May 18, 2020

Legislation is Passed Affecting Local Governments, and Allowing the Sale and Delivery of Alcoholic Beverages

By Rebecca J. Rosen, Esq.

On May 15, 2020, Governor Murphy signed into law A-3969/S-2392, allowing for: the extension of certain local government timeframes; the acceptance of certain payments; remote meetings; and the adjustment of certain property tax distribution and notice requirements. The Governor also signed into law A3966, authorizing the sale and delivery of alcoholic beverages by the holders of certain retail consumption licenses and concessionaire permits during the COVID-19 state of emergency.

Act Concerning Local Government Deadlines, Certification, Meetings, Acceptance of Payments, and Property Taxes

Deadlines

Pursuant to A-3969/S-2392, whenever a public health emergency or state of emergency has been declared by the Governor and is in effect, the Director of the Division of Local Government Services in the Department of Community Affairs shall have the power to extend any deadline under the “Local Budget Law,” the “Local Fiscal Affairs Law,” the “Local Authorities Fiscal Control Law, under chapter 4 of Title 54 of the Revised Statutes with respect to the issuance of any tax bill except for the quarterly property tax installment dates, and under chapter 5 of Title 54 of the Revised Statutes with respect to a municipal tax sale.

The Director of the Division of Local Government Services shall have the power to permit municipalities to institute an extended grace period pursuant to R.S.54:4-67, for the first $10,000 determined to be due and required to be paid for the property tax quarter, not to extend beyond the first calendar day of the next calendar month immediately following the quarterly property tax installment date, as well as to extend the dates for the payment of taxes by a municipality due to a county, school district, or any other taxing district, which extension shall be equal to the number of days of the extended grace period pursuant to R.S.54:4-67.

The Director of the Division of Local Government Services, in consultation with the Director of the Division of Taxation in the Department of the Treasury, shall have the power to extend any other deadline established in chapter 1, 3, 4, or 5 of Title 54 of the Revised Statutes if it is determined that the extension is necessary to minimize additional hardships, loss, or suffering to the State.

In addition, the Director of the Division of Local Government Services may extend any deadline under the “Municipal Land Use Law” by adopting an emergency rule pursuant to subsection (c) of section 4 of P.L.1968, c.410, if the director determines that there exists an imminent peril to the public health, safety, or welfare.

Remote Meetings

In the event of a public health emergency or a state of emergency, a local public body may conduct a public meeting remotely by electronic means, provided that reasonable public notice and provision for public input is made under the circumstances.

Property Taxes

The governing body of each municipality may by resolution fix the rate of discount to be allowed for the payment of taxes or assessments previous to the date on which they would become delinquent, not to exceed 6% per annum, only in case of payment made on or before the thirtieth day previous to the date on which the taxes or assessments would become delinquent, after subtracting the amount of applicable property tax credit. No such discount, however, shall apply to the purchaser of a total property tax levy.

The governing body may also fix the rate of interest to be charged for the nonpayment of taxes, assessments, or other municipal liens or charges, on or before the date when they would become delinquent, and may provide that no interest shall be charged if payment of any installment is made within the tenth calendar day following the date upon which the same became payable. That rate shall not exceed 8% per annum on the first $1,500.00 of the delinquency and 18% per annum on any amount in excess of $1,500.0, to be calculated from the date the tax was payable until the date that actual payment to the tax collector is made.

In the case of a municipality that has experienced a natural disaster, interest shall not be charged by the municipality to a delinquent taxpayer if a state of emergency has been declared as a result and the governing body of the municipality adopts a resolution providing that interest shall not be charged.

A municipality shall not charge interest to a delinquent taxpayer who is an eligible resident or who resides with a spouse, partner in a civil union, or domestic partner who is an eligible resident, if a shutdown remains in effect for more than 21 days and either ends less than 14 days prior to the date upon which a property tax installment payment is payable or remains in effect on the date that the property tax installment payment is due and payable, and the governing body of the municipality in which the delinquent taxpayer resides adopts a resolution providing that interest shall not be charged. Interest shall not be charged only if a delinquent property taxpayer provides proof that the taxpayer’s pay, or the pay of the taxpayer’s spouse or partner, is derived from a federal government agency that is affected by a shutdown.

In municipalities that have sold their property tax levy, the rate of interest to be charged for the nonpayment of taxes, assessments, or other municipal liens or charges shall be the same interest or delinquency rate or rates otherwise charged by the municipality. The purchaser of the total property tax levy shall be paid only those amounts attributable to properties included in the total property tax levy purchase and actually collected by the tax collector and which amounts shall not include any delinquent interest collected by the municipal tax collector prior to the time that the total property tax levy purchaser makes the levy payment.

Whenever the time period for a property tax installment payment has been extended, the Director of the Division of Local Government Services in the Department of Community Affairs may, by temporary order, extend the dates for payment of taxes by a municipality due to a county, any school district, and any other taxing district.

The board of chosen freeholders of a county may, by resolution, waive the interest that a municipality is required to pay to the county pursuant to that subsection on any unpaid property taxes due and owing to the county by a municipality if the municipality adopted an extended interest-free period during a public health emergency or a state of emergency. A waiver shall expire 30 days after the end of the municipality’s extended interest-free period.

If payment of the full amount of the employer’s contributions certified by the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System or the Public Employees’ Retirement System was not made within 30 days after the requirement due date when that due date occurred in the year 2020, the interest at the rate of 10 percent per year that is required to be assessed against the unpaid balance thereof on the first day after such 30th day shall not be assessed for an additional period of 30 days.

Sale of Alcoholic Beverages

Under A3966, the holder of a retail consumption license or permit shall be entitled to (1) sell any alcoholic beverages on the licensed premises in original packages, containers, or in other closed and sealed containers for consumption off the licensed premises during a state of emergency; and (2) deliver any alcoholic beverages to the residence of a consumer within the State who is 21 years of age or older.

Distilled alcoholic beverages sold or delivered may be mixed or blended with other alcoholic or nonalcoholic beverages. Any container in which alcoholic beverages are sold or delivered shall be affixed with a tamper evident seal and may be of any size, except that containers shall have a maximum capacity of 16 fluid ounces.

The holder of a craft manufacturer license shall be entitled to sell products on the licensed premises in original packages or any closed or sealed container for consumption off the licensed premises during a state emergency, and deliver products to the residence of a consumer within the State who is 21 years of age or older in original containers.

A closed or sealed container used by a distillery to sell or deliver distilled alcoholic beverages shall have a capacity of 16 fluid ounces or less. Any other alcoholic beverage sold or delivered by a plenary winery license, farm winery license, out-of-State winery license, limited brewery license, restricted brewery license, cidery and meadery license may be sold or delivered in a closed or sealed container of any size.

A distillery shall be entitled to a refund for the alcoholic beverage tax paid on alcohol used by the distillery in the production of hand sanitizer during the exemption period.

Schenck Price will continue to monitor legislative developments at the state, federal and local level, and will provide further updates on future legislative enactments.  If you have any questions about the laws referenced in this Alert, please contact the author at rjr@spsk.com.

DISCLAIMER:  This Alert is designed to keep you aware of recent developments in the law.  It is not intended to be legal advice, which can only be given after the attorney understands the facts of a particular matter and the goals of the client.

 
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