Legislative updateOn Thursday, Jan. 28 the Senate Law and Public Safety advanced school security legislation that would provide school districts with an additional tool to enhance the safety of our students and security of our schools. The bill, S-86, would establish a new category of “Class Three” special law enforcement officers (SLEOs) who would be specifically authorized to provide security in the state’s public and nonpublic schools, as well as county colleges.  Such officers would be authorized to provide security at a school while they are on school premises during hours when the school is normally in session or when it is occupied by students or their teachers. To be eligible to serve in this capacity, Class Three SLEOs would be required to:

  • Be retired police officers less than 65 years old;
  • Have served as duly qualified, fully-trained, full-time municipal or county police officers, or as members of the State Police;
  • Be separated from that prior service in good standing within three years of appointment as a Class Three SLEO (or within five years during the first year following the bill’s enactment);
  • Be physically capable of performing the functions of the position;
  • Possess a NJ Police Training Commission Basic Police Officer Certification or NJ State Police Academy Certification; and
  • Complete the training course for safe school resource officers (SROs).

Unlike Class One and Class Two SLEOs, Class Three officers would not be subject to the statutory 20-hour work week limit. In addition, Class Three SLEOs would not be eligible for any health care or retirement benefits.

The restrictions on carrying a firearm currently applicable to Class Two special officers also would apply to Class Three SLEOs.  Class Three officers would not be authorized to carry a firearm while off duty.

The NJSBA strongly supports this innovative legislation. In fact, the NJSBA’s School Security Task Force, which published its final report in October 2014, recommended that the state establish a new category of SLEOs to provide security in schools. And in July 2015, the “New Jersey School Security Task Force” that was established through legislation in 2013 included a similar recommendation in its July 2015 final report.  This bill would essentially codify the substance of those task forces’ proposals into law.  In addition to the NJSBA, several other stakeholders representing both the law enforcement (PBA, FOP, Association of State Chiefs of Police) and educational (NJPSA, NJASA) communities endorsed the measure.

Similar legislation (S-2983 of 2014-2015) easily passed the full Senate earlier this year, but the measure died when the legislative session came to a close.

Ruiz and Diegnan Remain Education Committee Chairs The 2016-2017 legislative session is underway and all of New Jersey’s lawmakers have received their committee assignments.  There is no change from the last session in the makeup of the Senate Education Committee.  Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29) will continue in her role as chair of the committee.  She will be joined by her Democratic colleagues Sen. Shirley Turner (D-15) and Sen. James Beach (D-6).  Senators Diane Allen (R-7) and Michael Doherty (R-23) will serve as the Republican members of the committee.

In the Legislature’s lower house, Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-18) will once again lead the Assembly Education Committee.  The remaining members are as follows:  Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-7), vice chair; Assemblyman Robert Auth (R-39); Assemblyman Ralph R. Caputo (D-28); Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey (D-27); Assemblywoman Angelica M. Jimenez (D-32); Assemblywoman Patricia Egan Jones (D-5); Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-31); Assemblyman David P. Rible (R-30); Assemblyman Adam J. Taliaferro (D-3); and Assemblyman David W. Wolfe (R-10)

The chairs of the budget committees also remain unchanged.  Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-36) will head the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, while Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36) will preside over the Assembly Budget Committee.

Senate Committee Seeks to Close Health Insurance Loophole The Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee released a bill that would prevent public employees from collecting a cash payout for declining health insurance with one public employer while accepting coverage from another.  As reported by the committee, S-979 would limit a public employee of the state, a local government, or a local board of education to receiving health care benefits coverage from only one public employer of this state, if the employee holds more than one public position simultaneously.  If the employee has a spouse who is also a public employee eligible for health care benefits coverage from a public employer of this state, the employee and spouse would be required to select coverage together under only one plan or program. The bill also prohibits a public employee so limited from continuing to receive any payment from the employee’s public employer for waiving the health care benefits coverage provided by the employer.

The bill also provides that a board of education that offers health care benefits through a private carrier will be able to offer to its employees payment in consideration of filing a waiver of coverage, due to eligibility for coverage from an employer other than a New Jersey public employer, that will not exceed 25 percent, or $5,000, whichever is less, of the amount saved by the board of education because of the waiver. Current law already contains such a provision for local government employees and for the State Health Benefits Program and the School Employees’ Health Benefits Program.

As S-979 has the potential to save significant taxpayer money without diminishing the level of health care benefits provided to school district staff, the NJSBA supports the legislation.  The NJSBA has been working closely with the bill’s prime sponsor to ensure that its provisions apply consistently across different levels of government.  The Association also sought and obtained language clarifying that the proposed limitations on waiver incentives are applicable to boards of education that purchase their insurance through a private carrier, not just those enrolled in the State plan. The New Jersey League of Municipalities and the New Jersey Association of Counties also endorsed the measure.