COVID-19: Local Government Digest

03.27.20

In these unprecedented times, the legal landscape is changing by the hour. Local governments are taking extraordinary steps to conduct public meetings, serve their constituents virtually, meet public safety needs, and access emergency funding.   MS&B is here to help. Our attorneys are leaders in every aspect of local government law, from public finance and procurement to public meetings, public records, and more. We are constantly staying abreast of new developments in State and Federal law, including executive orders, new laws, and administrative policies. MS&B is here to assist you in addressing these unique legal challenges and to provide the best possible services to your community during these difficult times.

In addition to the immediate impacts on holding public meetings, responding to Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests, and maintaining the safety of essential employees, these State and Federal actions have broader implications for other core local government functions, such as:

  • Budgeting, including anticipation of tax payments, and the impact of unanticipated costs related to the COVID-19 outbreak;
  • Financing, including bond and note sales and possible need for tax anticipation notes;
  • Public Safety operations, including police, fire and first aid;
  • Personnel, including OSHA compliance, collective bargaining agreements, and employees’ other contractual and statutory rights;
  • Procurement, including emergency purchasing powers, and possible force majeure implications for existing contracts; and
  • Redevelopment and land use, including the treatment of pending land use approvals, rights to halt construction projects through existing force majeure provisions, and implementation of redevelopment agreements, PILOT agreements, and redevelopment area bonds.

Below are just a few legislative actions that we can help you decipher and implement in your community.

  • A3902 – Approved by the Assembly on March 25th – Empowers the Director of Local Government Services to institute extended grace periods for property tax payments and/or extend property tax payment dates. Call or email Demetrice Miles at [email protected] or one of our public finance attorneys for more information.
  • A3840 - Approved – Requires school districts to provide school meals or meal vouchers to students eligible for free and reduced price school meals during school closures due to COVID-19 epidemic.  Call or email Andrea Kahn at [email protected] or one of our other education attorneys for more information.
  • A3845 – Approved – Authorizes EDA to make grants during periods of emergency declared by Governor and for duration of economic disruptions due to emergency; allows EDA to grant certain business documentation submission deadline extensions. Call or email Jennifer Credidio at (973) 622-5268 or [email protected] or one of our other redevelopment attorneys for more information.
  • A3848 – Approved – Concerns time off from work in connection with infectious disease. Call or email Leslie London at [email protected] or one of our other local government attorneys for more information.
  • A3849 – Approved – Modifies deadline by which public agency is required to respond to request for government record during period of emergency.   Call or email Ted DelGuercio at [email protected] or one of our other local government attorneys for more information.
  • A3850 – Approved – Allows public bodies to conduct meetings, and provide notice, by electronic means during periods of emergency.   The Department of Community Affairs also published a Notice concerning the various electronic means by which governments can conduct meetings. Call or email Matt Jessup at [email protected] or one of our other local government attorneys for more information.
  • A3851 – Approved – Permits extension of deadlines for adoption of county and municipal budgets under certain circumstances. The Department of Community Affairs also published Local Finance Notice 2020-07 https://www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/dlgs/lfns/20/2020-07.pdf concerning the extension of deadlines for the adoption of county and municipal budgets. Call or email Matt Jessup at [email protected] or one of our other public finance attorneys for more information.

MS&B is well-prepared to meet these uncertainties and to continue to provide you with the same level of assistance and guidance through these challenging and changing times.  We have fully remote capabilities and all attorneys and staff remain available by email, telephone and fax.  Please call us for all your local government services needs.

We will get through this together!