NJ State House by Smallbones is licensed under CC0 1.0

Before the New Jersey legislature turned the page to a new session, beleaguered taxpayers had to weather an odd lame duck session.

The most high profile lame duck question was whether to extend Governor Phil Murphy’s emergency powers further, both chambers pulled resolutions from consideration, which should allow the Governor’s never-ending pandemic powers to expire.

Despite this development, Trenton was still up to no good, pushing blatant pension-padding proposals for politicians, and approving a bizarre set of restrictions on hotels.

Senate Bill 4295/Assembly Bill 6246 passed both chambers on the last session day. These bills will require that hotels which are sold must still retain the existing employees for three months.

Imagine buying a new house and having to keep the existing landscapers and cleaning crew for 90 days after the change in ownership. That’s a proxy for what will now be asked of hotel owners by the state. This provision is an outrageous invasion of property rights, and overreach of government power.

The legislation also threatens fines up to $5,000 if hotels do not follow requirements that they notify customers about disruptions due to construction. As if hotels do not do this already. Calling this a solution in search of a problem would be the kindest way to define it, the fines come off more as a way for government to insert itself into private business and nitpick more money away from hotel operators.

Hospitality has been one of the economic sectors hardest hit by the pandemic. A McKinsey analysis estimates recovery to pre-pandemic levels for the industry could take until after 2023. Yet, Democrats in Trenton decided they were a ripe target to attack.

Meanwhile, the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee was busy approving a bill to spend money New Jersey does not have to pad pensions for politicians, S4250.

As reported by Politico New Jersey, the bill would allow elected officials to enroll in the state’s public employee retirement system who had been enrolled for at least 10 years due to other service, and took office for their current elected position after 2007. Why 2007? Because that is when reforms passed that shifted newly elected politicians to 401(k)-style plans.

All this is a long way of getting to a simple goal: allowing politicians who are not currently racking up years of service under the expensive old pension system to start doing so again – pumping up the payout they will receive at retirement. In this case the parameters are squarely aimed toward benefitting Democrat Assembly member Annette Quijano. Yet, this is part of a long-term trend in New Jersey of politicians shoving through pension payouts for the pals.

While a long overdue check on Governor Murphy’s emergency powers was warranted, Jersey’s lame duck was again an opportunity for bad, inside-Trenton policy to pass.

It’s not like New Jersey lawmakers have any important issues to address, like lagging far behind in recovering jobs with a 6.6% unemployment rate, losing population last year, having the worst business tax climate in the nation, or untangling pandemic nursing home deaths that have cost the state millions in settlements.