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June 21, 2013

RE:      Senate and Assembly Voting Session for Monday, June 24, 2013

Dear Mayor:

On Monday, both Houses of the State Legislature will consider and act upon the proposed State Budget.   Next week we will provide a breakdown of the budget and its impact on municipalities.

The following bills of interest are scheduled for action.

A-3890/S-2598, Exempts from development regulations certain structures to be raised as high as the highest applicable flood revelation standard.
The State Senate is scheduled to consider A-3890 and S-2598, which would provide a limited exemption from any development regulation when raising certain structures to meet State or federal flood elevation standards.   This exemption would be available only to the extent that raising the structure, or constructing a staircase or other attendant structure necessitated by such raising, would otherwise result in a violation of the development regulation.  A person would also be exempt from any requirement to apply for a variance from a development regulation for such purposes.  The exemption would be available for raising any structure that existed on October 28, 2012, or for using a raised elevation when lawfully repairing or reconstructing a structure damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

The term “new FEMA base flood elevation” is defined in the bill to mean any base flood elevation proposed or adopted after October 28, 2012, by FEMA.  The exemption would not be available for any new construction other than the reconstruction of a structure damaged by Hurricane Sandy.  The exemption would not be available in situations where the need for the exemption is wholly or partially the result of alterations made or to be made to the dimensions of the structure after October 28, 2012.

If approved by the Senate, the bill would be returned to the Assembly for concurrence and then sent to the Governor.   While we appreciate and respect the intentions of the sponsors, the League opposes the bill as unnecessary as many municipalities have undertaken efforts to streamline the recovery and restoration processes.    Please contact Mike Cerra at 609-695-3481 x120 or for additional information.

A-2837/S-1085, Establishes forest harvest program on State-owned land
The General Assembly is scheduled to consider A-2837 & S-1085.    This legislation proposes using revenue from timber sales from State Parks and preserved lands to pay for stewardship.   The League opposes these bills as the proposed legislation would open State forested lands up to commercial logging interests.  Commercial logging of preserved lands for the benefit of private interests is, we believe, in conflict with the goals and objectives of the State’s successful preservation programs and a betrayal of the Public Trust.   Further, we believe the costs of oversight and restoration would exceed the historically low value of standing timber leaving no money for stewardship and lead to the degradation of the State's forested lands.  S-1085 was previously approved the State Senate so if the Assembly approves these bills, they head to the Governor for his consideration.  Please contact Mike Cerra at 609-695-3481 x120 or for additional information.

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.

The League opposes S-1651/A-2405.  While we appreciate the sponsors’ intentions, 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 bill also exposes public officials, supervisory employees and volunteers to personal liability for the actions committed by other employees and volunteers. 

The individual who commits a crime, including sexual abuse, currently has no immunity under the tort claims act. If the conduct was a crime, the act provides no immunity. However, the tort claims act eliminates any liability on the part of the employer municipality for actions outside the scope of employment, which sexual abuse would clearly be. S-1651/A-2405 would remove that protection and allow victims to sue not only local government employees, but also the municipal employers (for negligent hiring, etc). This is true even if the perpetrator is dead and the organization no longer has any records, witnesses, or institutional knowledge of what occurred to defend itself.

The bills could encourage costly litigation against public entities. Further, it will, most probably, drive up liability insurance costs and, as a result, have a negative impact on property taxpayers all around our State.

Yesterday, A-2405 was amended on the Assembly floor. It is now identical to the Senate Substitute for S-1651. While not yet scheduled for action, both bills are now readied for final legislative action, which could occur next week in both Houses. Please contact Jon Moran at 609-695-3481 x121 or for additional information.

Additionally, earlier today the League sent out by e-mail a letter recapping the legislative activity this past week.   The letter is too long to fax but it is also available online at:

Please reach out to your legislators on these issues. 

Very truly yours,

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director



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