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April 20, 2016
Trenton, NJ

Council on Local Mandate Ruling on Police Camera Mandate

Today, the Council on Local Mandates determined that P.L.2014, c.54 (chapter 54) violated the New Jersey constitution’s state-mandate state-pay amendment.

League President Joseph Tempesta, Mayor of West Caldwell, stated:

Like many unfunded mandates, chapter 54’s underlying policy goal was worthwhile. The concern, as validated by the Council on Local Mandates, was the law’s inadequate funding. This decision is a victory for taxpayers and is a reminder that state-mandate state-pay means just that. What the state mandates, the state, rather than our property taxpayers, must pay for.

The state-mandate state-pay amendment protects property taxpayers by requiring that state government cover the cost of any new programs or services imposed on local government. In 1995 New Jersey’s voters passed this amendment to put a stop to the state’s practice of implementing state-wide policies paid for locally by property taxpayers.

Mayor Paul Medany, who brought the complaint on behalf of Deptford Township, stated:

This decision soundly applies the state-mandate state-pay amendment to chapter 54. Because this law was unconstitutional, the decision to purchase these technologies remains with local government.

Chapter 54 would have required municipalities to outfit “every new or used municipal police vehicle …primarily used for traffic stops” with either a body or dash camera and provided a $25 surcharge on DUI convictions as a funding mechanism. Deptford Township’s complaint with the Council on Local Mandates argued that chapter 54 was an unfunded mandate because the $25 was woefully inadequate to offset the mandate’s ongoing expenses.

The Council on Local Mandates agreed the Chapter 54’s funding source was “illusory.” The fiscal note prepared by the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services attached to chapter 54 indicated its costs exceeded its revenue. Indeed, Deptford Township’s own analysis demonstrated it would take 7.58 years to recover the cost of the first dash cam through the DUI surcharge and recovering the cost of body cams and their annual maintenance costs would require 28.21 and 20.94 years respectively.

The Council on Local Mandates also clarified its role as a constitutional body empowered by the voters to adjudicate whether or not rules, regulations or laws are unfunded mandates. The Attorney General’s office had argued in this matter that the Council on Local Mandates was unable to determine the adequacy of a statute’s funding due to language found in the Local Mandates Act. That argument runs contrary to the text and history of the state-mandate state-pay constitutional amendment. As the Council on Local Mandates held:

The proofs show that the $25 surcharge would fall short of funding the installation of either a vehicle-mounted or body-worn mobile video recording system. The Council cannot give blind deference to the Legislature’s decision to authorize only that funding of its mandate: to do so would leave the Legislature as the sole judge of its constitutional performance and thus render the “State mandate/State pay” principle meaningless. Legislation containing local mandates should be accompanied by a statement or, where appropriate, a fiscal note setting forth the manner in which sufficient funding is, or before the effective date of the mandate will be, provided to cover the anticipated costs of municipal compliance without resort to other sources such as increased property taxes, grants, loans and the like. IMO Complaint Filed by Deptford Township at 6 (04.20.16).

This decision also finds precedent in a previous decision that turned on the inadequacy of a mandate’s funding. In IMO Complaints Filed by the Mayors of Shiloh Borough et al the Council on Local Mandates held that partial funding provided in an appropriations act could not “fund” a mandate related to rural police coverage. Thus, this decision not only falls well within the state-mandate state-pay amendment but also the Council on Local Mandate’s own body of case law.

The League’s Executive Director Michael Darcy, CAE, sums up this decision in stating:

Chapter 54 was enacted with the best of intentions. But no policy rationale can trump what the New Jersey constitution requires: state-mandate state-pay.
Nevertheless, we are mindful of the important policy issues behind chapter 54’s enactment. The League looks forward to working with the legislature to resolve this important issue

View the Council’s Decision (PDF)

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For more information, contact Michael Cerra, Assistant Executive Director by email, 609-695-3481, ext. 120 or 609-532-2494.