Legislative Update - August, 2018

New Chapter Laws

When the Legislature and the Governor left the budget process for the summer, there were still some bills we were watching on the Governor’s desk.  Here are the Public Laws of 2018 that were recently signed:

c.76     Revises special charter for City of Plainfield.

c.75 and 84     Together, these laws makes various changes to New Jersey Infrastructure Bank's enabling act. They give the Bank (formerly Infrastructure Trust) some additional flexibility intended to solve some obstacles that prevented its use by some municipalities. If you are planning any infrastructure financing, their updated programs will be worth looking at to see if you can get lower costs.           

c.74     Authorizes certain local government utilities to impose additional connection fees; requires certain new credits and reductions for these fees. This is a modestly complicated law that allows new connection fees and credits for certain properties.  If you have a water or sewer utility (or are on a regional authority) having someone look at this may be worthwhile.           

c.68     Allows Jersey City to impose employer payroll tax; requires employer payroll tax revenues to be paid to school district in certain circumstances. This was tied to the modified school funding law (see below).           

c.67     Modifies school funding law to eliminate adjustment aid and State aid growth limit; allows adjustment to tax levy growth limitation for certain school districts.

You can find 2018 chapter laws online here: www.njleg.state.nj.us/lawsconstitution/chap.asp. Feel free to drop me a note with any questions about bills or laws (pfeiffer.gov@gmail.com).

Bills Still on the Governor's Desk

After the flurry of bills signed in early August, we are down to six tracked bills on his desk.   Some will be signed by the time you read this; others will be addressed by the time the Legislature reconvenes, most likely in September.

A-538      Permits county governing body, with approval of county board of taxation, to revise the real property assessment calendar. This is specifically targeted to Atlantic County, though available to other counties as well.

A-1627    Provides that PERS or PFRS member who continues to be volunteer firefighter or emergency services worker after retirement with employer from whom member retires has bona fide severance for compliance with State and federal law.

A-2041    Establishes "Economic Redevelopment and Growth Grant Bond Financing Act," authorizing issuance of bonds secured by pledge of Economic Redevelopment and Growth Grant proceeds, municipal liens, and special assessment; expands "Redevelopment Area Bond Finance Law;” extends time to complete certain projects under “Long Term Tax Exemption Law.”

A-3267   Establishes fee on single-use carryout bags used in certain stores and dedicates fee revenue to “Healthy Schools and Community Lead Abatement Fund.” 

A-3808    Provides for prompt payment of public contracts for purchase of goods and services.

S-865       Permits public-private partnership agreements for certain building and highway infrastructure projects; provides for EDA oversight.

Legislative Update - June, 2018

The Governor has been active in signing bills sent to him by the Legislature.  36 laws were signed with a few conditional vetoes, and as of June 4, 7 bills are pending action.  You can expect that in late June, dozens of additional bills will be passed for Governor Murphy’s consideration.  And a state budget.

The League of Municipalities’ legislative team has been doing a very good job of issuing timely legislative analysis on their “The Town Crier Legislative Backgrounder Blog.”  If you don’t get it (very few people appear to) and if you want to keep up on significant legislative issues as they happen, sign up here: https://njlmblog.wordpress.com.  The sign-up block is hiding in plain sight: in the left column, two headings below the Archives list (in small print).

So far, five of the new chapter laws have a direct impact on municipalities:

c.19 - Reinstates and extends duration of five Urban Enterprise Zones; requires DCA to study UEZ program and report recommendations to the Legislature.

c.15 - "Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act." This neutral sounding name is all about labor relations in all NJ government agencies, including municipalities.  It expands the authority that public unions have to use employer resources to communicate with members. The League did a nice explanation of it in their “The Town Crier” blog: read it here: https://njlmblog.wordpress.com/2018/05/18/governor-signs-workplace-democracy-enhancement-act/   One important point; it took effect immediately upon signing on May 18.     

