I. State Issues
a. Bills of Interest on the Governor’s Desk: Please TAKE ACTION
i. Bills Promotes Volunteerism. On June 25 the State Senate, by a 38-0 vote, and the General Assembly, by a 75-0 vote, gave final approval to A1627/S1873. The League of Municipalities strongly supports A-1627, which would permit a person with a pre-existing volunteer relationship as a firefighter or first aid with their employer to retire from service covered by PERS or PFRS and continue to serve that employer as a volunteer. This is an issue in many municipalities and the League has heard from local elected officials statewide about the difficulties in retaining qualified volunteers.
This bill previously passed both houses but was pocket vetoed by then Governor Christie. We urge you to contact the Governor’s office and ask that he vote this important initiative into law.
This legislation stems from a League conference resolution in 2014 and we thank the sponsors, including Senators Sarlo and Kean, Assemblywoman Schepisi and Assemblyman Bucco for their efforts.
The resolution was advanced because in 2014, the Division of Pension and Benefits issued guidance on post-retirement employment restrictions for public employees. The guidance noted that there must be a “bona fide severance of employment”, a complete termination of the employee’s employment relationship with the employer for a period of at least 180 days, in order not to jeopardize the employee’s retirement benefits. The Division considers re-employment by a different unit of the same public entity, whether the position is covered by the same retirement system or a different retirement system, to be employment by the same employer. If an employee holds more than one position with the employer they must separate from all employment in order to retire, even if the positions are covered by different retirement systems, or the second position is not subject to pension contributions.
If an individual returns to public employment with the former employer, even as a volunteer, prior to satisfying the requirements of a bona fide severance from employment, the employee will be required to repay all retirement benefits received from the date of retirement and may be required to re-enroll in the same or different retirement system. As a result, volunteer firefighters and first aid members, who are public employees, have been required to resign from their volunteer position in order to receive their retirement benefits.
Volunteers are the backbone of communities providing services to the residents at no cost to taxpayers while freely giving of their time and expertise. Employees affected by the Division of Pensions ruling generally are at least 55 years of age. In their volunteer positions, they often serve as mentors to the new and younger members, typically providing guidance and direction.
While well intended the Division of Pensions has created an unintended consequence which, if not changed, will impact every public employee who volunteers in the state and will not only drive up property taxes, but would also reduce the quality and level of essential public services.
ii. League Opposes Municipal Pre-emption in “Bag Bill
- Michael F. Cerra, Assistant Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609-695-3481 x120.
- Lori Buckelew, Senior Legislative Analyst, email@example.com, 609-695-3481 x112.
.” On June 25, the State Legislature sent to the Governor legislation that would impose a statewide fee on single-use carryout bags provided to customers at retail check-out counters.
The League of Municipalities opposes
the legislation (A-3267/S-2600
), which would, in part, supersede and preempt local ordinances that are being readied for adoption, and that are meant to address problems caused by non-reusable carriers.
Already, a number of towns have taken positive action to encourage retailers and shoppers to better protect the environment by using more durable carriers. These ordinances are grandfathered by the proposal. But others are in the process of doing the same. We see no environmental benefit in preempting their actions. Contacts:
b. Comment on Community Solar Pilot
July 6, 2018, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities released a Public Notice and Request for Comments in the matter of the New Jersey Community Solar Energy Pilot Program (Docket No. QO18060646). The Request for Comments is available here.
This Pilot Program will enable utility customers to participate in a solar energy project that may be remotely located from their properties and receive a credit on their utility bills for their participation in a community solar pilot project. A majority of the pilot may be municipalities or housing authorities in municipalities. Please address all inquiries pertaining to this matter to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact: Michael J. Darcy, Executive Director, email@example.com, 609-695-3481, x116.
c. Federal Court of Appeals Upholds NJ Bail Reform
Earlier this week a Federal Appeals Court upheld the State’s recently enacted Constitutional Amendment concerning bail and the related Criminal Justice Reform Act which made sweeping changes to how and when defendants’ are released pretrial. In Holland v. Rosen a defendant released pretrial on the condition of electronic monitoring challenged the State’s recent bail reform law on Constitutional grounds. Arguing, the State violated his Constitutional right to be free from excessive bail by failing to offer the option for cash bail and instead requiring electronic monitoring. The Court ruled that the State’s newly enacted standards and requirements for pretrial release do not violate Constitutional rights and refused to grant an injunction which would have prevented the Criminal Justice Reform Act for being enforced until further legal action.
More information on this topic can be found in the League recently posted blog, here.
Contact: Frank Marshall, Esq., League Staff Attorney, FMarshall@njslom.org or 609-695-3481 x137.