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March 11, 2009

Re:  Issue Alert

Dear Mayor:

Next Monday, March 16, will be the last voting sessions for both the General Assembly and State Senate before the “budget recess.”  As a result, several bills of interest to local governments will be considered. This letter highlights two such issues, and we will provide additional alerts in the upcoming days on others.

A.  Senate Voting On S-770/A-1645, Qualified Purchasing Agent Bill

On the heels of the Governor’s budget address yesterday, the Legislature is poised to vote another mandate.

The bill which amends the Local Public Contracts Law to re-define the role and qualifications of purchasing agents and requires the appointment of a qualified purchasing agent is scheduled for vote in the Senate on Monday, March 16th.  We recognize the attempt to make the bill more acceptable by a series of amendments; but in the final analysis, this remains an unfunded mandate on certain local units.

Countless testimonies over the years have expressed opposition to the immediate need for this bill. Need we say more about the financial stress we are facing as a nation, as a state, and as a local government?  In spite of amendments, the concerns remain—increased spending.

The latest round of amendments adopted February 23:

  • Delays applicability of bill to those individuals appointed purchasing agents after bill is enacted.
  • Individuals currently recognized as qualified purchasing agents  by the  Department of Community Affairs (under current regulations) will be allowed to continue awarding bids at the higher threshold without complying with new requirements  set forth in A-1645/S-770.
  • Contracting unit will not be required to comply with new appointment requirements until the individual serving as the purchasing agent on the day the bill is enacted, is replaced or ceases to perform duties of purchasing agent.

Once again, please urge your state delegation to vote against S-770/A-1645.

B.  Inherently Beneficial Uses, A-3062 & S-1303

A-3062 and S-1303, which define “…the term “inherently beneficial use” for the purposes of zoning use variance and specifically include facilities that supply electrical energy produced from wind, solar, or photovoltaic technologies,” are scheduled for a vote by the full General Assembly.   S-1303 has already passed the State Senate.  If passed by the Assembly, it goes to the Governor for his consideration. 

While the League supports the development of alternate energies, defining in statute “inherently beneficial use” for the purposes of these efforts sets a bad precedent.  If a use is deemed to be “inherently beneficial” it presumptively satisfies the criteria for a use variance under subsection d of section 57 of the MLUL, (i.e., a nonconforming use.)

The League has opposed past efforts to introduce a definition for “inherently beneficial use” because special interests have sought additional amendments to exempt their constituencies.    If indeed a project is beneficial to the community, the applicant has the option to go through the normal regulatory and democratic process.  No such change in the statute is necessary.
We suggest contacting your Assembly representatives, and ask them to oppose A-3062 and S-1303. 

For more information on this bill, see our Dear Mayor letters of February 10  and March 5 or contact Mike Cerra at mcerra@njslom.com or 609-695-3481 x120.

Thank you.

Very truly yours,

 

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director

 

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