c.11 - Authorizes a municipality, county or school district to establish charitable funds for specific purposes; permits property tax credit for certain donations. Much has been written about this, members have received a draft of initial DLGS effort at an implementing rule asking for comments.  See Alan Zalkind’s email of 5/31/18.  On the other hand, there is the IRS Advisory Notice of pending rules that would make the legislation moot (https://nj-njslom.civicplus.com/DocumentCenter/View/6792/052318-IRS-SALT-Notice). On the other hand, the Governor’s Office announced that if the IRS acts that way, the state would sue to make our law viable.         

c.9 - Concerns equal pay and employment discrimination. This affects all employers in the state; it makes discrimination in pay rates between equally qualified men and women illegal under the state’s Law Against Discrimination. The LAD amendments include a series of circumstances that permit pay differences (i.e., experience differences, pay scales based on longevity).  The monetary penalties, however, can be significant as they can go back six years. Check with your attorney and watch for conference discussions and seminars. It takes effect on July 1, 2018.           

c.8 - Permits taxpayers to make dedicated prepayment toward anticipated property taxes.  This law primarily dealt with people who made prepayment at the end of last year in efforts to mitigate the SALT impact.  It permits payments to cover periods for which bills had not been issued (e.g. third and fourth quarters of 2018).

Legislative Update - February, 2018

The lame duck session didn’t have any game-changing bills signed into law, but there are some bills you want to know about. 146 bills were signed into law during lame duck.  You may have seen some long lists. Only a handful had broad impact on municipal operations. Some will have additional guidance coming from a state agency; others may warrant addition investigation and guidance from your professionals.

Because the Office of Legislative Services had not posted all the Chapter Law links when this was written, each entry has an embedded link to the latest version of the bill at the time. If you use the OLS website directly, make sure you change the entry for “Legislative Session” to 2016-2017 to look up the bills.  Keep in mind that when looking at laws that were amendments to existing law, look at the “Advance Law” version, as it shows the additions and deletions. As always, if you have questions, drop an email to Pfeiffer.gov@gmail.com.

c.317 (S3409)  Establishes standardized changed conditions clauses for local public construction contracts. This took effect immediately, but confusingly.  Consult your attorney if you have outstanding construction project bids.

c.312 (S3233) Modifies performance and maintenance guarantee requirements under "Municipal Land Use Law."  This is now in effect.

c.310 (S2978) Permits local units and school districts to invest in local government investment pools managed in accordance with applicable Governmental Accounting Standards Board guidelines. This is now in effect.

c.306 (S2836) Concerns certain real property assessment practices and requirements (Gloucester County municipalities only).

c.275 (A4540) Requires municipal land use plan element of master plan to address smart growth, storm resiliency, and environmental sustainability issues.  This is now in effect.

c.266 (A2741) Authorizes municipal governing body to create and maintain list of municipal residents in need of special assistance in case of emergency for public safety purposes.  This is now in effect.

c.260 (A1427) Permits increase in municipal free public library tax upon voter approval. This is now in effect.

c.259 (A856) Requires removal of equipment and markings on certain used emergency vehicles; requires that Attorney General issue guidelines or directives.  This takes effect in May.

In an administrative action, the State Records Committee adopted a general records retention schedule item for municipal and county agency email. The new process provides two options, a seven-year “get rid of pretty much everything” or three-year, more specific process.  While similar, they both require that the email system and your procedures have a policy for keeping emails and attachments that have a longer retention requirement (i.e., financial records) for the appropriate time.  Advice: consult your municipal clerk or records manager and your IT manager for dealing with email destruction requests.

Legislative Update - November, 2017

This update was written after the election. Suffice to say, not much happened in October in the run-up to the election.  No bills moved to the Governor, and no bills of relation to us were signed since the beginning of October.

Which brings us to the “lame duck” legislative session which started the week before Thanksgiving.  Some bills will move, there may not be much, unless there is political alignment between the legislature and governor. But come next year, we will see lots of activity.  So, stay tuned for an active winter session.

