Statehouse Wrap Up:  Week of December 4, 2023 – Lame Duck Session Well Underway

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-Jennie Lamon, Assistant Director of Government Relations


The 2022/2023 Lame Duck Legislative Session is well underway, Both the Senate and the General Assembly held committee meetings, and the General Assembly conducted a Voting Session. Several bills that NJPSA is tracking had action this week, and one was sent to the Governor’s desk. . 


The Assembly Appropriations Committee met on Monday of this week.  On their agenda was a bill that authorizes the use of school bus monitoring systems and a bill that looks to make updates to the School Development Authority (SDA) operations and funding mechanisms. 


A bill that authorizes use of school bus monitoring systems

The first bill, A-545, authorizes the use of a school bus monitoring system to enforce the State law regarding passing a school bus. Under current law, when school buses are exhibiting flashing red lights, drivers of vehicles approaching or overtaking the school bus are required to stop at least 25 feet from that school bus.  Under current law, the penalty for violating this law, for a first offense, is a fine of no less than $100, imprisonment for no more than 15 days or community service, or both.  For subsequent offenses, the penalty is a fine of no less than $250, imprisonment for no less than 15 days, or both.  This bill provides that the penalty for violating the law, when the violation is not evidenced by the recorded images captured by a school bus monitoring system, would be: a fine of $250, 15 days of community service, or both, in the case of a first offense.  For each subsequent offense, the penalty would be a fine of $500 and no less than 15 days of community service.


Under the bill, a civil penalty of $250 would be imposed on a person who passes a school bus in violation of current law if the violation is evidenced by the recorded images captured by a school bus monitoring system.  Under these circumstances, any civil penalty imposed and collected for this violation is to be forwarded to the financial officer of the municipality in which the violation occurred and used for general municipal and school district purposes, including efforts to improve the monitoring and enforcement of this law through the utilization of a school bus monitoring system and other public education safety programs.  A violation that is evidenced by the recorded images captured by a school bus monitoring system would not result in penalty points or automobile insurance eligibility points being assessed on the violator. 


NJPSA supports this bill.  The committee advanced this bill by a vote of 8-0.  It is now on Second Reading in the Assembly, The bill has yet to have a hearing in the Senate. 


A bill that revises various provisions of law governing construction of school facilities projects and operations of New Jersey Schools Development Authority

The other bill advanced by the Committee makes updates to the School Development Authority (SDA) operations and funding mechanisms.  A-4496, sponsored by Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin, Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt,  and Assemblymen Robert Karabinchak and Benjie Wimberley, would make various changes to the way that school construction can be funded in New Jersey. 


The bill would require all school districts to include capital improvement plans in their long-range facilities planning, establish new tools for non-SDA district schools to initiate school construction projects and taxpayer and work protections to ensure only qualified contractors perform school construction projects. Additionally, it takes several steps to modernize the SDA, adding two members appointed by the Legislature and as well as an additional public member appointed by the Governor.


It also establishes a new low-interest loan program through the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) to fund capital projects of existing or future charter and renaissance school buildings in the state’s 31 SDA districts. The “Charter and Renaissance School Project Facilities Loan Program” within the NJEDA would make money available to make critical upgrades to school facilities, start new construction projects, or perform major renovation and rehabilitation projects.


After working with the Sponsor, his staff, and other education stakeholders on significant amendments, NJPSA was able to lend its support to this bill.  The aging infrastructure of the state’s school facilities is a top concern of our association, and this bill will help to ensure students have healthy, safe and modern buildings. 


The committee advanced the bill by a vote of 7-1. The bill is now on Second Reading in the Assembly,  It has yet to have a hearing in the Senate. 


General Assembly Voting Session


Finally, on Thursday, the full General Assembly met in the Assembly Chamber for a voting session.  The Full Assembly approved a bill prohibiting credit transfer limits for education programs.  This legislation is part of a bill package aimed at addressing the persistent teacher shortages throughout the state. Sponsored by Assemblywomen Pamela Lampitt, Mila Jasey and Lisa Swain, A-5417 aims to ensure students who begin their education at community college can apply all applicable credits to their teaching certificate by eliminating the current six-credit limit that prevents students from applying all of their credits earned at a two-year institution to their certificate. The full Assembly unanimously voted to advance the bill, 73-0.      The bill now awaits Senate action.


Following are the other education related bills that were considered by the full Assembly on Thursday:


S-3079/A-4977 Establishes School Safety and Security Task Force.  The purpose of the task force is to study and develop recommendations to improve school safety and security, and to ensure a safe learning environment for students and employees. On Thursday, this bill was unanimously passed by the Assembly (73-0-0).  


A-1174 /S-2057 Requires certain documentation of needs of students with disabilities during school security drills and emergency situations and in school security plans; requires staff training on needs of students with disabilities in emergency planning. After being unanimously approved by the full Assembly, this bill has now passed both houses and has been sent to the Governor for his consideration. 


Be sure to stay tuned – the lame duck session is just getting started.  Next week promises a flurry of legislative activity with several committee meetings and a Senate voting session already scheduled. Thank you for reading our Statehouse Update, and for your continued advocacy!