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NJLM's Legislative Blog

Jan 17

Bills of Interest on the Governor Desk

Posted on January 17, 2020 at 12:44 PM by Legislative Staff

On Tuesday, the 2018-19 legislative term ended with over 200 bills sent to the Governor’s desk for his consideration. Governor Murphy will have until noon on Tuesday, January 21 to take action or the bills will need to start the legislative process over again in the new legislative session. Of the bills, on the Governor’s desk, the League has taken a position on the following bills. We ask that you contact the Governor’s Office and add your voice to ours.

Support

A-1028 establishes a training program to prevent suicide by law enforcement officers and requires reporting of law enforcement officer suicides to the Attorney General. The League supports this bill that will provide police officers with training on the causes, behaviors, warning signs, and risk factors associated with officer suicide.

A-1044 requires the Director of Division of Taxation to examine the feasibility of a centralized property tax information system to verify property taxes paid by homestead property tax reimbursement claimants.  Specifically, the Director will be required to examine the feasibility of establishing, for the administration of the homestead property tax reimbursement program, a centralized property tax data system that would assist the Division in verifying the amount of property tax paid on any homestead in any base year, and in any year for which an eligible claimant seeks a reimbursement. A-1044 provides a specific timeline for the feasibility report and outlines the next steps.  The League supports this bill that should lead to a streamlined process for taxpayers applying for the homestead property tax reimbursement program.

A-1478 would permit theaters with 50 seats or more to apply for liquor licenses. The League supports this bill, which provides some flexibility from the State’s archaic ABC laws.

A-4382 requires paint producers to implement or participate in a paint stewardship program. This bill would require paint producers to develop and implement or participate in a program to recover paint. The League supports this common-sense bill as good public policy.

A-4822 permits municipalities, by ordinance, to lease vacant municipal land for tiny home placement and occupancy on public land and exempts the land from property taxation. In addition the bill directs the Department of Community Affairs to provide enhanced regulatory guidance concerning the construction and placement of tiny homes.  Consistent with the 2018 International Residential Code, the bill defines “tiny home” as a dwelling that is 400 square feet or less in floor area excluding lofts. 

A-5023 exempts from the New Jersey Department of Transportation permitting requirements, established under the “Roadside Sign Control and Outdoor Advertising Act,” signs attached to street furniture that are located in areas that are not protected areas, that have been approved by the municipality in which they are located, and that otherwise comply with the “Roadside Sign Control and Outdoor Advertising Act.”  “Street furniture” is defined as an object placed or installed adjacent to the street for public use, which is to include but not be limited to, a bench, trash and recycling receptacle, public bicycle-sharing parking structure, phone booth, or Wi-Fi kiosk.

A-5916 authorizes the Department of Health to notify elected officials of financial distress of certain hospitals. This bill would provide elected officials with notice if a hospital within their jurisdictions is in financial distress.  Because hospitals are such a valuable asset to their host communities elected officials have an interest in their viability.  Advance notice will allow elected officials to develop a plan of action and provide possible assistance to avoid the closure of the hospital. 

S-62 requires certain contractors to register under "The Public Works Contractor Registration Act."  This bill expands the definition of contractor in the “Public Works Contractor Registration Act” to include those who are required to pay their workers the prevailing wage by any other provision of law. Providing clarity that a Public Works Contractor Registration is required in any instance where the contractor is required to pay prevailing wage.

S-589 requires the Secretary of State to maintain a secure Internet website to allow eligible voters to register to vote using an online voter registration form.  The bill also authorizes the use of digitized signatures from the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission’s database, or the applicant’s digitized or electronic signature, in connection with online voter registration forms. The information on the online voter registration forms would be electronically transferred by county commissioners of registration into the statewide voter registration system already established by law.

S-1298 permits a municipality to include on the tax bill a statement listing the number and type of shared services entered into by the municipality, the dollar value of the savings to the municipality from each of those shared services, and a total amount of municipal savings resulting from those shared services.  The statement on the tax bill would have to be in the format promulgated by the Director of the Division of Local Government Services.

S-2897 requires the Department of Community Affairs to establish procedures for inspection and abatement of mold hazards in residential buildings and school facilities and certification programs for mold inspectors and mold hazard abatement workers. This common-sense bill creates, for the first time, standards for mold hazards inspectors and abatement workers. 

