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October 31, 2014
Re:       Weekly Policy Update

I.
Important Spill Act Amendment Advances, SCS for S-444 and S-2419
II.
Limits to Accumulated Sick Leave Payouts, S-2318
III.
Release of bidders list prior to receipt of bids, A-947
IV.
New Energy Resiliency Bank, Now Accepting Applications

Dear Mayor:

Here is a brief update on legislative, regulatory and policy issues of interest to municipalities. 

I.  Important Spill Act Amendment Advances, SCS for S-444 and S-2419

On Monday, the Senate Environment and Energy Committee combined and advanced S-444 and S-2419, both supported by the League, which would prohibit  contribution action against local public entities for cleanup and removal costs or any other damages associated with discharge of hazardous substances.   SCS for S-444 and S-2419 would provide complete protection to public entities, municipalities and sewerage authorities from being dragged into environmental cases through contribution claims, because it would cover contribution claims based upon other legal causes of action in addition to the Spill Act, such as strict liability, nuisance, trespass and negligence.

John Scagnelli, Esq. of  Scarinci Hollenbeck  provided expert testimony on behalf of the League and we thank Mr. Scagnelli for his efforts.   The League was joined in support of the bill by the NJ Municipal Environment Joint Insurance Fund, the New Jersey Association of Counties (NJAC) and the Associational of Environmental Authorities (AEA.)    SCS for S-444 and S-2419 is now 2nd referenced to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, and the League is sending a letter to the Committee Chair and members asking that the bill be posted for its consideration in a timely fashion.  We would recommend asking your State Senator to support this bill.  For more on this bill, please see the Dear Mayor letter of July 22 at: http://www.njslom.org/letters/2014-0722-Weekly-Update.html.
Contact: Mike Cerra, mcerra@njslom.com or 609-695-3481 x120.

II.  Limits to Accumulated Sick Leave Payouts, S-2318

The League of Municipalities strongly supports S-2318.  This initiative would limit  employees’ accumulated sick leave compensation to $15,000 and limit the carrying forward of vacation leave for one year only.  However, current employees would be permitted to retain any supplemental compensation for unused sick leave, or to carry forward any vacation leave, already accrued as of the bill’s effective date.

In addition, S-2318 would impose limits on the use of sick leave by a State, local, or board of education employee, hired after the bill’s effective date, in the twelve months before retirement. The bills prohibit the use of six or more consecutive days of accumulated sick leave, without medical necessity verified in writing by a physician, in the twelve months prior to retirement. The municipality may require the employee to submit to an examination by a physician, selected by the employer, to verify the medical necessity. If an employee is found to be in violation of this provision, the municipality must impose a fine and issue a reprimand against the employee found to be in violation of this prohibition, with the fine to be an amount equivalent to three times the daily rate of compensation for each day of violation. For subsequent violations of the prohibition, the employee would forfeit a number of sick leave days equivalent to the number found to have been used in violation for the purpose of calculating supplemental compensation for the employee at the time of retirement.

S-2318, sponsored by Senators Sweeney and Kyrillos, now awaits consideration by the full Senate.  We anticipate that the bill will be on the Senate’s November 13 agenda.  Please contact your State Senator and urge them to vote Yes on S-2318.
Contact: Lori Buckelew at lbuckelew@njslom.com or 609-695-3481 x112.

 

III.   Release of bidders list prior to receipt of bids, A-947

A-947, which would require municipalities, counties and local authorities to release the names, upon request, of all parties who have received bid documents prior to the bid opening once three or more bid packets have been obtained, was released from the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee on Monday. 

The League of Municipalities strongly opposes A-947 for several reasons.  First and foremost, we are concerned that the release of the bidders’ names prior to the receipt of bids could lead to collusion and bid rigging.  We are concerned with the benchmark of “three or more bids” before the release of the bidders’ list.  Finally, we are concerned that the bill will require a municipality to create and maintain a record. 

We strongly believe that the public bidding process should be open and competitive.  The names of bidders are routinely released after a bid opening.  We are troubled with releasing the list prior to a bid opening because it has the potential to limit competition which can drive up costs for taxpayers and create an environment that could possibly lead to bid rigging and collusion.

A-947 now awaits consideration by the full Senate.  We anticipate that the bill will be on the Senate’s November 13 agenda.  Please contact your State Senator and urge them to vote No on A-947.
Contact: Lori Buckelew at lbuckelew@njslom.com or 609-695-3481 x112.

 

IV.   New Energy Resiliency Bank, Now Accepting Applications

As part of the Christie Administration’s continuing efforts to minimize the impact of future major power outages and increase energy resiliency, the State has announced the launch of the New Jersey Energy Resilience Bank (ERB), the first public infrastructure bank in the nation to focus on energy resilience. The ERB is similar in structure to DEP’s Environmental Infrastructure Trust (NJEIT), a program all municipalities are familiar with.  By utilizing $200 million through New Jersey’s second Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) allocation, the ERB will support the development of distributed energy resources at critical facilities throughout the state that will enable them to remain operational during future outages.  The ERB is the result of collaboration between the NJ Board of Public Utilities (BPU) and the NJ Economic Development Authority (EDA.)

During the first phase of the program, the ERB will target water and wastewater treatment plants. These facilities are now able to begin applying for financing from the $65 million allocated for this sector to support distributed energy projects.  An overview of the application process can be found at www.njerb.com/web/Aspx_pg/Templates/Pic_Text_ERB.aspx?Doc_Id=2004&menuid=1627&topid=1599

Contact:  Ed Purcell, Esq., epurcell@njslom.com or 609-695-3481 x137
           
Very truly yours,

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director

 

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