TRENTON – Legislation to ensure members of local authorities live up to their responsibilities and to also make it easier for residents to put their names forward for appointments has been signed into law.
“Civic participation is the cornerstone of our society, yet many qualified residents find it hard to put their names forward to serve their communities,” said Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex). “We are making it easier for residents who truly have both the desire and time to serve on the various boards and authorities that are a vital part of every municipality.”
The law enables towns to enact ordinances that set strict attendance policies for the members of local zoning and planning boards, among other municipal authorities and commissions. Under former law, local offices were deemed vacant when the incumbent accumulated unexcused absences for eight consecutive weeks or four consecutive regular meetings, whichever is the longer time-span.
The law also creates a one-page form that residents could file with municipal officials to signal their interest in serving on a local board when a vacancy exists. Among the information included on the form will be educational or work-related experiences that will qualify the person for appointment to a local post.
“The work of local boards is important on so many levels, from ensuring development that makes sense to providing adequate open space and recreational opportunities for residents,” said Assemblyman Al Coutinho (D-Essex). “These posts should be reserved for resident-leaders who want to give of their time and energies to make their towns a better place for everyone.”
“Membership on a local board comes with very important responsibilities that can impact a community for years to come,” said Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen). “It is entirely proper to send the message to the individuals who sit on these bodies that they must take those responsibilities seriously, or they will be replaced by someone else who will.”
“Civic involvement on the local level is the very essence of grassroots activism in our communities,” said Assemblywoman Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-Camden). “This measure will ensure that those individuals most interested in serving and making a difference have every chance to participate not just with, but as part of our local government structures.”
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