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News

PBA Bill to Protect Officers Signed by Governor

Governor Christie signed into law a bill proposed by the State PBA to upgrade the penalties for assaulting a corrections, sheriff and other officers because of their job status.

The bill was initiated by Cumberland County Corrections PBA Delegate Victory Bermudez and the PBA Corrections Committee following the assault of an off duty corrections officer by a former inmate. Because the officer was not on duty at the time of the attack the assailant could not be charged with aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer. This law now will treat every attack on every officer, on or off duty, as aggravated assault because of who they are.

The bill was a major priority for the State PBA. The following is a statement from the bill sponsor, Assemblyman Craig Coughlin:

COUGHLIN BILL TO PROTECT LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS NOW LAW

(TRENTON) – Legislation Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex) sponsored to enhance the punishment for assaulting certain law enforcement officers and employees who are targeted because of their work in law enforcement has been signed into law.

"This is not an easy job. These officers risk injury or worse when they report for work," said Coughlin. "It is important that we made it clear that if you assault one of these officers simply because of the work that they do, you will be charged with aggravated assault and punished accordingly."

The law (A3836) upgrades simple assault to aggravated assault if the assault is committed against certain law enforcement officers and employees because of their job status.

Under former law, simple assault was upgraded to aggravated assault if the assault is committed against a Department of Corrections employee, county corrections officer, juvenile corrections officer, state juvenile facility employee, juvenile detention staff member, juvenile detention officer, probation officer, or any sheriff, undersheriff, or sheriff's officer while they are engaged in their duties.

This new law clarifies that simple assault is upgraded to aggravated assault if the assault is committed against any of these law enforcement officers or employees because of their status as a staff member, probation officer, corrections employee, undersheriff, or other law enforcement officer.

Aggravated assault under is a crime of the third degree if the victim suffers bodily injury; otherwise it is a crime of the fourth degree. A crime of the third degree is punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to five years; a fine of up to $15,000, or both. A crime of the fourth degree is punishable by a term of imprisonment for not more than 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

"Law enforcement work is inherently dangerous. Sometimes the uniform can be enough of a provocation for troublemakers," said Coughlin. "Law enforcement officers have enough to deal with without having to worry about this additional threat. This law can help by serving as a deterrent."

NJSPBA President: Police and Firefighter Pensions Under Control

Gov. Chris Christie insists that if the underfunded public worker pension system isn’t reformed it will mean huge tax hikes or a permanently busted budget. The president of the State Police Benevolent Association calls that a scare tactic that’s not based on fact. He says the pension system for law enforcement officers and firefighters is healthy, structurally sound and 100 percent funded by employers and employees alike. Pat Colligan, president of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams how full pension funding is possible for firefighters and police officers.

Colligan claims that the police and firefighters retirement system doesn’t belong in the larger discussion of pension funding in New Jersey. He says that there are five distinct funds in the state, including one for police and firefighters, which has the highest funding rate of any of them. “Our funding rate is 76, 77, 78 percent so our funding level actuarially is very strong,” he said.

Funding for police and firefigher pensions is different than other state worker pension systems. While the state is unable to make pension payments, local municipalities have been contributing to police and fire pensions.

“The funding is different because the state is not making contributions for the state employees, but on the local side, local employers, county employers, the counties and the towns are making the contributions. They’re making 100 percent of their contributions and they have for years now. We’re certainly making 100 percent of our contributions and we have been since the pension system started. We have no state funding except for some of our state employees on the police side, we have state corrections, state park police, things like that but that’s even manageable and once we get portions we’ll get that back up,” Colligan said.

Colligan has said in the past that Christie used increases in contributions to police and firefighter pensions to offset other gaps in the state budget. “Part of Chapter 78 is our portion is going from 8.5 to 10 percent. Some guys did [have issues], but we had no problem with it because it was going to go back into our system and then we come to find out six to 10 months in that that money is actually being rebated back to the towns and isn’t going into our pension system where it belongs,” he said.

