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June 21, 2013

Re: Legislative Recap for week of June 17

Dear Mayor:

With the June 30 budget deadline fast approaching, there was significant legislative activity of interest to municipalities this past week.   Here is brief recap of some bills of interest to local governments.

I.          A-2586/S-1534, Bill Exempting Private Institutions of Higher Education HELD
As indicated in our June 14 Dear Mayor letter, (http://www.njslom.org/letters/2013-0614-MLUL.html) bills that would exempt private colleges and universities from complying with local land use regulations were scheduled for consideration before the Assembly Budget Committee on Monday.  The League strongly opposes these bills.    We are pleased to report that A-2586/S-1534 were held and not considered by the Committee on Monday.  Contact: Mike Cerra at mcerra@njslom.com or at 609-695-3481 x120.

II.        Redevelopment bill heads to the Governor
The League of Municipalities supports A-3615/S-2477, which codifies recent case law on redevelopment and eminent domain.  The bill also authorizes municipalities that intend to implement redevelopment initiatives without using eminent domain to do so but to still take advantage of the other tools available under the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law.   This bill was previously passed by the Assembly by a vote of 78-0 and yesterday passed the Senate 36-1.   It now heads to Governor for his consideration.   Contact: Mike Cerra at mcerra@njslom.com or at 609-695-3481 x120.

III.   Open Space Funding
On Thursday, the State Senate approved SCR-138, a proposed Constitutional amendment asking voters to dedicate approximately $200 million (estimated to be 1/5th of a penny)  of the sales tax revenue annually for the next 30 years for open space projects, such as Green and Blue Acres projects, farmland and historic preservation projects.     The bill was then sent to the Assembly and placed at 2nd reading and could be approved by the Assembly as soon as Monday.  If it passes the Assembly by a super-majority, the question would be on the November ballot.   For more, please see the April 22 Dear Mayor letter (http://www.njslom.org/letters/2013-0422-Open-Space.html) Contact: Mike Cerra at mcerra@njslom.com or at 609-695-3481 x120.

IV.       Energy Receipts Property Tax Relief Advances
The Assembly approved the recently amended Assembly Bill A-2753 by a vote of 65 in favor, 5 opposed and 3 abstaining. As discussed in our June 18 letter (http://www.njslom.org/letters/2013-0618-A2753.html), this bill will phase-in the distribution of additional Energy Tax Receipts Property Tax Relief Aid to municipalities over a period of five fiscal years.  The phase-in would provide $331 million, adjusted for inflation, in 20% increments over the next 5 years. Beginning in the fifth fiscal year, energy taxes would be paid directly to municipalities. We look forward to further consideration of this matter on the Senate side. Contact: Jon Moran at jmoran@njslom.com or at 609-695-3481 x121.

V.        State Health Benefit Program to Provide Claims Experience Data to participating municipalities at no charge
The League of Municipalities supports A-1273/S-2640, which requires the State Health Benefits Program to provide to complete claims experience data along with loss reports and large claims data to participating public employers at no cost.  A-1273 permits a municipality to request the information, in writing, no more than once in a 24 month period and the State must provide the information in an electronic and manual format within 30 days of the request.  This bill previously passed the Assembly by a vote of 58-16-3 and yesterday passed the Senate 31-8.  It now heads to the Governor for his consideration. Contact: Lori Buckelew at lbuckelew@njslom.com or at 609-695-3481 x112.

VI.       Defeated School Budget Deadline Bill Passes the Assembly
The Assembly unanimously approved A-248, which requires the Commissioner of Education to change the deadline for municipal review of defeated school budgets whenever he changes the annual school election date.  A-248 addresses an oversight that has created an inadequate time frame for governing bodies to act upon a defeated school budget (See our June 18 Dear Mayors Letter)The League enthusiastically supports A-248 and thanks Assemblymen Schaer and Diegnan and Assemblywoman DeCroce for supporting and advancing this important legislation.   The Senate companion bill, S-2458 sponsored by Senator Bucco, now awaits consideration by the Senate Education Committee.  Contact: Lori Buckelew at lbuckelew@njslom.com or at 609-695-3481 x112.

