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October 6, 2022
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 Inside this issue
A Message From Your Association
  A Message From Your Association  
  A Message From Your Association  

Marketplace Update

Plastic Bag Sanitization Bill

ANCHOR Program: Don't Wait, Apply Today!

State Guidelines on Legal Cannabis Offer Little Clarity, Creates Greater Confusion

Update: NJ Economic Development Authority's Small Business Improvement Grant

Info on Dues Renewals

CARB Enhanced Vapor Recovery Upgrade & Deadline

Marketplace Update

Nationally the price of gas has been trending upward for a while due to refinery problems and supply shortages in the Midwest and West Coast. This has driven up the whole national average, even as prices in New Jersey had continued to decline. However, the price of oil has started going up again, and the average rack price jumped about 14¢ a gallon over the weekend and another 16¢ on Tuesday, sharply cutting into margins. The OPEC+ nations led by Saudi Arabia decided to cut production by 2 million barrels per day starting next month, twice what was expected. This is being seen as a sharp rebuke to President Biden, whose team was actively lobbying the Saudis not to make any cuts, fearing it may trigger not only higher gas prices but a serious recession. The fact that the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), which is still releasing barrels every day, is at its lowest level since 1984 also means the Administration is running out of options to combat high oil prices, both now and in the future. 

Plastic Bag Sanitization Bill

You may have seen the complaints in the media about the influx of reusable bags ending up in patrons' homes since the change in the law that banned all single use plastic bags everywhere and banned paper bags at food stores larger than 2500 sq ft. Between forgetting them at home and having to repurchase at checkout, to ordering from delivery services and getting stacks of new reusable bags with every order, lots of these bags are ending up going unused and wasted. As a result, there is a lot of talk about amending the law. One of the ideas that was being mulled over was that every retailer (including c-stores) would be required to take a 5 cent deposit on every bag sold, and any customer could come into any store with any bag and be reimbursed 5 cents a bag. Stores would then be required to sanitize the bags and resell them. As you can imagine, this would be a logistical nightmare for small retailers, especially convenience stores. Thankfully, the bill that was introduced and discussed in the Senate Environment Committee this week does not include that idea. The changes only apply to grocery stores, which are defined as food stores over 2500 sq ft. So as a reminder, if your convenience store is under this size, you can continue to use paper bags. 

ANCHOR Program

You may have gotten information in the mail on the Affordable New Jersey Communities for Homeowners and Renters (ANCHOR) program through the tax department. This was the Governor and Legislature's big idea for how to spend money as part of the record budget back in June. To receive the money, you must fill out this application before December 30th. It may seem like a while away, but to fill the application out online only takes a few minutes. ANCHOR eligibility is as follows:

  • Homeowners with incomes of $150,000 or less will receive $1,500.
  • Homeowners with incomes more than $150,000 and up to $250,000 will receive $1,000.
  • Renters with incomes of $150,000 or less will receive $450.

Even though the money is meant to cover the cost of high property taxes, it only applies to homes. They are not giving any money towards property taxes paid on businesses, even though half of all property taxes paid in New Jersey are on businesses these days. Get ahead and get started on your application now. Checks will be sent out in May.

Legal Cannabis

Last month, the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Committee (CRC), the state agency overseeing cannabis use, offered up interim workplace guidance concerning employees who may report to work while high on cannabis (marijuana).

Business and employer groups have grown increasingly frustrated with the post-legalization landscape. The lack of direction from the CRC, combined with potential workplace- and employee-liability issues, have impacted hiring and retention strategies across the state.

 The new interim guidance focuses on using Workplace Impairment Recognition Experts (WIRE) and the "Reasonable Suspicion" Observation Report to determine if an employee is high while on the job. Such official guidance is important since it is now illegal to terminate employees solely because of a positive marijuana drug test. Unfortunately, this guidance offers little real-world clarity to employers, managers, and HR professionals.

