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  • NJ A740
  • "Government Reality Check Act"; prohibits public employers from providing certain benefits to public employees; restricts gifts to public employees; restricts travel by public employees; imposes post-employment restriction on public contracting employees.
Introduced
(1/27/2016)
In Committee
(1/27/2016)
Crossed OverPassedSignedDead/Failed/Vetoed
2016-2017 Regular Session
Sections 1 through 3: These sections of the bill amend the "New Jersey Conflicts of Interest Law," N.J.S.A.52:13D-12 et seq., and the "Legislative and Governmental Process Activities Disclosure Act," N.J.S.A.52:13C-18 et seq., to add to the provision on the acceptance of gifts by members of the Legislature, State officers and employees and special State officers and employees the officers and employees of the staff of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor. The bill amends provisions of current law that permit the acceptance by members and staff of the Legislature and Executive Branch officers and employees of gifts from lobbyists and governmental affairs agents totaling not more than $250 per year to permit only gifts involving a de-minimus value. Sections 4 through 10: These sections of the bill amend the "School Ethics Act," N.J.S.A.18A:12-21 et seq., and the "Local Government Ethics Law," N.J.S.A.40A:9-22.1 et seq., to prohibit school board members, employees of school districts, and employees and officers of the New Jersey School Boards Association, and local government officers and employees, from soliciting or accepting any gift, favor, loan, political contribution, service, promise of future employment, or other thing of value under circumstances from which it may be reasonably inferred that the gift, favor, loan, contribution, service, promise, or other thing of value was given or offered for the purpose of influencing the officer or employee, directly or indirectly, in the discharge of official duties. The bill also modifies the standard which prohibits a member of the immediate family of such a person, or a business organization in which the public officer or employee has an interest, from soliciting or accepting gifts, favors, loans, political contributions, services, promises of future employment, or other things of value. Current law prohibits a family member or such a business organization from soliciting or accepting a gift or other thing of value based on an understanding that it was given or offered for the purpose of influencing the school or local government official or employee, including an employee of the New Jersey School Boards Association, in the discharge of official duties. The bill changes the standard so that the prohibition applies in circumstances from which it may be reasonably inferred that the gift or other thing of value was given or offered for the purpose of influencing the official or employee in the discharge of official duties. The bill provides for the imposition of a civil penalty of not less than $500 nor more than $10,000 for a violation of these prohibitions, and for possible removal from office and being barred from holding public employment for a period of up to five years if the violator's conduct is found to constitute a willful and continuous disregard of the prohibitions. These sections of the bill also bar State officers and employees, special State officers and employees, members of the Legislature, the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and officers and employees of the Office of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, and local government and school district officers and employees, and the members of the immediate family of these officers, employees, and members, from soliciting, receiving, or agreeing to receive, whether directly or indirectly, any ticket or other form of admission to any place of entertainment that is provided free of charge or at a discounted rate by the sponsor, promoter, performer owner, or operator of the event or entertainment venue unless the same free or reduced admission is available to (a) the public; (b) a class consisting of all officers or employees of the State, local government, or school district, as appropriate, whether or not restricted on the basis of geographic consideration; (c) all members of a group or class in which membership is unrelated to public service; (d) all members of an organization, such as an employees' association or public employees' credit union, in which membership is related to public service; or (e) a group or class that is not defined in a manner that specifically discriminates among public officers or employees on the basis of branch of government or type of responsibility, or on a basis that favors those of higher rank or rate of pay. Free or discounted admission available to the member of the immediate family would be treated as available to the public officer, employee, or member. "Place of entertainment" is defined as any privately or publicly owned and operated entertainment facility within or outside of this State, such as a theater, stadium, museum, arena, racetrack or other place where performances, concerts, exhibits, games or contests are held and for which an entry fee is charged. Sections 4 through 11: These sections also impose a two-year post employment restriction on a public officer or employee, or a member of the immediate family, or a partnership, firm, or corporation with which the officer or employee is associated or in which the officer or employee has an interest, or a partner, officer, director, or employee while the officer or employee is associated with such partnership, firm, or corporation, from holding, directly or indirectly, within two years next subsequent to the termination of the office or employment of such officer or employee, an interest in, or employment with, or from representing, appearing for or negotiating on behalf of, a vendor or contractor that was awarded a public contract with which the officer or employee had been substantially and directly involved by making an investigation, rendering a ruling, or giving an opinion at any time during the course of the officer's or employee's employment. This prohibition applies to all State officers and employees covered by the State conflicts of interest law, and including a member of the Legislature, and the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor and their staff. It also applies to members of boards of education, employees of school districts, and local government officers and employees. A violation of this prohibition would result in a civil penalty of not less than $500 nor more than $10,000, and the bill clarifies the jurisdiction of the various ethics boards over former local government officers and employees for enforcement purposes. Sections 12 through 15: These sections prohibit the State, a county, a municipality, a local school district, a county college, or a fire district from providing, directly or indirectly, to any officer, employee, or elected official and the officer, employee or elected officer from accepting: a residence owned or leased by the government entity that the officer, employee, or official may use at any time for personal purposes, unless the use of the residence is directly related and essential to the performance of those official duties of the officer, employee, or official, as documented in writing, that concern the maintenance of security for specified persons or property, law enforcement, or the health, safety, or welfare of members of the public; an allowance, stipend, subsidy, or other form of payment for the purchase, lease, or maintenance of a residence or a motor vehicle owned or leased by the officer, employee, or official, or by an immediate family member, for the personal or primarily personal use of the officer, employee, or official, except reasonable mileage reimbursement when the vehicle is used for the performance of duties; a motor vehicle owned or leased by the government entity that is assigned exclusively to the officer, employee, or official on a full-time basis, unless the assignment and use of the motor vehicle is directly related and essential to the performance of those official duties of the officer, employee, or