I. State Issues
a. Cannabis Legalization Update
We cannot tell you if or when the legislation to legalize recreational, adult use of marijuana may be scheduled again. On March 25 the State Legislature did not act on A4497/S2703, which would legalize adult use of recreational cannabis. The measure did not have the needed 21 votes to pass in the State Senate. There are continued lobbying efforts to get to a majority in the State Senate but the outcome remains uncertain. We can tell you that this legislation must originate in the Assembly (i.e. the Assembly must vote on it first) and that New Jersey General Assembly is next scheduled to convene a voting session on May 23. The State Senate is scheduled to reconvene for a voting session on May 30.
What we can also tell you is our analysis and commentary on the legislation, as it currently stands. Through this long process, the League, while not taking a position on the issue of legalization itself, championed measures to facilitate municipal implementation of legalization, if it were to become a reality. The League pointed out the inadequacy of the initial local tax structure, advocated for strong home rule and planning protections in the Legislation and worked closely with the New Jersey Urban Mayors Association and Conference of Mayors to assure that the bill adequately addressed expungement and restorative justice.
This delay does offer local officials a fresh chance to review the current proposal to assess what their local course of action will be, if legalization becomes a reality.
Thus, we call your attention to our blog postings, which break down areas of the legislation of particular interest to municipalities.
For a breakdown of the local option tax for the various proposed licenses, please see the League’s March 20 post, Breaking Down the Cannabis Legislations—Local Cannabis Tax.
For information on local zoning controls and regulatory controls, please see the League’s post, Breaking Down the Cannabis Legislation, Part 2—Local Regulation.
And for information on the expungements provision in the legislation, please see, Breaking Down the Cannabis Legislation, Part 3—Expungement.
Contact: Michael F. Cerra, Assistant Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609-695-3481 x120.
b. Action Needed to Prevent Bill Limiting Local Control from Becoming
On March 25, State legislators voted to approve S-1074/A-4221 which seeks to provide protections for the public’s right to access waterways under the public trust doctrine. While the League is supportive of public beach access we opposed S-1074/A-4221 because it would give the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) a tremendous amount of authority over local planning. If signed by the Governor, the bill would allow the DEP to determine, based on statewide criteria rather than local factors, how much and what kind of beach access is necessary.
Requiring beach access would not simply mean a walkway from a road. It could mean the installation of public restrooms or the building of parking facilities. Under the bill the DEP would be required to withhold certain permits, including, among others, those required before municipalities can undertake beach replenishment projects, and condition their issuance on the permit seeker providing, at their own cost, public beach access.
The League believes that this is a heavy handed approach to beach access that fails to take into consideration unique local characteristics and instead replaces it with an unworkable, one size fits all approach. In addition, the bill does not consider the potential increased expense and liability that would be forced upon municipalities who are responsible for the maintenance and safety of local beaches and waterways.
Last week we asked our members to reach out to the Governor’s office and urge him not to sign the bill until municipal concerns are addressed. Many of you have responded by passing resolutions opposing this heavy handed legislation, but the voice of those municipalities are still needed. If your municipality has not done so already we ask that you please review S-1074/A-4221 to assess the impact it could have on your community and take action to oppose this legislation.
Contact: Frank Marshall, Esq., League Staff Attorney, email@example.com, 609-695-3481 x 137.
c. State Treasury Releases Figures Showing Increase in Tax Collection
Figures released yesterday by the state Treasury show that gross income tax revenues rose nearly 21 percent in March, year over year. These figures also show that the corporate business tax (“CBT”) is up 101 percent so far this fiscal year, well above the revised growth rate of 60 percent. And, according to a statement by Treasury CBT revenues are expected to continue to grow significantly in Fiscal Year 2019.
CBT revenue is particularly important for municipalities as a portion of the collections are dedicated to open space and historic preservation. Local governments receive this funding through programs such as Green Acres and Farmland Preservation.
Contact: Jon Moran, Senior Legislative Analyst, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609-695-3481 x121.
d. Recap of the April PFRS Board Meeting
As the newly created Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) Board continues to establish itself, the League is attending its public meetings to keep you informed about the Board’s progress and decisions. At the April 8 board meeting the Board received training on the Open Public Meetings Act and Open Public Records Act provided by the Department of Treasury.
Initially the agenda listed “presentation and selection of independent legal counsel.” The item was pulled from the agenda due to some concerns about process and the role of the Attorney General. Instead Chairman Donnelly read prepared remarks and noted that the next couple of months the board will be forming the governance of the PFRS system.
Chairman Donnelley proceeded to express some frustrations on the interaction between the Board and the Department of Treasury and Attorney General’s Office and the “roadblocks” he has encountered. As a result Chairman Donnelly gave the Attorney General’s Office one week to provide in writing the requested information to the Board, including a review of the state procurement law required for professional services; complete review of the job hiring and posting requirements; an opinion on why the Attorney General believes that they will no longer be able to provide legal counsel to the Board if the Board hires outside special counsel; and an opinion on why the Attorney General believes that the Board does not have the authority to adopt rules.
The next meeting of the Board is scheduled for May 13.
Contact: Lori Buckelew, Senior Legislative Analyst, email@example.com, 609-695-3481 x112.