NJGCA recently attended a workshop discussing the new guidance in hopes of gaining some practical strategies to implement in the workplace. Attorneys working in the cannabis field and staffing professionals participated. 

After picking apart the guidance and offering up hypotheticals which frustrate any real-world situation, the ultimate consensus was that the September guidance fails short of offering employers any meaningful strategies. Rather, it seems that the current state of uncertainty will continue for the foreseeable future.

Among the suggested "tools" offered by the CRC is for employers to utilize an observation report form issued by the agency. When used in tandem with a positive marijuana drug test, it may provide sufficient grounds for a firing. 

Another resource is a Workplace Impairment Recognition Expert (WIRE). In theory, a WIRE would be an outside third-party professional (or, alternatively, an in-house certified employee) trained to spot and identify employees who are impaired while on the job. Unfortunately, the CRC's direction that such an employee be "sufficiently trained and qualified" leaves no tangible criteria for implementing a working WIRE strategy. Though physical and behavioral impairments can be easily observed (swollen, red eyes; heavy breathing; confusion; rambling speech; sniffling nose; etc), these same observations can point to an employee experiencing a reaction to medication or merely suffering from seasonal allergies. Even the odor of marijuana, which was formerly a foundational indication of current use, is no longer enough. Rather, any lingering odors may only imply that an employee may have used cannabis outside work hours; and is not currently high.  

Taken together, this means that very well intentioned, safety-conscious employers and employees might run the risk of getting entangled in any workplace cannabis standards.

The above in mind, one concrete takeaway from the workshop we attended was something you can employ on your own. That is, any employer concerned about employee cannabis-use (or related on-the-job substance abuse situations), should immediately adopt and implement an employee handbook, if they haven't already.

Employers can use a well-drafted employee handbook to put their staff on notice for any potential employer action if he or she is high on the job. Not only does the law permit this, but even if the CRC offered meaningful guidance, memorializing such resources would almost assuredly be tied to an employee handbook.

To update and/or review your existing employee handbook - or adopt an employee handbook for the first time - please consider reaching out to Steve Horowitz. An NJGCA Member Benefit Partner, Steve is a trusted employment law resource. Steve can be contacted by email at shorowitz@horowitzlawgroup.com or 973-789-8300.

NJGCA will report more on this topic as new CRC guidance is developed or additional insights becomes available.

Update: Small Business Improvement Grant

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) has announced an update on their Small Business Development Grant program. Since the program was launched earlier this year, nearly 500 small businesses have been awarded funds between $5,000 to $50,000.

We reported on this opportunity earlier, but as a recap, NJEDA has set aside $15 million from the existing Main Street Recovery Finance Program for small business owners.  Of that $15 million, $6 million is directed toward entities within the state's designated Opportunity Zones.

As of this writing, $13 million has already been earmarked for small business applicants. With only $2 million in funding still available to qualifying small business owners, time is running out for entrepreneurs to apply. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until funds are consumed. Applicants awarded funds must stay in the facility and meeting wage requirements for up to four years after executing a grant agreement. 

The grant offers reimbursement for costs associated with making building improvements or purchasing new furniture, fixtures, and equipment.  

Interestingly, an eligible project could have been started in the past (it must have been commenced on, or after, March 9, 2020).  Meaning, you could have begun your project at the start of COVID, completed the project within two years, and you'd still retrospectively qualify for a grant award.

A list of eligibility factors is available on the NJEDA's website.  To read the full funding criteria and apply for the Small Business Improvement Grant, please visit the grand homepage by CLICKING HERE.

What's more, you can read the official FAQ on the NJEDA website by CLICKING HERE; or see the grant checklist by CLICKING HERE.

Info on Dues Renewals

Just a reminder, all members who are scheduled to renew their membership will receive an email with an electronic invoice and a link to pay for it. When you go to the site to pay you will have to retrieve your logon information as it has changed from last year. You'll receive an email with the new logon credentials. 

