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Testimony in Support of the NJ Home Bakers Bill
Thursday, February 1, 2018 at 1:00 PM
Committee Room 15, 4th Floor
Dear Chairman Andrzejczak and Members of the Assembly Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee:
Thank you for the opportunity today to testify in support of home-baking entrepreneurs and bill A-801. Chairman Andrzejczak, thank you for introducing the bill and making it a priority in your committee at the beginning of session. This idea, to permit the sale of cottage food products, has been in bill form for almost ten (10) years now.
To provide context, a group of home bakers this past year formed an association and started organizing their clusters from all over the state. They have more than 4,500 supporters of the bill and represent hundreds, if not thousands more, across New Jersey.
Many of these women and men already have home-baking businesses in order to support their families or make some side income, and must operate in the shadows for fear of New Jersey State law. In December, these bakers filed a lawsuit against the Department of Health to overturn the ban. New Jersey is the only state in the entire nation that has a complete ban on the sale of home-baked bills.
The ban extends to baked goods that the state does not consider potentially hazardous, such as cookies, muffins, breads, and cakes that do not require refrigeration. Violators of the ban face up to $1,000 in fines for a first offense. The lawsuit focuses on the violation of New Jersey Constitution’s Due Process guarantee on the grounds that there have been no complaints on record from people becoming sick by consuming an improperly baked good, yet there are hundreds of bakers who want to support themselves and their families by selling home-baked goods. The lawsuit also cites a violation of the Equal Protection guarantee because currently, New Jerseyans can sell home-baked goods for a non-profit, just not for-profit as a small business.
The stories of many of these women are incredible. Heather Russinko of Sussex County is a single mom, working full-time. She would like to sell her home-baked goods, chocolates, and cookie mixes to bring some additional income in to support her and her son. Liz Cibotariu of Ocean County is a mother of two young children and an Iraq War veteran and helicopter technician. She would like to make some extra income to support her family. And Martha Raballo of Union County is a former pastry chef and bakery owner, and now stay-at-home mother for her two young children. She would also like to sell home-baked goods and homemade chocolates to support herself and her family.
Yet, in 2018, the State of New Jersey is denying these women, and hundreds of others around the state, the right to earn a living.
What’s in the way? Special interests are at play here. Lobbyists come in year after year to check off the box that they’ve helped their client corner a piece of the marketplace. The bakers are regular men and women. They’re not high-powered lobbyists. They are small business men and women, the lifeblood of our state. It has been an honor for Americans for Prosperity to fight alongside these home bakers this past year, help organize a lobby day, and advocate for many who haven’t traditionally had a voice here at the State House.
On behalf of more than 137,000 Americans for Prosperity activists and entrepreneurs across the state, I encourage you to please vote “Yes” today on A-801, which would allow many more New Jerseyans to live their version of the American Dream. The past couple legislative sessions, we’ve seen this bill pass the Assembly and get caught in the Senate. Please, I ask all of you, to be leaders and help this bill get to the Governor’s desk this year.
If I can be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to reach out directly at 862-229-4953. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Erica L. Jedynak
New Jersey State Director