New Jersey’s largest teacher union, an issue advocacy group, and a health insurance firm has helped break the record of lobbyist spending above $100 million in 2019. According to the annual report filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), overall lobbying expenditures grew $8.4 million from the previous year (a 9.1 percent jump). The top three spending groups consisted of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), New Direction NJ Corporation, and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey – combined these three spent $10.2 million more in 2019 than the previous year.
NJEA represents about 200,000 teachers and other school works and it increased it’s spending in 2019 by 1,187 percent. In 2018, they spent $484,740 and in 2019, they spend $6.2 million. During the last legislative session, they showed an interest in 350 different bills, which included school funding, pension and health benefits, arbitration, school meals, sick leave, and programs to help deaf students.
Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey spent $1.4 million in 2019, a 234 percent jump from the previous year. Part of these funds supported Move Health Care Forward NJ Inc.’s campaign seeking support for legislation that would let the state’s largest health insurer modernize its corporate structure.
Another player among the top spenders was the marijuana industry. 2019 was a big year for cannabis legislation in New Jersey. Several marijuana issues were pending before the Legislature last year, resulting in lobbying expenses shooting up 32 percent from $1.4 million to $1.9 million. Since marijuana interests have come to fruition in New Jersey over the past few years, about $3.8 million has been spent on issues including medical marijuana expansion, decriminalization of marijuana use, and legalization of recreational marijuana use. Jeff Brindle, ELEC’s Executive Director, predicts even higher spending this year due to the referendum – lawmaker’s decision to allow voters to decide on the issue of recreational marijuana legalization this fall. Brindle projects upwards of $10 million in spending.
A big reason why overall expenditures grew so much in 2019 was due to $13.6 million spent on communications – the third biggest total ever for this category. Lobbyists today are allotting more resources on the airwaves and the Internet to spread their message and mobilize grassroots support.
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