a. COVID-19 Update
Today Governor Murphy announced that there were 518 new positive cases and an additional nine confirmed deaths resulting from COVID-19. To date, there have been 195,888 confirmed cases and 14,234 confirmed deaths. The rate of transmission is at 1.08. The positivity rate as of September 7 was 2.6%.
Since our last update, Governor Murphy has not issued any COVID-19 related executive orders.
On Tuesday, the Governor updated the Travel Quarantine Advisory adding Delaware, Maryland, Ohio, and West Virginia to the list and bringing the total to 35 states and territories. Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands have been removed from the list.
Also on Tuesday, Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson announced that the Department will be using Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) resources to provide up to $25 million to help mental health and substance use disorder providers remain open and accessible by reimbursing for the added costs, such as complying with social distancing, ensuring technology to facilitate access to telehealth, and covering costs for personal protective equipment they are incurring due to COVID-19.
The Department of Law and Public Safety issued an Administrative Order clarifying that health clubs located in hotels, motels, condominiums, cooperatives, corporate offices, or other business facilities may open their indoor premises, but those that are open to the public, and not only to guests, residents, and employees, must conform to the provisions of Executive Order 181 and associated guidance and the executive directive issued by the Department of Health.
For the week ending September 5, New Jersey Labor Department received 22,703 new unemployment applications. The Labor Department received approval from FEMA for a grant through the Lost Wages Supplemental Assistance (LWA) program, which provides up to $300 per week for a limited time to eligible individuals on top of other unemployment benefits they receive. As the implementation of this funding requires new programming to disperse funds, it is anticipated those eligible will be notified in a few weeks when available.
Contact: Mike Cerra, Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609-695-3481 x120.
b. League Position on Governor’s Budget Proposal Presented to Legislature
The League of Municipalities’ position on the Governor’s proposed FY 21 budget has been presented by League President Jim Perry and League Executive Director Mike Cerra to the members of both the Senate Budget and Appropriation Committee and the Assembly Budget Committee. That testimony states, in part:
"As leaders in the level of government closest to the people and their concerns, Mayors and local governing bodies remain committed to meeting the trials that face our State, now, and that will continue to challenge our resourcefulness, in the months ahead. Municipalities have been essential in flattening the curve. The State’s recovery is impossible without them.
"If adopted by the Legislature, the Governor’s proposal, combined with appropriations for the August 1 payment, which were included in the July-September three-month bridge budget, would hold combined appropriations for Energy Tax Receipts Property Tax Relief (ETR) and Consolidated Municipal Property Tax Relief Aid (CMPTRA) level for the balance of the year. While level funding is not full funding, Governor Murphy continues to propose budgets without further deep cuts to these vital, unrestricted, statewide municipal property tax relief programs.
"Respectfully, we urge you to approve that funding."
The letter testimony also expresses support for level funding in Transitional Aid, Capital City Aid, Open Space Payments in Lieu of Taxes, and Highlands Protection Fund Aid. It urges the Legislature to authorize the Governor’s proposed $120 million local government emergency fund, to be administered by the Department of Community Affairs (DCA). This program is intended to defray eligible municipal public safety and public health expenses for municipalities in the 12 counties that did not receive direct federal funding through the CARES Act’s Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF).
The League’s statement notes a number of concerns with the Governor’s proposal specifically:
- It would eliminate funding ($4 million in SFY ’20) for Meadowlands Tax-Sharing Payments;
- It would divert over $30 million from Affordable Housing Trust Fund dollars to be used for other programs;
- It would divert $12 million from the State Recycling Trust Fund and $10 million, from the Clean Communities Trust Fund, both to be used to offset State Parks management costs.
We have asked the Legislature to address these concerns. We will keep you posted as the State speeds toward its September 30 deadline for budget adoption.
Contact: Jon Moran, Senior Legislative Analyst, email@example.com, 609-695-3481 x121.
c. Juneteenth a State Holiday
Yesterday, Governor Murphy signed, S-19, (now, P.L.2020, c.76), designating Juneteenth, the third Thursday in June, as a state and public holiday. The legislation adds Juneteenth as a paid holiday for all State government employees. New Jersey is the sixth state to designate Juneteenth a state holiday.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, TX, to inform enslaved people of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and of their freedom. The announcement from General Granger led to celebration and jubilation, which has continued each year in various forms throughout the United States for 150 years. This law took effect immediately.
Contact: Paul Penna, Legislative Analyst, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609 695-3481, x110.
d. State Expands Voter Tools
The Division of Elections has launched the state’s first online voter registration tool as well as functionality to let voters track their mail-in ballot.
To register online, individuals will need their date of birth and one of the following forms of identification: a current and valid driver’s license or a non-driver identification card issued by NJ Motor Vehicle Commission; or, a social security number. If a person uses their social security number, they must have the ability to sign on-screen or upload their signature to complete the process.
To track their mail-in ballot, a voter must sign into their personal NJ Voter Information System account that they can set up their NJ Voter Information System account. Additionally, voters can also call their County Election Officials to track their vote by mail ballot.
Contact: Lori Buckelew, Assistant Executive Director, email@example.com, 609-695-3481 x112.
e. Appellate Division Rules Certain Employee Settlement Agreements Exempt from OPRA
Last week, the Appellate Division issued a notable decision regarding the Open Public Records Act (OPRA). In Libertarians for Transparent Government v. Cumberland County the court held that a settlement agreement between a public body and its employee, resolving an internal disciplinary action against that employee, is exempt from disclosure as a personnel record.
While it was determined long ago determined that litigation settlements must be disclosed, there was ambiguity in how OPRA’s exemption for personnel records would apply to agreements resolving employee disciplinary charges before litigation ensues. The Appellate Division distinguished these internal settlement agreements from litigation matters. They succinctly reasoned that because an employee’s disciplinary records are covered by OPRA’s personnel exemption, it follows that the settlement of disciplinary charges are also covered by the personnel exemption.
The Appellate Division went further and determined that under OPRA’s personnel exemption, the entire settlement agreement must be withheld. It would not be enough to simply redact portions.
Although the court found that the settlement agreement was exempt from disclosure under OPRA, it remanded the case back to the trial court to determine if the agreement could be obtained under the common law right of access. We will continue to keep you updated on this case.
Contact: Frank Marshall, Esq., Associate General Counsel, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609-695-3481 x137.