VII.     Requirement that a Registered Apprenticeship Program to be required for all Public Works Contracts passes the Assembly
A-3359, which concerns registration of contractors and set criteria for responsible bidders in public works, passed the Assembly by a vote of 69-6.  Among the requirements, A-3359 would require that every contractor and subcontractor of a Public Works project shall provide that every worker employed in the performance of such contract is an apprentice participating in a registered apprenticeship program or has completed a registered apprenticeship, unless the contractor or subcontractor certifies that every worker shall be paid not less than the journey worker’s rate established for the apprenticeable trade. 

While we agree with the provision of the bill that contractor who, in the three most recent calendar years, has been determined by the Commissioner of Labor to have knowing and willful violate the State wage, benefit and tax laws should not be able to bid on public works contract we have concerns with the registered apprenticeship requirement.   We fear that as a result fewer contractors will be able to meet this new requirement.  With fewer contractors qualified the price for public works projects will increase.  The Senate companion bill, S-2604 sponsored by Senator Norcross, now awaits consideration by the Senate Labor Committee.  Contact: Lori Buckelew at lbuckelew@njslom.com or at 609-695-3481 x112.

VIII.    Common Sense Shared Service Bill passes Assembly Appropriation Committee Awaits Consideration by the Assembly
A late addition to yesterday’s Assembly Budget Committee agenda was A-1401/S-533 known as the “Common Sense Shared Service Act”.  (See our February 28, 2012 Dear Mayors Letter).  A-1401 was amended by the committee so it is now identical to the amended S-533.  The bill unanimously passed the Assembly Budget hearing and now awaits consideration before the full Assembly.

As a reminder, the League along with the Municipal Clerks’ Association, Tax Collectors and Treasurers Association, Government Finance Officers Association and Association of Municipal Assessors met with the bill sponsor, Senator Norcross, in early 2012.  After that meeting Senator Norcross amended the bill to address many of the groups concerns.  The amendments were:

1.         When entering into a shared service, the employer shall select one of the employees that are party to the agreement who was employed in the same capacity prior to the approval of the agreement.

2.         The agreement must be filed with the Division of Local Government Services along with an estimate of the cost savings anticipated to be achieved by the local unit's that are party to the agreement

3.         If the shared service agreement is cancelled or expires within the 2 year period the person who was dismissed shall be reappointed to their former position and regain their tenure status.

4.         No agreement can be adopted until copies of the agreement is provided to the affected employees at least 2 weeks before the adoption of the resolution and a public hearing has been held on the agreement. All persons having an interest in the agreement shall have been given an opportunity to present comments or objections concerning the content of the agreement, or the effect of the agreement.

5.         During the public hearing, the local unit shall provide an overview of the terms of the agreement and an estimate of the cost savings anticipated to be achieved by the local units that are parties to the agreement.

6.         A copy of the agreement shall be available to the public at least 2 weeks prior to the adoption of the agreement.

7.         The duration of the agreement must be 10 years, unless otherwise agreed upon the parties, but in no case shall the duration of any agreement be less than 1 year.

8.         A municipal clerk, chief financial officer, tax collector, tax assessor, municipal treasurer or municipal engineer with tenure can be dismissed due to the "interest of economy and efficiency".  Under this circumstance, the municipality does not need to have a hearing instead the municipality must provide the tenured employee with a written copy of the shared service agreement and letter stating that their position is being eliminated for reasons of economy or efficiency as the result of the shared service agreement.

Given the fact that the amendments addressed many of our concerns, we now support the bill. 

We are concerned, however, that the bill does not specify how to determine which tenured official remains in their office.  As such, if there are two tenured officials in the shared service position which one can the municipality hire?  We believe without some guidelines this matter will be determined by costly litigation. Contact: Lori Buckelew at lbuckelew@njslom.com or at 609-695-3481 x112.

IX.       A-2405/ S-2281 Statute of Limitations Expansion Bills Readied for Action
S-1651 and A-2405 would extend the statute of limitations in certain civil actions for sexual abuse, expand the categories of defendants who are potentially liable and codify liability of public entities in these actions. Yesterday, A-2405 was amended on the Assembly floor making it identical to the Senate Substitute for S-1651. If these bills pass, any claim of sexual abuse, no matter how far in the past, can be revived during a two-year window.  The tort claims act eliminates any liability on the part of the employer municipality for actions outside the scope of employment. S-1651/A-2405 would remove that protection and allow abuse victims to sue not only local government employees, but also the municipality. The bills could encourage litigation against public entities and, most probably, drive up liability insurance costs and, as a result, have a negative impact on property taxpayers all around our State. Both bills are now readied for final legislative action, which could occur next week in both Houses. 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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