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June 19, 2012

Re:  I.  S-2011 & A-2950, COAH Trust Fund Extension
       II.  S-1650, EMS Bill

Dear Mayor:

I.          S-2011 & A-2950, COAH Trust Fund

On Monday, June 18 the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee approved S-2011. This bill was previously approved by the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee on June 7. S-2011 will provide a two-year extension for the commitment of the municipal housing trust fund dollars. The League supports the bill, which now can be scheduled for a vote by the full Senate.   The Assembly companion, A-2950, was approved by the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee and awaits a vote by the full Assembly.

According to the Department of Community Affairs most recent release, approximately $161 million in local trust funds are at risk of forfeiture in July unless committed by contract. Specifically, A-2950 and S-2011 will:

1. Extend the deadline to commit trust fund dollars from four years from the date of collection to six years. Thus, dollars subject to forfeiture to the State this July would be protected until July 2014; and

2. Provide that any dollars forfeited after six years will either be transferred to the State Affordable Housing Trust Fund, or to the County if it has established a “Homelessness Trust Fund pursuant to NJSA 52:27D-287(e) or if it serves an “urban county pursuant to section 102(a)(6) of the “Housing and Community Development Act of 1974.” This provision allows for the trust fund dollars to be retained and used locally. If your municipality is at risk of forfeiting its housing trust fund dollars, we urge to reach out to your State legislators and ask them to support A-2950 and S-2011.   Further, please note that any language in the State budget must be consistent with A-2950 and S-2011, and not authorize the forfeiture of the dollars.  

We would also urge you, if you have not already, to reach out to the Governor’s Office to express your support as well. You can receive a sample letter at the following links:

PDF – http://www.njslom.org/documents/COAH-Letter-to-Governor-Christie.pdf

WORD - http://www.njslom.org/documents/COAH-Letter-to-Governor-Christie.doc

For more, please see our Dear Mayor letter of June 12 and June 8. For questions and comments on these bills, please contact Mike Cerra at mcerra@njslom.com or at (609) 695-3481 x120.

II. S-1650, EMS Bill

On Monday, June 18 the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee amended and approved S-1650.  This bill will revise the requirements for emergency medical services delivery.  The League opposes the bill, which has been referred to the Senate Budget Appropriation Committee.

When discussing EMS, municipalities need to balance the benefits that these revisions would produce with their potential financial impact.  Having the “best quality of EMS” no matter where in New Jersey you live or work is a goal set by the Department of Health and Senior Services.  We agree with that goal.  The challenge is how to best approach that goal within the budget structure faced by municipalities across New Jersey.  While municipalities want the “best quality of EMS” available there is a realization that there are limits, and a hosts of other demands, on local resources.

While we thank Senator Vitale and his co-sponsors for their tireless work on this matter and for their tireless work on this matter we still have a few outstanding concerns.

S-1650 provides that a member of a volunteer first aid, ambulance or rescue squad, as defined in N.J.S.A. 27:5F-20 is not required to pay a fee or assume any other cost for licensure as an EMT from the Commissioner of Health and Human Services; or to assume of Health and Senior Services; or to assume the cost of a criminal history record background check that is to be conducted on all persons licensed or otherwise authorized to provide patient care in a pre-hospital care or inter-facility care setting. We appreciate the intent of these provisions, which seek to insulate New Jersey volunteers from the costs of the training, licensure and equipment mandates in various sections of the bill. However, we fear that because of an out-dated definition of “volunteer first aid, ambulance or rescue squad” in the Highway Safety Act, these requirements could impose unintended, but significant new burdens on our volunteers, and on the taxpaying citizens who they serve.

We believe that these mandates could best be addressed by a new definition that accounts for contemporary realities of part-paid and mixed services and third party billings. We would support a definition for “volunteer first aid, ambulance or rescue squad” that would require more than half of a squad’s personnel to serve on a true volunteer basis.

Also, Section 28 of the bill deletes language in the Highway Traffic Safety Act, which requires a volunteer squad to notify the governing body of the political subdivision in which the squad is located of its membership, training qualifications and certification of ambulances. It also removes the ability of the municipality to certify its BLS EMS provider.

While we would oppose a new mandate on a municipality, we would appreciate the restoration of those provisions. We believe that the law should continue to allow appropriate local review of Basic Life Services (BLS) EMS services.

During these difficult financial times, everyone is feeling the crunch.  Municipal revenues are down, donations are down, and expenses are increasing.  While we appreciate the desire to create a standard for delivery of EMS, we must recognize that one size does not fit all.  New Jersey is a diverse state from small rural communities to large urban communities who are serviced by a myriad of EMS from solely volunteer squads to hybrids of volunteer and paid to paid squads.

For more, please see our Dear Mayor letter of June 12 and June 8. For questions and comments on these bills, please contact Mike Cerra at mcerra@njslom.com or at (609) 695-3481 x120.

For questions and comments on these bills, please contact Jon Moran at jmoran@njslom.com or at (609) 695-3481 x121.

Very truly yours,

 

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director

 

 

 

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