Minimum wage, paperless ticketing bills go before Senate committees
Two business-related bills await approval today by state Senate committees, though they face opposite reviews from New Jersey business groups.
The more pervasive of the two — an effort led by Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D-West Deptford) to ask voters to approve a constitutional amendment increasing the state's minimum wage — has met resistance from Gov. Chris Christie, as well as the business community.
Michael Egenton, senior vice president of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said in an e-mail the measure is "a surprise," and noted raising the state's minimum wage to $8.25 would "add to an already challenging economic climate for small businesses."
"These businesses are dealing with rising health care costs, taxes, excessive regulations and other hurdles that force them to make tough financial decisions to meet their bottom line," Egenton said. "When we ask our small business members, 'How do you meet these challenges?' they respond … by scaling back the hours of current employees, and they respond by not hiring additional employees because they did not have it in their budget."
The other business bill, sponsored by Sen. Raymond J. Lesniak (D-Union), would revise New Jersey's ticket sales law to bar ticket issuers like Ticketmaster from restricting sales to "paperless" tickets that can only be claimed in-person at box offices. That measure has met support from one business group, but concerns from the state's sports authority.
"Literally every venue in the state — from Izod (Center), to Metlife (Stadium), to every casino — have all united together to try to work out our logistical concerns associated with this legislation, because we're the ones on front lines making sure tickets are issued properly," said Wayne Hasenbalg, president and CEO of the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority. "We understand the intent and what this bill is attempting to address, and we don't necessarily oppose that, but there are practical consequences in what's set forth right now."
But Lesniak said the venues are "playing into the hands of brokers, allowing them to buy huge amounts of tickets at outrageous prices that end up hurting consumers."
"Monopolies are never good for business, and having restrictive paperless ticket policies just creates a monopoly," Lesniak said. "With all the advances in technology brokers use to rip off consumers, the time for a consumer protection bill time has come. It's always better for business when consumers are treated fairly."
In July, Diane Walsh, vice president of government affairs and communications for the Commerce & Industry Association of New Jersey, said she supported Lesniak's measure because having a restricted paperless system would increase ticket prices and reduce business for companies like restaurants and bars that rely on traffic from sports and entertainment events.