ASSEMBLY, No. 847

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

215th LEGISLATURE

 

PRE-FILED FOR INTRODUCTION IN THE 2012 SESSION

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman  ALISON LITTELL MCHOSE

District 24 (Morris, Sussex and Warren)

Assemblyman  UPENDRA J. CHIVUKULA

District 17 (Middlesex and Somerset)

Assemblyman  GARY R. CHIUSANO

District 24 (Morris, Sussex and Warren)

Assemblyman  JAY WEBBER

District 26 (Essex, Morris and Passaic)

 

Co-Sponsored by:

Assemblymen Amodeo, Rumana, Rible, Assemblywomen Angelini, Casagrande, Assemblyman O'Scanlon, Assemblywoman Gove, Assemblymen Rumpf, Peterson, Assemblywoman N.Munoz, Assemblyman C.A.Brown, Assemblywoman Simon and Assemblyman 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, 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 P.L.    , c.   (C.       ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill). 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 section 3 of P.L.    , c.   (pending before the Legislature as this bill), in an aggregate or summary form in the manner determined by the State Treasurer.

     “State 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, 2009, the State Treasurer, in consultation with the Chief Technology Officer, shall design, develop, and maintain a single, searchable 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 a 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)   State agency earnings including, but not limited to, amounts collected by each State 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. 

     b.    (1) The public finance website shall include all data and information enumerated in subsection a. of this section for State fiscal year 2000 and each State 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 available in the central accounting and State payroll systems shall be made available on the public finance website as soon as practicable, but shall not be made available later than 45 days after the last day of the State fiscal year in which the data and information is entered into the central accounting and State payroll systems.

     (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 P.L.     , c.   (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).

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

 

     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 in accordance with section 3 of P.L.    , c.   (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill). 

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

     (1)   the State Treasurer or the State 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 effective date of P.L.    , c.   (C.       ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).  The State Treasurer or the State Treasurer’s designee shall serve as the chairperson of the committee; provided however, that 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.  Seven members of the committee shall constitute a quorum and the affirmative vote of seven 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 chairperson 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 P.L.    , c.   (C.       ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill);

     (3)   seek the advice of and receive feedback from the general public, professional associations, State agencies, interest groups and associations, 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.    a. There is established in the Department of the Treasury a separate, dedicated fund to be known as the “New Jersey Transparency in Government Support Fund,” hereinafter referred to as “the fund.” 

     b.    The State Treasurer shall administer the fund and shall collect and credit to the fund all monies received from private, voluntary contributions in support of the public finance website established pursuant to section 3 of P.L.    , c.   (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).  Interest earned on moneys in the fund shall be credited to the fund. 

     c.     The monies credited to the fund shall be disbursed from time to time, according to rules and regulations prescribed by the State Treasurer, to meet start-up costs attributed to the design, development, and maintenance of the public finance website established pursuant to section 3 of P.L.    , c.   (pending before the Legislature as this bill), including, but not limited to, costs associated with:  (1) personnel, (2) hardware and software, (3) data management and maintenance, (4) website hosting, and (5) applicable licensing fees. 

     d.    On or before January 1, 2010, the State Treasurer shall disburse any remaining monies credited to the fund to support the purposes of the fund and shall promptly dissolve the fund; provided however, that if the State Treasurer shall determine that the initial start-up costs described in subsection c. of this section have been provided for, the remaining funds shall be returned to private, voluntary contributors at the time and in the manner, following the rules and the regulations determined by the State Treasurer.


     6.    a.  The State Treasurer shall, within 30 days of the effective date of P.L.    , c.   (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), conduct or cause to be conducted a cost analysis evaluating the short-term and the long-range financial implications associated with the design, development, and maintenance of the public finance website established in accordance with section 3 of P.L.    , c.   (C.       ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill). 

     b.    The State Treasurer shall, within 30 days of the completion of the cost analysis conducted or caused to be conducted in accordance with subsection a. of this section, submit a report to the Governor, the Legislature, pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1991, c.164 (C.52:14-19.1), and the Public Finance Transparency Committee.  The report shall, at a minimum, specify the projected State costs attributable to:  (1) personnel, (2) hardware and software, (3) data management and maintenance, (4) website hosting, and (5) applicable licensing fees in the design and development of the public finance website.  In addition, the report shall provide a projected cost estimate detailing the State costs associated with maintaining the public finance website during the first three fiscal years beginning after its establishment, and shall recommend cost-saving strategies, if any, that may be achieved through the utilization of existing federal and state database programs and software. 

 

     7.    This act shall take effect immediately. 

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill, 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, the bill directs the State Treasurer to design and develop a State public finance website on or before July 1, 2009, 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 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 the fiscal year in which it applies.  Under its provisions, the bill stipulates that any data or information posted on the website may be periodically updated, but indicates that any data or information posted on the website must not be subject to removal. 

     To facilitate the organization, development, and maintenance of the website, this bill 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 annual reports, the committee has the 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.  

     In addition, the bill establishes the “New Jersey Transparency in Government Support Fund,” and provides the State Treasurer with the express authority to administer the fund.  Under the bill, any private, voluntary contributions made in support of the public finance website will be credited to the fund and disbursed from time to time, according to rules and regulations prescribed by the Treasurer, to meet start-up costs attributed to the design, development, and maintenance of the public finance website.  The bill provides that initial start-up costs may include, but are not limited to, costs associated with: personnel, hardware and software, data management and maintenance, website hosting, and applicable licensing fees. 

     The bill also requires the State Treasurer, within 30 days of the effective date, to conduct a cost analysis evaluating the short-term and the long-range financial implications associated with the design, development, and maintenance of the public finance website.  Within 30 days of the completion of this study, the State Treasurer is required to issue a final report specifying the projected State costs attributable to:  (1) personnel, (2) hardware and software, (3) data management and maintenance, (4) website hosting, and (5) applicable licensing fees in the design and development of the public finance website. The report must also provide a projected cost estimate detailing costs associated with maintaining the public finance website during the first three fiscal years beginning after its establishment, and recommend cost-saving strategies that may be achieved through the utilization of existing federal and state database programs and software. 

      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.