When you pay the invoice, a confirmation email will be generated. Also, when you click on the "continue" link in the email, you will see the actual invoice with details and an option to print it or download it to your computer. For all other members renewing throughout 2022, this is the new procedure for billing and payment. It is important to check your emails on or about the first of the month of your renewal. Reminder invoices will also be sent out on or about the first of the month. Any questions or concerns can be addressed by emailing accounting@njgca.org.

CARB Enhanced Vapor Recovery Upgrade & Deadline

We have been in contact with NJDEP officials concerning the forthcoming Enhanced Vapor Recovery ("EVR") upgrade mandate. This upgrade affects all locations with tanks installed prior to December 23, 2017.  Any tanks installed on/after December 23, 2017 are unaffected; and should have had these enhancements made at the time of installation. Those affected facilities must upgrade to new, full EVR requirements by December 23, 2024.

The upgraded system is a California Air Resources Board (CARB) Certified Phase 1 system, and includes enhanced rotatable fill adaptors, dust caps, spill buckets, hoses, and other requirements. Stations that do not upgrade their facility by December 23, 2024 may face fines or penalties for non-compliance.

In following the same mindset that forewarned the implementation of the Stage II Vacuum Assist Vapor Recovery decommissioning (which ended on December 23, 2020), NJGCA highly recommends that all affected stations comply with the upcoming mandates ahead of the deadline.  Those stations with tanks installed prior to December 23, 2017 should contact their compliance vendor to inquire about the updates and schedule their completion before the deadline. With both the end of Stage II and the credit card EMV upgrades, we saw a lot of people wait until the final few weeks before the deadline and they suffered for it with long waits and higher costs. 

If you have any questions, contact Nick at nick@njgca.org for more information. 

Be Well-

Your Association Staff



  Training Class Schedule  

All classes held at NJGCA HQ -- 615 Hope Road, Building 2, 1st Floor, Eatontown, NJ 07724

ASE Training Course - Reach Out Today!

Are you (or an employee) getting ready to take your A6, A8, or L1 in preparation to recertifying your Emission Repair Technician (ERT) credentials through the State's Emission Technician Education Program (ETEP)?  

We can help --- but we need to hear from you, first! 
NJGCA wants to hear from students interested in our ASE-prep training program, so we can gauge demand and schedule our next session series. 

As you know, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) has always maintained a "dual-track" system to allow technicians to earn their Emission Repair Technician (ERT) credentials through New Jersey's Emission Technician Education Program (ETEP). In doing so, technicians were allowed to certify as ERTs through either an ASE-test track or an ETEP-educational class track. Starting on January 1, 2020, NJDEP amended the ETEP criteria, and the ETEP-educational class track was abolished.  

Today, only the ASE-test track remains, and all ERTs must certify or re-certify their credentials though ASE to remain in the Program. 

NJGCA has recently offered an ASE-prep class to help you get ready for the A6, A8, and L1. In doing so, students were welcome to participate in a ten-session preparatory class that covered material for all three ASE exams. We also had a handful of students who joined us only for the A8 or L1 sections.  

Once completed, students took their ASE exams with a local ASE-approved test proctor (NJGCA can train you to prepare for the ASE exams, but are not permitted to offer the actual exam - students must make these arrangements individually themselves). 

Building on that success, we are now seeking student participation in our next training series session. To make arrangements and organize a session, we need to hear from you! 

If you are interested, please email us at training@njgca.org ASAP. 

We'll record your interest, inquire on your availability, and schedule a class once we have a full complement of students.   

Only with your feedback can we gauge student headcount and participation.  

Please reach out to us today, and thank you for your interest! 

Contact Nick De Palma at Nick@njgca.org to inquire about potential trainings and class dates



  News Around The State  


Wawa Says N.J. House Candidate Ripped Off Goose Logo

Convenience store chain Wawa is accusing a New Jersey congressional candidate of plucking his campaign's goose logo straight from their archives. In a polite-but-firm cease-and-desist letter shared with POLITICO, the company warned Matt Jenkins, a Democrat challenging 42-year incumbent Chris Smith in New Jersey's solidly Republican 4th District, that he was allegedly weakening the rest stop chain's brand by adopting its avian imagery.


