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New Jersey Hosts ERC Meeting
New Jersey was delighted to have the opportunity to host the ERC’s 52nd Annual Meeting and Regional Policy Forum this year in Atlantic City. The theme of the conference, “Regional Challenges and Shared Opportunities,” was appropriate as New Jersey, like most of the Northeastern states, continues to experience higher than average unemployment rates.
“We are eager to share our experiences and learn from our colleagues in the other ERC member states and Canadian provinces as to the most effective ways to spur the creation of new jobs and improve our state’s economy,” ERC Co-Chair Sen. Jim Whelan said. “For example, ERC’s ongoing effort to look at the green energy economy, and wind energy in particular, has been of keen interest to us in New Jersey, as a way to create jobs and stimulate manufacturing.”
ERC Co-Chair, Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski, noted in his opening remarks at the conference that New Jersey is a leader in renewable energy.
“I suspect many of you have noticed the large wind turbines that tower above the skyline in Atlantic City,” Wisniewski said. “They stand as symbols of New Jersey’s commitment to renewable energy. They should soon be joined by offshore wind farms generating electricity along our coast.
“For a number of years now, New Jersey has also ranked second among states for our solar generation, with over 15,000 solar installations and nearly 800 megawatts of solar-generated energy.”
After the ERC co-chairs welcomed delegates to Atlantic City, New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney introduced the opening panelists, which included author and national correspondent for The Atlantic, James Fallows, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. Neil Borowski, the executive editor of the Press of Atlantic City, moderated the session.
Both Markell and Rendell said state governments need to invest in infrastructure to increase growth.
“The American infrastructure is falling apart and we are falling behind competitively because of it,” Rendell said. “If we are going to be competitive, we’ve got to be ready, we’ve got to repair our port infrastructure.”
The New Jersey Farm Bureau co-sponsored the South Jersey/Pinelands farm tour with the ERC. Legislators met the operators of a cranberry farm (Pine Island Cranberry), farm winery (Tomasello Winery) and blueberry farm (Atlantic Blueberry).
“Although we are the most densely populated state in the country, New Jersey—nicknamed the Garden State—still relies on agriculture for a large part of the state’s economy,” Wisniewski reminded delegates.
Two new faculty members this year joined the CSG/ERC Robert J. Thompson Eastern Leadership Academy, known as ELA, in partnership with the Fels Institute of Government. The 25 ELA graduates discussed case studies on policy development, participated in a workshop on applying the principles of strategic persuasion to better communicate and sell their ideas, and participated in workshops on media and public relations strategies, and Canada/U.S. relations. The program was held Aug. 26–30 in Philadelphia. David Mathe, deputy director of international trade, Delaware, was elected ELA class president.
The CSG/ERC Energy & Environment Program began developing a new project to help states better prepare for severe weather events. Many states in the region suffered extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure, as well as loss of life, from recent severe weather events, including last year’s Tropical Storm Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and the record-breaking October 2011 Nor’easter that dumped more than 2 feet of snow in some parts of the Northeast. ERC is developing a series of multimedia case studies aimed at facilitating communication across states in the region and between the executive and legislative branches, with the goals of sharing information and ideas that are often siloed, and highlighting resources and policies that may be regionally beneficial.
CSG/ERC convened its Black Caucus at the 52nd Annual Meeting in July. For African-Americans in the Northeast, the need to have their issues heard and acknowledged is key, caucus members said. They discussed issues including children of color in the foster care system, police stop-and-frisk procedures, economic development, and funding of higher education for high school students and opportunities for youth development.
The Eastern Regional Conference’s Innovations Screening Panel selected programs in Connecticut and Pennsylvania as winners of The Council of State Governments’ Innovations Awards for the East region. Connecticut’s Oasis Center helps National Guardsmen and Reserve forces transition to an academic setting after uniformed service. Pennsylvania’s Enterprise Program Integrity was created by the Department of Public Welfare to target and prevent waste and fraud.
The U.S.-Canada Relations Committee adopted three resolutions to reduce regulatory barriers to cross-border trade. One resolution encouraged the U.S. to open a customs office at the train station in Montreal to make tourist and business travel between Quebec, New England and New York more affordable. Another resolution urged federal and state policymakers to consider the impacts of restrictive procurement policies on the U.S.-Canada trade relationship.