On Monday April 13th, both houses of the State Legislature held electronic voting sessions to consider a package of bills to address various issues arising from the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on New Jersey citizens.
One issue that NJPSA advocated on was A-3902 (Wimberly) which proposes to permit the Department of Community Affairs to authority local municipalities to delay or pro-rate tax revenue payments to school districts in a gubernatorially-declared state of emergency. Although the bill was introduced to address the unique fiscal situation raised by our current state shutdown, the bill would have a devastating impact on public education. NJPSA voiced its opposition to the bill based upon its dire impacts on school operations and our ability to provide educational services to students now and in the fall. NJPSA wishes to thank its members who reached out to state lawmakers to express their concerns and opposition to this proposal. Your efforts made a difference!
Although the legislation was initially passed by the State Assembly on March 25th, the bill was stalled in the State Senate when NJPSA and other statewide advocacy groups joined forces to propose significant amendments to the bill. NJPSA will keep you advised of further developments on this bill.
In terms of school budgets, districts are currently finalizing their 2020-21 budgets on the regular spring timetable. However, the State is likely to extend the current fiscal year until September 30 which may lead to changes in state aid figures as revenues are re-assessed and the State Budget is finalized. Currently, the timetable for quarterly property tax payments in municipalities has not been changed.
As A-3902 was being considered, the Legislature was not conducting public hearings or committee meetings for stakeholder groups like NJPSA for voice concerns. However, the Senate President and Assembly Speaker have just announced that public committee hearings will resume shortly to permit public input into the legislative process. NJPSA applauds this return to a public legislative process.
Remote Schooling Operations Authorization – P.L. 2020, c. 27
The Legislature also passed and Governor Murphy signed Chapter 27 into law. This legislation authorized virtual or remote learning during a public health emergency to meet the 180-school day requirement and establishes the authority of the commissioner of education to approve district remote instruction programs and sets forth the areas the commissioner will provide guidance to school districts, including state assessments, school meal distribution and length of the school day.
The statute also authorizes the use of electronic communication or a virtual or online platform to meet the needs of students with disabilities according to their IEPS “to the greatest extent practicable.”
Employee rights under collective bargaining agreements are guaranteed or to be negotiated if circumstances or job duties are added. Chapter 27 also addresses the rights of non-bargaining unit employees and service providers.
Other Legislation Signed into Law
Governor Murphy also signed int law the following bills that the Legislature passed this week:
S-2338 (Oroho/Bucco), which extends the tax filing deadline for personal and corporate business taxes from April 15th to July 15th . The bill also extends the State fiscal year from June 30th to September 30th.
S-2333 (Kean/O’Scanlon), which protects health care professionals treating patients during the COVID-19 state of emergency from civil and criminal malpractice claims.
S-2342 (Bucco), which permits non-profit corporations to hold meetings through remote communication during a state of emergency.
S-2334 (Brown), which permits professional and occupational licensing boards to reactivate licensure of certain individuals during state of emergency or public health emergency;
S-2336 (O’Scanlon), which allows public notaries to authenticate documents remotely for the duration of the public health emergency.