Whether a municipality has a population of 300 or 300,000, it has a major stake in the legislative deliberations in Trenton. Every bill pending before the Legislature that might affect localities is evaluated by the New Jersey State League of Municipalities’ 100-member Legislative Committee, and aggressively opposed or supported by the League's lobbying team in concert with local officials around the state.

In this session, Lori Buckelew, Asst. Exec. Director/Director of Gov’t Affairs and Frank Marshall, Associate Counsel from the New Jersey League of Municipalities (NJLOM) gave an update on legislation from Trenton on Cannabis and other emerging issues at the recent 2021 Fall conference of the New Jersey Municipal Management Association.

The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC), on August 19th, issued their initial regulations regarding adult-use cannabis. Their main focus at the time was on retail and cultivation. Wholesale distribution and delivery service regulations have yet to be adopted. Municipalities can regulate certain things like location and hours of operation of cannabis businesses. This regulation includes distances from churches, schools, public parks or any other establishment municipalities see fit.

The application process for licensing starts with notice of the initial acceptance of license applications. The statute identifies that the CRC must begin accepting applications within thirty 30 days of rule adoption (August 19). Not more than 90 days after the submission of the application, the CRC must make a determination on the application

“There are several municipalities that have adopted a high-level scoring process for applications,” said Marshall. “Ultimately the state has a finite number of licenses that they are going to issue and municipalities, individually, can limit the number of licenses or type of license within their own town.”

In particular, the regulations identify that the CRC must review, score, and approve conditional and annual cannabis business license applications and issue licenses to applicants that receive a full score or greater, and shall have the full authority to establish the priority by which conditional and annual cannabis business license applications are reviewed, scored, approved, and issued.

Lori Buckalew then transitioned away from cannabis legislation and onto another pressing issue municipalities should be aware of. This was NJ S3810 - The Responsible Collective Negotiations Act.

As it reads, the purpose of this bill is to promote the public interest by facilitating the prompt settlement of labor disputes and achieving cost effective and creative solutions for the efficient delivery of public services by entrusting elected government officials with broad authority to negotiate over the terms of employment of their employees, and by providing a system of collective negotiations between public employers and the representatives of public employees that includes all matters that intimately and directly affect employee work and welfare, unless a negotiated agreement would prevent government from carrying out its statutory mission.

“As amended, this legislation purports to make the items for collective bargaining permissive for local governments but it subjects items never negotiable before to be negotiated,” said Buckalew. “It still expands the items that become mandatory subjects during negotiations, effectively removing management prerogative.”

Moreover, this legislation would further unlevel the playing field in public sector negotiations in favor of labor as the measure would also:

  • Create a binding arbitration process in a manner that is not entirely clear, and of which would lead to costly litigation.
  • Provide a disincentive for labor to negotiate what controls remain in place when an existing contract expires, and the parties have failed to reach an agreement on a successor contract.
  • Create a tremendous administrative burden by requiring management to share detailed information on non-union members with unions.
  • Redirect the burden of proof to management in grievance procedures subject to binding arbitration even where labor is the moving party.