Scutari Bill To Extend Period Of Time Between Public Questions In Municipalities Advances

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senate State Government Committee Chairman, Senator Nicholas P. Scutari, which would extend the time period between certain public questions in municipalities in order to reduce voter fatigue in New Jersey was approved by the panel by a vote of 3-2.

“It makes absolutely no sense to inundate voters with ballot question after ballot question every other year, simply to benefit a small portion of the municipal population,” said Senator Scutari, D-Union, Middlesex and Somerset. “Questions about the number of town council members, the term of office for the mayor, or the method of election – partisan or non-partisan – for government officials have little bearing on the everyday lives of local residents. We want to encourage better voter turnout, and subjecting voters to bureaucratic government changes every year or every other year hurts that cause.”

The bill, S-3157, would provide that local ordinances proposed by petition through initiative and referendum which deal with the mechanics of local government could not be submitted to the voters of a municipality more than once in any ten-year time period. Specifically, the bill would ban semi-annual ballot questions dealing with the number of members of the municipal governing body, the terms of office for those members or the form of elections within the municipality. Senator Scutari said such regular mechanical changes to the operations of government within a municipality hinder consistency from one administration to the next and distract from more important government focuses, such as reducing property taxes or maximizing government efficiency.

“Many times, these minor mechanical tweaks in municipal government aren’t even given enough time to see whether they make sense in the long-term to promote more efficient government and better representation for the people,” said Senator Scutari. “They’re often proposed and pushed forward be people who have the most to gain – either in terms of maintaining the political status quo or toppling it. Most local residents are more concerned with their property tax bill than they are with how many council members there are, and we need to put a better focus on real issues which impact the lives and livelihood of New Jersey residents.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.