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  • NJ A2435
  • Reforms PANYNJ; requires appearance by PANYNJ before legislative committees.
Introduced
(2/4/2016)
In Committee
(2/4/2016)
Crossed OverPassedSignedDead/Failed/Vetoed
2016-2017 Regular Session
This bill is to be known as the "Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Transparency and Accountability Act." Officers The bill lists the officers of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (port authority) as the chairperson, vice chairperson, chief executive officer, general counsel, chief financial officer, chief ethics and compliance officer, inspector general, treasurer, comptroller, and secretary. Commissioners are not permitted to serve as the chief executive officer, general counsel, chief financial officer, chief ethics and compliance officer, inspector general, comptroller, or any other equivalent position. Rotating chairperson and vice chairperson Under the bill, the chairperson and vice chairperson serve two-year terms with the first chairperson to be selected among the commissioners appointed from New York and the first vice chairperson to be selected among the commissioners appointed from New Jersey. Every two years thereafter, the chairperson and vice chairperson, respectively, are selected from the opposite state of the previous chairperson and vice chairperson. Roles and responsibilities of the commissioners The board of commissioners (board) is required to promulgate a commissioner's oath of office in consultation with the chief ethics and compliance officer. Commissioners are required to take a fiduciary oath, file annual financial disclosure statements, participate in training approved by the chief ethics and compliance officer regarding their legal, fiduciary, financial, and ethical responsibilities, and recuse themselves from voting on, or participating in, discussion with respect to an item if the commissioner or a member of the commissioner's immediate family, or a business in which the commissioner has interest, or has a direct or indirect financial involvement that may reasonably be expected to impair their objectivity or independent judgment or that may reasonably create the appearance of impropriety. A commissioner is required to report a need for recusal to the general counsel when it arises. In addition to commissioners, the chief executive officer, chief ethics and compliance officer, chief financial officer, general counsel, comptroller, treasurer, inspector general, employees who hold policy-making positions, and employees whose base salaries exceed $150,000 are required to file annual financial disclosure statements. Financial disclosures required under the bill are to be made available on the port authority's website. The bill requires the board to adopt a mission statement that the port authority's mission is to meet the critical transportation needs of the bi-state region's people, businesses, and visitors by providing the highest quality and most efficient transportation and port commerce facilities and services to move people and goods within the region, provide access to the nation and the world and promote the region's economic development. The bill requires the board to: adopt a code of conduct applicable to commissioners, employees, and vendors and other contractors with the agency based upon the recommendations of the chief ethics and compliance officer that, at minimum, includes the applicable standards established by law in each state; establish a whistleblower program to protect employees from retaliation for disclosing information concerning acts of wrongdoing, misconduct, malfeasance, or other inappropriate conduct; establish a policy requiring all commissioners, officers, and employees with decision-making authority to maintain records regarding interaction with lobbyists; and have efficiency studies of the port authority and its operations conducted by an independent entity. Committees The bill requires the board to establish a committee structure that is to include, but is not limited to, committees overseeing governance responsibility, audit responsibility, and finance responsibility. The bill requires each committee established by the board to promulgate a written charter, to be approved by the board, which is to be made available to the public and posted on the port authority's website. Whistleblower access and assistance program The chief ethics and compliance officer is required to recommend to the board a whistleblower access and assistance program to be administered by the inspector general for the protection of employees from retaliation for disclosing information concerning acts of wrongdoing, misconduct, malfeasance, or other inappropriate conduct. Inspector general The bill provides that the inspector general is responsible for receiving and investigating, where appropriate, all complaints regarding fraud, waste, and abuse by commissioners, officers, and employees of the port authority or third-parties doing business with the port authority. The inspector general is to determine with respect to allegations received by the inspector general whether disciplinary action or civil prosecution by the port authority is appropriate, and whether the matter should be referred to an appropriate governmental agency for further action. The inspector general is required to prepare and make available to the public written reports of completed investigations, as appropriate and to the extent permitted by law, subject to redaction to protect the confidentiality of witnesses. The release of all or portions of reports may be deferred to protect the confidentiality of ongoing investigations. Open meetings The bill provides that all meetings of the port authority are to be open to the public and members of the news media unless a majority of the commissioners votes that a portion of the meeting may be conducted in closed session. The port authority may only exclude the public if the discussion concerns: a matter in which the release of information would impair a right to receive funds from the government of the United States; material the disclosure of which constitutes an unwarranted invasion of individual or personal privacy; a collective bargaining agreement; a matter involving the purchase, lease, or acquisition of real property with port authority funds, the proposed acquisition of securities, or