December 17, 2014
RE: Legislative Alert
There was a significant amount of legislative activity on issues of interest to municipalities on Monday and Thursday is the final legislative session day before the holidays. Below is a summary of issues of interest to municipalities.
I. Paid Sick Leave
The Assembly Budget Committee approved 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, again requested that A-2354 be amended to exempt local governments. Specifically, the League’s statement 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 public employers and employees from the requirements for these same reasons. Unfortunately, the Committee did not make this amendment. The bill now heads to the full Assembly and could be voted on as soon as Thursday. The Senate companion, S-785, is referenced to the Senate Labor Committee and has not advanced. Please contact your Legislators and ask that A-2354 & S-785 be amended to exempt local governments. Contact: Mike Cerra, firstname.lastname@example.org or 609-695-3481, ext. 120.
II. “Buy American”
S-1811/A-3059 which requires the use of goods made in the United States for public contracts and requires businesses that receive public contracts or development assistance to disclose job exportation information, was amended by the Senate yesterday and is before both the full Assembly and Senate on Thursday. This legislation would significantly amend the “Buy American” provision of the Local Public Contracts law by expanding the definition and requiring a waiver process, modeled after the federal law, to purchase goods, manufactured products and services not made in America. The amendments reduced the waiver period from 30 days to 15 days while adding a new certification process. Every contract awarded will require a certification from the contractor that procured products shall be manufactured or farm products of the United Sates. Each certification will have to be posted on the municipality’s website as well as the Department of Treasury’s website.
We thank the sponsors for amending the bill to address our concerns with the waiver process. However, we are concerned with the amendment creating a new certification process. Since the Local Public Contracts Law definition of a contract includes purchase orders, every purchase made by the municipality will now require this certification while the waiver process will only apply to contracts over the bid threshold. We support the goals and intent of the bill but we must continue to oppose S-1811/A-3059. Please contact your Senator and Assembly representatives and urge them to oppose S-1811/A-3059. Contact: Lori Buckelew, email@example.com or 609-695-3481 x112.
III. Permit Extension
Companion legislation to again extend the provisions of the Permit Extension Act was advanced in both Houses yesterday. A-3815 and S-2551 were amended to extend such permits until December 31, 2015. The League maintained opposition to this legislation. Since 2008 many municipalities have updated their master plans and as a result there have been zoning changes. If a project remains viable, the applicant can seek approvals or seek changes based on changed economics and zoning. We do not believe a blanket extension serves the public’s best interests. Both bills are likely to be considered for floor votes on Thursday. Please contact your Legislators and ask them to oppose A-3815 and S-2551. Contact: Mike Cerra, firstname.lastname@example.org or 609-695-3481, ext. 120.
IV. Water Privatization Poised for Final Vote
On Monday, by a slim four vote margin, the General Assembly approved A-3628, the “Water Infrastructure Protection Act.” This legislation would allow the lease or sale of public water or wastewater assets to a private entity, without any referendum, under certain circumstances. The League opposes this legislation based on concerns over the authorization of the sale or lease of a public water asset without voter approval. In many cases, a water/wastewater asset may be a municipality’s most valuable asset and the “emergent conditions” are very broad. Considering the value of the water assets, the broad nature of the criteria and the irreversibility of the decision, the voter referendum represents a critical level of consent from the governed. Further we are unaware of any shortcomings in the existing laws (N.J.S.A 58:27-19) which necessitate the changes contemplated under this legislation. S-2412 is scheduled for a final vote by the State Senate on Thursday. We recommend contacting your Legislators regarding A-3628 and S-2412.
Contact: Mike Cerra, 609-695-3481 x120, or email@example.com
V. Procedures and Standards for Public Service Privatization Contracts.
In August, Governor Christie vetoed S-770, which establishes procedures and standards regarding public service privatization contracts. S-770 would prohibit public entities from entering into contract for the privatization of government services under certain circumstances. The bill would, among other items, allow union representatives of public employees to review privatization proposals prior to the solicitation of bids; require private contractors pay wages and benefits to their employees that are equal to or exceed wages and benefits paid to their public sector counterparts; and require contractors to hire public employees who are displaced from their employment due to the privatization of services. In his veto message, the Governor noted that S-770 “creates an onerous and overly bureaucratic, process-laden system for privatizing government services, which will only serve to frustrate attempts by State and local officials to save taxpayer dollars. By proposing additional red tape into an already time-consuming process, and erecting further barriers to privatization, this bill will adversely impact New Jersey’s already overburdened taxpayers.”
S-770 would add many layers of review and oversight, rending the process burdensome and lengthy We are further concerned that there will be limited bidders willing to bid for the project that can potentially result in a loss of any savings. Municipalities must continue to have the flexibility to meet the current fiscal demands, and not have their hands tied further by legislation.
On Thursday, the full Senate is going to consider an override of the Governor’s veto of S-770. Please contact your Senator to ask them not to override the Governor’s veto of S-770.
Contact: Lori Buckelew, firstname.lastname@example.org or 609-695-3481 x112.
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.