407 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618  (609)695-3481
 NJLM logo 

William G. Dressel Jr, Executive Director - Michael J. Darcey, CAE, Asst Executive Director
Patricia Meyer

The Council on Local Mandates
An Update on the
Ten Year Anniversary

NJ State Seal Patricia Meyer
Executive Administrator and Coordinator
Council on Local Mandates

December 2005 marked the tenth anniversary of the “State Mandate, State Pay” Amendment to the New Jersey Constitution. Among other things, the Amendment called for the creation of a Council on Local Mandates to resolve unfunded mandate disputes. This article provides a brief overview of the basic concept of “State Mandate, State Pay” and of the Council’s history, from its creation in 1996 to the present.

Because this article merely summarizes certain provisions of the underlying law, readers are urged to independently review the full texts of the Amendment and Council statute. Those texts, and the texts of all Council decisions, are available on the Council’s web site, at www.state.nj.us/localmandates.

The “State Mandate, State Pay” Amendment to the New Jersey Constitution (“Amendment”) was approved by voters in the November 1995 general election, and became effective on December 7, 1995. See N.J. Const. art. VIII, § 2, ¶5. The Amendment directed the legislature to create a Council on Local Mandates to “resolve any dispute” regarding whether a statute, rule, or regulation is an “unfunded mandate” as set forth in the Amendment. Amendment at ¶5(b). If the Council determines there is such an unfunded mandate, the mandate shall “cease to be mandatory in its effect and expire.” Id. at ¶5(a).

Generally, the Amendment defines an “unfunded mandate” as any provision of a law, rule, or regulation, enacted or effective after certain specified dates in 1996, which imposes a mandate on boards of education, counties, or municipalities but which “does not authorize resources, other than the property tax, to offset the additional direct expenditures required for [its] implementation.” Id. In addition, the Amendment delineates six categories of laws, rules or regulations that “shall not be considered unfunded mandates.” Id. at ¶ 5(c).

The legislature fulfilled its obligation to create the Council by the enactment of implementing legislation, the “Council statute,” effective May 8, 1996. See N.J.S.A. 52:13H-1 et seq. The Council statute provides considerable detail regarding Council operations, and contains several important provisions related to the role of the Council in resolving unfunded mandate disputes. For example, Section 12 of the Council statute dictates, among other things, the persons or organizations that may file a complaint with the Council, and details the process by which interested groups or individuals may appear in a case as “amici curiae.” N.J.S.A. 52:13H-12.

Other examples of case-related provisions in the Council statute include a restriction on the issuance of advisory rulings or opinions, and a specific authorization for Council issuance of preliminary injunctions if certain defined standards are met. N.J.S.A. 52:13H-13 and -16. The Council statute also provides that Council rulings are political determinations and “shall not be subject to judicial review.” N.J.S.A. 52:13H-18.

How the Council Works The first nine Council Members were appointed in 1996, pursuant to the provisions of the Amendment and the Council statute: four by the Governor (two from a list supplied by the opposing political party), and one each by the President of the Senate, Minority Leader of the Senate, Speaker of the General Assembly, Minority Leader of the General Assembly, and the Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court. In 1997, the Council opened an office in Trenton and adopted a Plan of Organization, a Code of Ethics, and Rules of Procedure to govern the cases that would come before it.

Later that same year, the Council established a web site to assist those seeking more information about the Council. The site, at www.state.nj.us/localmandates, plays an important role in Council operations because it permits widespread dissemination of information about the Council and the legal resources that form the basis of its authority. It includes, for example, the full texts of the Amendment, Council statute, and Council Rules of Procedure. Recent additions to the site include a form that claimants may use to file complaints, a guide to the procedural requirements for filing complaints, and a “Case Histories” page that serves as an index to previous Council proceedings and decisions.

One unique feature of the site is its “publication” of cases that have been filed and are pending before the Council. A complaint that meets the threshold requirements of the Council statute and Rules of Procedure is circulated by the Council to state officials and to those who must file an answer. Shortly thereafter, a procedural history for the case is posted on the Council web site, which includes filing dates and a summary of the complaint prepared by the Claimant. As the case progresses, its procedural history is updated with new information regarding the case, including summaries of later pleadings prepared by the parties themselves.

