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December 19, 2014                                         REVISED!

RE:  Weekly Policy Update Bills on the Governor’s Desk

Dear Mayor:

There was a significant amount of legislative activity on Thursday, and a number of bills of interest to local governments have now passed by Houses and await consideration by the Governor.  

The following bills, opposed by the League, were approved and are now on the Governor’s desk.

“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, passed the Assembly with a vote of 43-25-6 and the Senate later concurred with the Assembly amendments with a vote of 27-4.  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, including purchase orders, 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.    
Contact: Lori Buckelew, lbuckelew@njslom.org or 609-695-3481 x112.

Water Privatization
The State Senate passed, by a one-vote margin,  A-3628/S-2412,  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.  
Contact: Mike Cerra, 609-695-3481 x120, or mcerra@njslom.org

Permit Extension
Companion legislation to again extend the provisions of the Permit Extension Act passed both Houses on Thursday.    A-3815 and S-2551 were previously 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.     Contact: Mike Cerra, mcerra@njslom.org or 609-695-3481, ext. 120.

The following bills, supported by the League, were approved and are now on the Governor’s desk.

A-3357/S-2609 – Authorizes tax lien holders other than municipalities to institute in rem tax foreclosure actions against abandoned properties.
Contact: Lori Buckelew, lbuckelew@njslom.org  or 609-695-3481 x112.

A-3629/S-2078 – Eliminates voter registration and in-district residency requirements for certain petitions circulators; eliminates in-district residency requirement for petition circulators for partisan primary nominations; establishes petition circulator criteria.  This legislation addresses the concerns raised in Empower Our Neighborhoods, et al v. Guadagno, et al.  In that case the court ruled that voter registration and in-district residency requirements imposed on petition circulators violated both the New Jersey and Federal Constitution provisions that protect freed of speech and freedom of association.  In their opinion the court also imposed a temporary requirement until December 31, 2014 for petition circulators to be “voter eligible”.  This legislation codifies the court decision.  We thank the sponsors for addressing the issues raised in this court decision. 
Contact: Lori Buckelew, lbuckelew@njslom.org  or 609-695-3481 x112.

A-3058/S-1050 - Extends for five years expiration date of special appraisal process for Green Acres program and farmland preservation program for lands in Highlands Region; makes change to special appraisal process for certain farmers.
Contact: Mike Cerra, 609-695-3481 x120, or mcerra@njslom.org

Also of interest to municipalities:

Procedures and Standards for Public Service Privatization Contracts.
The vote to override the Governor’s veto of S-770,  which  Establishes procedures and standards regarding public service privatization contracts fell short of the necessary votes.  The League opposed the bill and supported the Governor’s veto. 
Contact: Lori Buckelew, lbuckelew@njslom.org or 609-695-3481 x112.

We recommend contacting the Governor’s office at 609-292-6000 on these bills.

Very truly yours,

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director

 

 

 

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