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January 15, 2008

Re:      Governor’s Pocket Vetoes

Dear Mayor:

Today at noon was the deadline for the Governor to sign bills passed by the Legislature during the “lame duck session.”   Your steadfast efforts and assistance were successful in halting three proposals which would have had negative implications for municipalities. These three bills were pocket vetoed by the Governor today.

I.          Wrongful Death
This bill would have expanded survivor recovery in wrongful death lawsuits. The devastating impact on municipal budgets was avoided and we are pleased at this outcome. However, the issue is far from over.

Governor Corzine in his veto message “encourage(d) the Legislature to promptly revisit this important issue”.  This is a very strong indication that we will see new legislation on wrongful death. When that occurs, we will neither pursue nor entertain any alternatives, such as a cap on damages.  Our lobbying campaign will be focused exclusively on seeking a “carve out” for local governments that are subject to Title 59 provisions.

For more on this, please see our Dear Mayor letters of January 8, 2008,  January 4, 2008, and December 17, 2007.

II.        Projected Cost Estimates 
Your resolutions, letters and calls to Governor’s office did resonate on the inappropriate and unnecessary provisions of this bill that would have invalidated the time tested processes of the Local Public Contracts Law. Were this bill adopted, governmental entities - counties, schools, municipalities, colleges, other organizations and even the State would have been negatively affected.For more on this, please see our Dear Mayor letters of January 8, 2008 and June 15, 2007.

III.       Suspension of Law Enforcement Officers
This bill provided that certain local law enforcement officers cannot be suspended without pay for more than 120 days.

Although amended to a 180 day deadline, we believe state intervention in these matters is not only unnecessary; such intervention would supersede the collective bargaining process. Due process of such complex issues is part of the local contractual mandate for mayors and governing bodies. The governor’s rejection of this bill hinged on the insufficient time provided to resolve matters of discipline and compensation.  He indicated support for legislation that would provide a time frame longer than 180 days. For more on this, please see our Dear Mayor letters of January 8, 2008, and March 16, 2007.

Additionally, the Governor signed the following bills of interest to local governments:

I. 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. For more on this bill, see our Dear Mayor alert of January 4, 2008.

II. RGGI (Regional Greenhouse Gases Initiative)
This legislation 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.”
For more on this bill, see our Dear Mayor alert of January 4, 2008.

III. School Funding Formula
The League’s Educational Foundation will be co-sponsoring a program tentatively scheduled for late April on the implementation of the formula. 

Very truly yours,

William. G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director


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