At the conclusion of the case, as soon as possible after the Council issues its written decision, the full text of that decision is posted on the web site, so that interested persons have the opportunity to become informed of the result and the Council’s reasoning in reaching that result. Most Council decisions are preceded by a syllabus, or summary, to further assist the process of review.
The Decisions To date, there have been eight complaint matters filed with the Council that have gone beyond the “threshold” stage of complaint circulation and filing of answers. Two of those cases were withdrawn before decisions were issued. In the remaining six matters, the Council has issued seven written decisions.

In one of its earliest decisions, the Council described the scope of its unique function and authority under the Constitution:

The function of the Council is judicial. Like a court, the Council’s deliberations begin only with the filing of a complaint. The Council considers evidence, hears testimony, and issues rulings. Although its jurisdiction is exclusive, the Council is strictly limited to a single inquiry: whether a law or rule or regulation, or provision thereof, imposes an unfunded mandate. …Although the scope of the Council’s power is more limited than that of the coordinate branches of government, within its sphere the Council is supreme, as it derives its authority directly from the New Jersey Constitution and the people.

[I/M/O Complaints filed by the Highland Park Board of Education and the Borough of Highland Park (“Highland Park I”), issued August 5, 1999, at pages 7-8]

In two complaint matters, the Council determined that the state had imposed unconstitutional unfunded mandates. See I/M/O Complaints filed by the Highland Park Board of Education and the Borough of Highland Park (“Highland Park II”), issued May 11, 2000, and I/M/O Complaints filed by the Monmouth-Ocean Educational Services Commission et al. (“Monmouth-Ocean”), issued August 20, 2004. While the Highland Park II and Monmouth-Ocean decisions are clearly significant, it is important to review all Council decisions, especially before filing a complaint with the Council. In those seven decisions, the Council addresses a variety of issues related to its authority under the Amendment and Council statute, such as three of the six “exemptions” to what the Council may consider to be unfunded mandates, the beginning date of its jurisdiction under the Amendment, and standards for injunctive relief.

As stated earlier, understanding the Council requires an understanding of the Amendment and Council statute, which form the foundation for the Council’s authority and explain some aspects of its operations. Under NJLM - Council on Local Mandates

407 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618  (609)695-3481
 NJLM logo 

William G. Dressel Jr, Executive Director - Michael J. Darcey, CAE, Asst Executive Director
Patricia Meyer

The Council on Local Mandates
An Update on the
Ten Year Anniversary

NJ State Seal Patricia Meyer
Executive Administrator and Coordinator
Council on Local Mandates

December 2005 marked the tenth anniversary of the “State Mandate, State Pay” Amendment to the New Jersey Constitution. Among other things, the Amendment called for the creation of a Council on Local Mandates to resolve unfunded mandate disputes. This article provides a brief overview of the basic concept of “State Mandate, State Pay” and of the Council’s history, from its creation in 1996 to the present.

Because this article merely summarizes certain provisions of the underlying law, readers are urged to independently review the full texts of the Amendment and Council statute. Those texts, and the texts of all Council decisions, are available on the Council’s web site, at www.state.nj.us/localmandates.

The “State Mandate, State Pay” Amendment to the New Jersey Constitution (“Amendment”) was approved by voters in the November 1995 general election, and became effective on December 7, 1995. See N.J. Const. art. VIII, § 2, ¶5. The Amendment directed the legislature to create a Council on Local Mandates to “resolve any dispute” regarding whether a statute, rule, or regulation is an “unfunded mandate” as set forth in the Amendment. Amendment at ¶5(b). If the Council determines there is such an unfunded mandate, the mandate shall “cease to be mandatory in its effect and expire.” Id. at ¶5(a).

Generally, the Amendment defines an “unfunded mandate” as any provision of a law, rule, or regulation, enacted or effective after certain specified dates in 1996, which imposes a mandate on boards of education, counties, or municipalities but which “does not authorize resources, other than the property tax, to offset the additional direct expenditures required for [its] implementation.” Id. In addition, the Amendment delineates six categories of laws, rules or regulations that “shall not be considered unfunded mandates.” Id. at ¶ 5(c).

The legislature fulfilled its obligation to create the Council by the enactment of implementing legislation, the “Council statute,” effective May 8, 1996. See N.J.S.A. 52:13H-1 et seq. The Council statute provides considerable detail regarding Council operations, and contains several important provisions related to the role of the Council in resolving unfunded mandate disputes. For example, Section 12 of the Council statute dictates, among other things, the persons or organizations that may file a complaint with the Council, and details the process by which interested groups or individuals may appear in a case as “amici curiae.” N.J.S.A. 52:13H-12.

