I. State Issues
a. Cannabis Legalization
Earlier this week the League, the New Jersey Urban Mayors Association and the New Jersey Conference of Mayors issued a coalition letter to the Governor and the State Legislature on the anticipated legalization of cannabis. The three organizations are working closely to assure that local governments are protected and provided the appropriate resources in the event that legislation is passed to legalize adult use marijuana. The Senate President has identified his objective to pass legislation by October 29. Please review the letter and regardless of your position of the issue, please reach out to your State Legislators and let them know your opinion. As stated in the letter, enforcement will fall mostly on municipal governments and your voice must be heard now.
Contact: Michael F. Cerra, Assistant Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609-695-3481 x120.
b. OPRA & OPMA Bills
On Monday, the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee will consider S-106, which makes various changes to law addressing meetings of public bodies to provide public with greater access to meetings and information about meetings and S-107, which makes certain access changes to open public records act; establishes State public finance website and creates program for development of local websites; makes appropriation. We anticipate additional amendments will be made to these bills
We appreciate the strides the sponsors have taken to address issues through the proposed amendments, such as addressing both the privacy issues surrounding OPRA and the issue of commercial request for records. However, as discussed in more detail below, we still have major concerns with the bills and must continue to oppose S-106 and S-107.
1. Subcommittees (OPMA): The definition of subcommittees has been changed to “any subordinate committee of a public body, except the Legislature, regardless of label, that is formally created by that body, comprised of two or more members, but less than a quorum, of the public body, and recognized by the public body as a subcommittee thereof.” Subcommittees would be required to prepare at least quarterly reports of their meetings that must include; the number of meetings held since the last report, the names of members of the subcommittee, and a concise statement of the matters discussed. Every subcommittee must file at least one report with the public body. A subcommittee report is available for public access in the same manner as minutes of a meeting of the public body. If the subcommittee has given an oral report at a meeting of the public body then they are not required to submit the written report for that quarter. The public body must determine if a subcommittee meeting is open to the public. If the meeting is open to the public, adequate notice must be provided. The purpose of subcommittees is to make recommendations to the governing body for the governing body to take action. Subcommittees are designed to digest and vet information informally. Subcommittees do not expend public funds nor make binding decisions. That power remains with the governing body. By their very nature, subcommittees are advisory, deliberative, and consultative. Just as advisory, deliberative and consultative material is exempted from the Open Public Records Act so should subcommittees remain not subject to the provisions of the Open Public Meetings Act.
2. Prevailing Attorney Fees (OPMA & OPRA): The OPRA bill continues to mandate prevailing attorney fees for violation of OPRA, and the OPMA bill is changing prevailing attorney fees from permissive to mandatory. The League strongly believes that the Courts and the Government Records Council need the flexibility to award reasonable attorney’s fees based on the given circumstances of a particular case.
3. Exemption of the Legislature (OPMA & OPRA): Both bills continue to exempt the Legislature from many requirements of the Open Public Meetings Act and all of the requirements of the Open Public Records Act. The League has strongly argued that in the interest of transparency and openness, the various exceptions in the Open Public Meetings Act and Open Public Records Act that apply to the legislature and the legislators should be removed. The rules that the legislation makes applicable to other governmental bodies should apply equally to all governmental levels and officials.
We suggest you contact the members of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee to express your concerns with the legislation.
Sarlo, Paul A. - Chair
Stack, Brian P. - Vice-Chair
Addiego, Dawn Marie
Bucco, Anthony R.
Cunningham, Sandra B.
Diegnan, Patrick J.
Greenstein, Linda R.
O'Scanlon, Declan J.
Oroho, Steven V.
Ruiz, M. Teresa
Thompson, Samuel D.
Contact: Lori Buckelew, Senior Analyst, email@example.com, 609-695-3481, x112.
c. League and Others Submit Comments Opposing SALT Regulations
Earlier this week, on behalf of our members the League submitted comments opposing proposed amendments to IRS regulations which would have eliminated the effectiveness of New Jersey’s efforts to dampen the effects of the recent $10,000 cap on State and Local Tax (“SALT”) deductions.
Also submitting comments in opposition to the proposed SALT regulations was State Attorney General, Gurbir Grewal, joined by the Attorneys General of California, Connecticut, and New York. These comments continue the State’s role in trying to avoid the harsh impact the SALT cap deduction would have on the Garden State.
A public hearing on these proposed amendments will take place on November 5, 2018, where it is anticipated they will be voted on for adoption. We will keep you updated on this matter as it continues to progress.
Contact: Frank Marshall, Esq., League Staff Attorney, FMarshall@njslom.org, 609-695-3481 x 137.