On Thursday, Aug. 18 Governor Chris Christie took action on a dozen bills that were sent to his desk just before the Legislature broke for summer recess in June. Two of those bills will have a direct impact on local school districts and are summarized below.

A-3851/S-2033 (P.L.2016, c.29) authorizes boards of education, municipalities, counties and other local governing bodies to pay certain claims through the use of standard electronic funds transfer (EFT) technologies. Under the new law, such governing bodies may adopt policies for the payment of claims through the use of one or more standard EFT technologies, as defined in the law, in lieu of payment through the use of checks or warrants. The NJSBA has long believed that boards of education should be able to take advantage of electronic procurement technology and practices that result in streamlined purchasing procedures and more efficient use of taxpayer funds. Therefore, the NJSBA strongly supported the measure as it moved through the legislative process.

The NJSBA would like to thank the NJ Association of Counties and the NJ State League of Municipalities for their assistance on this legislation. Over the past several months, the NJSBA engaged in a collaborative advocacy effort with these two organizations to help bring the legislation to final passage and adoption. The Association also thanks Senator Loretta Weinberg, Senator Steven Oroho, Assemblywoman Annette Quijano and Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon for their leadership in sponsoring this important cost- and time-saving measure.

The new law goes into effect on the first day of the eighth month following its enactment (April 1, 2017). In the meantime, the Local Finance Board, Commissioner of Education, and Secretary of Higher Education will be tasked with promulgating any rules and regulations that may be necessary to implement the new law. The full text of the new law can be found here.

S-2099/A-3728 (2016, c.27), The governor also signed into law S-2099/A-3728 (2016, c.27), which places a two-year moratorium on moving the date of the annual school election from the day of the November general election back to the third Tuesday in April. The moratorium would run from June 1, 2016 to May 31, 2018. During that time period, any school district’s annual election that has been moved to the date of the general election would not be permitted to return to April.

In addition, the new law creates a “School District Annual Election Study Commission.” The purpose of the commission would be to study: (1) the voter turnout data and the fiscal impact and cost savings of moving the date of the annual school election for school districts to be held simultaneously with the general election; (2) the voter turnout estimates and implications and the fiscal impact and cost savings of moving the date of the annual school election for school districts from the date of the general election (the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November) to the third Tuesday in April; and (3) the implications of moving the annual election as described in (1) and (2) on proposed school budgets. The commission will consist of 10 members, including a representative recommended by NJSBA.

Throughout the legislative process, the NJSBA actively opposed this measure as it threatens local control embedded in current law. The NJSBA believes that the existing statute protects local decision-making by local boards of education and the communities that they serve. The Association will continue to monitor the impact of the moratorium imposed by this law, and will advocate in the best interests of our members before the newly-formed study commission. While the Association opposed the legislation in general, we view this commission as a potentially valuable opportunity to conduct a thorough analysis of the school election law, and help guide policy decisions moving forward.