One of the Northeast’s most powerful politicians is fighting hard to make sure the selling of homemade baked goods is a crime in the Garden State.
New Jersey State Senator Joe Vitale (D-Woodbridge) has used his position as chairman of the Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee to block a bill that would make it legal to sell baked goods — cookies, pies and cakes — made at home. The reason: He wants to protect businesses that sell baked products.
“They’re concerned at some level of being undermined by these home-baked products,” Vitale said in a statement to the Associated Press. “If the cap is $50,000, that’s potentially $50,000 or some portion that’s out of the bottom line of a small baker.”
Others, though, say the law needs to be overturned. State Senator Christopher Bateman (R-Neshanic Station) has introduced a bill that would allow the selling of baked goods.
“New Jersey is expensive enough,” Bateman said. “To give people an opportunity to supplement their income or pay their taxes, why not do it? I’m sure it’s being done. Why not legalize it?”
A bill to overturn the baking law has passed New Jersey’s General Assembly lower house twice, but Vitale has tabled it in his committee both times, AP said.
That leaves bakers such as Martha Rabello stuck in limbo. Rabello currently has to spend $20 an hour to rent a commercial kitchen in order to do her baking. The alternative is to buy a bakery or spend around $15,000 to build a commercial kitchen.
“That’s a big investment; you don’t have that leeway to try things,” Rabello told the news service. “This is a business that has a high failure rate. If you invest all that money and what you decided (to make) doesn’t sell, you lose a lot more than if you had the ability to start at home.”
New Jersey is one of two states in which it is illegal to sell home baked goods. The other is Wisconsin, where the Institute for Justice is challenging a similar ban on baking in court.
“All these home bakers want to be able to do is sell their goods at community events, farmers markets and directly to consumers,” said Erica Smith, an attorney with the Institute. “This is something that people have been doing in this country for hundreds of years. It’s just an American tradition to sell to your neighbors.”
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