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.