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N.J. Voters Nix Unfunded State Mandates

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New Jersey voters last week overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment that requires the state to back up, with money, new mandates on school districts and cities.

The "state mandate, state pay" measure was approved by a 2-to-1 ratio on Nov. 7 after gaining the backing of Republican Gov. Christine Todd Whitman and the GOP-controlled state legislature.

Districts statewide also supported the measure, saying they needed relief from mandates imposed by state lawmakers without any funding to back them up, such as one that requires the observance of Commodore Barry Day, which honors a founder of the U.S. Navy. (See Education Week, Nov. 1, 1995.)

The amendment bars unfunded mandates unless approved by a three-fourths majority of both legislative chambers. It leaves some questions up to enabling legislation, such as the definition of a mandate, but calls for an independent panel to decide disputes about unfunded mandates.

--Mark Walsh

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