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Assembly Democrats kiss Christie's government change bills good-bye for the summer

democratlogo041510_optWill hold hearings on their own proposals, some of his

BY TOM HESTER SR.
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

The Assembly Democrats Monday told Gov. Chris Christie's that when it comes to attempting to solve New Jersey property tax problem, reforming the operations of local government, and public and higher education, and changing the way affordable housing is provided in the state, it's see you in September.

As the Legislature prepared to recess until the autumn, Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex) and Majority Leader Joseph Cryan (D-Union) announced they've assigned 34 property tax reform-related bills to 12 Assembly Democrats who will review the concepts over the summer in preparation for legislative action in the fall.

The legislators were directed by Oliver and Cryan to analyze each proposal and convene public hearings, at their discretion, to gather input from experts and residents. and experts. Of the 12 Democrats, 11 are committee chairpersons.

"We know that property taxes continue to be the top concern of New Jerseyans, and tackling property tax reform has been one of my top priorities," Oliver said. "This will be an extensive effort over the summer to properly analyze reforms put forth by Democrats and Republicans and develop a real plan of action to bring relief to taxpayers. This is going to be a thorough review that brings smart reform to New Jersey."

Oliver said the concepts include both those offered by Christie and ideas proposed by Democratic legislators.

"This reform effort will not be one based on repeated sound bites and rhetoric," Cryan said. "This will be an in-depth review of bipartisan ideas, with the goal being to study, organize and approve an effective plan to control spending and property taxes without crippling crucial services and crushing worker rights. We've seen the pitfalls of rushing policy, so we will do this the right way."

When he introduced a package of 33-bills aimed at easing property taxes and changing the way government operates on may 10, Christie hoped to see government the legislation approved before the Legislature recessed for the summer.

A key bill called for a 2.5 percent cap on annual property tax hikes and government spending but the Democrats are preparing Monday to approve their own version, a 2.9 percent cap.

A Democratic proposal to place a 2.5 percent cap on annual state spending is among the measures to be reviewed during the summer.

The Assembly Democrats also postponed any action on a bipartisan Senate bill (S-1) that would eliminate the state Council on Affordable Housing and gives cities and towns more power in deciding how they should provide affordable housing. Oliver's aides said no action is planned.

Commenting on the lack of Assembly action, Michael Drewniak, Christie's press secretary, said, ""It is time for the Assembly to finish the job of eliminating the Council on Affordable Housing, reforming New Jersey's outdated and ineffective affordable housing rules and permanently repealing the 2.5 percent commercial development fee.

"The Senate overwhelmingly passed bipartisan legislation that accomplishes these goals,'' drewniak said. "We urge the Assembly to pass legislation that meets these same objectives, lifting arbitrary mandates on municipalities, rehabilitating substandard housing and eliminating the Council on Affordable Housing. Any legislation that falls short of these goals falls short entirely."

Oliver has been hearing from affordable housing activists who overwhelmingly oppose the legislation.

Here are the 34 bills the Assembly will consider:

Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester)

*Shared Services reform - when local units decide to share services current law requires buyout of union contracts, bumping and other civil service protections that destroy the efficiencies of the merger; this proposal eliminates certain civil service protections when services are shared (2 bills to amend different statutes).

*Revise fact finder decision standards when awarding a new employee contract to account for decrease in state aid level, effect on tuition and benefits already provided to employees

Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. (D-Middlesex):

*No school contract award, including benefit costs, in excess of the statutory or constitutional levy cap.

*School districts could once again impose a "last best offer" contract under certain circumstances.

*Executive county superintendents approval of all union and superintendent contracts.

*No approval if salary/benefit increases exceed the levy cap, pupil contact time per day as set by regulation, minimum number of work as set by regulation or auxiliary/ancillary services contracted out.

*Executive county superintendents would be required to implement sharing of school business functions across districts and municipalities.

Assemblyman Thomas Giblin (D-Essex):

*Designate state colleges and universities as employer of record for collective bargaining.

*Allows colleges and universities more control of a process when they have day-to-day contact with employees

Assemblyman Lou Greenwald (D-Camden):

*Constitutional amendment to place a 2.5 percent cap on spending for state government operations.

*PERC selects three arbitrators for union contract from a list of 25, parties then pick one of the three selected arbitrators, instead of parties agreeing to choose a specific name directly from the list of 25 as is currently the case.

*Arbitrators are mandated to consider the impact of union contracts on property taxes, no such requirement in current law.

*Arbitrators are barred from making contract awards that exceed 2.5% cap, inclusive of all salary, benefits and other economic contract provisions.

Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt (D-Camden):

*Allow state colleges and universities to hire faculty members for a probationary period.

*Remove classified employers from Civil Service status and include them within each institution's personnel system.

*Allow separate workers compensation program management for college and universities.

Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex):

*Constitutional amendment to impose a 2.5% cap on increases in the property tax levy increases for municipal, school and county taxes, cap banking is allowed.

*Revise layoff rules to allow lesser senior, but more essential employees to avoid bumping.

*Allow a municipality to lay claim to any Gross Income Tax refund (or a portion thereof) of a delinquent property taxpayer under the State's Set-Off of Individual Liabilities program (SOIL).

Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-Gloucester):

*Pension benefit reform - eliminate eligibility for State retirement systems for outside groups and associations.

*Allow furloughs by local government to save costs.

Assemblywoman Nellie Pou (D-Passaic):

*Pension and Benefit Reform - Cap sick leave and carry forward of vacation for current employees.

*Pension reforms similar to those affecting municipalities.

Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson):

*Allow counties and municipalities to opt out of civil service by ordinance or referendum signed by 15 percent of the voters.

Assemblyman Fred Scalera (D-Essex):

*Expand parties that may bring challenges to Council on Local Mandates to include groups, like the League of Municipalities. Currently, only individual municipalities can do this and it is too costly for one town to "go it alone."

Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Union):

*Public employee discipline reform - reclassify many offenses as minor to avoid lengthy and costly hearings fro relatively trivial infractions.

*Police employee discipline reform - reclassify many offenses as minor to avoid lengthy and costly hearings from relatively trivial infractions.

*Firefighters discipline reform - reclassify many offenses as minor to avoid lengthy and costly hearings fro relatively trivial infractions.

*Employee discipline reform - revise appeal process of employee disciplinary hearings to reclassify many offenses as minor.

*Give Civil Service Commissioner more day-to-day control as when the Department of Personnel was a freestanding department.

*Increase testing and appeals fees for civil service promotional exams.

*Allow Civil Service Commissioner to make seasonal appointment for nine months.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex):

*Move school and fire elections to November.

*Require only single ballot to each household instead of multiple ballots to all voters residing in household.

Here are the bills Christie proposed on May 10:

Bills effecting municipal and county government:

*Constitutional amendment to impose a 2.5 percent cap on increases in the property tax levy increases for municipal, school and county taxes, cap banking is allowed.

*Constitutional amendment to place a 2.5 percent cap on spending for state government operations (excluding state aid to municipalities and school districts and direct property tax relief); cap banking is allowed.

*Reform in selection of arbitrators for union contracts.

*Arbitrators are mandated to consider impact of union contracts on property taxes, no such requirement in current law.

*Arbitrators are barred from making contract awards that exceed 2.5 percent cap, inclusive of all salary, benefit and other economic contract provisions.

*Pension benefit reform - eliminate eligibility for state retirement systems for non- government groups and associations.

*Pension benefit reform - cap sick leave and carry forward of vacation for current employees.

*Shared services reform - when local units decide to share services current law requires buyout of union contracts, bumping and other civil service protections that destroy the efficiencies of the merger; this proposal eliminates certain civil services protections when services are shared. (Two bills required to amend different statutes).

*Allow employee furloughs by local government to save costs.

*Allow counties and municipalities to opt out of civil service municipalities by ordinance or referendum initiated by 15 percent of the voters.

*Public employee discipline reform - reclassify many offenses as minor to avoid lengthy and costly hearings for relatively trivial infractions.

*Police employee discipline reform - reclassify many offenses as minor to avoid lengthy and costly hearings for relatively trivial infractions.

*Firefighters discipline reform - reclassify many offenses as minor to avoid lengthy and costly hearings for relatively trivial infractions.

*Employee discipline reform - revise appeal process of employee disciplinary hearings to reclassify many offenses as minor.

*Revise layoff rules to allow less senior, but more essential employees to avoid bumping.

*Give the state Civil Service commissioner more day-to-day control as when the Department of Personnel was a freestanding department.

*Increase testing and appeal fees for civil service promotional exams.

*Allow Civil Service commissioner to make seasonal appointment for nine months.

*Allow municipalities to offset property tax refunds against State income tax refunds.

*Expand parties that may bring challenges to Council on Local Mandates to includes groups, like the League of Municipalities. (Currently, only individual municipalities can do this and is too costly for one town to "go it alone.")

Bills effecting public education:

*No school contract award in excess of 2.5 percent cap, inclusive of all salary, benefit and other economic contract provisions.

*School districts could once again impose a "last best offer" contract under certain circumstances.

*Executive county superintendents approval of all union and superintendent contracts. No approval of contracts with:

- Salary/benefit increases exceeding the 2.5 percent cap;

- Pupil contact time per day as set by regulation;

- Minimum number of work as set by regulation;

- Prohibition on contracting out auxiliary/ancillary services.

*Executive county superintendents would be required to implement sharing of school business functions across districts and with municipalities.

*Pension reforms similar to those affecting municipalities.

In addition to the bills primarily affecting municipalities, school districts and county government, the governor has also recommended a number of key reforms to assist New Jersey colleges in lowering costs, economizing, and managing their budgets more effectively.

Bills effecting higher education:

*Revise fact finder decision standards (when awarding a new employee contract) to account for decrease in state aid level, effect on tuition, and benefits already provided to employees

*Designate state colleges and universities as employer of record for collective bargaining.

*Allow state colleges and universities to hire faculty members for a probationary period.

*Remove classified employers from Civil Service status and include them within each institution's personnel system.

*Allow separate workers compensation program management for colleges.

Bills effecting election reform

*Require only single ballot to each household instead of multiple ballots to all voters residing in household.

*Move school and fire elections to November.

 

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