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February 10, 2009

Re:  Legislative Update (Four Issues)
        I.   Pension Payment Deferral Bill Update, New Senate Bill Introduced
       II.   Forced Consolidation Bill Heard and Held
      III.   Inherently Beneficial Uses
      IV.   Emergency Management Coordinator Flexibility

Dear Mayor:

Here’s an update on key developments from yesterday’s Legislative Session.

I.   New Senate Pension Payment Deferral Bill Introduced

Yesterday in Trenton, Senate President Codey introduced S-14, the new Pension Payment Deferral bill. This bill is identical to the amended version of A-3688. As reported in our February 6 letter (http://www.njslom.org/ml020609b.html), the bill now includes our amendment to protect taxpayers in municipalities electing to fully fund their annual pension liabilities. (http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2008/Bills/A4000/3688_R1.PDF) We understand that the Senate will vote on this bill on February 23. The Assembly could then take final action on March 5, sending the bill to the Governor in time for his signature, prior to his March 10 budget address.

We want to thank Senator Codey and his staff for the respect that they have shown us, as we worked to secure the amendment so many of you were looking for. Now, we need to unite behind this effort.

This option is absolutely essential for many municipalities. Still, many public employee unions are aggressively opposed and will try to have the bill altered or defeated. As we did during last year’s attack on CMPTRA funding for municipalities with a population of less than 10,000, we must all stand together on this.

Please contact your State Senator and urge passage of S-14, as introduced. Also contact your representatives in the General Assembly. Urge them to support the bill, in its current form.

The Pension Payment Deferral plan has, rightly, been touted as a short-term property tax relief initiative for municipalities facing ballooning public employee pension liabilities and an economy in peril. Its purpose is to keep property taxes down and prevent service cutbacks and possible lay-offs. That rationale will not stand if the potential payment savings are used to justify municipal property tax relief funding cuts.

For more information on this, contact Jon Moran at 609-695-3481, ext. 121.

  1. Forced Consolidation Bill Heard and Held in Assembly Committee

 

The Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee yesterday took testimony on A-3690, which would mandate the consolidation or virtual consolidation of municipalities that surround other municipalities with the municipalities that they surround. These municipalities are often referred to, by the sponsor and others, using a pastry based analogy, as ‘doughnut’ and ‘doughnut-hole’ municipalities.

We assume that the sponsor is actually interested in reducing local tax burdens, not local tax rates. That is a laudable goal and one we share. Unfortunately, those who have studied the matter, many of whom presented real-life evidence during the 2006 Special Legislative Session for Property Tax Reform, counsel caution in offering consolidation to the taxpayers as a panacea for their complaints. There is no evidence to support this radical approach. In fact, some evidence suggests that that smaller municipalities cost less to operate than larger municipalities.

This bill would circumvent a Commission established by the Legislature just two years ago and supersede the will of the only people directly affected by the bill.

The State created the Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization and Consolidation (LUARC) Commission in 2007. It has been empanelled and meeting for less than a year. The members of the Commission need to be given time to consider the myriad questions concerning the efficiency of providing specific municipal services. And the voters of specific municipalities must be allowed to study the question to their own satisfaction to determine if the conditions in their municipalities favor consolidation.

Please contact your Legislators and urge them to oppose A-3690 and any other effort to circumvent a Commission established by the Legislature just two years ago and supersede the will of the only people directly affected by the bill. For more information on this, contact Jon Moran at 609-695-3481, ext. 121.

  1. Inherently Beneficial Uses

The Assembly Telecommunications Committee approved A-3062, which defines “…the term “inherently beneficial use” for the purposes of zoning use variance and specifically includes facilities that supply electrical energy produced from wind, solar, or photovoltaic technologies.”

While the League supports the development of alternate energies, we believe that defining in statute “inherently beneficial use” for the purposes of these efforts sets a bad precedent.  If a use is deemed to be “inherently beneficial” it presumptively satisfied the criteria for a use variance under subsection d of section 57 of the MLUL, (i.e., a nonconforming use.)

The League has opposed past efforts to introduce a definition for “inherently beneficial use” because special interests have sought additional amendments to exempt their constituencies.    If indeed a project is beneficial to the community, the applicant has the option to go through the normal regulatory and democratic process.     No such change in the statute is necessary.

A-3062 has now been 2nd referenced to the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee for further consideration.  We recommend contacting your Assembly representatives and asking them to oppose A-3062.   Further, the Senate companion, S-1303, stands at 2nd reading in State Senate, and can be scheduled for a vote at any time.  Thus, we also suggest asking your State Senator to oppose S-1303.

For more information on this bill, please contact Mike Cerra at mcerra@njslom.com or 609-695-3481 x120.

IV.       Emergency Management Coordinator Flexibility
Also yesterday, the Senate Law and Public Safety and Veterans’ Affairs Committee released a substitute for S-1242 and S-2469, which permits the appointment of a municipal emergency management coordinator from a contiguous or adjoining municipality.

By expanding the pool of potential candidates, from which a governing body can select its municipal emergency management coordinator, this bill will, inevitably, improve the local emergency management function. We salute the sponsors for their attention to this important matter and for his advocacy of this common sense reform.

Very truly yours,

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director

 

 

 

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