|January 29, 2008
I. Municipal Prosecutor Mandates
II. Paid Family Leave
I. Municipal Prosecutor Mandates Advance
Yesterday, the Assembly Judiciary Committee released A-816, which would require the State Attorney General to establish maximum workloads and minimum funding and staffing for municipal prosecutor’s offices. We oppose this bill.
The Attorney General’s “guidelines” would specify maximum allowable court room hours for municipal prosecutors, maximum caseloads for prosecutors, minimum funding for prosecutor’s offices and minimum requirements for support personnel. The “guidelines” would be mandatory for all municipal prosecutors’ offices, but a municipal prosecutor – the beneficiary of the mandates – could apply to the Attorney General for a waiver to one or more of the requirements, in exceptional circumstances. The Attorney General would have the discretion to grant or deny the waiver application.
The bill, which is opposed by the Attorney General’s Department of Law and Public Safety, was amended in Committee to require the Attorney General to consult with the Municipal Prosecutors Association on the development of the guidelines.
The League testified in opposition to the bill, on the basis of our conviction that local budgetary priorities should be established by locally elected officials. We reminded the Committee that new mandates could stretch local property tax resources beyond local need and desire, and that they would have to be fitted under the new arbitrary and artificial 4% levy cap.
Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, herself a former municipal prosecutor, voiced similar objections to this “one-size-fits-all,” “top down” approach to local criminal justice administration. The Assemblywoman voted ‘No’ on the bill.
The bill is now positioned for a floor vote in the Assembly. Please contact your own Assembly Members and urge them to oppose A-816.
II. Paid Family Leave Heads to Senate Floor
Also yesterday, the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee released S-786, which would authorize up to six weeks of employee paid family leave (family temporary disability leave) during any 12 month period, during which an employee could take time off to care for an ill family member, or a newborn or recently adopted child. Employees would receive two-thirds of their weekly salary, up to $524 per week.
Employees would have to exhaust maternity and disability leave time prior to being eligible for paid family leave. Employees would also have to use at least two weeks of sick and vacation before using paid family leave time.
Employees seeking leave time would be required to provide their employers with prior notice of the need for leave time, along with a doctor's note listing details of the need for the time off.
Beginning next January 1, employees would be required to contribute 0.14% of their earned wages to the State Disability Fund, which would then deposit the money into a fund reserved exclusively for the Family Leave program. In 2010, the percentage would increase to 0.18%. The amount contributed by employees would not exceed the Temporary Disability Insurance base of $26,000.
The League of Municipalities recognizes the changes that have been made to the latest Family Leave Act bill, S-786. However, the League continues its opposition.
While we recognize the new benefit will be funded by an assessment on employee wages, a major concern for municipalities is that this new assessment might impact collective bargaining. Would this new assessment end up as an item on the bargaining table as to funding responsibility in future negotiations? This is an uncertainty that needs to be further explored. Moreover, the League still believes there are unmentioned costs that will be borne by all property taxpayers as S-786 will further decrease our State’s competitive business edge as it competes in domestic and global markets.
This legislation now heads to the full Senate for approval. Please contact your State Senator urging opposition to S-786.
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.