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January 8, 2008

Re:   Lame Duck Legislative Developments

Dear Mayor:

The following bills were sent to the Governor’s desk after yesterday’s marathon legislative session.

I.    Scs-176---Wrongful Death
Expands survivor recovery in the event of wrongful death to allow awards for non economic loss, i.e. emotional pain and suffering, loss of society, loss of companionship. This will substantially increase insurance costs and therefore property taxes (see Dear Mayors letters of December 17, January 4).

This bill was next to the last bill passed in the early morning hours of the legislative session. It garnered the minimum required votes (21-11 in the Senate and 41-32 in General Assembly).

Please immediately call or write to Governor Corzine and respectfully ask for an exemption for any local government entity subject to the provisions of the Tort Claims Act.

            Honorable Jon Corzine                                  Telephone (609) 292-6000
            Governor, State of New Jersey
            State House
            PO Box 001
            Trenton, NJ  08625-0001

II.    A-4393---Projected Contract Cost Estimates
Requires certain public contract bid advertisements to contain certified cost estimates or estimate ranges of projected contract costs and specifies grounds for rejection of bids.

Although, we have expressed throughout the process that this bill is unnecessarily burdensome and restrictive on municipalities, our plea fell on deaf ears. Again, we bear witness to the depth of influence contractor associations seem to hold on Legislative decision making when it comes to bills that usurp or invalidate existing bidding procedures of the Local Public Contracts Law.  For example, one needs only  recall Prompt Pay Law, No Bids on Monday (or any day after a state or federal holiday), Value Engineering (municipalities required to share profits with contractors) and limited reasons for rejecting bidders . All of these bills were adopted without thought of impact on property taxes. A-4393 will add to this list.

We do not yet understand the rationale for this bill except that it creates opportunities for collusion and of course, the result will add costs to the bid solicitation process. The vote was 69-9 in the General Assembly and 21-9 in the Senate.

Again, we ask you to contact the Governor’s office and ask for the bill to be rejected.

 

III. A-3153/S-2209---Suspension of Law Enforcement Officers

Provides certain law enforcement officers cannot be suspended without pay for more than 120 days.

We believe discipline and compensation are items for collective bargaining. Public Safety departments operate under Standard Operating Procedures and individual members of any department may violate a procedure in any number of ways other than a criminal allegation. If an officer is suspended without pay, it is covered by the SOP of the department and collective bargaining agreement of the particular bargaining group.  This bill unilaterally suggests there is a need for legislative intervention and that intervention should supersede the collective bargaining process.  This is the wrong action and sends the wrong message.

This bill received near unanimous votes yesterday…78-0 in General Assembly and 34-0 in the Senate.
           

IV. A-1886/S-557 – Recycling Enhancement Act

This legislation imposes a recycling tax of $3 per ton on most solid waste generation in order to provide recycling grants to municipalities and counties suffering from recently declining recycling rates.  60% of the funding is designated for municipalities, and eligible counties that collect solid waste, as recycling performance grants and to assist with "pay as you throw" weight based residential waste disposal systems. 

V.      RGGI
A-4559 and S-2976, authorizes the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to sell, exchange, retire, assign, allocate, or auction allowances from greenhouse gas emissions.  The bills specifically set aside 10% of these revenues for “programs designed to promote local government efforts to plan, develop and implement measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

VI.    A-500/S-4000---The School Funding  Reform Act of 2008 The League’s School Funding Committee is in the process of developing an implementing seminar on the provisions of the bill once signed by the Governor.

Passed both houses with the minimum number of votes required in each house.

Many thanks for your attention to these matters.

Very truly yours,

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director

 

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