sale or exchange of securities held by the port authority, or investment of port authority funds, if it could adversely affect the public interest if discussion of the matters were disclosed; matters which will imperil the public safety if disclosed; pending or anticipated litigation or contract negotiation in which the port authority is, or may become, a party, or matters falling within the attorney-client privilege, to the extent that confidentiality is required in order for the attorney to exercise the attorney's ethical duties as a lawyer; contract negotiations the disclosure of which would imperil the port authority's position or an outcome in the best interest of the authority, its mission, and the public; a matter involving the employment, appointment, termination of employment, terms and conditions of employment, evaluation of the performance of, promotion, or discipline of any specific prospective officer or employee or current officer or employee employed or appointed by the port authority; or deliberations of the port authority occurring after a public hearing that may result in the imposition of a specific civil penalty upon the responding party or the suspension or loss of a license or permit belonging to the responding party as a result of an act or omission for which the responding party bears responsibility. In addition, the port authority is required to make available to the public all meeting agendas at least 72 hours before each meeting of the board and each meeting of each committee. Public notice of the time and place of a meeting is to be provided to appropriate media outlets, conspicuously posted in one or more designated areas, and conspicuously posted via the port authority's official website at least five business days before the meeting. The bill also requires the port authority to send the agenda and public documents pertaining to a board or committee meeting to the public information office of each state's legislature at least 72 hours before the meeting. The bill also requires the board to make all reasonable efforts to ensure that meetings are held in facilities that permit barrier-free physical access to people with disabilities. If the board determines to use videoconferencing or similar technology to conduct its meetings, it shall provide an opportunity for the public to attend, listen, and observe the meeting. The bill requires that the public be given at least 30 minutes, or longer when necessary, to speak on any topic on the agenda prior to the board taking action. The bill requires the port authority to keep reasonably comprehensible minutes of all its meetings showing the time and place, the members present, the subjects considered, the actions taken, and the vote or recusal of each member which are to be promptly available to the public. Minutes of each meeting are to be available to the public within two weeks from the date of the meeting. Each item on an agenda is to be voted on separately. Within six months of the effective date of the bill, the board is required to adopt rules and regulations concerning the proper notice to the public and news media of board meetings and the right of the public and news media to be present at board meetings. Toll or fare increases The board is required to have a needs assessment conducted by an independent entity prior to any increase in tolls for the use of any port authority bridge or tunnel, or fares for the use of the port authority trans-Hudson corporation (PATH) rail system. The assessment is to be presented by the independent entity to the board at a public meeting to be held at least ninety days prior to any meeting of the board to vote to any increase in the tolls for the use of any port authority bridge or tunnel, or fares for the use of the PATH rail system. The bill also requires the port authority to hold at least six public hearings not less than 30 days and not more than 90 days prior to any vote or action taken by the board relating to any increase in the tolls for the use of any port authority bridge or tunnel, or fares for the use of the PATH rail system. The locations for public hearings are to be selected in such a way as to be geographically accessible to a majority of users of the facility or facilities to be impacted by the toll or fare increase, as determined by port authority data, provided that at least one hearing is held in each state. In addition, at least 72 hours before the first hearing on a toll or fare increase, the port authority is required to make available to the public: the amount of revenue expected to be generated from the increase in tolls or fares; a detailed explanation of how the revenue raised from the increase in tolls or fares is expected to be spent; and a written explanation of why the increase in tolls or fares is necessary. The port authority is required to ensure that the requirements for toll or fare increases are complied with before placing any item or matter relating to an increase in tolls or fares on a meeting agenda. Subsidiaries No less than 60 days prior to the formation of a subsidiary, the port authority is required to provide notice to the governor of each state, the majority leader of each house of the legislature of each state, the Chair of the Finance Committee of New York, the Chair of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee of New Jersey, the Chair of Assembly Ways and Means Committee of New York, and the Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee of New Jersey that it will be creating a subsidiary. The creation of a subsidiary corporation is subject to approval by the board. Beginning on January 1, 2017 and annually thereafter, any subsidiary corporation, in cooperation with the port authority, is required provide to the governor and legislature of each state a report on the subsidiary corporation containing information required under the bill. Annual reporting The port authority is required to publish a comprehensive annual financial report, submitted annually to the governors and state legislatures of New York and New Jersey and made available on the port authority's website within 120 days after the end of its fiscal year. The annual report is required to include the agency's financial statements, statistical and other regional data, and a narrative of the agency's activities during the year of the report. Audits and financial statements The