Capitol Report Provides Insights on Legislative Response to COVID-19

By NJSBA Staff posted 11 days ago

  

Legislative leaders talk furloughs, taxes at NJSBA’s Virtual Annual Meeting

The leaders of the Senate and Assembly came together to talk all things COVID-19 at the New Jersey State Bar Association’s (NJSBA) first-ever Virtual Annual Meeting last week. Moderated by Carolyn V. Chang, the panel, titled “What’s Next? The Changing Priorities in a Post-Pandemic Legislature,” featured Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, Republican Leader Senator Tom Kean Jr. and Republican Leader Assemblyman Jon Bramnick.

The continuing legal education (CLE) program covered everything from virtual meetings to property taxes, budget forecasts to prisoner release. In discussing the state budget, panelists candidly noted that cuts could be expected in all areas. On the issue of property taxes, again the response was unanimous that property tax increases are expected. Topping the program was a question and answer period where the panel discussed workers’ compensation, nursing home liability, and funding for school districts to close the gap on distance learning.

All of the CLE programs were recorded for future release. Visit NJSBA.com for availability of various CLE programs from the NJSBA Virtual Annual Meeting.

Key legislation passed to address COVID-19 issues

The state passed legislation impacting a number of key issues, including permit extensions and property taxes, all of which have been monitored by the NJSBA.

Permit extension bill

The governor is considering a bill that would extend permits, approvals and deadlines during the COVID-19 emergency as set forth in Executive Order 103, declaring a state of emergency and public health emergency. A-3919(Calabrese)/S-2346 (Sarlo) addresses the permits, approvals and deadlines of state, regional, county and municipal agencies, tolling the term of permits and approvals in order to prevent the abandonment of approved projects and to set forth timelines to resume the projects when it is deemed safe to do so. The NJSBA supported the revised legislation giving definitive timelines for such approvals within the Municipal Land Use Law, in order to provide predictability in applications. The bill is awaiting the governor’s signature before becoming law.

Tax payments, remote meetings, property tax distribution bill

The governor is considering a bill that extends the time for filing and processing certain property tax appeals. A-4157 (Mukherji)/A-4123 Addiego/S-2387 (Sarlo) extends the time period for filing and processing certain property tax appeals in 2020. The bill would temporarily change filing deadlines for most tax appeals to Sept. 30. The NJSBA supports the amended bill, which provides for a more definitive timeline than the New Jersey Supreme Court’s March 19 order extending all filing deadlines indefinitely.

“The COVID shutdown made it difficult, if not impossible, for many taxpayers to file their appeals by the deadlines which normally fall between April 1 and May 1, a period when many government offices were closed to visitors," said Senator Paul Sarlo. “This will provide taxpayers more time to file appeals and ensures that decisions will be rendered this year so that successful appellants can receive refunds this year. This is a temporary move in response to the crisis we are all experiencing.”

The Supreme Court’s order caused concern among both taxpayers and local officials that many appeals may not be resolved until 2021, forecasting a backlog, a delay in refunds and a negative impact on municipal budgets, according to Senate Democrats. The bill awaits a final sign-off by the governor.

The governor did sign into law a bill that provides local government flexibility regarding various time frames, deadlines, and other statutory requirements in order to help them continue to function and meet obligations during times of emergencies. A-3969 (Danielsen)/S-2392 (Addiego) provides expansive authority to the director of the Division of Local Government Services to extend certain deadlines applicable to local government units of the state during periods of emergency declared by the governor. Additionally, the amended bill provides the director the authority to permit municipalities to institute an extended grace period for quarterly property tax payments and other municipal charges, notwithstanding the maximum number of days set forth by statute. The bill also extends certification renewal periods for various state and county municipal officers.

The NJSBA is monitoring bills impacting tax appeals and tax payment issues.

This is a status report provided by the New Jersey State Bar Association on recently passed and pending legislation, regulations, gubernatorial nominations and/or appointments of interest to lawyers, as well as the involvement of the NJSBA as amicus in appellate court matters. To learn more, visit njsba.com.

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