October 10, 2014
Re: Weekly Policy Update
I. Assembly Committee Takes Testimony on Paid Sick Leave bill
On Thursday, the Assembly Labor committee took testimony on, but did not advance, A-2354, which would require each employer to provide paid sick leave to its employees. The League, along with the New Jersey Association of Counties and the New Jersey School Boards Association, provided testimony and requested that A-2354 be amended to exempt local governments. Specifically, the League testimony highlighted that the 194 municipalities in Civil Service are required to provide sick leave. Further, the League noted that for other municipalities, sick leave is the subject of collective negotiations and that these sick leave provisions are extended to non-union and at-will employees. Municipal employees already receive sick leave and the League noted that the municipalities which have passed local sick leave ordinances exempted out public employers and employees for these same reasons.
As the hearing was for “discussion only,” no amendments were made and the bill did not advance. We are hopeful that when the Committee again takes up the issue, that municipalities will be exempted. However, we recommend that you bring this to the attention of your legislators.
Contact: Mike Cerra, email@example.com or 609-695-3481, ext. 120.
II. S-768 Would Expand Whistleblower Protection
The Senate Labor Committee has released S-768, which is opposed by the League and would extend "whistleblower" protections to and employee disclosure of governmental mismanagement, waste, and abuse.
The language offered in this amendment to CEPA is so broad that the result will only be increased costs to taxpayers. For example, the bill’s definition of “substantial waste of public funds” contains no explanation of what is a “substantial amount of monies,” nor does clarify what is meant by a “valuable result”. The other two new definitions (of “abuse of authority” and “gross mismanagement”) contain similar unspecific language that will result in increased lawsuits. The fee shifting arrangements in CEPA only serve to encourage employees to sue, because they have little to lose. Any employment dispute, even if legal and reasonable, now becomes ripe for a CEPA claim. Please contact your State Senator on this matter, which is positioned for a Floor vote.
Contact: Ed Purcell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 609-695-3481, ext. 137.
III. Municipal Master Plan Element
The Senate Environment and Energy Committee considered “for discussion only” S-2424, which would mandate “…a statement of strategy concerning smart growth, storm resiliency with respect to energy supply and environmental infrastructure, and environmental sustainability” be included as part of the land use element of the municipal master plan.
While well-intended, the League testified in oppositionto this mandate as unnecessary and a cost escalator for municipalities. The League noted that municipalities are already voluntarily addressing such issues through their land use planning, emergency management planning and local green teams. Further the League noted that the optional elements under the MLUL, such as the utility service plan element, the conservation plan element and the green building and environmental sustainability plan element already allow the opportunity to municipalities to address resiliency, sustainability and “smart growth.” Interestingly, the League was joined in raising concerns on this bill by both the New Jersey Builders Association and the Sierra Club.
The Committee Chair indicated that such concerns would be taken under consideration and that bill would be again considered at an upcoming meeting of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. To date, there is no Assembly companion so we recommend contacting your State Senator regarding these objections to S-2424.
Contact: Mike Cerra, 609-695-3481 x120, or email@example.com
IV. Public Safety Workers’ Compensation Expansion
The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee voted to advance S-264 to the full Senate. We joined the Municipal Excess Liability Joint Insurance Funds (MELs) in testifying in opposition. In our testimony, we cited the need to balance our responsibility to provide appropriate care for our public safety workers with our responsibility to the taxpaying public at large. The provisions of this bill will, we feel, tip the scales and increase costs that will be passed on to taxpayers. For example, in order to rebut the presumptions for compensability, under this bill municipalities will need to meet a new “clear and convincing proof” standard. That new standard will invite expensive litigation. Coupled with the bill’s expansive presumptions for both paid and volunteer public safety workers, the bill will increase municipal exposure to claims, again increasing costs.
The MELs also noted one unintended and inappropriate consequence of placing this benefit in the Workers’ Comp system. The availability of Workers’ Comp payments for medical care frees the Federal Medicare system of any responsibility to provide funds for this purpose. As a result, the taxpayers of New Jersey (who are already last on the list of the 50 States for return on their Federal tax dollars) would be denied this assistance from Washington. For these reasons, the League of Municipalities and the Municipal Excess Liability Joint Insurance Fund oppose this bill. Please contact your State Senator on S-264, which awaits scheduling for a Floor vote.
Contact: Jon Moran at firstname.lastname@example.org or 609-695-3481, ext. 121.
V. S-2243 Will Authorize Speed Limit Restrictions In and Around Parks and Playgrounds
The League of Municipalities supports S-2243, which would permit speed limit restrictions in and around parks and playgrounds, whenever children are present. Under the bill, a county or municipality may establish a speed limit of 15 miles per hour on roads in or directly adjacent to a park, recreation facility or area, or playground, whenever children are clearly visible from the roadway, or while children are going to or leaving a park event. The bill also permits a county or municipality to establish an enhanced penalty for speeding violations, in these areas. This bill was released by the Senate Transportation Committee for Floor Action. Please contact your State Senator on this matter.
Contact: Jon Moran at email@example.com or 609-695-3481, ext. 121
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.