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January 6, 2010

Re: URGENT Action Required - Lame Duck Update

Dear Mayor:

Here is an update on some bills that have recently moved and some, just introduced that may move rapidly during the next two weeks of the Lame Duck session.

Transportation Issues
Speed LimitsLegislation which outlines the criteria municipalities should consider when establishing speed limits has passed the Senate, and stands 2nd reading in the Assembly.  The League supports S-1234/A-537 and agrees with the sponsor’s concern for the need for State criteria to assist municipalities in establishing reasonable speed limits within their jurisdictions. 

Land Use Issues
Regulation of Small Wind Energy:  Legislation which limits regulation of small wind energy systems by municipalities has been reported out of committee with amendments in both the Senate and Assembly and is schedule for 2nd reading in both houses. The League opposes S-2528/A-3740 as it unnecessarily infringes on local discretion. This bill is scheduled has already passed the Senate and is scheduled for a vote by the Assembly on Thursday. We recommend contacting your Assembly representatives and urge their opposition to this bill. For more on this bill, please see our Dear Mayor letter of December 21.

Preservation, Right to Farm Act
Legislation which allows solar and wind energy generation on preserved farms under certain circumstances and includes solar and wind generation and commercial farms as protected activity under the Right to Farm Act has passed the Senate and stands at 2nd reading in the Assembly.  A-2859/S-1538, takes away any oversight regarding these facilities on farmland away from the local government.  While we certainly support efforts to promote solar, wind and other alternative energies, we oppose this legislation and are very concerned with allowing landowners to exercise rights to commercial uses that were already relinquished through the preservation process.

Property Assessments
A-4313/S-2711:  Revises the procedure for reassessment of certain real property and appeal of assessment by certain property taxpayers.  The League supports this legislation which was reported out of committee with committee amendments and is scheduled for 2nd reading in the Assembly.  S-2711 is awaiting action in the Senate Budget Appropriations Committee.

Local Budget Bill
Legislation which will require municipalities and local authorities to submit a report of lawsuits to which they are party to before their budget is approved has passed the Senate, and stands at 2nd reading in the Assembly.  The League opposes S-2740 as it will impose a further burden on municipal officials during their difficult budget process.  That process, over the past several years, has been delayed by uncertain municipal aid, decreasing revenues and increasing mandates.

Safe Haven Issues
S-184/A-1897 would require the Department of Children and Families to provide Safe Haven information to county and municipal agencies, social service agencies, physicians, pregnancy crisis centers, adoption agencies and colleges and universities. The League supports this legislation which has passed the Senate and received in the Assembly.  The bill was reported out of committee and is scheduled for 2nd reading in the Assembly.

Public Contract Issues
Base and Alternate BidsLegislation which provides for base and alternate bids for certain contracts; and requires contract units to specify the bases for determining the lowest responsible bid and criteria for selection of alternate bids, has passed the Assembly and stands at 2nd reading in the Senate.  The League opposes A-3698/S-278 since it is confusing with a convoluted process in need of clarification as to the awarding of alternate bids.  We believe awards should be granted on base bids only and it is unnecessary to rank order alternates.  Local units should have the flexibility, within the limits of available funds, to make these decisions internally.

Withdrawal of Public Works ContractsThe League opposes legislation that would permit bids for public works contracts to be withdrawn due to error in certain circumstances; permits contracting units to require financial statement from bidders has passed the Assembly and was held in Senate State Government Committee.  A-2955/S-3135 allows bidders to change their minds and withdraw their bid after the deadline and this will delay the bid award process and ultimately end up costing local taxpayers.  We are pleased to report that this bill was considered but not acted upon Monday by the Senate State Government committee.

Public Bodies to fund Outreach and Training:  Legislation that would require public bodies to provide funds for outreach and training programs for minority group members and women in connection with certain construction contracts has pass the Senate and been reported out of Assembly committee with amendments and is scheduled for second hearing in the Assembly.  The League opposes S-2730/A-4082 as it shifts the responsibility from the private sector to the public sector.  

Extends Prevailing Wage to HMFA Loans:  The League opposes legislation which would expand the prevailing wage requirements for construction and rehabilitation work performed under New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) loans to non-rental multi-family housing projects has bee reported out of committee with amendments and is scheduled for 2nd reading in the both the Senate and Assembly. 

Election Issues
Non-Partisan Elections:  Legislation that will permit non-partisan municipalities to switch the date of their lection to November is poised for approval by the General Assembly on Thursday.  A-351/S-1099 has already been approved the State Senate and now awaits a final vote in the Assembly, which has previously approved the bill, to approve amendments moved in the State Senate.

The League supports this legislation since it is permissive and a potential cost saver for municipalities.  These amendments provide that: 1) if a municipality changes to a November election data, 10 years must pass before it could be switched back to May and that an ordinance to switch back to May must be adopted by the municipality’s governing body; and 2) if a runoff election is necessary, the runoff election would occur on the subsequent first Tuesday after the first Monday in December and any official elected at that election would take office on January 1 next following the election.

Changing the Form of Government:  Legislation which would limit a public question on: 1)changing the form of government, 2)division of the municipality into wards or 3)increase/decrease the term of office or number of governing body members to 10 years is scheduled for second hearing by both the Assembly and the Senate.  The League opposes A-4264/S-3157 as the existing time limitations are appropriate and a ten year period is too long if a municipality wishes to change. 

We will notify you of future actions on these matters. If you have any questions, please call 609-695-3481, ext. 112, 120 or 121.

Very truly yours,


William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director

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