S-2958 establishes the “Energy Infrastructure Public-Private Partnership Act.” This permissive legislation would allow a government entity to enter into a public-private partnership agreement with a private entity to develop, design, build, operate or maintain one or more energy-related projects and to assume financial, developmental, operational, managerial and administrative responsibilities in partnership with the government entity. S-2958 is permissive legislation that provides appropriate safeguards with a public process. It provides municipalities with another mechanism to fund and complete energy-related projects.

S-3265 prohibits the sale or distribution of flavored vapor products. This bill addresses the issues raised in League Conference Resolution 2019-22.

S-3763 renames joint meetings as regional service agencies to better reflect the purpose and operation of these entities. Any joint meeting created before the effective date of the bill would be grandfather. This common-sense legislation is one of the proposals of the Path to Progress report.

S-3770 establishes the "New Jersey Economic and Fiscal Policy Review Commission" to provide an ongoing review of State and local tax structure, economic conditions, and related fiscal issues. The 12-member panel within the Legislative Branch of State government would include three members from the Senate, three from the Assembly, and six public members.

Oppose

A-4463 establishes “Electronic Permit Processing Review System.” While the bill provides authority for local enforcement agencies to charge a fee to applicants to offset the initial startup costs associated with the new electronic review system, this fee structure is not sufficient to adequately recover these costs.  Further, this bill fails to take into account the realities of the permit review process that not all applications are suited for electronic review.  

S-2469 prohibits a person from contracting for public works if the person is barred from receiving federal contracts. While we support the intent of the legislation, we currently oppose S-2469 due to some technical concerns to ensure consistency with the Local Public Contracts Law.

S-3393 establishes a pilot program to allow special occasion events to be conducted on preserved farmland under certain conditions.  The League opposes this bill which would allow preserved farmland to, for purposes not initially contemplated when public funds were used to permanently preserve these prime agricultural lands. Further, this bill would eliminate local oversight of events taking place on these preserved lands.

S-3422 requires declaration of Code Blue alert when National Weather Service predicts temperatures of 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. The League opposes this bill, which could impose new burdens on our Code Blue providers, especially those reliant on the work of volunteers. We believe that the decision on when to call Code Blue should be made locally, and not mandated by the State.

Please contact the Governor’s office on these bills

Contact: Mike Cerra, Assistant Executive Director, mcerra@njlm.org,609-695-3481 x120. 


Jan 15

Governor Signs Legislation

Posted on January 15, 2020 at 3:46 PM by Legislative Staff

On Monday, January 13, 2020, Governor Murphy signed into law numerous pieces of legislation. The following laws are of municipal interest:

P.L. 2019, c. 335 allows local voters to authorize, through a referendum, an increase of the municipal tax levy to fund a local ‘arts and culture trust’. Senate amendments authorize a municipality to reallocate monies from an arts and culture trust fund into its general fund, if the Director of the Division of Local Government Services in the Department of Community Affairs determines that the municipality is in fiscal distress. Further, the amendments to the bill clarify the ability of local entities to issue non-recourse bonds for the purpose of financing the purchase and installation of renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements
 
The League supported this legislation, which gives voters the opportunity to assist local arts and cultural activities. This, in turn, can be part of a local economic development strategy. We salute the sponsors, Assemblymembers Mukherji, McKnight, and Chiaravalloti and Senators Cryan and Stack, for their advocacy and thank Governor Murphy for his endorsement. This new law took effect on January 13, 2020.
 
P.L. 2019, c. 297 permits long term tax exemption extension for certain low-income housing. Previously, a property tax exemption may be granted to an affordable housing project for a maximum of 35 years, or until a loan provided by the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency is fully paid. The League supported this legislation, which permits the municipal governing body to continue a tax exemption for a State or federally subsidized housing project beyond the date of the payoff of the existing first mortgage as long as the project remains subject to certain affordability controls. We thank the sponsors, Senators Oroho, Stack and Bucco and Assemblymembers Wirths and Vainieri Huttle for this permissive tool. This new law took effect on January 13, 2020.
 
