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December 13, 2013

Re:

Lame Duck, Legislative Recap for December 12

I. User Fee Bill
II.
Snow Removal Trust Fund Bill
III.
Competing Open Space Funding Initiatives Advance
IV.
Consolidation Facilitation Bill Amended to Address League Concerns
V.
Commercial Development Fee Suspension Advances
VI.
Historic Hotel Liquor Licenses

Dear Mayor:

Thursday was a busy legislative day in Trenton.   Here is a summary of developments on issues of interest to local government.

I. User Fee Bill

Yesterday, Brian Wahler, League 3rd Vice President and Piscataway Mayor, along with Joe Monzo, South Brunswick Deputy Manager/Chief Financial Officer testified before the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee in opposition to the User Fee bill (S-1914/A-2975).  As noted in our December 11 Dear Mayor Letter the bill was before the committee for “discussion only” and did not advance.

During his testimony Mayor Wahler not only provided examples of user fees in Piscataway but noted that “almost all units of local government enact user fees to recapture some of the costs for services provided in their community.  User fees are at times the best method to pay for any public service.  At times it is appropriate to fund some services by user fees, especially those services for which a recipient and a cost can be clearly identified and accurately calculated.”

Joe Monzo noted not only that each municipality is different with different population needs and requirements but the current problems that municipalities face when constructing a budget to  provide a broad range of services to meet their residents needs and requirements.

The Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee only took testimony and did not advance the bill.  We thank Assemblyman Green for providing us an opportunity to testify in opposition to S-1914/A-2975.
Staff contact:  Lori Buckelew at 609-695-3481 x112 or lbuckelew@njslom.com

II. Snow Removal Trust Fund Bill

The Senate Community and Urban Affairs committee amended and released A-3764/S-3052, which permits counties and municipalities to use snow removal reserve funds for clearance of debris following declaration of an emergency by the President or Governor.  The League supports this legislation, which results party from League Resolution 2012-19, which asked the Legislation to, “…Expand the Use of the Snow Removal Trust Funds to Respond to Natural Disasters.”

The amendments would:

  • Permit the reserve funds to be used for any purpose relating to storm recovery (not just for snowstorms);
  • Allow said funds to be used as necessary to protect the safety, security, health and welfare of citizens following the declaration of an emergency by the President or the Governor;
  • Require any reimbursements of these expenditures (e.g. FEMA; CDBG) to be deposited back into the trust fund.

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.  It previously passed the Assembly unanimously.  We thank Senator Van Drew and Assemblymen Dancer and Chivukula for sponsoring and advancing the bill.
Staff contacts:  Mike Cerra at 609-695-3481 x120 or mcerra@njslom.com or Lori Buckelew at 609-695-3481 x112 or lbuckelew@njslom.com

III. Competing Open Space Funding Initiatives Advance

League Resolution 2012-04 calls for a, “…Sustainable State Funding for preservation and Stewardship of Open Space, Parks, Farmland and Historic Sites in New Jersey.”     On Thursday, the Senate Environment Committee approved a measure (SCR-165) for a voter referendum for a Constitutional dedication of 2.4% of sales tax revenue, capped at $200 million, for a 30-year period.  The full Senate approved a similar measure over the summer, but SCR-165 is intended to address concerns raised about the initial proposal.    Meanwhile, the Assembly Budget Committee approved a measure (A-4541)placing a referendum on the November 2014 ballot asking the voters to approve a $200 million bond referendum for a one-year fix, while the Legislature considers any longer term solutions.   The Assembly is concerned about tying the hands of future Legislatures with a Constitutional dedication.    At this point, it is not known if the two Houses of the Legislature will agree on a proposal or if the issues will instead be handled in the new Legislative term that begins in mid-January.

Staff contact:  Mike Cerra 609-695-3481 x120 or mcerra@njslom.com.

IV. Consolidation Facilitation Bill Amended to Address League Concerns

We want to thank Senator Robert M. Gordon, sponsor of S-2679, and the members of the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee, who agreed to amend that bill to address our concerns.
As originally drafted, the bill had proposed the elimination of the requirement for voter approval of a proposed consolidation. The bill would also have removed the requirement that State agencies consider local circumstances in making decisions regarding consolidations. Related to this was a provision that would have allowed the Department of Community Affairs to decline to provide an analysis of the fiscal impact of a consolidation proposal.

The amendments advanced by Senator Gordon and accepted by the Committee reinstate those requirements. Accordingly, the bill now ensures that the citizens will have final say on a consolidation proposal and that they will be given the information they need – including an independent fiscal analysis – in order to make an informed decision. For that reason, we now support S-2679. We will ask the sponsors of the companion bill, A-4009, to support these amendments. And we will urge the Senate Leadership to advance S-2679.

Staff Contact:  Jon Moran 609-695-3481, ext. 121 or jmoran@njslom.com

V. Commercial Development Fee Suspension Advances

The Assembly Appropriations Committee approved A-4457, which would reinstate the suspension of the 2.5% fee on non-residential development, which expired on July 1, 2013.    Under this bill, the fee would be suspended until December 31, 2014.     Any funding collected since July 1, 2013 which has not already expended for affordable housing, would be required to be refunded to the applicant.     A-4457 can be scheduled for a full vote by the Assembly at an upcoming session.   A Senate companion, S-3116, was proposed for introduction.


Staff contact:  Mike Cerra 609-695-3481 x120 or mcerra@njslom.com.

VI. Historic Hotel Liquor Licenses

The Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee advanced A-3198, which is supported by the League for the potential benefit to historic districts and “Main Streets. ”   This bill would permit the issuance of a liquor license to the operator of a historic hotel/motel provided it has a minimum of 24 sleeping rooms, regardless of the number of such licenses already issued in the municipality.   Hotels/motels constructed prior to January 1, 1880 and included in the New Jersey Register of Historic Places and in the National Register of Historic Places would qualify.     Flemington Mayor and League Executive Board Member Erica Edwards also attended the hearing in support of the bill.

Staff contact:  Mike Cerra 609-695-3481 x120 or mcerra@njslom.com.

Very truly yours,

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director

 

 

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