In other related news, the Division of Pension and Benefits released an October 2017 version of its Post Retirement Fact Sheet (#86) in a new format.  After checking with the Division, they confirmed that the new date reflects a reformatting of the 2015 version, albeit with the new date. The content however, is unchanged. The new version can be viewed here: www.state.nj.us/treasury/pensions/pdf/factsheets/fact86.pdf

Any questions?  Drop an email to Pfeiffer.gov@gmail.com.

Here are two other non-legislative items that may be of interest:

DLGS “FAST TRACK” Online Budget Program: DLGS has made great strides in automating the budget submission and review process.  They are currently pilot testing the municipal and fire district submission process.  The essential element of the system is that the contents of the budget, AFS, and ADS are submitted online; that helps ensure that the budget document ties to the other documents.  Formatted reports will be prepared from the submissions.  Another key element is that when fully implemented, preparing the separate User-Friendly budget form will go away, as the CFO will input the information into the system and will be produced as a report from there. The Division has done several seminars on how the program will work (including two at the League conference).  Hopefully, your CFO attended one of them and can brief you further.

Is your computer running slowly and may be affected by malware? If so, use this very useful free software program that comes highly recommended (and often used) by IT security professionals that is easy to use.  It’s called “Malwarebytes” and can be downloaded exclusively from www.malwarebytes.com.  It’s easy to use, just go to the site, click the “Free Download” button, launch the downloaded file on your computer (Windows or Mac) and follow the instructions. Depending on if the machine has a lot of malware, you may want to run it several times until it indicated there is no more infection. The site will offer you the opportunity to subscribe to an enhanced version for a fee (they update it regularly); you certainly can do that to take advantage of it, but they also allow you to download it as often as you like. 

However, using this program does not eliminate the need to have an anti-virus (at minimum) and an anti-malware program running on your machine. In the absence of using a third-party program, Windows users should absolutely turn on the Windows Defender program and keep it running. It will provide a basic level of protection.

Legislative Update - July/August, 2017

The Governor surprised everyone by signing or returned (via veto) to the legislature more than 85 bills by the end of July. Prior to and during the shutdown, in addition to the budget (c.99), the Horizon bill (c.100), and conversion of the lottery to a pension funding source (c.98), the Legislature acted on a number of bills that made their way to the Governor for his consideration.  With the shutdown almost forgotten, we are heading into the general election.  The following are the bills signed during July we’ve been tracking.

c.179 — Requires certain State and local government agency employees with access to federal tax information to undergo criminal history background checks.  This is may be a little confusing since it took effect immediately. It is limited to employees who have access to federal tax returns and return information, and information derived therefrom” that is subject to federal confidentiality protections.  Hopefully information will be forthcoming on if that includes routine use of social security numbers (hopefully not) and related information.        

c.154 — Expands definition of "acquisition," for purposes of county and municipal open space trust funds, to include demolition, removal of debris, and restoration of lands being acquired.           

c.149 — "New Jersey Library Construction Bond Act;” authorizes issuance of $125,000,000 in general obligation bonds to finance capital projects at public libraries; appropriates $5,000.  More will come out on this; keep in mind that a 50 percent local match will be required.           

c.133 — The "Water Quality Accountability Act"; imposes certain testing, reporting, management, and infrastructure investment requirements on water purveyors. This affects all but the smallest (i.e., less than 15 connections) municipally, local authority, and privately-owned water systems. It requires mandatory system reporting activities, cyber security plans and reporting for some, and the creation of asset management plans for all.  Rules and guidance will be coming from the BPU and DEP.  It has a 90-day effective date delay.  You can also except your system operator to receive information from their professional associations.           

c.128 — Requires the Director of Division of Taxation to promulgate a “Property Taxpayer Bill of Rights” in the law. It sets forth in “simple and nontechnical terms” the specific rights of every property taxpayer to understand their real property assessment and to appeal an assessment that a taxpayer believes is too high.  The Property Taxpayer Bill of Rights must be posted on every county board of taxation and municipality’s website.  This law took effect on July 21, 2017.  You can anticipate guidance on this from the Division of Taxation.  It will be confusing as it doesn’t provide guidance on how a taxpayer’s “rights” are enforced.

