On Thursday, the Assembly will consider the following bills of interest to municipalities. We strongly urge you to contact your Assembly representative on these bills of interest.
A. A-3686, the “Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act”
Please ask your State Legislators to oppose A-3686.
This legislation, which we oppose, would impose mandatory requirements on public employers to ensure that public unions are able to carry out their statutory duties by having access to and the ability to communicate with, their public employee members. The League, joined by its partners with the Association of Counties, School Boards Association, and the Association of State Colleges and Universities, are concerned that many provisions of the bill, such as access to employees provided to unions, and meeting with union officials and their members, intrude into the collective bargaining process. By mandating minimum requirements the bill does not consider the potential disruption to the day-to-day operations of our respective members, particularly if the relationship between management and the union is contentious. These are issues that have been successfully negotiated during the collective bargaining process.
We are also concerned with the new procedures established in A-3686, such as providing detailed contact information to the unions on all employees, whether they are members of the union, or not. We are further concerned that management will be used to assist unions in the recruiting/retaining of their members, which is inconsistent with the labor-management dynamic.
Additionally, we believe that this bill will unintentionally create taxpayer-funded data mining and access that could violate public employees’ privacy and First Amendment rights. Typically the detailed information employers will be required to provide unions on their employees in A-3686 is information a person provides an organization once they join, not beforehand, and certainly not by a third party, in this case, their employer.
Furthermore, we believe this legislation is unnecessary as the “New Jersey Employer-Employee Relations Act”, which governs relations between public employers, employees, and unions, already provides appropriate protections regarding union activities. For example, the law explicitly prohibits public employers from interfering with the formation, existence or administration of any employee organization, and bars them from refusing to negotiate in good faith over the terms and conditions of employment (N.J.S.A. 34:13A-5.4). We are concerned that A-3686 infringes on the well-established collective bargaining process for New Jersey’s public sector and possibly the rights of the public employees themselves.
B. A-1627, Permits Volunteer Firefighters and First Aid Members to Continue After Retirement
Please ask your State Legislators to support A-1627.
This legislation, which we support, permits a person with a pre-existing volunteer relationship as a firefighter, rescue squad worker, or emergency medical technicians with their employer to retire from service covered by PERS or PFRS and continue to serve that employer as a volunteer.
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, rescue squad members or EMTs, who are public employees, have been required to resign as a volunteer 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.
C. A-3122, Permits JIFs to Invest in Governmental Bonds
Please ask your State Legislators to support A-3122.
This legislation, which we support, permits both local unit and board of education joint insurance funds (JIFs) to invest in bonds of any governmental entity established under State law, or of any federal agencies or government corporations. It will also permit the local unit and board of education JIFs to amend their respective risk management plans to form joint cash management and investment programs.
JIFs have different cash flow needs than local governments and boards of education, and currently are very limited on how they can invest their funds. A-3122 would permit JIFs to take a conservative approach to investing while adding competitiveness to the municipal bond market.
League Conference Resolution 2016-09 called for legislation to permit JIFs to invest in debt obligations of any governmental entity and create a joint investment and cash management program, further increasing investment income.
D. A-3549/S-846, Reinstates and Extends Duration of certain UEZs
Please ask your State Legislators to support A-3549/S-846.
This amended legislation would reactivate the Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) program in those municipalities where it expired at the end of 2016. The program, which provides certain benefits to participating businesses, would be scheduled to sunset in those five municipalities – Bridgeton, Camden, Newark, Plainfield, and Trenton – at the end of 2023. That would also be the termination date for the program in any other municipalities where the UEZ is scheduled to sunset over the next five years.
The amended bill also directs the Department of Community Affairs to conduct or contract for a study of the Urban Enterprise Zone program. The results of the study would need to be delivered to the Legislature, with a year of the bill’s enactment. It would include recommendations regarding the continuation, modification or replacement of the program.
Though not as beneficial as prior versions of the bill, the League supports A-3549/S-846.
- Michael F. Cerra, Assistant Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609-695-3481 x120.
- Jon Moran, Senior Legislative Analyst, email@example.com, 609-695-3481 x121.
- Lori Buckelew, Senior Legislative Analyst, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609-695-3481 x112.