P.L. 2019, c. 305 increases, to 50% of final compensation, the benefit payable to the surviving child or children of a member of the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System (PFRS) or State Police Retirement System (SPRS), when the member dies in active service and no accidental death benefit is payable. Previously if a police officer or firefighter dies in active service and no accidental death benefit is payable, then their widow(er) receives a pension of 50% of the member’s final compensation.  If there is no widow(er) or if the widow(er) dies, 20% of that compensation is paid annually to one surviving child, and in equal shares, 35% to two surviving children and 50% to three or more children.  The bill took effect on January 13, 2020, but the benefits apply to benefits initially granted on or after January 1, 2017. However, no retroactive payments can be made.
 
P.L. 2019, c. 309 directs the Division of Fire Safety, in conjunction with Rutgers University/University Behavioral Health Care, to establish a confidential 24-hour, toll-free "New Jersey Fire and EMS Crisis Intervention Services" telephone hotline.  The hotline is available to fire and emergency services personnel experiencing depression, anxiety, stress, or any other psychological or emotional disorder or condition.  When necessary and appropriate, hotline operators refer callers to further debriefing and counseling services. The law also requires the State to annually appropriate at least $250,000 to support the costs associated with operating and maintaining the hotline. This new law takes effect on June 1, 2020, but the Division of Fire Safety can begin to take administrative action necessary to implement the law.
 
P.L. 2019, c. 316 requires landlords to allow tenants to pay rent up to three business days after eviction order or lockout is executed and accept rent payments by any means. In addition, this legislation enables municipalities, through an ordinance, to limit the amount of recoverable attorney’s fees or expenses for landlords of rent-controlled property. This new law takes effect on March 1, 2020.



Jan 10

Two Bills of Concern Scheduled for Final Votes on Monday

Posted on January 10, 2020 at 1:45 PM by Michael Cerra

Two Bills of Concern Scheduled for Final Votes on Monday

Monday, January 13, is the last scheduled day for the current legislative session.  All bills that are not passed and sent to Governor by noon, Tuesday die and must be reintroduced in the new session that officially begins on Tuesday.

While we are pleased to report that bills of major concern that we have brought to your attention, including an expansion of 20 and out and the bills regarding OPRA and OPMA are NOT scheduled for consideration, we do want to bring to your attention two bills of concern to municipalities.

Please take action by Monday.


I.                    Bill Expands Use of Preserved Farmlands Without Municipal Oversight

Yesterday, the Assembly Appropriations Committee approved legislation, opposed by the League, that seeks to greatly expand the number and type of events that can be held on preserved farmland.  The Assembly Committee Substitute for A-5384/A-5157 allows the owners of preserved farmland to host, by right, a number of special occasion events such as music, food, and other festivals, car shows, and weddings, all without municipal review, oversight or even prior notification.

Further, we believe that this legislation circumvents the objectives of the State’s successful farmland preservation efforts, in which public dollars have been committed to permanently preserve prime agricultural lands throughout the Garden State.  At the time such easements were bought and paid for, it was not allowed nor anticipated that these preserved farmlands would be used for the kind of nonagricultural activities this bill seeks to permit.

These bills will now be voted on by the full Assembly, which is scheduled for Monday, January 13. 

We urge you to contact your representatives in the Assembly to voice your strong opposition to these bills.

II.                  Bill Requiring Electronic Review of Construction Permits Set for Vote

On Monday, January 13, the State Senate is scheduled to vote on S-3927/A-4463, which the League opposes.  S-3927/A-4463 would establish an electronic permit processing review system requiring electronic submission of applications for construction permits, plans, and specifications as required under the State Uniform Construction Code, and for the scheduling of inspections.  All municipal enforcement agencies would be required to use this new system.

The League supports efforts to modernize the process of UCC applications and reviews; however we have some pragmatic and practical concerns with the bill.  For one, certain documents required to be reviewed during the construction permitting process are not easily reviewable through electronic means.  Municipal enforcement agencies will incur substantial costs to purchase the equipment necessary to implement the electronic review of these applications. And, while the bill allows municipalities to charge a surcharge for the first three years after the bill is adopted to recoup start-up costs, this may not be sufficient.

We encourage you to contact your Senator asking them to vote against this legislation until municipal concerns are properly addressed.

Contact: Frank Marshall, Esq, Associate General Counsel, FMarshall@njlm.org, or 609-695-3481 x137.