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Defining the Municipal Agenda

An Update on
the League
Conference Resolutions

Michael Cerra
By Michael F. Cerra
NJLM Senior Legislative Analyst

In the last year local officials have confronted unprecedented financial challenges, as well as continued mandates from the state and federal governments. Now more than ever, we must define and advance a positive agenda for local governments. Seizing this opportunity is the responsibility of the League’s Resolutions Committee, which meets on the Tuesday afternoon of the League’s annual conference.

The Committee typically considers 20 resolutions submitted from across the Garden State on a wide range of issues of interest to municipal governments. The Resolutions Committee enables municipalities to shape League policy on issues in which we are not yet involved, or may be unaware. For instance, at the League’s 2011 conference, 18 resolutions were considered and 16 adopted as policy for the League.

As this article is published, the League is receiving new resolutions for consideration at next month’s League Conference. Thus, this article’s purpose is two-fold; one, to update you on the progress of past resolutions, and two, to encourage your interest and participation in this process.

As you know, change in public policy is incremental. So, while we may have a ways to go on many of these resolutions, it is important to note that some of our biggest legislative "wins" were placed on our agenda by the Resolutions Committee and passed after years of lobbying. For instance, both interest arbitration reform and State-Mandate/State-Pay were a result of the Resolutions Committee and both took years to pass.

Let me provide you a brief overview of where we stand with some of the 2011 resolutions.

Resolution 2012-02 urged the State Legislature to alter eligibility requirements for unemployment insurance for seasonal public entity workers. The League has since prepared a sample resolution for towns to pass, and met with the Labor Commissioner Harold J. Wirths and members of his staff on the issue.

The New Jersey Unemployment Insurance Task Force Report issued in January 2012 included the recommendation to, “Identify Seasonal Industries and End UI Eligibility for Seasonal Employees at the End of Their Work Season. “ Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, Assemblyman Sean Kean and Assemblyman Anthony Bucco subsequently introduced A-2454, which would alter the benefit eligibility for UI for certain seasonal workers. The bill is referenced to the Assembly Labor Committee, and we are seeking a hearing for the bill in the fall.

Resolution 2011-01 called for an amendment of the Rule of Court, R. 1:34-3, regarding the hiring process ofmunicipal court administrators. The State Supreme Court adopted regulations in September 2011 which altered the process for the hiring of positions, including the municipal court administrator, court director and deputy administrators. Effectively, the rule provides a veto power to the Judiciary over the selection by local elected officials throughout the state. The League met extensively with representatives of the Office of Administrative Courts (AOC) and while the meetings were informative, we were unable to resolve the issue administratively. The League, in turn, sought the introduction of a legislative resolution to reaffirm the legislative intent of the Act, but it appears an unfavorable opinion from the Office of Legislative Services (OLS) has circumvented that effort. We are weighing our next steps on this issue.

Resolution 2011-15 expressed support for legislation to permit property tax assessment adjustments and expand the role of the local assessor’s office.

The League, joined by Manchester Mayor and League Executive Board member Michael Fressola and Manchester Administrator Elena Zsoldos met with the Director of the Division of Taxation and staff to discuss this resolution, and we anticipate Senator Samuel Thompson to shortly introduce legislation for consideration in the fall.

Resolution 2011-17 called for amendments to the Right to Farm Act. In April, the League, along with Hampton Deputy Mayor and League Board member Dan Coranoto and other Hampton Township representatives, met with Agriculture Secretary Doug Fischer and Susan Payne, Director of the State Agricultural Development Committee (SADC) on the resolution and a number of other municipal-agricultural issues, including the department’s Agricultural Management Practices plan (AMP) and the impact of commercial activities on farmland and so-called “solar farm” applications. The issue of solar farms was addressed in legislation recently signed by the Governor, and the League will be providing municipalities with appropriate guidance in the upcoming weeks. Legislation was also recently introduced by Senator Greenstein, Assemblyman Chiusano and Assemblywoman McHose which alters the “inherently beneficial use” standard for certain applications on farmland. The League is monitoring the regulatory developments of the AMP, and will seek further legislation to clarify the increasingly blurred distinction between commercial and residential uses on farmland.

As you can tell, the progress of a resolution is often a gradual one that involves seeking legislative sponsorship and support and navigating the regulatory hurdles. These four “works in progress” are just a snapshot of the efforts that the League makes on all our submitted resolutions.

In the meanwhile, we encourage our member municipalities to submit their ideas for resolutions for consideration at the 2012 Annual Conference. A summary of a resolution should be provided to Mike Cerra at mcerra@njslom.com by October 5. The full draft of a resolution should be provided by October 19. Additional submission guidelines will follow to you in a Membership alert. Contact Michael Cerra at 609-695-3481, Ext. 120 or mcerra@njslom.org if your have questions concerning resolutions.

 

First published in New Jersey Municipalities, Volume 89, Number 7, October 2012

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