Legislative roundup: Bills aim to boost job growth

A trio of bills advanced through the Commerce and Economic Development Committee Monday, each designed to spur job growth in the state.

One measure — co-sponsored by Assemblymen Troy Singleton and Herb Conaway, both D-Burlington, and Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera, D-Camden — will help prepare people to work in the manufacturing industry in New Jersey.

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In drafting the bill, Singleton spoke with those on the front lines and in trade associations about what issues are important.

"I've had the pleasure of visiting many manufacturing companies in my district and what they need is to see a rebirth," he said. "We want to make sure there is training for folks in manufacturing careers. There's a dearth of people who can walk in and do these jobs."

Workers in manufacturing jobs earn 22 percent more in annual pay and benefits than the average worker in other industries, he added.

"I think it's a very appropriate and necessary bill to encourage people to look into career opportunities in manufacturing," said Alan Haveson, president of the New Jersey Tooling and Manufacturing Association.

Students and others who have undefined job potential have little knowledge of manufacturing today, he said.

"It's not just about getting hands dirty. It's a skill for young people, veterans, someone considering a career change where they can acquire a long, solid career," Haveson noted.

Read: Unemployment rate rises a tick in New Jersey

Every new manufacturing job created would add another 1.6 jobs to the local service economy, and for every dollar in manufacturing sales, another $1.34 is added to the economy, lawmakers stressed. Additionally, 42 percent of jobs in manufacturing will require some post-secondary education or degree by 2018, according to findings from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

"New Jersey can be at the forefront of a manufacturing renaissance if we invest now in giving the next generation the tools needed to reignite this industry and create good-paying jobs once again," Conaway said.

The bill would require the state Secretary of Higher Education to design a manufacturing career path to be offered through the county colleges and vocational school districts to provide students interested in pursuing a career in manufacturing with the instruction and skills necessary.

"Investments in manufacturing have a much broader impact on local economies than investments in any other industry," Mosquera said.

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Singleton and Mosquera also co-sponsored a bill to provide funding and training for microenterprises — businesses with five or fewer employees and one or more classified as an owner.

"Roughly nine out of 10 businesses in the U.S. are microbusinesses these days, making it critical that we invest in this sector in order to boost our lagging economy," Singleton remarked. "Not only will this spur job creation, it will also empower individuals to invest in their communities and help spark wholesale revitalizations."

Microenterprises create 900,000 jobs annually, he said.

Under the bill, the Department of Community Affairs would be required to allocate at least $500,000 per year of federal Community Development Block Grant funds to eligible small cities and counties for the purpose of providing grants and loans to individuals who develop or own a microenterprise.

"New Jersey has been lagging behind neighboring states and the U.S. as a whole when it comes to our recovery from the recession," Mosquera noted. "Microenterprises have the potential to generate jobs and get our residents working again and we can't ignore that fact. We need to capitalize on it."

The bill also amends the counseling requirements to be offered at One Stop Career Centers to include an evaluation of an individual's ability to become self-employed and of self-employment training opportunities.

The third legislation, sponsored by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, D-Camden, expands the scope and reach of small, women- and minority-owned businesses by providing loans through the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

"Statistics show that women- and minority-owned businesses generate noticeably less revenue than small businesses as a whole," Lampitt said in a statement. "This isn't because they aren't as bright or innovative as other business owners. Many times it's because loans and investment capital are harder to come by, putting these businesses at a disadvantage from the get-go. "

Childbirth restraint prohibition

Legislation co-sponsored by State Sen. Diane Allen, R-Burlington, prohibiting correctional facilities from placing restraints on inmates during or immediately after childbirth passed the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee Thursday.

"Sadly, there have been instances at facilities across the country where female prisoners were handcuffed or physically restrained in other ways while in labor and right after delivery," Allen noted in a statement.

"Shackling a woman during childbirth creates serious medical risks and is an affront to basic human dignities. This legislation will make sure that type of barbaric treatment doesn't take place in New Jersey."

According to a 2014 article, an estimated 2,000 women give birth to babies each year while incarcerated, including a Nevada woman who suffered severe injuries when corrections staff shackled her ankles together while she was in labor and then again minutes after her child was delivered through an emergency Cesarean section. Over the past 15 years, 21 states have enacted legislation prohibiting such restraint.

The legislation bars the practice during pregnancy-related medical distress. But it does allow for the least restrictive restraint necessary to be used in circumstances where the inmate is determined to be a significant flight risk or during other extraordinary security or medical circumstances that pose a safety risk to staff, the inmate or the public.


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