Here is a summary of four new laws of interest to local governments signed into law yesterday by Governor Christie.     The League supported two of the bills.  We had no position on the other two, though we did monitor both closely.

  1. Moratorium on Moving School Board Elections

The Governor signed into law S-2099/A-3728, which the League supported, places a two-year moratorium on moving date of the annual school board election from the day of general election in November back to third Tuesday in April; creates study commission on August 18, 2016.  P.L. 2016, c. 27 prohibits a board of education or municipal governing body from moving a November school board election back to the third Tuesday in April beginning June 1, 2016 to May 31, 2018.

The law also establishes a School District Annual Election Study Commission to study: (1) the voter turnout data and the fiscal impact and cost savings of moving the date of the annual school election for school districts from April to the General Elections in November; (2) the voter turnout estimates and implications and the fiscal impact and cost savings of moving the date of the annual school election for school districts from the General Election in November back to April; and (3) the implications of moving the annual election as described in (1) and (2) on proposed school budgets. The 10 member commission will include a representative of the League.  The commission will be required to hold at least one public hearing in a county in the central region of New Jersey.  Within 10 months from the date of its first meeting, the Commission must issue a report to the Governor and Legislature detailing its findings. Following the issuance of its final report, the commission shall convene at the call of the chairperson to consider and respond to any written request submitted to it by a legislator or officer or employee of the Executive Branch of State government on any issue or item.  The Commission will expire 6 months after the issuance of their final report.

2. Electronic Funds Transfers for Payment of Certain Claims

The Governor signed into law A-3851/S-2033, which the League supported, permitting the governing body to adopt policies for the payment of claims through the use of one or more standard electronic funds transfer technologies in lieu of payment through the use of signed checks.  Beginning May 1, 2017 a municipality, county, board of education or county college may enact a policy for standard electronic funds transfer technologies that must explicitly list the forms of standard electronic funds transfer technologies to be used and designating the Chief Financial Officer as responsible for the oversight and administration of the disbursement policy as will implementing an internal control to ensure safe and proper use of the system while mitigating potential fraud and abuse.

P.L. 2016, c.29 defines “standard electronic funds transfer technologies”  as technologies that facilitate the transfer of funds, other than a transaction originated by check, draft, or similar paper instrument, initiated by means such as, but not limited to, an electronic terminal, telephone, or computer or magnetic tape for the purpose of ordering, instructing, or authorizing a financial institution to debit or credit an account, and incorporate, at a minimum, internal controls set forth in regulations promulgated by the Local Finance Board.

We are working with the Division of Local Government Services to promulgate rules and regulations that will allow local governing bodies to take advantage of the new law.

3.  Changes to Environmental Infrastructure Financing

 Governor Christie signed into law A-3882/S-2287, which changes submission and notice requirements for short-term and long-term financing for environmental infrastructure projects.  P.L. 2016, c. 30, which took effect immediately, clarifies and streamlines the process for the approval of environmental infrastructure projects financed by the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust (EIT). The bill provides that all short-term financing of environmental infrastructure projects is to be funded through the Interim Financing Program or, in the case of projects necessary due to a disaster as declared by the Governor, through the Disaster Relief Emergency Financing Program.  As a result, the law repealed existing law establishing the Emergency Financing Program, the Planning and Design Financing Program, the Onsite Wastewater Disposal Financing Program, the Supplemental Financing Program, and the Equipment Loan Program.  The law provides that projects that meet the ranking criteria and funding priorities under EIT’s program are to be set forth on the Interim Funding Program Project Priority List and submitted to the Legislature at least once and up to four times each fiscal year for short-term funding.  The law also provides that no funds for short-term or temporary loans may be disbursed unless written certification of the Department of Environmental Protection determines that the project activities satisfy the provisions of the “New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust Act.” Projects that meet the criteria for long-term funding by the trust that have commenced construction and demonstrated a high likelihood of construction completion on or before the end of the ensuing fiscal year are be included on the project eligibility list for approval.

 4. Accidental Death Benefits Increased for PFRS members

Effective immediately the accidental death benefit for surviving children of State Police Retirement System or Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) members has been increased from 20% to 70% of final compensation.  P.L. 2016, c. 26 (S-2061/A-3610) removed language that established different percentages for more than one surviving child.  If there is more than one surviving child the compensation to the children will be in equal shares.  The new benefit will apply to a benefit entitlement initially granted on or after January 1, 2016, however, adjustments will be made for benefits granted before January 1, 2016 but only for benefits received after August 18, 2016.  No surviving child will be granted a retroactive payment based upon the difference between the benefit the child would have received if the adjustment made pursuant to the amendment had been applicable at the date of entitlement and the benefit that the surviving child has received from the date of entitlement to August 18, 2016.

Contact: Lori Buckelew, Sr. Legislative Analyst, or 609-695-3481 ext. 112.