He also contends that there was no trust lost between the governor and the police and firefighter unions because he never made an effort to establish a relationship when he became governor. “I think if he had sat down with us and see that we’re very realistic in funding and the ideas that we have to keep our pensions sound, I think he would have been surprised at how open we are to making some changes and doing some things that are thinking outside the box a little bit,” Colligan said.

So what needs to be done to make sure that the fund is sound? Colligan says we need to look at the whole fund — and there are issues. “Teachers have a major issue coming in 10 or 12 years. The state employees do. But on the police and fire side, if you look at it separately, as you should be because they actuarially separate it, we are a very sound and healthy system that goes out decades before we see any issues financially,” he said.

Ultimately, Colligan says that it’s unlikely the police or fire unions are ever going to have an issue with the state in terms of funding thanks to local cities and towns making good on their payments.

“On the police and fire pension, we get such a small percentage from the state just for those state employees. About 50 firefighters, 5,000 to 6,000 state corrections officers and park police, human services police, but that’s manageable,” he said. “We even have a plan to get them into full funding. So it’s all manageable as long as you separate us out.”

To see the full article from NJTV News Click Here

More employee concession are not what healthy police and firemen's pension system needs / Opinion

Star-Ledger Guest Columnist By Star-Ledger Guest Columnist The Star-Ledger
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on August 03, 2015 at 8:00 AM, updated August 03, 2015 at 8:08 AM

By Pat Colligan
When we are talking about pension reform in New Jersey it is easy to get lost in political double-speak. Much of the media coverage, including a recent Star Ledger editorial and every stump speech delivered by Gov. Chris Christie, suggests that without more employee concessions there will soon by no more pensions to save. But when you break down the pension system into its unique and independent pieces, a brighter picture becomes clear. In order to see this picture the public needs to know the whole story. The facts are this: the pension system for law enforcement officers and firefighters is healthy, structurally sound and, at the local level, being 100 percent funded by employers and employees alike. This is an important distinction because the facts don't fit so neatly into the governor's narrative of impending pension doom and massive tax hikes designed to scare the public and bamboozle the N.J. Legislature. In many ways, the Police and Firemen's Retirement System doesn't even belong in the larger discussion. In fact, the governor's own highly regarded Pension and Benefit Commission admitted that they never looked at PFRS when they did their research. When looking at the PFRS system aside from the other pension funds, every number and actuary report shows a healthy system that needs continued payments and smart investments to grow. If we want to have an honest discussion then let's truly lay all the cards on the table. The state needs to stop playing games with the retirements of hardworking law enforcement officers and firefighters. For example, the sleight of hand trick the governor has been playing with PFRS employee contributions. The pension reform law of 2011 increased PFRS employee contributions from 8.5 percent to 10 percent, an increase most law enforcement officers were happy to pay to enhance their pension fund. But rather than keep this additional money in the system where those hundreds of millions of dollars would have been invested to date to further reduce pension costs, Gov. Christie chose touse our additional contributions to offset other spending in the state budget. He called it "property tax relief." In law enforcement, when one person takes money promised by law for one reason and uses it for something completely different, we call it fraud. One of the most frequent responses to whether more pension reform is needed is that employee benefits are "unsustainable." The message of sustainability for PFRS benefits is the product of years and years of misleading information by the governor and others who continue to play games with employee and employer contributions to the pension system, including giving supporters millions of dollars in advisory fees from pension monies. That is not to say that the health of the pension system for teachers and other state employees doesn't face significant financial challenges without the actuarially required state pension payments. But those employees have zero control over whether the governor will do what he promised in 2011 and what we all know he won't do now that he is running for president. To suggest that any union should offer additional concessions for what they already gave up fits Albert Einstein's definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The N.J. State PBA will continue to look for innovative ways to preserve and strengthen our pension fund for the future. We've been engaged in meaningful analysis with successful national public employee pension fund managers and state and local government leaders looking for ways to keep PFRS secure. It's unfortunate that the governor has failed to step out of campaign mode and work honestly on these issues. "Telling it like it is" sounds more like "Telling it the way I wish it was" for those of us who have been dealing with him since 2010. I only hope that the press and our legislators will do a better job telling the state that the pension fund for law enforcement and firefighters is doing well and, with leadership in Trenton, will continue to grow.
Pat Colligan is president of the New Jersey State Policeman's Benevolent Association.

