By Debra Bradley and Jennie Lamon, NJPSA Government Relations team
It was another busy week in Trenton as the Legislature nears passage of the FY22 budget and prepares for summer recess. A number of bills that your NJPSA Government Relations team is tracking had action this week.
A-2619/S-3253 Establishes alternate route to expedite certification of teachers at early college high school programs. Reported out of committee with committee amendments on June 9th and is now pending a vote in the Assembly. This bill has already passed the Senate 37-0.
A-2687/S-969 Establishes loan redemption program for teachers in certain fields to redeem loan amounts received under New Jersey College Loans to Assist State Students Loan Program through employment in certain low performing schools. Reported out of committee with committee substitute on June 9th and was referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee This bill has already passed the Senate 40-0.
A-4594 Requires State Board of Education to establish procedures for issuance of limited certificate of eligibility with advanced standing and limited certificate of eligibility for certain teacher candidates. Reported out of committee with committee amendments on June 9th and is now pending a vote in the Assembly. This bill has already passed the Senate 37-0.
A-4838 Requires school report card to include information concerning the number of mental health professionals and security personnel employed by each school district. Reported out of committee with committee amendments on June 9th and is now pending a vote in the Assembly. This bill has already passed the Senate 37-0.
A-5312/S-2834 – Mandates training on culturally responsive teaching for all candidates for teaching certification. This bill was passed by the committee and is now pending a final vote by the General Assembly. It has already passed the Senate by a vote of 25-7.
A-5537/S-3488 Modifies certain procedures pertaining to school district regionalization; establishes grant program for cost reimbursement of conducting regionalization feasibility studies; and provides financial incentives for regionalization.Reported out of committee with committee amendments, and referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. This bill has already passed the Senate 37-0.
A-5834 – Extends deadline for completion and filing of annual audit report of school district for 2020-2021 school year; establishes deadline for submission of Audit Summary for 2020-2021 school year. Reported out of committee on June 9th and is now pending a vote in the Assembly.
A-4594/S-2826 – Directs DOE to establish a five-year pilot program for issuance of limited certificate of eligibility with advanced standing and limited certificate of eligibility for certain teacher candidates. Reported out of the Assembly Education committee on June 9th and is now pending a vote in the Assembly. The bill has already been passed by the Senate 37-0.
S-3851 Creates School Bus Safety Ombudsman position in, but not of, Department of Education. NJPSA supported this bill. S-3851 was reported out of the Senate Transportation Committee on June 10th and is now awaiting a vote by the full Senate.
S-3801/A-5597 Permits school districts to administer student health surveys after prior written notification to parents and legal guardians. Reported out of the Senate Health Committee on June 10th and is now awaiting a vote by the full Senate. Legislation sponsored by Senator Joe Vitale that would allow school districts to administer anonymous, voluntary surveys concerning student health once prior written notification has been provided to parents and legal guardians has advanced. The bill would enable school districts to administer a survey concerning the use of alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and vaping; sexual behavior and attitudes; behaviors that may contribute to intentional or unintentional injuries or violence; or physical activity and nutrition-related behaviors. The bill sponsors submit that the use of “active permission” reduces student participation rates by as much as 50 percent unless extraordinary follow-up procedures are implemented. In contrast, passive parental permission presumes a parent or legal guardian has consented to the survey unless notice and an opportunity for the parent or legal guardian to deny permission is provided. NJPSA expressed concerns, testifying that the survey law has been to affirmatively obtain parental consent in a straightforward way, particularly in sensitive topic areas such as those covered by this legislation. We asked the sponsors to continue to preserve this transparency and straightforward approach, especially in these current times. This bill has already been passed by the Assembly by a vote of (48-28-0). Read NJPSA’s position statement on S-3801 here.
The Senate Labor Committee considered several significant pieces of legislation that potentially impact NJPSA members:
S-3827 (Weinberg) This bill requires employers to provide paid earned sick leave to employees in the State on a temporary basis to address employee leave issues that have resulted from the coronavirus pandemic. Specifically, the bill would require employers to provide additional sick leave to employees who are unable to work, either onsite or remotely due to a need for leave because the employee is quarantined, is experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus, is a caregiver for one experiencing coronavirus symptoms, is a caregiver for a child or family member where the school or place of care has been closed due to the coronavirus or is experiencing substantially similar conditions. The committee amended the bill to require documentation in support of the employee’s request for leave.
S-3810 (Sweeney) The “Responsible Collective Negotiations Act” makes changes to the Workplace Democracy Act which the State Legislature enacted in response to the US. Supreme Court’s Janus decision concerning agency shop union membership. One change is to allow employees to revoke authorization for union dues payroll deduction at any time. The bill clarifies that a public employee union may charge an employee who does not pay dues to the union for the cost of representing the employee in arbitration proceedings, and that the union may refuse to represent an employee who does not pay union dues who refuses to pay for the cost of representation in these situations. The bill also codifies recent case law concerning contract expiration. It states that absent express language in a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) providing that a specific term of the agreement will NOT continue after expiration of the CBA, all terms and conditions of the CBA, including the payment of salary increments will remain in effect after contract expiration, until the parties agree on a successor agreement. The bill also modifies timelines and information sharing between employers and unions on employee information within bargaining units. The Senate Labor Committee voted to release the bill.
S-3352 (Weinberg) modifies the NJ Law Against Discrimination in significant ways. Employers, including school districts must establish written policies to prevent unlawful discrimination and harassment which set forth policies, procedures and remedies for violations. It establishes mandatory interactive training for all supervisory training concerning the prevention of unlawful discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Specific standards for the training are in the bill including the fact that the training be in person. Most significantly , the bill will establish standards and procedures for unlawful harassment which include:
- A statutory determination that prior complaints of harassment or unlawful discriminatory practices by the same employer are discoverable and relevant whether or not the employee was aware of these prior complaints;
- An individual does not have to make a complaint about harassment to the individual’s employer for that employer to be liable;
- Employees are not required to demonstrate the existence of an individual to whom the employee’s treatment must be compared;
- An employer does have a defense if a reasonable victim of discrimination would consider the comments to be petty slights or trivial inconveniences.
The bill also changes certain legal provisions concerning age discrimination and mandatory retirement at age 70. The Senate Labor Committee released the bill after significant opposition with a vote of 3 to 2 with the promise that continued work would be done to address the concerns on the bill.