ASSEMBLY, No. 103

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

216th LEGISLATURE

 

PRE-FILED FOR INTRODUCTION IN THE 2014 SESSION

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman  ALISON LITTELL MCHOSE

District 24 (Morris, Sussex and Warren)

Assemblyman  JAY WEBBER

District 26 (Essex, Morris and Passaic)

 

Co-Sponsored by:

Assemblymen Rumana, O'Scanlon, Assemblywoman Casagrande, Assemblyman Rible, Assemblywoman Angelini, Assemblymen Wolfe, Peterson, Assemblywoman N.Munoz, Assemblymen C.A.Brown and Space

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     “Transparency in Government Act;” provides for establishment of State public finance website.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     Introduced Pending Technical Review by Legislative Counsel

  


An Act providing for the establishment of a State public finance website and designated as the Transparency in Government Act, supplementing chapter 18A of Title 52 of the Revised Statutes.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    This act shall be known and may be cited as the “Transparency in Government Act.” 

 

     2.    As used in this act, 

     "Chief Technology Officer" means the person appointed by and serving at the pleasure of the Governor who is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Office of Information Technology.            “Public Finance Transparency Committee” means the committee established pursuant to section 4 of P.L.    , c.   (C.   ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill). 

     “Searchable website” means an Internet website that allows the general public to search and aggregate data and information identified in section 3 of this act. The term shall include requirements that the website offer the general public the ability to search and display data, and ascertain the total amounts of:  (1) revenues and expenditures of funds established within the State treasury; (2) compensation paid to public employees of State agencies; and (3) bond debt as specified in this act, in an aggregate or summary form in a manner determined by the State Treasurer, in consultation with the Chief Technology Officer and the Public Finance Transparency Committee.

     “State agency” or “agency” means any of the principal departments in the Executive Branch of State Government, and any division, board, bureau, office, commission, or other instrumentality within or created by such principal department; the Legislature of the State and any office, board, bureau, or commission within or created by the Legislative Branch of State Government; the Judiciary of the State and any office, board, bureau, or commission within or created by the Judicial Branch of State Government; and any independent State authority, commission, instrumentality, or agency.

 

     3.    a. On or before July 1, 2008, the State Treasurer, in consultation with the Chief Technology Officer, shall design, develop, and maintain a single, searchable Internet website that is accessible to the general public without charge and that includes data and information on: 

     (1) annual State agency expenditures, as determined by the State Treasurer and as available within the central accounting system and State payroll system, which shall include but not be limited to:

     (a) disbursements by a State agency from funds established within the State treasury;

     (b)  bond debt services including, but not limited to, amounts of bond debt or interest paid and sources of funds for bond issues;

     (c) salaries and wages including, but not limited to, compensation paid to employees of State agencies;

     (d) contractual service purchases including, but not limited to, amounts paid to vendors;

     (e) commodity purchases including, but not limited to, amounts paid to vendors;

     (f) capital outlay and improvements including, but not limited to, amounts paid to vendors;

     (g) aid to local units of government including, but not limited to, amounts paid to individual units of local government for aid programs; and

     (h) additional forms of assistance and benefits deemed relevant by the State Treasurer. 

     (2) annual State revenues, as determined by the State Treasurer and as available within the central accounting system, which shall include but not be limited to:

     (a) receipts and deposits by any State agency into funds established within the State treasury;

     (b) taxes including, but not limited to, compulsory contributions imposed by the State for the purpose of financing services;

     (c) agency earnings including, but not limited to, amounts collected by each agency for merchandise sold, services performed, licenses, and permits issued, or regulation;

     (d) revenue for the use of money and property including, but not limited to, amounts received for compensation for the use of State-owned money and property;

     (e) gifts, donations, and federal grants including, but not limited to, amounts received from public and private entities to aid in support of a specific function or other governmental activity;

     (f) other revenue including, but not limited to, receipts not classified elsewhere; and

     (g) non-revenue receipts including, but not limited to, all receipts that do not constitute revenue. 

     (3) annual State bonded indebtedness, as determined by the State Treasurer and as available within the central accounting system, which shall include but not be limited to: 

     (a) amount of the total original obligation stated in terms of principal and interest;

     (b) term of the obligation;

     (c) source of funding for repayment of the obligation;

     (d) amounts of principal and interest previously paid to reduce the obligation;

     (e) remaining balance of the obligation;

     (f) data and information related to refinancing of the obligation; and

     (g) cited statutory or constitutional authority to issue such bonds.

     (4) any other data or information specified by the State Treasurer after consulting with and seeking the advice of the Chief Technology Officer and the Public Finance Transparency Committee. 

     b.    (1) The public finance website shall include all data and information enumerated in subsection a. of this section for fiscal year 2000 and each fiscal year thereafter.  Such data and information posted on the website may be periodically updated, but shall not be subject to removal.

     (2) All data and information that is available in the central accounting and State payroll systems shall be made available on the public finance website as soon as practicable, but not later than 45 days after the last day of the preceding fiscal year.

     (3) The State Treasurer shall develop policies and procedures, in accordance with the provisions of the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), to make data and information available from any other source. 

     (4) Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, the State Treasurer shall not be required to provide data and information on the public finance website that is not available in the central accounting system and the State payroll system at the time of the website’s initial implementation. 

     (5) All State agencies are directed to cooperate with the State Treasurer, the Chief Technology Officer, and the Public Finance Transparency Committee in compiling the data and information necessary to comply with the provisions of this act.

