Arbitration reform passed by assembly

TRENTON – Two hours late, the Assembly convened and promptly passed several toolkit bills this afternoon.

Following an agreement reached last week between Gov. Chris Christie and Democratic leadership, the Assembly passed, A3393, which governs public safety union contract dispute procedures, or binding arbitration.

The bill will streamline the arbitration procedure, used for negotiation impasses, and impose a 2 percent cap on arbitration awards.

Pension costs and health care costs are excluded from the contract cap, mirroring their exclusion from the 2 percent levy cap passed earlier this year.

The law, against Christie’s wishes, will sunset in 39 months.

Assemblyman Lou Greenwald (D-Voorhees), one of the bill’s architects, was clear that the reform passed today is not the end of this forefront issue.

“It leaves the door open for continuous negotiations and discussions,” he said.

“There are pieces of this bill that we’d all like to see,” Greenwald said, but other pieces are missing.

“The appeal process that was removed from this was a critical component,” he said. “I also believe that the last best offer…is also critically important.”

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Little Silver) called up the few reservations he has with the bill.

“I could have done without the fact that it’s going to sunset in three years,” he said, and many towns won’t see any effect until their current contracts expire.

He addressed maybe the biggest hole in the law, which statehouse insiders have mentioned, that there is no regulations requiring contract lengths.

That means that towns and unions could pen a deal that only covers remaining months until the law sunsets, which would severely minimize the effect of the law.

“All that having been said, we came a long way baby,” O’Scanlon said.

He also said the reform is “not an anti-police or (anti)-firefighter bill.”

The bill passed 73-1, with only Assemblyman Charles Mainor (D-Jersey City) voting against it.

Arbitration reform passed by assembly