 77-0.
"Applying for state permits and licenses can often be a confusing process, particularly for first-time business owners," said Ramos (D-Hudson). "These bills will spare them the burden of once costly mistakes while also providing easy access to any rules or regulations they should be aware of in respect to their operation."
"Starting up a business is stressful enough to begin with," said Egan (D-Middlesex/Somerset). "With lending still tight, the last thing a business owner needs is to be hit with extraneous fees for minor clerical errors. This will help eliminate one more burden."
The second bill (A-3321), sponsored by Burzichelli, Ramos, Egan, Stender and Wisniewski, would require the state's administrative agencies to employ various technologies, including the Internet, listserv technology, and e-mail services, in order to streamline the agencies' rule-making notice and comment procedures and facilitate regulatory compliance. The bill was approved by a vote of 76-1.
"Even before Sandy hit, our biggest priority was finding ways to make New Jersey more business-friendly in order to help revitalize our economy," said Stender (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). "Now more than ever, it's important that we find ways to help businesses and residents, alike, navigate the often complex maze of government regulations."
Specifically, the bill would require agencies to:
1) Make available for public inspection, through publication on the agency's Internet website, all of the agency's rule-making and public hearing notices, publicity documents, press releases, final and non-confidential agency reports, and rule-making petitions received thereby, as well as a complete list of the agency's permits, fees, violations, penalties, deadlines, processing times, and appeals procedures;
2) Distribute notice of the agency's intended action to interested persons, and publicize the same, through the use of an electronic listserv or other similar type of subscription-based e-mail service;
3) Make any proposed rule available for public viewing through posting on the agency's Internet website and through any other reasonable means, a statement summarizing the proposed rule, the potential impacts thereof, and the agency's authority therefore; and
4) Accept and fully consider data, views, comments, or arguments on a proposed rule, which are submitted to the agency, in written form, through the agency's e-mail systems or electronic listservs.
"With our unemployment rate still alarmingly high, anything we can do to help businesses establish and flourish is a must right now, especially in this post-Sandy environment," said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). "Helping them cut through red tape and get the information they need in one convenient online location, will hopefully make the process easier for them."
In order to enhance public awareness about the applicable laws governing various regulated activities, all state agencies would also be required to provide on their website the complete and current text of each state law under which the agency is granted its authority, and the complete and current text of each rule or regulation that has been adopted by the agency or any pending proposed rules or regulations.
The third bill (A-3323/3324), sponsored by Ramos, Burzichelli and Wimberly, would require each state agency to undertake a periodic review of permits, licenses and certifications issued by the agency in order to identify those that are obsolete or that could be administered through an expedited procedure. The measure was approved by a vote of 77-0.
"Depending on when a particular requirement was established, it may now be obsolete or cumbersome due to the changing nature of our state," said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). "If we want to help businesses succeed, we must find ways to make state requirements more efficient and less of a roadblock. What may have once been a necessity may now just be an inconvenience."
All of the bills would implement recommendations made by the Red Tape Review Commission in its February 2012 report.
The measures now head to the Senate for consideration.
NJ Assembly Majority Office
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"When you're asked to cast a vote on a bill and it seems innocuous, and it's got a hidden land mine that perhaps only an expert would see, it would sort of behoove those experts to tell us in advance rather than make us look, shall we say, a little bit indecisive later on." - Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R-25).- NJTV
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