     (6) Nothing in this act shall require the disclosure of information deemed private, personal, or confidential by State or federal law.

 

     4.    a. There is established in the Department of the Treasury the Public Finance Transparency Committee to advise, consult, and coordinate with the State Treasurer and the Chief Technology Officer regarding the scope, content, and format of the public finance website developed to comply with the provisions of section 3 of this act. 

     b.    The committee shall be comprised of 13 members, including:

     (1) the State Treasurer or the Treasurer’s designee;

     (2) the Chief Technology Officer or the Officer’s designee;

     (3) the Director of the Division of Budget and Accounting in the Department of the Treasury or the Director’s designee;

     (4) two members who are commissioners, directors, or officers of a State agency, who shall be appointed by the Governor;

     (5) four members of the general public, two who shall be appointed by the Governor, one who shall be appointed by the President of the Senate, and one who shall be appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly; and

     (6) four members of the Legislature, one who shall be appointed by the President of the Senate, one who shall be appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate, one who shall be appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly, and one who shall be appointed by the Minority Leader of the General Assembly.

     c.    The committee shall organize as soon as practicable, but no later than the 30th day after the appointment of a majority of its members.  The State Treasurer or the Treasurer’s designee shall serve as the chairperson of the committee, but the committee shall select a vice-chairperson from among its members and appoint a secretary who need not be a member of the committee.

     d.    Vacancies in the membership of the committee shall be filled in the same manner provided for the original appointments.  Eight members of the committee shall constitute a quorum and the affirmative vote of eight members shall be necessary for any action taken by the committee.  Any vacancy in membership shall not prohibit the quorum of the committee from exercising its respective rights and its duties. 

     e.    The committee may meet at the call of the chair and hold hearings at the times and in the places it deems necessary and appropriate to fulfill its charge.  The committee shall be entitled to call to its assistance, and avail itself of the services of, the employees of any State, county, or municipal department, board, bureau, commission, or agency as it may require and as may be available for its purposes. 

     f.     The public members of the committee shall serve without compensation, but may be reimbursed for traveling and other miscellaneous expenses necessary to perform their duties, within the funds made available to the committee for its purposes. 

     g.    It shall be the duty of the committee to: 

     (1) serve in an advisory capacity to the State Treasurer, who shall from time to time consult with and seek the advice of the committee on matters related to the development and expansion of the public finance website as well as opportunities to make the website more accessible to the general public;

     (2) advise the State Treasurer and the Chief Technology Officer, after implementation of the initial website, on incorporating additional data and information described by this act from any other source of data or information available to the State Treasurer or Chief Technology Officer, including information submitted by a State agency pursuant to paragraph (5) of subsection b. of section 3 of this act;

     (3) seek the advice of and receive feedback from the general public, professional associations, State agencies, academic groups and institutions, and individuals with knowledge of and interest in areas of public information access, gateway services, add-on services, and electronic information for the general improvement of the public finance website; and

     (4) issue an annual report to the Governor and, pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1991, c.164 (C.52:14-19.1), to the Legislature regarding the progress in developing and implementing the public finance website; public input and feedback concerning the utility of the website and recommendations for its improvement; and proposed enhancements to the website in terms of content, format, policies, and procedures, reports, and other matters as deemed appropriate by the State Treasurer and the Chief Technology Officer. 

 

     5.    This act shall take effect immediately. 

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     The “Transparency in Government Act” provides for the creation of a single, searchable Internet website that retains and displays data and information on the State’s annual revenues, expenditures, and total bonded indebtedness.  With the assistance of the Chief Technology Officer in the Office of Information Technology, this bill directs the State Treasurer to design and develop a State public finance website on or before July 1, 2008, and requires the Treasurer to maintain and operate the site, without charge, each fiscal year thereafter.

     While this bill prohibits the posting of any data that may be deemed private, personal, or confidential by State or federal law, it enables information such as contractual service purchases, salaries and wages, gifts and grants, and the amount of total bonded obligations to be accessible to the public no later than 45 days following the close of each fiscal year.  Under its provisions, the bill stipulates that any data or information posted on the website may be periodically updated, but it indicates that any data or information posted on the website must not be subject to removal. 

     In order to facilitate the organization, development, and maintenance of the website, this bill also provides for the establishment of the Public Finance Transparency Committee as an entity within the Department of the Treasury.  In addition to the State Treasurer, the 13-member committee is comprised of:  (1) the Chief Technology Officer; (2) the Director of the Division of Budget and Accounting in the Department of the Treasury; (3) two cabinet-level officers appointed by the Governor; (4) four public members; and (5) four members of the Legislature. With the ability to hold meetings, convene hearings, and publish reports, the committee has the express authority to advise, consult, and coordinate with the Treasurer and Chief Technology Officer to improve and expand upon the scope, content, and format of the public finance website developed in accordance with this act.  

      Building upon the legislative proposals in more than a dozen states, this bill establishes an accessible, user-friendly source of information to track State revenues and expenditures and to gauge the State’s past and present levels of bonded indebtedness. More so, this legislation helps facilitate a bi-partisan approach to improving transparency, identifying waste, and eliminating abuse at each level of State government.  Beginning with the first year of the new millennium and continuing into the future, State residents will have the ability to follow the allocation and spending of public tax dollars, regardless of the party or political affiliations associated with the authorization of such spending.