Here in New Jersey, it’s apparent that the title of a law is not exactly what the law itself will entail. As citizens, we need to see through the smoke of a title, and read the laws that are being passed for us in Trenton. Here are four examples of such titles:
1) The Economic Opportunity Act: This act’s title makes it seem as though the State of New Jersey is encouraging the creation of economic opportunity. However, as the act says within it’s second paragraph, The Economic Opportunity Act is really just an amendment of the Business Retention and Relocation Assistance Grant Program. So, really the point is not to create economic opportunity. The businesses which have so far received these grants already possess tremendous economic opportunity by being multi-million dollar profiting entities. They are simply benefitting from the relocation assistance grants.
The Economic Opportunity Act is also a misleading title, and perhaps a completely misleading law in total, because the act states in Section 3 that, “The purpose of the program is to encourage economic job creation and preserve jobs that currently exist in New Jersey but which are in danger of being relocated to premises outside the State”. Maybe I’ve missed something but I was fairly certain that the Philadelphia 76ers were not in danger of relocating outside of New Jersey since they never existed in New Jersey…
2. The Water Infrastructure Protection Act: One would easily think that this law is designed to protect New Jersey’s water systems. Maybe that will be true in the future, who knows. The reason why this act holds a misleading title is because the main purpose of it is to allow municipalities or counties to sell or lease their water systems to private companies under “emergent conditions”. The act is clear to allow such actions without allowing a referendum vote which would give the citizens the ability to decide the fate of their water systems.
Interestingly enough, the first definition of an “emergent condition” as defined within the law is, “The system has a combined sanitary and storm sewer overflow system”. In other words, the citizens of Camden will be again losing the right to govern their city, because upon the approval of this act, Camden’s water system will likely be one of the first to be sold off. (Camden’s water system is one of the few remaining that combines sanitary and storm sewage)
This act is tough to be mad at since some very serious health hazards will develop from flooded streets of combined sewage systems. When a fix is needed and public health is at stake, something of course should be done. It’s just a continuous bummer that Camden residents are denied the right to make their own decisions about their city. (This act should also be more accurately titled “The Right to Sell Public Water Systems”)
3. “Made In America“: This bill is actually on point with its title. The bill is designed to prohibit the use of products made outside the United States in public contracts. It sounds like it makes economic sense, and at the very least it is patriotic. However, as John F. Prato explained in the Philadelphia Inquirer, such legislation may squash more jobs than it aims to create by potentially cutting ties with Canada. (Mr. Prato is the Consul General of Canada in New Jersey)
It is important to include this act within our Garden of Misleading Legislation because so often, as Americans, we become blinded by patriotism and sometimes we do not consider the potential consequences of isolating ourselves with American made products. Trust me, I’m not anti-American-jobs at all. It’s just very important to consider who may be unemployed upon the passage of the act.
4. The Minimum Wage: I’ve written a lot of this topic, and I’ll continue to do so until something happens. In 2013, the voters of New Jersey approved the minimum wage referendum to adjust the wage to increases in the cost of living. The language on the ballot included no reference to the consumer price index, yet lawmakers proceeded to create a constitutional amendment that adjusts the wage to the consumer price index.
A definition from the United States Department of Labor elucidates a difference between the cost of living and the consumer price index. Due to the difference in methodologies, there is no constitutional reason to use the consumer price index in place of a cost of living methodology. The voters did not approve of the CPI, plain and simple.
Let’s analogize this. The ballot could read, “Do you approve of adjustments to the minimum wage based upon prices of granny smith apples?”. Yet, the legislation that stemmed from this analogized ballot would adjust the minimum wage according to the price of fuji apples. Even though both adjustments are according to the price of some apple, they are two very different apples. Just like even though the CPI and COL are measurements for inflation, they are two very different measurements.
The best remedy for the misleading titles above is to reengage ourselves with our government. We cannot rely on the legislators to simply tell us that a law is good or bad for us. We need to start reading these documents ourselves and deciding if we agree or disagree with their purposes. From there, we need to contact our legislators and let them know. We need to write into the newspapers. Otherwise, we will continue to live in an oligarchy, by which a few people make decisions for us, without our input.