official, as documented in writing, that concern the maintenance of security for specified persons or property, law enforcement, inspections or audits of regulated facilities, entities, or persons, or the health, safety, or welfare of members of the public, or is essential, as documented in writing, for a specified period of time to the personal security of the officer, employee, or official; a driver or chauffer whose assigned full-time or part-time duties are to operate any motor vehicle in which the officer, employee, or official, or an immediate family member, is a passenger, unless the driver is a law enforcement officer who is assigned also to provide for the security of the officer, employee, or official when the need for such security has been documented; an exemption from the payment of any toll relating to the use of a State toll bridge or toll road or fare relating to the use of the transportation services of a State agency, or payment for any such toll or fare or any other travel expense for commuting between the place of residence and the place of employment or for tolls, fare, or other travel expense not directly related to the performance of duties by the officer, employee, or official; a personal line of credit or a credit card, or an allowance, stipend, subsidy, or other payment for a credit card, unless the use of a credit card is directly related and essential to the performance of those official duties of the officer, employee, or official, as documented in writing, that concern the maintenance of security for specified persons or property, law enforcement, inspections or audits of regulated facilities, entities, or persons, or the health, safety, or welfare of members of the public; or tuition reimbursement for attendance of courses at an institution of higher education, including a county college, within or outside of this State, unless the course is taken at an accredited public institution of higher education in this State, the reimbursement is limited to not more than 50 percent of the tuition for each course, the employee receives a grade of at least a C or its equivalent, for the course, the course is directly related to the skills and knowledge required for the duties being performed by the officer or employee when the reimbursement is made or required for the performance of the duties of a position to which the officer or employee may directly be promoted from the current position, and the officer and employee agrees to remain a public officer or employee for five years after the final tuition reimbursement is made. If the officer or employee does not remain a public employee for that period of time, the officer or employee must reimburse the public entity for tuition reimbursements made with the reimbursement pro-rated for the number of years the public officer or employee remains after the final tuition reimbursement is made. This paragraph will not apply to tuition reimbursement for a course or program that provides a certification of a skill or understanding sufficient to perform or assess a particular technological, mechanical, industrial, operational, accounting, or construction process or function, and that certification is required for holding that office or employment. Other provisions of law relevant to the matters covered in these sections would remain applicable to the extent not inconsistent. These provisions would not be construed to preclude the imposition of additional restrictions by directive or regulation. For the matters described above, the bill defines "State" to mean any of the principal departments in the Executive Branch of the State Government, and any division, board, bureau, office, commission or other instrumentality within or created by such department; any independent State authority, commission, instrumentality or agency; the Offices of the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor and the officers and employees of those offices; the Legislature of the State, and any office, board, bureau or commission within or created by the Legislative Branch; institutions of higher education of this State; and, to the extent consistent with law, any interstate agency to which New Jersey is a party. For a violation, the officer, employee, or elected official would have to pay a civil penalty of not less than $500 nor more than $10,000 Section 16: This section prohibits a State officer or employee or special State officer or employee, other than a member of the Legislature or such an officer or employee of the Legislature, but including the officers and employees of the Office of the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor, from undertaking any travel outside of the State, or within the State when it involves an overnight stay, when the expenses of that travel or the expenses incident thereto, or both, are paid in part or in whole with the public funds of a State agency unless that travel has been determined in advance by the office of the Governor to be essential to the performance of the duties of the officer or employee and approved in writing by the Governor or the Governor's designee. When the performance of the duties of an officer or employee require travel on a regular or recurring basis, the Governor may grant approval in advance for such travel, under such terms and conditions as the Governor determines, during a specified period of time not to exceed one year from the date of approval as determined by the Governor. The bill bars an officer or employee from receiving an amount for travel and travel-related expenses in advance of the travel. This requirement will not apply to an officer or employee for travel solely to the Philadelphia, New York City, or Wilmington metropolitan areas to meet with federal or state government officers or employees, or members of the State's Congressional delegation or their officers or employees, for a period not to exceed two consecutive days, or to Washington, D.C., for the same purposes for two consecutive days. Sections 17 and 18: These sections increase the accountability of local units of government regarding approvals and expenditures for travel by local government officers and employees. While a 2007 law, N.J.S.A.18A:11-12, imposed stringent requirements regarding travel and expense reimbursement upon school board members and school district employees, local governments are afforded considerable discretion over authorizing and monitoring travel by local government officers and employees. These sections impose upon local governments travel restrictions and accountability measures that are substantially similar to those currently applicable to school districts. The sections would require local governing bodies to adopt travel policies and procedures ensuring that all travel by local government officers and employees is necessary and fiscally prudent. Local unit travel expenditures would have to be directly related to and within the scope of the officer's or employee's current responsibilities, critical to the needs of the local unit or further the efficient operation of the local unit, consistent with the local unit 's professional development plan, and, except as otherwise provided in statutory law, in compliance with State travel payment guidelines established by the Department of the Treasury and the federal Office of Management and Budget. The bill provides that local units must adopt travel policies requiring: officers and employees to document the primary purpose for the travel, the key issues addressed at the event and their relevance to improving the operation of the local unit; governing bodies to maintain detailed documentation demonstrating compliance with the local unit's travel policy including travel approvals, reports, and receipts for all local unit funded expenditures; and that travel occur only upon prior written approval of the chief financial officer and prior approval of the governing body. These sections apply to the governing bodies and officers and employees of fire districts.
Not specified
Introduced, Referred to Assembly State and Local Government Committee  (on 1/27/2016)
 
 

Date Chamber Action Description
1/27/2016 A Introduced, Referred to Assembly State and Local Government Committee
Date Motion Yea Nay Other
None specified