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(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Budget Chairman Lou Greenwald to revise the state’s arbitration system by requiring the emphasis be placed on protecting taxpayers was released Thursday by an Assembly panel.
The new legislation (A-3393) was unveiled Thursday morning by Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem) and Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). It will receive a full Assembly vote on Monday and Senate consideration in November.
“This legislation will go a long way toward controlling and constraining property taxes by turning the arbitration process upside down and finally forcing the focus to be on the fairness to taxpayers,” said Greenwald (D-Camden), who has been working to craft the legislation. “This bill is about leveling the playing field and requiring arbitrators to finally respect the taxpayer. This bill puts property taxpayers first. It’s that simple.”
Among its provisions, the arbitration bill would:
· Establish “last offer” as the terminal procedure for resolving contractual impasses between public employers and their police and fire departments, under which each side would present their final offer, with the arbitrator selecting one as the final agreement. This form of arbitration is generally viewed as forcing both sides in a dispute to be more realistic in their proposals and less likely to freeze negotiations prior to the arbitration stage.
· Make the new two-percent property tax levy cap a key item for consideration by an arbitrator when making decisions.
· Require arbitrator decisions to be accompanied by a written report explaining in detail how each of the statutory criteria played into their determination of the final award. Such report shall certify that the arbitrator took the local levy cap into account in making the award.
· Change the process for selecting an arbitrator for interest arbitration to ensure a more varied and impartial group of arbitrators makes decisions.
· Change the process by which judgments are appealed.
· Require arbitrators to meet stringent professional responsibility, impartiality and ethics and guidelines.
The bill was released 7-4 by the Assembly Budget Committee chaired by Greenwald.