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State Street: CWA's lottery fight wages, Christie balks at controversy

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It could be months before we know what the Christie administration will do with the lone bid it received to run the operations and marketing of the state's lottery, but the legislative efforts to stop the partial privatization continue.

"We are asking the Legislature to put pressure on (Chris) Christie to stop this and start over," said Seth Hahn, legislative and political director for CWA New Jersey.

The Assembly is expected this week to take up A-3614, a bill that would require any lottery-related state contract with a private entity to gain legislative approval before it could take effect. The bill cleared Assemblyman Vincent Prieto's (D-Secaucus) budget committee earlier this month. Not surprisingly the vote went along party lines.

Prieto's committee also OK'd a nonbinding resolution asking the Christie administration to clear its partial privatization of the lottery with the U.S. Department of Justice prior to awarding any contract.

Hahn said that's because serious questions remain about the legality of private-sector involvement in running state lotteries. He said Gov. Jon S. Corzine sought a similar opinion back in 2008. Hahn said the memo DOJ sent to Corzine ought to give Christie pause.

"It says strategic functions and functions core to the lottery have to remain under state control," he said. "But it's less clear whether that has to be done by public employees or private employees."

The CWA believes Christie's plan wouldn't pass muster. Hahn said it just makes business sense to get the DOJ's approval before moving forward with the contract.

"People in the business community talk a lot about predictability," he said. "This is a way to provide a very clear type of predictability for that contract moving forward."

Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak dismissed the DOJ question as a nonissue, saying the state wouldn't have moved forward if the contract were prohibited. He accused Prieto of "ginning up" controversy to please the CWA.

"This is a limited contract; the state is not selling the lottery to a private entity, which would not be permitted," Drewniak said.

New Jersey tourism team to tackle Super Bowl

Neither the Jets nor the Giants made this year's Super Bowl — or the playoffs, for that matter — but that doesn't mean New Jersey won't have a team down in New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII.

Jim Kirkos, president and CEO of the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce, said he'll be part of a delegation of Garden State tourism officials manning a booth at the Super Bowl's media center.

"We plan on doing things like giving away cookies made by the Cake Boss, saltwater taffy, and things like that," he said.

Kirkos will be joined by Judy Ross, director of the Meadowlands Liberty Convention and Visitors Bureau, a division of the Meadowlands chamber.

The other members of the contingent will be Leslie Bensley, executive director of the Morris County Tourism Bureau; Lori Pepenella, chair for New Jersey's destination marketing organizations; Michael Davidson, executive director of the Greater Newark Convention and Visitors Bureau; and Bill LaRosa, director of cultural affairs and tourism for Hudson County. Grace Hanlon, executive director of New Jersey's Division of Travel and Tourism will also be on hand, as will the division's marketing director, Anthony Minick.

The Garden State contingent will be joined in the booth by a half-dozen representatives from New York, Kirkos said. He doesn't expect a rivalry between the two delegations.

"There's going to be enough business to go around," he said.

Business reform bills take cue from Delaware

A trio of technical but potentially impactful corporate business reform bills appears on its way to passage.

The bills, sponsored by Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. (D-South Plainfield) and Assemblyman John J. Burzichelli (D-West Deptford), are designed to boost the state's competitiveness and streamline the laws governing corporations. All three were passed unanimously in the Assembly last year, and cleared the Senate Commerce Committee earlier this month.

"It's a positive step," said Christine Stearns, vice president for health and legal affairs at the New Jersey Business and Industry Association. "It's a continuation of the process to align New Jersey's corporate law with Delaware law."

Delaware's corporate laws are seen as the most business friendly in the nation, Stearns said.

The first bill, A-3049, would clarify that all public corporations incorporated under New Jersey law are subject to the New Jersey Shareholders Protection Act. The bill would also change the rules governing business combinations between a corporation and interested stockholders, which the sponsors say would bring them more in line with common business practices.

A-3050 changes the New Jersey Business Corporation Act to allow shareholders to participate in meetings via remote communication, and would amend the method by which shareholders can challenge corporate actions, making the state's law more in line with the American Bar Association's Model Business Corporation Act.

The final bill, A-3123, amends state law surrounding derivative proceedings, making it easier to dispense of cases deemed by disinterested parties to be not in the company's best interest.

Stearns said these are the kinds of changes most likely to be followed in general counsels' offices across the state and beyond.

"It sends the right message to the business community," she said. "…they may appear to be small, minor kinds of initiatives but they're important, and they're important to the corporations that are headquartered here and might be looking at coming here."

Lawmakers, lobbyists prep for Walk to Washington

This week's New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce Walk to Washington will culminate with Christie giving the keynote address at a dinner at the Marriott Wardman Park. But there are plenty of other side events scheduled across the district.

Among the groups holding receptions are the Smart Growth Economic Development Coalition, the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce and the newly rebranded Mid-Jersey Chamber of Commerce, which previously was the Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce.

"The parties are kind of tools for the group that hosts it," said one State Street lobbyist. "It increases their level of exposure and access to key decision makers, and it's a public relations technique."

The source said many politicians and lobbying groups also hold private dinners or parties. Firms are taking advantage of the trip to Washington by lining up meetings with their D.C. contacts.

"The nice thing about it is there's a lot of people all in one place," the source said.

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