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April 29, 2011

Re: Legislative Week in Review

Dear Mayor:

Yesterday in Trenton, the State Senate met to consider and vote on several bills. Included among those bills were the following.

S-2731 - Under the terms of this bill, a police officer who is terminated from an agency for reasons of economy or efficiency would be granted an exemption or waiver from retaking the basic training course if, within five years from the date of termination, the police officer is appointed to a similar law enforcement position in another agency or is reemployed by the agency from which he was terminated. Currently, such an officer would face retraining after a three year gap in service.

We have asked that the bill be amended to permit, rather than require, the appointing authority to waive retraining requirements in the specified instances. There could be good reason to require retraining of officers who would be given the power to faithfully and effectively enforce the laws, and who would be authorized to use deadly force. But this bill gives the appointing authority no choice.

The bill was unanimously approved and now moves on to the Assembly, where it will likely be referred to the Law and Public Safety Committee.

S-837 - This bill permits a municipality to enact an ordinance establishing areas in or around elementary or secondary schools, playgrounds, or child care centers where certain registered sex offenders may be prohibited from residing.  The amended bill also imposes restrictions on the location of school bus stops and the siting of child care centers so that they are not situated near the residence of a moderate or high risk sex offender.

Local ordinances passed pursuant to this bill would, inevitably, be challenged in State Courts. This will delay enforcement of the restrictions, possibly for years, and impose significant litigation costs on local property taxpayers.

We regret that we cannot support the bill, as currently drafted. But we stand ready to meet with the sponsors and to help them craft a bill that would establish an enforceable, sustainable and State-wide limit on sex offender residency.

The bill was unanimously approved and now moves on to the Assembly, where it will likely join its companion bill, A-3363, in the Law and Public Safety Committee.

S-2065 – The legislation provides for development of searchable "Bulletin NJ" local public bidding and employment database.

On this bill, the Senate unanimously voted to concur with amendments spelled out in the Governor’s Conditional Veto. It now moves on to the Assembly for final action.
S-2126 – The bill permits the development of solar and wind facilities and structures on landfills and resource extraction operations under certain circumstances.

On this bill, also, the Senate voted unanimously to concur with amendments spelled out in the Governor’s Conditional Veto. It now moves on to the Assembly for final action.

S-2729 – This initiative authorizes a local public contract set-aside program for business enterprises that are owned by or that employ veterans.

The bill was unanimously approved and now moves on to the Assembly, where it will likely join its companion bill, A-3933, in a Committee to be specified by the Speaker.

On Wednesday, Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Lori Grifa testified before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee concerning the Governor’s State Budget proposal for the upcoming Fiscal Year.

Both in her prepared testimony (which can be viewed at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/legislativepub/budget_2012/Testimony/DCA_Grifa_testimony_SBA.pdf)  and in a spirited dialogue with the Chair and other members of the Committee, Commissioner Grifa pushed for action on pension and benefits reforms, ‘toolkit’ reforms (most notably, civil service reform), shared services, COAH reform and UEZ reform. She commented on the value of the Division of Local Government Services’ Best Practices Inventory, the Transitional Aid program and the soon-to-be implemented property tax credit program.

Unfortunately, it seems that the Commissioner and several members of the Committee still regard the Energy Tax, CMPTRA and other municipal property tax relief funding programs as “State Aid,” rather than as municipal revenues - diverted to the State budget to address State problems and priorities. The Commissioner also noted that, “2010 represented the last of the 4% cap budgets,” under which “… property taxes grew with reckless abandon, as there were no meaningful reins on local government spending.” She stated that the referendum provisions of the new 2% levy cap mean that “… taxpayers finally have a say in how their tax dollars are being spent.”

Also on Wednesday, levy cap referendum votes occurred in 14 municipalities. In only two, did the voters approve requests to exceed the 2%.

For more information on any of these matters, dial 609-695-3481 to contact one of our Senior Legislative Analysts – Lori Buckelew (extension 112), Mike Cerra (extension 120) or Jon Moran (extension 121). In the alternative, you can e-mail them at lbuckelew@njslom.com, mcerra@njslom.com or jmoran@njslom.com.  

Very truly yours,

 

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director

 

 

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