c.119 — Requires board of education to enter into agreement with law enforcement authorities regarding access to live video streams of public school buildings. It requires a board of education that is equipped with video surveillance that is capable of streaming live video wirelessly to a remote location (i.e., police department) to enter into a memorandum of understanding with law enforcement authorities regarding access to live video streams of public school buildings.  While it took effect on signing, the Department of Educations has six months to adopt rules on it. 

c. 116 — Establishes data reporting requirements for emergency medical services providers and dispatch centers. Department of Health will issue rules and provide software by mid-January.  More to come.

c.102 — Provides for elimination of newly formed non-operating school districts; establishes procedures for eliminating deficit that existed prior to merger; authorizes renting of school building for 10 years.           

c. 101 — Authorizes special emergency appropriations for the payment of certain expenses incurred by municipalities to implement a municipal consolidation.

c.92 — Signed just before the July 4 long weekend, the law authorized the sale and possession of certain fireworks. This allowed the sale, possession, and use of sparklers, snakes, and glow worms; smoke devices; and trick noisemakers, including party poppers, snappers, and drop pops, by persons at least 16 years old.  In addition, the law prohibits the regulation of these non-exploding, non-aerial fireworks by a local governing body. 

c.91 — Provides that driver's license and identification cards expire every four years on licensee or cardholder's birthday. It affects cards issued after the effective date of the law.

Among the 14 bills the Governor returned to the Legislature as vetoes, were the following:

A3480            — Absolute Veto: Concerns employer inquiries about worker's wage and salary experience. This bill would have limited an employer asking a prospective employee about the most recent salary. May come back in the next session.

A4587            — Absolute Veto: Imposes State sales and use tax and hotel and motel occupancy fee on transient accommodations; authorizes various municipal taxes and fees on transient accommodations.  This was the so-called “AirBnB” bill.  May come back in the next session.

 A-4927 —  Conditional Veto: Revises law concerning family leave, temporary disability and family temporary disability leave, and domestic or sexual violence safety leave.  More to come on this down the road.

Still on the Governor’s desk awaiting action are:           

S169 — Allows certain emergency squad volunteers holding municipal elective office to vote on emergency squad concerns.

S678 — Requires local government units to certify compliance with certain federal hiring requirements when filing annual budgets.

A3381 — Authorizes municipal volunteer programs for free removal of snow from certain residential properties occupied by seniors or disabled persons.

A1690 — Allows fire district elections to be moved to November; eliminates certain fire district budget referenda; and eliminates certain fire district capital purchase referenda. 

Legislative Update - June, 2017

The annual legislative “budget break” continued with not a lot of activity from the Governor’s office, though legislative committee hearings continued.  The legislative budget hearing process ended and by the end of the month we should see a state budget.

c.72 -  "Appraisal Management Company Registration and Regulation Act." The law establishes registration requirements for real estate appraisal management companies that employ licensed and certified real estate appraisers to provide appraisal services in New Jersey.  While it took effect on signing, it will not apply until the State Real Estate Appraiser Board is formed and adopts rules to implement it.  So at least 6-12 months.

c..71 - Requires local governments and authorities to obtain financing cost estimate from NJ Environmental Infrastructure Trust for certain projects.  You can anticipate guidance from the Local Finance Board and the Trust on the process, but the key requirements do not take effect for 6 months.  The program will involve an online form to submit information on projects that involved more than $1 million in project costs.

Legislative Update - May, 2017

The annual legislative “budget break” continued, except that on May 1, the Governor acted on some pending bills. He signed the following into law:

c.43 (S518) — Amends “Michael Massey’s law” that allowed sanitation trucks to have yellow flashing lights.  The law now requires sanitation vehicles to display those flashing lights when stopped upon a street and while engaged in the collection of garbage, solid wastes, and refuse or while moving between stops at a speed not greater than 10 miles per hour.  It also requires drivers approaching sanitation vehicles displaying flashing yellow lights to move over. It requires the Motor Vehicle Commission to provide “guidelines” to “effectuate the purposes of the act.” Lacking legislative foresight, the bill takes effect immediately.  You can likely expect some form of guidance from the MVC soon.

