Bonacic Bill Requiring Government Collaboration Passes Senate

John J. Bonacic

June 11, 2007

Legislation (S.4265) sponsored by Senator John J. Bonacic (R/I/C - Mount Hope), which prohibits State agencies from fining certain municipalities, was approved by the Senate.

"Currently, State agencies such as the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), have notified municipalities of violations and have immediately imposed hefty fines without working with them to remediate the problem. Simply slapping municipalities with fines due to a variety of problems doesn’t solve them. It only raises property taxes on our residents. This bill will encourage compliance and collaboration."

Senator Bonacic said that Senate bill 4265 limits the broad discretion that State agencies have in determining which localities gets fined and which ones do not. It does not obviate criminal enforcement, it simply tells agencies to work with people before fining them. "We expect our governments, local, state, and federal, to work together for the public good," Bonacic continued.

Charles Hallock, President of the Sullivan County Highway Superintendent Association outlined his concerns with regard to recent DEC inspections that generated the imposition of fines on several localities because petroleum bulk storage facilities were not in compliance with DEC regulations. However, the localities were unaware of the regulations, and were not granted a reasonable time frame to rectify the problem.

Senator Bonacic concluded, "Municipalities are funded largely by property taxes. Government on all levels should be working together and cooperating for the public good. While in some cases fines are appropriate, other cases such as when a municipalities is working to rectify violations in good faith, fines should not be levied. The goal of our laws ought to be compliance, not penalizing localities. This bill meets this goal."