bill requires the port authority to prepare financial statements on an annual basis, in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles and the accounting standards issued by the governmental accounting standards board. The audit committee is required to arrange for an independent firm of certified public accountants to perform an audit of the financial statements each year. The bill requires the chief executive officer and chief financial officer to make written certifications of the accuracy of the financial statements. The bill provides safeguards to ensure that the firm conducting the audit is independent. The port authority is required to make accessible to the public via its website an executive summary of its most recent independent audit report unless the information is exempt from disclosure pursuant to either state's freedom of information laws. Property disposition The bill provides certain requirements for the disposition of property owned by the port authority. Any sale of real property is to be undertaken and conducted pursuant to the provisions of the existing laws governing the sale of real property in the state in which the real property is located and by approval of the board of commissioners. The port authority is not permitted to dispose of real property unless an appraisal of the value of the real property has been made by an independent appraiser and the appraisal is included in the record of the transaction. The port authority is not permitted to sell, lease, or otherwise alienate property for less than fair market value unless: the transferee is a government entity or other public entity and the terms and conditions of the transfer require that the ownership and use of the real property will remain with the government or any other public entity; or the purpose of the transfer is within the purpose, mission, or governing statute of the port authority and a written determination is made by the board that there is no reasonable alternative to the proposed below-market transfer that would achieve the same purpose, prior to board approval of the transfer. The bill requires the board to adopt rules and regulations concerning disposition, acquisition, and transfer of real property or any interest in real property which, at a minimum, includes a requirement that certain information be made available to the board at the meeting where approval is scheduled. Not less than ten days in advance of any meeting of the board at which the board is to consider an action to authorize the sale of real property, the chief executive officer is required to provide public notice of the proposed action along with relevant material terms and provisions of the sale by posting the information on the port authority's website. The chief executive officer may authorize or arrange for contracts for the sale of personal property owned by the port authority upon terms and conditions as the chief executive officer deems proper and execute the contract on behalf of the port authority where the value of the personal property is not in excess of $1,000,000; provided, however, that personal property valued at more than $250,000 is not to be sold under the authority of the chief executive officer other than to the highest bidder after public advertisement. Where the value of the personal property is in excess of $1,000,000, the sale of the property is dependent on authorization by the board. Debt issuance, capital plan, and operating budget The issuance of any debt by the port authority is required to be undertaken in a manner consistent with applicable laws governing the port authority and covenants with the holders of the port authority's bonds, notes, or other instruments of indebtedness. At least 60 days prior to the end of its fiscal year, the port authority is required to submit to the governor, state comptroller, and legislature of each state a statement of intent in regards to the issuance of and overall amount of bonds, notes, or other debt obligations anticipated during the next fiscal year. The bill requires the port authority to adopt a ten-year capital plan that is developed using a comprehensive planning process and risk-based prioritization that considers asset condition, operational and revenue impact, threat assessment, customer service, regional benefit, and regulatory or statutory requirements. Performance progress and revisions to reflect changes in programs, policies, and projects and the environment in which the port authority operates is required to be reviewed regularly by a committee designated by the board, and the capital plan may be revised periodically as necessary and appropriate, and is required to be reviewed with the board annually. The bill requires port authority to publish an annual report on the status of the capital program and the report is to be made publicly available on the port authority's website. Prior to adoption of a capital plan, the port authority is required to make the proposed plan available for public review and comments on its public website for at least two weeks prior to approval, and all comments received are to be distributed to the board of commissioners for review prior to consideration of the capital plan. The bill requires the port authority to prepare a detailed annual operating budget beginning with the fiscal year commencing after the effective date of the bill. A preliminary annual operating budget is to be made publicly available on the port authority's website in July of every fiscal year and a final annual operating budget is to be made publicly available in February of each fiscal year. Appearance before the legislature The port authority, at the request of either house of the state legislature of either New York or New Jersey, is required to appear before a committee of the requesting state legislature to present testimony on any topic or subject requested by the committee. The port authority is also required to respond to questions by members of the committee and to produce any books, papers, accounts, records, and documents requested in writing by the committee.
Transportation and Independent Authorities
Introduced, Referred to Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee  (on 2/4/2016)
 
 
Date Chamber Action Description
2/4/2016 A Introduced, Referred to Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee
Date Motion Yea Nay Other
None specified