c.49 (S1404) — Requires governmental affairs agents to disclose on their notice of representation form, compensation amounts received from State or local government entities; requires notice to be posted on Internet site of Election Law Enforcement Commission.  This means if your organization hires a lobbyist, they will be reporting their relationship to ELEC, who will post it on their website.

c. 45 (S792) — Permits newly created regional school districts or enlarging regional school districts to determine apportionment methodology for their boards of education on basis other than population.  This has some value that may facilitate K-6 and K-8 merging into existing regional or sending/receiving high school structures.

In addition, several bills were conditionally vetoed. The following ones affect municipal consolidation. The legislature will likely take these up before the end of June.

S690 — Increases flexibility, clarity, and available tools of the optional municipal consolidation process. The bill clarifies and resolves issues that got in the way of some consolidation efforts. The CV eliminates new language that protected police and fire employee, employment, wages and benefits that would make reduction in force more expensive. The CV also eliminated existing law that set a severance payment for employees who are laid off due to consolidation.

S956 — Authorizes special emergency appropriations (five-year payback) for the payment of expenses incurred by municipalities to implement a municipal consolidation. The CV puts the decision as to what costs are eligible in the hands of the DLGS Director.  It also eliminates text that made the appropriation an exception to the levy cap.

Legislative Update - April, 2017

The annual legislative “budget break” started in March and will continue until early June. That means there will not be much legislative action.  But, the Governor signed three pending bills into law:

c.36 —  Requires the Division of Local Government Services to include certain property tax information on division's web page.  Lots of press commentary on this.  The outcome (the result of a conditional veto) will make the impact of homestead property tax credits clearer, not much else will change.       

c.35 — Permits certain municipalities to impose and collect payroll tax of up to 1 percent of employer's payroll.  Specifically, it’s Newark and Jersey City, no one else.

c.33 — Codifies DEP's New Jersey Recycling Awards Program to annually recognize outstanding recycling achievements.

And, a few new bills moved to the Governor’s desk:

A1649 — Requires local governments and authorities to obtain financing cost estimate from NJ Environmental Infrastructure Trust for projects or components that are over $1 million. If enacted, it will require local capital projects that could be funded by the Trust to be submitted for an estimate (5-day turnaround from submitted a complete application). It only affects projects that have not been approved prior to the effective date (180 days after signing).  Further, the financing cost of any project that does not use Trust financing will have to be have submitted to DLGS as part of the Supplemental Debt Statement.

A1850 — Extends by two months seasonal retail consumption alcoholic beverage license. This makes permanent an extension that was adopted post-Sandy.

S3040 — Transfers management of PFRS to Board of Trustees of PFRS.  The League has done some good writing on this: www.njslom.org/letters/2017/2017-0330-PRFS.html.

S518 — Requires sanitation vehicles display flashing lights in certain circumstances and imposes conditions on drivers approaching sanitation vehicles displaying flashing lights; designated as "Michael Massey's Law."  If enacted, it makes what was optional, mandatory.

S690 — Increases flexibility, clarity, and available tools of the optional municipal consolidation process.  Lots of press on this.  The bill clarifies and resolves a number of issues that have gotten in the way of some consolidation efforts. Public safety union interests however, added obstacles with language protecting member’s wages and benefits and makes reduction in force more expensive.

S792 — Permits newly created regional school districts or enlarging regional school districts to determine apportionment methodology for their boards of education on basis other than population.  This has some value that may facilitate K-6 and K-8 merging into existing regional or sending/receiving high school structures.

S956 — Authorizes special emergency appropriations for the payment of certain expenses incurred by municipalities to implement a municipal consolidation.

S1404 — Requires governmental affairs agents to disclose on their notice of representation form, compensation amounts received from State or local government entities; requires notice to be posted on Internet site of Election Law Enforcement Commission.  This means if your organization hires a lobbyist, they will be reporting their relationship to ELEC, who will post it on their website.