Other examples of case-related provisions in the Council statute include a restriction on the issuance of advisory rulings or opinions, and a specific authorization for Council issuance of preliminary injunctions if certain defined standards are met. N.J.S.A. 52:13H-13 and -16. The Council statute also provides that Council rulings are political determinations and “shall not be subject to judicial review.” N.J.S.A. 52:13H-18.

How the Council Works The first nine Council Members were appointed in 1996, pursuant to the provisions of the Amendment and the Council statute: four by the Governor (two from a list supplied by the opposing political party), and one each by the President of the Senate, Minority Leader of the Senate, Speaker of the General Assembly, Minority Leader of the General Assembly, and the Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court. In 1997, the Council opened an office in Trenton and adopted a Plan of Organization, a Code of Ethics, and Rules of Procedure to govern the cases that would come before it.

Later that same year, the Council established a web site to assist those seeking more information about the Council. The site, at www.state.nj.us/localmandates, plays an important role in Council operations because it permits widespread dissemination of information about the Council and the legal resources that form the basis of its authority. It includes, for example, the full texts of the Amendment, Council statute, and Council Rules of Procedure. Recent additions to the site include a form that claimants may use to file complaints, a guide to the procedural requirements for filing complaints, and a “Case Histories” page that serves as an index to previous Council proceedings and decisions.

One unique feature of the site is its “publication” of cases that have been filed and are pending before the Council. A complaint that meets the threshold requirements of the Council statute and Rules of Procedure is circulated by the Council to state officials and to those who must file an answer. Shortly thereafter, a procedural history for the case is posted on the Council web site, which includes filing dates and a summary of the complaint prepared by the Claimant. As the case progresses, its procedural history is updated with new information regarding the case, including summaries of later pleadings prepared by the parties themselves.

At the conclusion of the case, as soon as possible after the Council issues its written decision, the full text of that decision is posted on the web site, so that interested persons have the opportunity to become informed of the result and the Council’s reasoning in reaching that result. Most Council decisions are preceded by a syllabus, or summary, to further assist the process of review.
The Decisions To date, there have been eight complaint matters filed with the Council that have gone beyond the “threshold” stage of complaint circulation and filing of answers. Two of those cases were withdrawn before decisions were issued. In the remaining six matters, the Council has issued seven written decisions.

In one of its earliest decisions, the Council described the scope of its unique function and authority under the Constitution:

The function of the Council is judicial. Like a court, the Council’s deliberations begin only with the filing of a complaint. The Council considers evidence, hears testimony, and issues rulings. Although its jurisdiction is exclusive, the Council is strictly limited to a single inquiry: whether a law or rule or regulation, or provision thereof, imposes an unfunded mandate. …Although the scope of the Council’s power is more limited than that of the coordinate branches of government, within its sphere the Council is supreme, as it derives its authority directly from the New Jersey Constitution and the people.

[I/M/O Complaints filed by the Highland Park Board of Education and the Borough of Highland Park (“Highland Park I”), issued August 5, 1999, at pages 7-8]

In two complaint matters, the Council determined that the state had imposed unconstitutional unfunded mandates. See I/M/O Complaints filed by the Highland Park Board of Education and the Borough of Highland Park (“Highland Park II”), issued May 11, 2000, and I/M/O Complaints filed by the Monmouth-Ocean Educational Services Commission et al. (“Monmouth-Ocean”), issued August 20, 2004. While the Highland Park II and Monmouth-Ocean decisions are clearly significant, it is important to review all Council decisions, especially before filing a complaint with the Council. In those seven decisions, the Council addresses a variety of issues related to its authority under the Amendment and Council statute, such as three of the six “exemptions” to what the Council may consider to be unfunded mandates, the beginning date of its jurisdiction under the Amendment, and standards for injunctive relief.

As stated earlier, understanding the Council requires an understanding of the Amendment and Council statute, which form the foundation for the Council’s authority and explain some aspects of its operations. Understanding the Council is further enhanced in 2005 by what is now a body of seven Council decisions, which provides valuable insight into the scope of Council authority within the context of specific unfunded mandate disputes.


Article published in January 2006, New Jersey Municipalities