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Amazon's tax break uncertain as lawmakers head to voting sessions

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More than two dozen bills affecting businesses are up for votes in the Legislature this afternoon, including some businesses have been fighting for years.

However, while the Assembly will be voting on a pair of bills affecting which online retailers — potentially including Amazon.com — collect sales taxes, the Senate is not taking up the measures.

Amazon had issued a deadline for today for the Legislature to take action on the bills. The company has been weighing whether to add two distribution centers and 1,500 jobs in the state. One of the Assembly bills, A-2608, would delay a state requirement for the company to collect sales taxes until July 2013 if the company makes the investments.

Another significant bill scheduled for an Assembly vote is A-1871, which would reverse a change made in 2010 that allows the state to assume the value of, or “escheat,” unclaimed gift cards. The change has been strongly opposed by the New Jersey Retail Merchants Association.

Both houses were scheduled to vote on a two-year extension of the Permit Extension Act, which was passed in 2008 and extended in 2010. Builders said it was urgent for the state to pass the measure to avoid uncertainty in the market. Environmentalists opposed the measure, saying that it would revive projects in the Highlands that have been moribund since 2008.

The Assembly also was scheduled to vote on bills that would establish a state health benefit exchange, permit agricultural tourism events on preserved farmland, allow additional funding for state-funded work force training through community colleges, and increase protections and employer requirements regarding gender pay equity.

The New Jersey Business & Industry Association opposes the health benefit exchange bill in its current form, which would create a government body to oversee and regulate the exchange. The association has said this would reduce competition and ultimately raise prices for residents, although the organization does support establishing a state exchange.

The Senate was scheduled to vote on bills allowing local governments to set aside contracts for veteran-owned businesses, and let casinos pay out-of-state racetracks more to simulcast races.

The Assembly session, scheduled for 1 p.m., had not started at 1:20 p.m. The Senate session was scheduled to start at 2 p.m.

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