Biden Warns Oil Majors Not to 'Gouge' Prices in Ian's Wake

Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida's Gulf Coast as a strong category 4 storm on Wednesday, and President Biden warned gas and oil companies that his administration won't tolerate gas-price "gouging," reports the New York Post. "I want to add one more warning, a warning to the oil and gas industry executives: Do not-let me repeat, do not-do not use this as an excuse to raise gasoline prices or gouge the American people," Biden said on Wednesday during a nutrition-focused event in Washington. He said that the hurricane may disrupt domestic oil production only "for a very short period of time." . . . "In an unfolding weather event, our industry is focused on keeping the energy market well-supplied and delivering fuels where they are needed most while ensuring the safety of our workforce," the American Petroleum Institute said in a statement. "Gasoline prices are determined by market forces-not individual companies-and claims that the price at the pump is anything but a function of supply and demand are false."


Even as Oil Prices Ease, U.S. Keeps Tapping Strategic Reserve

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, President Biden has overseen the largest sale of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve ever, to ease prices at the gasoline pump. Having released 160 million barrels of crude since March, more than a quarter of the stockpile, the Energy Department has reduced the reserve to its lowest level in four decades. Some oil experts say continuing the withdrawals could test the nation's energy security. But even though oil prices have fallen sharply from their peak, the administration is not ready to start refilling the reserve. Instead, rather than ending the releases in October as planned, it has decided to extend them, at a lower rate, for at least another month.


Gas Prices Affect Consumer Driving Patterns

Nearly half of Americans (45%) say they are driving less than they did before the pandemic hit in early 2020, and they cite gas prices as the main reason why, according to a new national consumer survey released by NACS. Three in five drivers (60%) say gas prices are the main reason why they drive less than pre-pandemic, up sharply from the 44% who said so in the February NACS survey. At the time of the most recent survey, gas prices were approximately $3.50 per gallon, which is about 20 cents higher than when the February survey was conducted. Rural drivers are the most likely to say they have cut back on driving (51%) and most likely to say it was because of the price of gas (73%).


N.J. Could Force Costco to Once Again Sell Gas to Everyone, Not Just Members

Not a Costco member? The warehouse club would be forced to once again allow you to buy gas at their New Jersey stores if a pair of state lawmakers get their way. State Sens. Richard Codey, D-Essex, and Vin Gopal, D-Monmouth, have introduced nearly identical bills (S3000 and S3029) that would require retail membership clubs in the Garden State to permit anyone to purchase gasoline at their pumps, not just paid members. The measures don't mention Costco by name, but this comes three months after the company switched to restricting sales of their often-cheaper gas in New Jersey to those with membership cards. For years, everyone had been allowed to fill up there.


Some Florida Residents Are Facing Long Gas Lines After Hurricane Ian

The parking lot of a Wawa convenience store here was transformed into a sea of red gasoline cans on Saturday as hundreds of residents waited for hours in hopes of powering generators and cars after the city, about 30 miles northwest of Fort Myers, was battered by Hurricane Ian. The store, one of only a few purveyors of gas that had reopened since Wednesday's storm, corralled cars into a line that stretched for more than a mile along a suburban road. One woman was pushing her van, which appeared to have run out of gas, as the line inched forward. Hundreds more people arrived carrying empty gas cans or pushing them in wheelbarrows.


New York to Ban New Gas-Powered Vehicle Sales by 2035

Following in California's footsteps, New York will require all new vehicles sold in the state to be electric vehicles by 2035, reports the Wall Street Journal. The requirements would apply to all new cars, pickup trucks and SUVs. New York officials say the effort is meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and expand the sale of EVs. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul had announced the initiative last year, but she said the state couldn't move forward with the plan until California implemented the same regulation. Last month, the California Air Resources Board passed a plan that requires all new passenger cars and light trucks sold in the state to be electric vehicles or plug-in electric hybrids by 2035.


