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Sweeney/Norcross Measure Giving Freeholders Veto Power Over County Authorities Now Law

Places Freeholder Veto Power on Par With County Executives’

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney and Senator Donald Norcross giving county freeholder directors the ability to prevent irresponsible spending and other wayward actions by county authorities has been signed into law by Governor Chris Christie.

The law provides county freeholder directors the ability to veto minutes of authority meetings, similar to the veto power already exercised by county executives under the provisions of the “Optional County Charter Law.” A veto would require the consent of the majority of the freeholder board.

“Just as local governments are working to become more efficient in this tough economy, so should authorities that rely on fees to support their operations,” said Senate President Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem). “This law will give freeholders a safety valve to prevent runaway spending and other reckless actions by county authorities that handle multi-million-dollar budgets.”

County authorities will be required to deliver meeting minutes to county freeholders within five business days, under the measure (S-763). An action taken at a meeting of an authority would not be effective if, within 10 days after the copy of the minutes is delivered to the freeholders, the action is vetoed by the freeholder director with the concurrence of a majority of the freeholders. If the director does not veto the minutes within 10 days, the minutes would be deemed approved.

The law only applies in counties that have not adopted the “Optional County Charter Law” and do not have a county executive with veto authority. Veto power would not affect the covenants contained in the bond indentures of an authority or any collective bargaining agreement or binding arbitration decisions affecting an authority’s employees.

“For too long, county authorities have been able to operate without the necessary oversight to keep their spending in check,” said Senator Norcross (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This law will ensure that these entities are truly making decisions that are in the best interest of the residents they serve. Just as the Governor has the power to veto meeting minutes of state authorities to keep their fiscal practices in line, freeholder directors will have the ability to prevent irresponsible and unnecessary spending by authorities at the county level.”

The Senate approved the bill in May by a vote of 38-0. It passed the Assembly in June by a vote of 77-1-0.

The law takes effect immediately.