Vehicle-fleet reduction bill curbed

TRENTON – A Senate panel held legislation that seeks to cut the state’s vehicle fleet by 50 percent over the next five years.

The legislation, S1983, would reduce the number of state vehicles in the Garden State’s executive branch by ten percent over the next five years. The Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee decided to hold the bill Thursday.

The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Van Drew, (D-1), Dennis, would exempt the divisions of State Police and Gaming enforcement, as well as the Department of Law and Public Safety, from the proposed rules.

The Communications Workers of America of New Jersey cited concerns with the legislation, saying while they support any efforts to curb waste in state government, they’re concerned areas of the state’s vehicle fleet are lacking.

The CWA also cited insurance risk concerns about state workers being forced to use their own vehicles. They said if workers are forced to use their own vehicles and then get into an accident, the workers have to deal with their own insurance companies and may not be covered for work-related accidents.

Finally, the CWA cautioned the proposal could put certain state employees at risk, saying that if state employees use their personal vehicles they could inadvertently be giving residents access to their personal information, including their home address. The CWA cited specific concerns for social workers, for example.

If the bill were adopted, the state Treasurer would be required to prepare a cost analysis of New Jersey’s vehicle fleet within six months of the legislation’s effective date, according to the bill. Following the Treasurer’s report, a panel will be formed to review and approve or modify the cost analysis report.

The panel would be comprised of the Treasurer, a member of the governor’s staff, and representatives from three state agencies with the most state vehicles, according to the bill.

Additionally, any requests for new state vehicles, not including replacement vehicles, would need to be approved by the panel, which would have final say over whether to approve or deny new vehicle requests.

Sen. Shirley Turner, (D-15), Lawrence, said she was concerned with the legislation and the fact that state workers would be increasingly required to rely on their personal vehicles for work.

“If we’re going to require more employees to use their own vehicles then we need to do an adequate job of reimbursing (them,)” said Turner, citing the cost of vehicle tune-ups and other wear and tear not associated with gas reimbursement.

Chairman Jim Whelan, (D-2), Atlantic City, echoed similar concerns, as did Sen. Sam Thompson, (R-12), Old Bridge, who called the 50 percent reduction an “arbitrary” figure.

Government contracts

The committee unanimously released legislation that would bar certain people from entering into contracts with the state.

The bill, S2167, would permanently bar anyone convicted of certain crimes involving government contracts from bidding for any future state contracts.

The proposal, sponsored by Turner, would require the state’s Attorney General to maintain and publish a public list of “permanently debarred persons” and prohibit those individuals from doing business with the state in the future.

Any company seeking to contract with a government entity would be required to file written certification affirming that neither they nor their subcontractors are permanently debarred.

“I think this is a bill that we need to pass and get it to the floor as quickly as possible,” Turner said.

The committee also released several other bills:

S2159 would update provisions governing the Board of Education Employees’ Pension Fund of Essex County to comply with IRS code.

S1623 would require the State Health Benefits Commission and the State Health Benefits Plan Design Committee to establish a three-year pilot program to provide benefits coverage to select employees with chronic health conditions using a value-based benefit design under the State Health Benefits Program.

Vehicle-fleet reduction bill curbed