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New State Online Permitting Bills Confirm Digital Government Future

Digital technology continues providing time- and cost-saving solutions to governments. One area is in creating online permitting services that make it easier for businesses to access information and file important permit-related information with the ease of an online experience. As more residents and businesses engage with services through online channels, the convenience of tools such as govService and the Granicus’ Civic Engagement Platform have created an environment where digital flexibility is not only appreciated, but increasingly expected.

That shift toward normalizing a more online government experience took a large step forward in June 2021, when New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Assembly Bill 1145 into law. The legislation set a requirement for local governments in the Garden State to leverage a digital platform for all construction related applications and permits. The “Electronic Permit Processing Review System” (P.L.2021, c.70) now calls for all municipalities and counties in New Jersey to have a system in place that complies with the state’s Department of Consumer Affairs guidance.

With similar laws pending in Florida and other states, local officials and workers should be ready for a change to a digital future. Fortunately, moving to an online permitting system isn’t the daunting task that it might seemingly present. And with many communities around the country already leveraging the power of digital government for both resident and staff, the benefits of Granicus’ Civic Engagement Platform combine digital service design with industry leading communications tools in a way that will make the transition a beneficial one.

Our Civic Engagement Platform not only helps meet requirements of new laws like AB 1145 but can also drive an organizational shift to digital engagement. That means quick service access for residents and cost savings that can lead to a tremendous ROI for agencies.

New Jersey’s Bill Shows a Future Roadmap for Online Permitting

The guidance from Assembly Bill 1145 is clear: local governments in the state must use an “Electronic Permit Processing Review System” for filing any NJ construction and building permit forms. The intended result is to increase service quality, save time and staff resources, and provide a 24/7 solution for businesses and residents to access services at their convenience.

But what hints does the bill offer that other states exploring similar laws might take into consideration?

  • The Move to Online Should Be a Complete One 

    With the bill stating that the Commissioner of Community Affairs “shall establish, develop, implement, and administer the ‘Electronic Permit Processing Review System,’” the future for permitting in New Jersey is solidly a digital one. Local governments are required to offer 24/7 access to residents filing permit applications and schedule inspection requests, while moving “submission of applications for construction permits, plans, and specifications” related to any construction process online.Unique to digital government solutions, govService features technology that handles omni-channel interactions with applicants. That means that for both staff and residents, govService provides a solution that allows for flexibility and convenience through any means of connection — face-to-face, in person, over the phone, and, of course, digitally.

  • Digitization Will be Key to Transitional Success 

    Assembly Bill 1145 requires electronic access to permits and relevant application materials for local enforcing agencies, as well as private agencies. What used to be a visit to the records department will now be handled online. That means that digitizing forms, as well as submitted records, will be a vital part of the success in online permitting, as laid out in New Jersey’s new law.This is an area where the Granicus Civic Engagement Platform, especially govService, shines. Not only can govService easily connect with outside agencies digitally, it creates an easy-to-manage environment for building forms, digitizing records, and streamlining workflows. City offices can easily automate steps when appropriate, whether that’s sending documentation to colleagues, routing a permit for extra review, or letting a colleague know that work has been completed work.

    This can also help increase collaboration and save staff resources and time. Staff will need to see which permits have been applied for, what documentation has been submitted, and the status of each request. Digital tools can connect and coordinate records across agencies, facilitating collaboration, improving service, and reducing hassle for staff members.

    The omni-channel approach to information also plays a large role here. While digitization is the ultimate goal, inspectors, compliance officers, and others will undoubtedly still interact with applicants face-to-face, over the phone, and through any number of other channels. Staff members will need to quickly access (or update) accurate information — no matter how it was submitted. Having the flexibility of a digital tool such as govService provides the ability to manage each of those interactions.

  • Requiring Private Agencies to Meet the Same Standards 

    Any private agency that works with a municipal government in New Jersey for private review and inspection services, will also be required to follow the new rules and policies outlined in the “Electronic Permit Processing Review System.” The law requires that the policy change be communicated by the municipal government and be factored into the bidding process for permit inspection agencies.While this may seem to some a burden placed on cities interacting with private agencies, the transition to a digital solution not only makes for an improvement in process, it helps improve transparency. With govService, applicants and external agencies can check on application status or review forms at any time through a standard customer portal. Municipal agencies can also automatically send updates via email or other communication to keep agencies and residents up to date on status.Agencies also can see an increase in agility and team performance thanks to digital solutions like govService, which allows quick and easy updates to processes with low-code options that save time in developing new solutions and avoid the need for a third-party vendor or expensive consultant.

The Long-Term Benefits of Change

Laws similar to New Jersey’s Assembly Bill 1145 will likely begin popping up around the country as states recognize the cost and time savings that come with digital government solutions. For many communities and counties, digital tools provided critical supports in the face of daunting challenges during the COVID pandemic.

But the results of these difficult times are paving the way for establishing a future of long-term benefits in cost and time savings. As part of the Granicus Civic Engagement Platform, govService can create efficiencies such as:

  • 35% reduction in in-person visits
  • 25% less time spent managing applications from residents and business requests
  • 25% reduction in time spent managing permitting technology
  • 10% increase in licensing and permitting revenue

Whether meeting new state mandates or providing a better experience for your residents and businesses, digital government tools such as govService can make an immediate impact in any agency.

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