The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee approved several measures January 6 impacting schools and school leaders. The committee also approved a measure that allows flexibility around school placement for families in crisis.
Reinvesting Health Care Rebates
The Committee approved legislation, S-3086 (Sarlo), that would not only require a local board of education or municipal employer during each fiscal year to make certain public disclosures, but also reinvest any reimbursement or rebate received into reducing health care premiums.
Specifically, the legislation requires districts disclose the total cost of premiums paid, and the total amount of any reimbursements, rebates, or other return of the cost of premiums paid in that fiscal year for prescription drug or other health care benefit contracts. Under the bill, local boards of education and municipal employers would also be required to make public disclosures within 30 days of execution of any new or altered contract for prescription drug or other health care benefits, and within 30 days of receipt of any reimbursement, rebate, or other return of a part of the premiums paid.
In the event of a reimbursement, rebate, or other return of any part of the premiums to a local board of education or municipal employer, the returned funds would be required to be used exclusively to reduce health care premiums during the subsequent year.
The bill was amended in committee to ensure that it is consistent with all federal law or regulation. NJPSA supports this legislation.
Additionally, the committee approved a bill, S-3098 / A-3691 (Rice / Caputo / Diegnan / Ramos), which would require all public elementary and secondary school buildings to be equipped with emergency light and panic alarm linked to local law enforcement. The alarm would be used in a school security emergency including, but not limited to, a non-fire evacuation, lockdown, or active shooter situation.
The panic alarm, which would not be audible within the school building, would be directly linked to law enforcement authorities and would be required to immediately transmit a signal or message to the authorities upon activation. The bill defines “panic alarm” as a silent security system signal generated by the manual activation of a device intended to signal a life-threatening or emergency situation that requires a response from law enforcement.
The bill also requires that all public elementary and secondary schools be equipped with a red emergency light that would be affixed to the exterior of the school building in a highly visible location above or near the front entrance visible from the nearest public roadway or, if the school building is not visible from the nearest public roadway, then on that roadway. The emergency light would be linked to the school’s panic alarm so that it turns on when the panic alarm is activated.
The legislation addresses funding by allowing the proceeds of bonds authorized to be issued to fund the State share of the costs of Schools Development Authority district school facilities projects or the State share of the costs of school facilities projects in all other districts, including county vocational school districts, to be used to fund the full cost of the panic alarms and emergency lights.
NJPSA sought extensive amendment to the legislation, including the development of a funding source as well as addressing situations where a school is located in a community without a police force, such as in communities supported by the New Jersey State Police.
Children in Crisis & School Attendance
Finally, the body approved legislation, S-1438 / A-735 (Ruiz / Allen / Eustace), which would permit a child who moves out of a school district due to a family crisis to remain enrolled in that district until the end of the school year. Specifically, the bill allows a child, who moves out of a school district due to domestic violence, sexual abuse or any other family crisis, to remain enrolled in that district until the end of the school year. If the child remains enrolled in the district for the remainder of the school year, the district would be responsible for providing transportation services to the child, provided the child lives "remote" from the school. The bill defines “remote” for an elementary school pupil as living more than two miles from the school, while a secondary school pupil is considered remote if he or she lives more than 2 1 / 2 miles from the school. The state would be responsible for paying the cost of the transportation services. The bill was approved 74-1-1 by the Assembly back in April. It now heads to the Senate floor.
NJPSA supports this legislation.