Yesterday both the Assembly, by a vote of 70-6, and the Senate, by a vote of 37-1, passed A-3969/S-2392, which provides for local government flexibility with regard to various timeframes, deadlines, and other statutory requirements in order to help them continue to function and meet their obligations during times of emergencies.
This legislation will address various deadlines impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as professional certification renewals and temporary appointments, as well as clarifying that local government may accept in-person fund transfers and on-line electronic payment. In addition, the Director of Local Government Services is given limited authority to extend deadlines under the Local Budget Law, Local Fiscal Affairs Law, and Municipal Land Use Law.
The legislation also provides both the Director of Local Government Services and governing bodies the authority to extend property tax payments grace periods as well as clarifies the notice requirements when a governing body changes the property tax delinquent interest rate.
Finally, the legislation permits the use of remote meetings during times of state of emergencies or public health emergencies.
While the League supports the initiatives in A-3969/S-2392, we are concerned that the provision that permits a local public body to remotely conduct a public meeting by electronic means during a state of emergency or public health emergency, provided that there is reasonable public provisions for public input, would limit the municipality’s authority to have remote meetings at other times. Remote meetings through electronic means have been done prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and are expected to become more popular in the future. Rather than preclude municipalities from hosting such meetings except in times of emergency we respectfully request that legislation require the Department of Community Affairs to adopt rules regarding notice and hosting of such meetings in a more general sense. The League will pursue a legislative remedy to this oversight in the near future.
Contact: Lori Buckelew, Senior Legislative Analyst, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609-695-3481 x112.