NJ Set To Share in Billions for Charging Stations

The federal government is allocating $5 billion over the next five years to help New Jersey and other states build a nationwide network of fast-charging stations for electric vehicles on major highways. In approving last week's deployment plans for 50 states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, the U.S. Department of Transportation's action will open up access to $104 million of the fund to New Jersey over the life of the program. But the initial allocation is only $15 million with additional allocations of $22 million in each of the next four years. To clean-energy advocates, however, the infusion of aid from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will ramp up the state's efforts to make electric charging stations more prevalent, an outcome viewed as crucial to ending motorists' range anxiety - the fear they will run out of a charge before finding a place to recharge their car.


New Fed Rules to Ease Visa and Mastercard's Anticompetitive Control of Online Debit

The Merchants Payments Coalition (MPC) welcomed the Federal Reserve's long-awaited approval of new rules making it clear that merchants' right to choose which payment networks process trillions of dollars in debit card transactions each year applies the same online as it does in stores and must be honored by banks and card companies. NACS is an executive committee member of MPC. "This move will bring badly needed competition to our nation's broken payments market," said NACS General Counsel and MPC Executive Committee member Doug Kantor. "When Congress said merchants had the right to route debit transactions to the processor of their choice, they meant all transactions, not just those in stores. The Fed has followed through on Congress' intent and made it clear that big banks' evasion of competition must stop. Visa, Mastercard and their bank members should not be allowed to shut out other networks that can do the job more efficiently and more securely."


NJ Transit Debuts A $10M Electric Bus Fleet, Paid For Using Polluter Fines

NJ Transit's first electric bus was applauded at a ceremony at the Newton Avenue garage in Camden Tuesday morning and again after dignitaries took a ride as it glided silently on the city's side streets. "I'm waiting for the noise, I'm waiting for the shifting of gears, it was smooth, it was quiet, it was really remarkable," U.S. Rep Donald Norcross, D-Camden, said after the ride. The bus is so quiet, that during a test ride, the passenger's conversations made more noise than the vehicle. The bus is the first of eight new electric buses that will undergo a year's worth of real world testing in Camden. Passengers won't mistake it for any other type of bus as the body is green with white lettering on the roof proclaiming "it's electric."


Many New Jersey Merchants Will Sell Tobacco Products To Underage Buyers

Although New Jersey and federal law both prohibit merchants from selling tobacco to customers under the age of 21, a Rutgers study finds high rates of non-compliance. Underage buyers aged 18 to 20 visited tobacco retailers in New Jersey and successfully purchased cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products in more than 40 percent of store visits. In a study to be published in JAMA Network Open, researchers said that while buyers in this age range were carded in 65.9 percent of purchase attempts, they were still successful at purchasing 14 percent of the time, and stores sold them the requested products even when buyers used a valid driver's licenses that clearly showed them to be under 21. Independent (non-chain) convenience stores and gas kiosks carded less frequently than chain convenience stores. The strongest predictor of an underage sale was failing to card.


Gas Prices Rise In NJ After Months Of Decline
Supply shortages have finally caught up with the gasoline market in New Jersey. Couple with higher demand for fuel, prices have started rising again after more than three months of steady decline. The average price for regular gasoline moved up a penny from Thursday, to $3.41 per gallon, according to AAA. Prices peaked in New Jersey at $5.05 per gallon for regular gas last June, and had been declining ever since.



  Energy Information Agency Weekly Retail Gasoline Prices  

Each week, the Energy Information Administration publishes a list of average gasoline prices for the previous three weeks. NJGCA will begin including this list with the Weekly Road Warrior. Remember, these prices are reflective of self-serve everywhere except NJ.



  Member Benefit Partner Message Board  







  Classifieds: For Sale and Help Wanted Ads  

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