“The New Jersey First Act,” also known as the State’s residency law, was enacted under the guise that public workers should live in State. But since enactment, more than 1,300 public employees have asked for an exemption to the law, with almost ¾ of them granted, according to a new POLITICO PRO report based data from the State Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s website. Now, several key lawmakers are talking about scrapping the law.
The 2011 law, signed by Governor Christie and championed by then-state Sen. Donald Norcross, requires newly hired public workers at all levels of government to live within New Jersey’s borders within one year of taking the job unless they demonstrate a “critical need or hardship” to an employee residency review committee.
During the law’s first two years, the committee approved 450 requests for hardship exemptions and denied 193 — an approval rate of 70 percent. Since 2014, it has approved 576 requests and denied 95 — an approval rate of 86 percent. Of the exemptions granted, about 133, or about 13 percent, were temporary, allowing workers an extra year or two to move to New Jersey.
Now Assembly majority leader Lou Greenwald as well as Senate Republican leader Tom Kean Jr. are calling for change. Kean, Greenwald and state Sen. Peter Barnes in June 2014 sponsored legislaton (S-2169) that would roll back the residency requirement for educators in 10 counties that border New York or Pennsylvania. Although a state Senate committee approved the measure shortly after it was introduced, the measure has now stalled.
Similarly, in December 2014, Kean introduced legislation (S-2854) to repeal the law for all workers except those already required to live in the state before 2011: The governor, cabinet members, lawmakers and judges. Greenwald and Barnes both told POLITICOPro they’re open to repealing the law. Of course, any change to the law would have to be posted for a vote by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Senate President Stephen Sweeney and signed by Christie. So stay tuned as this issue develops potentially during lame duck.