SENATE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE

 

STATEMENT TO

 

SENATE, No. 1761

 

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

 

DATED:  MARCH 8, 2012

 

      The Senate Transportation Committee reports favorably Senate Bill No. 1761.

      As reported, this bill, designated as the “PANYNJ Transparency and Accountability Act,” enacts certain reforms to ensure the proper functioning of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (“Port Authority”) as an open, transparent, and accountable interstate authority.  The Port Authority’s operations include Newark Liberty, LaGuardia, Kennedy, Stewart, and Teterboro airports; the Port of New York and New Jersey; the PATH mass transit system; the World Trade Center; and numerous bridges and tunnels, including the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels.

      The bill requires the Port Authority’s board of commissioners to: provide direct oversight of the authority’s chief executive and senior management; oversee the implementation of financial and management controls and operational decisions; establish policies concerning the compensation of officers and employees; require each board member to execute a statement declaring an understanding of the member’s independence, fiduciary duties, and commitment to the Port Authority’s mission; require that a needs assessment be conducted prior to any fee, toll, charge, or fare increase; require an annual efficiency study to identify waste or abuse; and establish audit, governance, and finance committees.

      The bill also requires the Port Authority to provide, within 90 days of the end of its fiscal year, a complete and detailed report setting forth: the Port Authority’s operations and accomplishments, certified financial reports, mission statement, charter, and by-laws; a schedule of outstanding bonds and notes, a statement of the amounts redeemed and incurred during the fiscal year as part of a schedule of debt issuance, and a detailed list of costs of issuance for such debt; biographical information and titles of commissioners and senior management, including compensation and benefits paid to commissioners and to senior staff in any amount; the projects undertaken during the past year; the Port Authority’s code of ethics; an assessment of the effectiveness of the Port Authority’s internal control structure and procedures; a description of the Port Authority and its board structure; a listing of material changes in operations and programs; at a minimum, a four-year financial plan; performance evaluations; and a list of any pending litigation to which the Port Authority is involved as a party and any related expenses.  The documentation pertaining to the Port Authority’s mission, current activities, most recent annual financial reports and independent audit, and current year budget must be accessible on its website.

      Additionally, the bill requires the board to make all reasonable efforts to ensure that meetings are held in facilities that permit barrier-free physical access to the physically handicapped and to provide an opportunity for the public to attend, listen, and observe at any site at which a member participates in a meeting held using videoconferencing.

      The bill makes the following requirements for public hearings to be held prior to the adoption of any increase in any fee, toll, charge, or fare: (1) the Port Authority must hold at least 10 public hearings, at least one of which must be conducted in each county directly affected by the proposed increase; (2) at least two-thirds of the commissioners must attend each public hearing; (3) no more than one public hearing may be held in a single day; and (4) at least half of the hearings must begin after 6:30 pm on a weekday. 

      Finally, the bill requires that at each meeting of the board and its committees, the public be allotted a period of not less than 30 minutes to speak on any topic on the agenda.  The Port Authority is required to make agendas and public documents available to the public at least 72 hours before a meeting and must publicize notice of the time and place of meetings.  Minutes must be taken at all open meetings of the authority which will be available to the public within two weeks of the date of the meeting.

      The bill will take effect when New Jersey and New York have enacted substantively identical legislation.