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Annual spending bills topped again topped the list of the state’s most-lobbied bills, but five of the 10 bills that have drawn the most attention from lobbyists this legislative session haven’t made it into law, according to analysis released by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission Wednesday.
The bills are wide ranging and are each in different stages of the legislative process, having each been introduced no earlier than January 2020.
With 483 lobbying contacts, the nine-month budget approved last September saw the most interest from lobbyists, while the $46.4 billion spending bill approved last month came in second with 273 contacts.
The state defines lobbying as a communication with senior executive branch officials, lawmakers or those with authority on other rule-making bodies with the intent of influencing legislation, regulations, or other government processes, with exceptions for routine and ministerial messages.
Put another way, a phone call to set up a meeting to discuss a bill wouldn’t count as a contact, but the meeting would.
The Reproductive Freedom Act, which would codify New Jersey’s abortion protections in state law, placed third on the list with 223 lobbying contacts.
The abortion bill hasn’t reached committees in either chamber despite the focus it’s drawn from a small group of advocates and organizations. The bill was introduced last October and has seen no movement in the months since, though it will likely be taken up during this year’s lame-duck session.
Two pandemic-related bills round out the top five. A bill requiring insurers to cover telehealth and telemedicine services that is awaiting Gov. Phil Murphy’s signature saw 160 lobbying contacts, while a measure providing workers’ compensation and other benefits to essential employees who test positive for COVID-19 saw 154.
The latter bill has been signed into law.
“While there is no exact way to gauge the impact of the virus outbreak on lobbying, reports filed with ELEC suggest the pandemic has been a major focus during the latest legislative session,” ELEC Executive Director Jeff Brindle said.
A proposal to tax securities transactions that died after New York City-based exchanges threatened to pull data operations out of New Jersey placed sixth on the list with 130 contacts, trailing a bill standing up New Jersey’s legal marijuana market, which had 141.
Measures requiring certain plastic products be composed of some recycled materials, 112 contacts, and calling for 5G antennas and cells to be uniformly distributed across New Jersey, 97 contacts, have each passed one legislative chamber.
Who is lobbying?
With 97 contacts, the New Jersey Business and Industry Association reported the most lobbying activity on pandemic-related issues. The New Jersey Hospital Association, 73 contracts, and New Jersey Education Association, 66, rounded out the top three.
The NJEA was the only union to appear on that list, which was composed almost entirely of industry groups.
The Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey (59) placed fourth, followed by the New Jersey Bankers Association (57), and the CrossState Credit Union Association (50).
AARP NJ ranked seventh with 47 contacts, while Make the Road NJ (39) was the only progressive advocacy group to make the list.
The New Jersey Apartment Association, Coach USA, and the Insurance Council of New Jersey tied for ninth place with 36 contacts each.
Despite its position as one of the most lobbied bills, only 10 groups reported lobbying on the Reproductive Freedom Act, compared to 149 for the nine-month budget and 68 for the current fiscal year’s spending bill. The Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the family planning organization’s political arm, was chief among those.
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