Important Verizon announcement

We have fielded many requests regarding the possible Verizon labor action. Obviously there are many Verizon facilities located throughout the state. We are in a unique position in that we are a labor organization but we are also responsible for the safety and security of life and property without bias.

If you can safely honor a picket line then please do so. If in any way it compromises your duties as a law enforcement officer or jeopardizes the safety of the public then you are certainly obligated to take appropriate actions. Obviously you are also obligated to obey all lawful orders from your command staff.

We support our brothers and sisters at Verizon and wish them the best while they address their labor issues. I'm sure they understand our conflicts.

 

Tags: Verizon
News Article from pressofAtlanticCity.com: “Atlantic County shouldn't fall for Christie's Camden policing myth"

To Read Full Article, Click Here

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President's Message

Patrick Colligan, NJSPBA President Patrick Colligan, President How we can interpret the pension double-speak for the public

When we are talking about pension reform in New Jersey it is easy to get lost in political double-speak. Much of the media coverage, including a recent Star Ledger editorial and every stump speech delivered by Gov. Christie, suggests that without more employee concessions there will soon be no more pensions to save. But when you break down the pension system into its unique and independent pieces, a brighter picture becomes clear.

In order to see this picture, the public needs to know the whole story. The facts are this: the pension system for law enforcement officers and firefighters is healthy, structurally sound and, at the local level, being 100-percent funded by employers and employees alike. This is an important distinction because the facts don't fit so neatly into the governor's narrative of impending pension doom and massive tax hikes designed to scare the public and bamboozle the N.J. Legislature.

In many ways, the Police and Firemen's Retirement System (PFRS) doesn't even belong in the larger discussion. In fact, the governor's own highly regarded Pension and Benefit Commission admitted that it never looked at PFRS when they doing its research. When looking at the PFRS system aside from the other pension funds, every number and actuary report shows a healthy system that needs continued payments and smart investments to grow. If we want to have an honest discussion, then let's truly lay all the cards on the table.

The state needs to stop playing games with the retirements of hardworking law enforcement officers and firefighters. For example, the sleight-of-hand trick the governor has been playing with PFRS employee contributions. The pension reform law of 2011 increased PFRS employee contributions from 8.5 percent to 10 percent, an increase most law enforcement officers were happy to pay to enhance their pension fund. But rather than keep this additional money in the system, where those hundreds of millions of dollars would have been
invested to date to further reduce pension costs, Gov. Christie chose to use our additional contributions to offset other spending in the state budget. He called it “property tax relief.”In law enforcement, when one person takes money promised by law for one reason and
uses it for something completely different, we call it fraud.

One of the most frequent responses to whether more pension reform is needed is that employee benefits are “unsustainable.” The message of sustainability for PFRS benefits is the product of years and years of misleading information by the governor and others who continue to play games with employee and employer contributions to the pension system, including giving supporters millions of dollars in advisory fees from pension monies.

That is not to say that the health of the pension system for teachers and other state employees doesn't face significant financial challenges without the actuarially required state pension payments. But those employees have zero control over whether the governor will do what he promised in 2011, and what we all know he won't do now that he is running for President. To suggest that any union should offer additional concessions for what they already gave up fits Albert Einstein's definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and
over again and expecting different results.

The NJ State PBA will continue to look for innovative ways to preserve and strengthen our pension fund for the future. We've been engaged in meaningful analysis with successful national public employee pension fund managers and state and local government leaders
looking for ways to keep PFRS secure. It's unfortunate that the governor has failed to step out of campaign mode and work honestly on these issues. “Telling it like it is” sounds more like “Telling it the way I wish it was” for those of us who have been dealing with him since 2010. I only hope that the press, and our legislators, will do a better job telling the state that the pension fund for law enforcement and firefighters is doing well and, with leadership in Trenton, will continue to grow.

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