TRENTON, NJ – In a sweeping step toward encouraging municipal consolidation in New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie today signed legislation that makes it easier for towns to form consolidation commissions with neighboring towns.
The bill (S2465/A3587) permits the combination of voter petitions and applications by elected governing bodies to create Municipal Consolidation Study Commissions. By allowing the applications to be “mixed and matched,” it is easier for grassroots organizations to sidestep politics and create the study commissions, the first mandated step toward municipal consolidation.
The law, which supports citizens and local governments working together to build stronger local governments across the state, goes into effect today, said Gina Genovese, executive director of Courage to Connect New Jersey, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that is leading the charge in New Jersey for municipal consolidation.
“We are thrilled that the Governor recognizes the importance of allowing the people – not only politicians – decide the future of their communities,” Genovese said. “By signing this law, the Governor is making it easier for grassroots organizations to get organized and create municipal consolidation committees to study if consolidation is right for them.”
The bill was prompted from an attempt last year launch a municipal consolidation commission for Cherry Hill and Merchantville. The Cherry Hill Council supported the measure, the Merchantville Council did not. But a grassroots group in Merchantville gained the appropriate number of petition signatures to form a commission, as dictated by a 2007 law.
The state Department of Community Affairs ruled that towns could not “mix and match,” meaning the Merchantville Council needed to approve the measure. The new law makes it possible for community groups to move ahead with these study commissions without the approval of local governing bodies.
Genovese expressed her gratitude to Sen. Bob Gordon and other members of the State Legislature who sponsored the legislation and pushed it to the Governor’s desk for signature.
Statewide, local officials and concerned citizens have been reaching out to Courage To Connect New Jersey to learn how to make their own communities stronger, sustainable and affordable by exploring consolidation. Genovese has a full schedule of speaking engagements this spring, as municipal leaders and community groups are eager to find a streamlined way to deliver local government in New Jersey.
Learn more by contacting Courage to Connect New Jersey, (www.CourageToConnectNJ.org), which also offers a simple step-by-step “citizens’ guidebook” for local groups and local governments to work through the municipal consolidation process. The book, to be updated and re-released in May, will include in-depth explanations of how the new law affects the municipal merger process and how citizens can initiate a consolidation in their hometowns.