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October 24, 2008

Re:      Legislative Day Wrap-Up
I.    A-559, Duties of Mayors
IIDelayed Property Tax Payment
III. A-2731 on Governor’s Desk
IV. Notification of Hospital Closure
V.   Foreclosure Fraud Prevention

The following is a Legislative Update of bills on the Municipal Agenda

Dear Mayor:

I.    A-559, Duties of Mayors

Yesterday, the Assembly Housing and Local Government committee approved A-559, sponsored by Assemblymen Ronald Dancer and Jerry Green, which permits certain oaths, affirmations, and affidavits to be taken before township and village mayors.  

A-559 adds township and village mayors to the list of officials before whom oaths, affirmations, and affidavits may be made. Historically, these mayors were excluded from the list.  But the reason for this exclusion is now irrelevant, as statute now clearly authorizes the executives of municipalities operating under the township and village form the title and duties of a mayor.  

The League supports this bill, and we thank the sponsors.  The bill now awaits a vote by the full Assembly. 

II.        Delayed Property Tax Payment

The bill which establishes a 21 day grace period for property tax installment payments by senior citizens meeting income requirements was released from the Senate and forwarded to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Pursuant to existing provisions, a taxpayer is currently provided a 10 day grace period to make its property tax payment. We believe this existing provision is both adequate and sufficient. The proposed change to this provision, though well intended, would be burdensome to towns if adopted.  A twenty-one day grace will negatively impact the municipality’s cash flow.

On behalf of our member municipalities, we have respectfully requested that a section be included in the bill, S-2062, that would provide an amendment to the Local Budget Law (RS 40A:4-45.3) for a CAP exception for the costs relating to the administration and recordkeeping local governments would be required to keep and update annually for this proposal.  Questions on this proposal can be directed to Helen Yeldell at ext. 112.

III.       A-2731 on Governor’s Desk

Yesterday, the Senate unanimously passed A-2731, which would permit municipalities and counties to make certain traffic engineering decisions without DOT approval. The bill, which had already won Assembly approval, is designed to expedite the timely posting of appropriate traffic safety signs and signals.

This is a major issue and we have been pushing for this reform for some time, now. Local officials from all around the State have expressed their frustration with waiting for bureaucratic approval of signs and signals that local officials see as essential to protecting lives and preventing accidents. They have often felt compelled to post traffic signs prior to DOT approval, in order to maximize the public’s safety in and around dangerous intersections. And we welcome legislation that would allow local officials to post such signage when and where it is deemed appropriate.

We commend the sponsor, Assemblyman John Wisniewski, for his steady work on this issue. We thank his co-sponsors, Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein, Assemblymen Wayne DeAngelo and Scott Rudder, Assemblywomen Elease Evans, Dawn Addiego and Pamela Lampitt, Assemblymen Joe Vas and Jack Conners, Assemblywoman Alsion Littell McHose, Assemblymen Gary Chiusano and Paul Moriarty and Assemblywoman Nellie Pou, and Senators Barbara Buono, Steven Oroho, Philip Haines, Brian Stack and Bill Baroni.

Please contact the Governor’s office to express your support for this common sense initiative. For more information, contact Jon Moran at 609-695-3481, ext. 121.
IV.       Notification of Hospital Closure

A proposal that would require the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services to provide written notice to elected officials of a hospital’s closure was released from Assembly Health & Senior Services Committee.

Specifically, when an application for a certificate of need has been filed to close a general hospital, the Commissioner must officially provide notice to federal officials, elected in the State and representing the congressional district in which the hospital is located. Notice must also be provided to State legislators representing the legislative district in which the general hospital is located and to the Mayor of the municipality in which the general hospital is located. Notice is given to the noted elected officials rather than to all officials of the larger area which may be served by the hospital.

In view of recent hospital closings, particularly in our urban municipalities, we commend the sponsors for their attention to this timely issue. The League supports adoption of this notification bill.

S-693/A-2876 is now poised for vote in the General Assembly.

V.        Foreclosure Rescue Fraud Prevention Act

The League of Municipalities is pleased with the release from Assembly Financial Committee of A-281 entitled the “Foreclosure Rescue Fraud Prevention Act”.  This timely initiative will benefit and protect the public from unscrupulous individuals who set out to take advantage of unfortunate situations.

Individuals or firms identified as foreclosure consultants and purchasers of distressed property who contract with owners of residential properties in financial distress are required to adhere to certain practices prior to conducting any business in the State. The bill also provides certain rights to owners of financially distressed residential properties who contract with foreclosure consultants.

We sought amendments to clarify and insure that the definition of foreclosure consultant does not include municipalities that have acquired a municipal lien. Additionally, the bill was further amended at our request to provide that a municipal tax lien holder of interest can bring an action in Superior Court on behalf of an owner if they see the owner is not being paid 82% of the property’s fair market value.

These points were brought to our attention by Mr. Keith Bonchi, Attorney for the Municipal Tax Collectors and Treasurers Association of New Jersey.  These minor enhancements avoid any negative impact on municipalities’ ability to raise revenues through the sale of liens. Thus, towns can provide cash to cover unfunded delinquencies.

A-281 is a very good bill and we thank the sponsors for being receptive to our recommendations. It is now poised for full vote in the General Assembly.

Please contact Helen Yeldell at ext. 112 for further information.

Very truly yours,

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director


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