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Legislation to combat abuses at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority will include closing lobbying loopholes, expanding disclosure to local government, and the appointment of an Inspector General, Assembly Ryan Peters (R-Hainesport) announced today.
“Recently, we’ve witnessed the unearthing of hidden influence and rampant abuse within the Economic Development Authority and how it doles out billions of dollars in tax incentives,” said Peters. “We need to turn a spotlight on the process and put greater controls in place to hold accountable the elected officials, lobbyists and businesses that benefit from our tax-incentive programs.
Peters said his four-bill package lowers the threshold for reporting lobbyist activity from 20 hours to one hour.
“The root cause of the tax incentive debacle was the lack of disclosure of lobbying activities and, as a result, the exploitation of state tax dollars,” Peters said.
Democrats dismissed Peters’ efforts as election year politics.
“Election years really bring out the hypocrites. Just two months ago, Trenton politician Ryan Peters voted to extend the current tax credit programs he is currently vilifying. Now he’s bending to political winds to score points with voters,” said Mickey Quinn, a spokesman for the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee. “Populism may work for others, but this poor man’s Donald Trump should spend more time telling the truth about his failed record growing jobs in South Jersey to voters in this election and less time pandering in preparation for his well publicized run for Congress.”
Peters has not shown any interest in a race against Rep. Andy Kim (D-Marlton) next year.
Below is a summary of Peters’ proposals:
Appointed EDA Inspector General
Establishes the Office of Economic Development Inspector General within the Economic Development Authority (EDA). The proposal provides broad powers to the office to monitor, investigate and report on the agencies’ activities. The Inspector General shall be appointed by the Governor and affirmed by the Senate.
Appointed EDA Auditor
Establishes the position of Economic Development Auditor within EDA. This position is appointed by the Inspector General and will review and evaluate records of entities and individuals doing business with or receiving economic development incentives from the EDA. The Auditor shall review applicant claims, such as job creation and retention, and the validity of the applicant’s decision to move out of state.
Lobbying Loophole Proposal 1
Under current law, a “government affairs agent” is a person who receives compensation to influence legislation or regulations by communicating with an elected state official for more than 20 hours in a calendar year. The proposal redefines the definition of “governmental affairs agent” to include those individuals performing activities for more than one hour in a calendar year.
Lobbying Loophole Proposal 2
Establishes the Local Government Process Activities Disclosure Act, requiring local activities that influence government process beyond one hour to be registered and disclosed with the Election Law Enforcement Commission. The act shall follow the same requirements as the state governing body lobbying laws.
This story was updated at 1:40 PM with comment from Quinn.