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December 16, 2008

Legislative Status Update
I.   Traffic Control Initiatives

II.  Energy Savings Improvement Program (ESIP)
III. Direct Appeal to Tax Court
IV. Lifetime Survivor Benefits





Dear Mayor:

The following is a year end update on bills acted upon before adjournment for the holiday recess.

I.    Local Control on Certain Traffic Control Initiatives

Governor signed 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 Alison 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.

II.        Energy Savings Improvement Program (ESIP)

This bill allows the state, municipalities, counties, schools and authorities to enter into energy savings improvement contracts with energy services companies to implement energy conservation measures,…”provided that the value of the energy savings resulting from the program will be sufficient to cover the cost of the program’s energy conservation measures” pursuant to A-1185.

A local unit may contract for this service through either public bidding or competitive contracting. The energy savings improvement program may be financed through a lease-

purchase agreement to last no more than 15 years.  Energy efficient improvements methods will reduce energy consumption and will allow municipalities and other public entities to upgrade or replace outdated facilities, reduce annual energy costs and incorporate green technology.  As energy savings are realized, more aging facilities can be upgraded.

A-1185, Committee Substitute for S-1537 was forwarded to the Governor’s office for action.

III.       Direct Appeal to Tax Court

The General Assembly released A-276 which increases the assessed value of real property that is permitted direct appeal to State Tax Court to more than $1.25 million.

Raising the threshold will alleviate the preparations and huge expense on municipalities to defend a tax appeal at both the County and State Tax Court levels.  As a result, only property owners with real estate valued at $1.25 million or more are permitted to file a petition of appeal directly to the State Tax Court. The increased threshold of $1.25 million dollars is more in keeping with property values which in many areas of the State far exceed the current $750,000 limitation.

The League shares the sponsor’s, Assemblymember Vandervalk, motivation of reducing costs to municipalities and commends her move in this direction to raise the threshold. 

IV.    Lifetime Survivor Benefits     

Senate Bill No.668 provides surviving spouses of certain fire and police personnel who die in line of duty with workers' compensation for entire period of survivorship.

The fundamental problem with S-668 is that it is a discriminatory benefit enhancement at a time of extreme economic uncertainties.  Municipalities are told they must do more with less even as budgets are stretched to the limit. This Legislation is too costly as it would increase benefits to surviving spouses of police and fire officers for life.  These benefits are not available to surviving spouses of other municipal employees. We hold that current benefit mechanisms meet the needs of surviving spouses when this unfortunate situation occurs.

S-668 was released from the Senate.

Many thanks for your attention.


                                                                  Very truly yours,

                                                                        William G. Dressel, Jr.
                                 Executive Director


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