October 24, 2014
Re: Weekly Policy Update
Here is a brief update on legislative and regulatory issues of interest to municipalities.
I. COAH deadlocks and does not advance proposed regulations
On Monday, the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) deadlocked on its motion to adopt the proposed “third round regulations.” Initially, a motion was made to table the regulations for 60 days, which failed after a 3-3 vote. The ramifications of Monday’s events remain unclear. Please see the League’s advisory of October 21 at: http://www.njslom.org/letters/2014-1021-COAH.html for more information. We suggest you consult with your land use attorney and planners on this development, and we will advise of you any related developments. Contact: Mike Cerra, firstname.lastname@example.org or 609-695-3481, ext. 120.
II. S-316 (Increases flexibility and available tools for municipal consolidation)
The State Senate has approved S-316, a bill designed to facilitate municipal consolidations. In its current form, the League supports this initiative. This bill includes provisions which would permit a consolidation proposal to include a process for the equalization of property assessments in the new municipality, subject to the approval of the Director of the Division of Taxation in the Department of the Treasury. It could feature governing body districts based on old or newly established boundaries with unique planning mechanisms, services. The proposal could also provide that existing debt, or debt newly created by any financial arrangement between any or all of the former municipalities could be apportioned among the taxpayers of the consolidating municipalities as debt within special taxing districts in any manner that the parties mutually agree upon in the consolidation plan. Further, consolidating municipalities would be permitted to enter into any financial or other agreement to adjust benefits between the municipalities, provide indemnification from legal actions stemming from a consolidation, or provide incentives or other acts to facilitate municipal consolidation.
We had originally opposed this bill. We want to thank the sponsor, Senator Robert Gordon, for his leadership on this issue, and for his consideration and inclusion, in this bill, of our suggested provisions.
At our request, this bill includes a requirement for voter approval of a proposed consolidation. It includes a requirement that State agencies consider local circumstances in making decisions regarding consolidations. Further, the legislation contains a provision that directs the Department of Community Affairs to provide an analysis of the fiscal impact of a consolidation proposal.
Our Legislative Committee strongly believes that the citizens need to have final say on a consolidation proposal and that they need to be given the information they need – including an independent fiscal analysis – in order to make an informed decision.
As it moves over to the General Assembly, we presume that it will join a companion measure – A-1739 – in the Assembly State and Local Government Committee. That companion will need to be amended to include the provisions mentioned above.
Contact: Jon Moran at email@example.com or 609-695-3481, ext. 121.
III. S-264 creates expansive presumption of workers’ compensability for first responders
The Senate (on a vote of 22, in favor, versus 12, against) approved S-264. The League of Municipalities, along with the Municipal Excess Liability Fund and the New Jersey First Aid Council, oppose this initiative, which would create a rebuttable presumption that if, in the course of employment, any paid or volunteer public safety worker is exposed to a carcinogen or pathogen, that any subsequent injury, disability, chronic or corollary illness or death is compensable under workers' compensation.
Clearly, we need to balance our responsibility to our public safety workers, who suffer injury or illness in the course of their service, with our responsibility to the taxpaying public. We believe that current workers’ comp provisions strike a proper balance. The provisions of this bill will, we feel, tip the scales and increase costs that will need to be passed on to taxpayers.
Under S-264, New Jersey local taxpayers will substantially subsidize the Federal Government through the Social Security Medicare Program. This will ensue because Medicare will require municipalities to reimburse it for medical payments incurred by retirees collecting workers’ compensation under this Act. Other states avoid this problem by creating their presumption outside of the workers’ compensation law.
S-264 as written will make it almost impossible to contest claims. Under current law in New Jersey, the standard to rebut the presumption of compensability is “preponderance of the evidence.” In S-264, the standard is raised to the impossible “clear and convincing”. Only one state, Oregon uses that standard. All other states use the more reasonable “preponderance of the evidence” standard currently used in New Jersey.
Further, S-264 presumes that all cancers are due to on the job exposures. The current scientific evidence does not support that broad presumption.
For these reasons, the League of Municipalities, the Municipal Excess Liability Joint Insurance Fund and the New Jersey First Aid Council oppose this bill.
S-264 now goes to the Assembly where, we presume, it will join a companion measure – A-1347 – in the Assembly Labor Committee. Contact: Jon Moran at firstname.lastname@example.org or 609-695-3481, ext. 121.
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.