On Monday, Jan. 23, both the General Assembly and Senate convened for voting sessions, on matters ranging from lead testing in schools to driver education. Below is a summary of any passed bills of significance to local school districts.

Assembly Voting Session The full General Assembly approved legislation that would provide financial relief to school districts that performed lead testing prior to the Legislature and governor including funds for such testing in the FY2017 budget.

A-4284 provides that school districts may receive reimbursement for costs incurred on or after Jan. 1, 2016 for testing school drinking water for lead. The annual state budget for fiscal year 2016-2017 included a $10 million appropriation to reimburse school districts for costs incurred when conducting lead testing of drinking water. The corresponding language provision stipulated that the reimbursement would be made pursuant to program requirements to be established by the state Department of Education, which would be effective upon filing with the Office of Administrative Law (OAL). The department’s requirements stated that school districts would only be eligible to receive a reimbursement for lead testing performed after July 13, 2016. This bill would allow a school district to receive a reimbursement for lead testing conducted on or after Jan. 1, 2016, but before the department filed the program requirements with the OAL, if the lead testing meets or exceeds the program requirements established by the department. NJSBA supports the bill, which now heads to the Senate where its counterpart, S-2675, has yet to receive consideration.

The Assembly also passed the following bill concerning driver education:

A-4165 requires a high school driver education course, certain new driver brochures, and driver’s license written exam to include bicycle and pedestrian safety information.

This bill requires that the curriculum for approved classroom driver education courses, and the informational brochure distributed by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) to the parents and guardians of beginning drivers, include information concerning the importance of safely sharing the road with bicycles and pedestrians. It also requires that the courses and brochures emphasize the importance of operating a motor vehicle in a manner that safely shares the roadway with pedestrians, bicyclists, skaters and riders of motorized-scooters and other non-motorized vehicles. The curriculum should include, but not be limited to, topics such as passing a cyclist on the road, recognizing bicycle lanes, navigating intersections with pedestrians and cyclists, and exiting a vehicle without endangering pedestrians and cyclists. The bill further requires the MVC to include bicycle and pedestrian safety as part of the written examination required to obtain an examination permit and basic driver’s license. NJSBA supports the bill, which joins its upper house counterpart, S-2894, in the Senate.

Senate Voting Session The full Senate approved the following measures:

S-211 explicitly permits the use of video cameras to crack down on motorists illegally passing school buses. More specifically, the bill authorizes the use of a school bus monitoring system to assist in the enforcement of existing law that prohibits motor vehicles from passing a school bus while it is stopped to pick up or discharge students. Alleged school bus passing violations captured by such a monitoring system would be compiled into an evidence file and forwarded to the chief law enforcement officer of the municipality. If law enforcement determines that a violation has occurred, a summons would be issued. The monies from any fines would be used for general municipal and school district purposes, including efforts to improve the monitoring and enforcement of the unlawful passing of a school buses and the provision of public education safety programs. The bill would also increase the fines for violations of the no-passing law. NJSBA supports the legislation, which joins its counterpart, A-3798, in the Assembly.

Committee Action Several committees met on Thursday, Jan. 1, considering bills on matters of interest to schools.

Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee

A1901 would change the graduated driver licensing law by requiring holders of examination permits and special learner’s permits under the age of 21 to complete a minimum number of hours of certified practice driving. Persons age 17 to 20 with a special learner’s permit, who have been issued an examination permit, are required to complete at least 50 hours of practice driving, at least 10 hours of which are to be completed during hours of darkness. The parent or guardian, or the supervising driver, of a permit holder certifies that these hours of practice driving were completed. The chief administrator is to suspend the driving privileges of any permit holder who submits a fraudulent certification.

The bill provides that the six-hour, behind-the-wheel automobile driving education course required pursuant to the state’s graduated driver licensing law must be one-on-one instruction. However, the bill provides that a public, parochial, or private school or a licensed driver’s school may permit additional students in the course, or the parents of the students, to be present in the rear seat of the vehicle, provided that the time a student spends in the rear seat of the vehicle is not to be considered behind-the-wheel automobile instruction for the purposes of the course.

It also requires the MVC to adopt standard, up-to-date guidelines to be implemented by public, private, and parochial schools and licensed drivers’ schools offering courses of behind-the-wheel automobile driving education. Guidelines are to be developed by the MVC in consultation with the Division of Highway Traffic Safety, the State Department of Education, and licensed drivers’ schools in this state.

The bill increases from six months to 12 months the amount of time that a permit holder is required to hold a permit before becoming eligible for a probationary license.

It requires the distribution of informational brochures to the parents and guardians of beginning drivers under the age of 18 at approved teen driver orientation programs. Under current law, these brochures are submitted at the time a permit is issued to a beginning driver. The bill also requires a sample practice driving log, in addition to other required information, to be included in the brochure.

NJSBA supports this bill.

 Assembly Women and Children Committee

A4363  would create the “Nourishing Young Minds Initiative Fund” in the state Department of Agriculture, to help pay for child food and nutrition programs.

This bill would establish a non-lapsing revolving fund in the N.J. Department of Agriculture to be known as the “Nourishing Young Minds Initiative Fund.” The bill requires that all monies appropriated annually by the Legislature, federal and other grants received by the state, and any other monies made available for the purposes of the fund would be deposited in the fund. Monies in the fund may be invested, and interest or other income earned on these investments would be credited to the fund.

Monies in the “Nourishing Young Minds Initiative Fund” would be used by the Department of Agriculture, in consultation with the N.J. Department of Education, to provide support and funding to child food and nutrition programs in the state, which would include:

  1. Funding outreach and programmatic support by the Department of Agriculture, Department of Education, or community-based organizations;
  2. Providing small grants to fund one-time startup or expansion costs of “breakfast after the bell” programs; and
  3. Providing small grants to fund one-time start-up or expansion costs of summer nutrition programs.

Funding would be prioritized for award to districts or schools with the highest number of eligible students and lowest participation in the school breakfast program. NJSBA supports this bill.

Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee

A4013 would prohibit the sale of expanded polystyrene food containers by public schools and public institutions of higher education. The bill would require every public school and public institution of higher education to ensure that no food or beverage packaged or contained in an expanded polystyrene food container is sold, offered for sale, or otherwise provided in the school or institution. An “expanded polystyrene food container” is defined in the bill as a container, plate, hot or cold beverage cup, tray, carton, or other product made of expanded polystyrene and used for selling or providing a food or beverage. The prohibition would not apply to any food or beverage that was filled and sealed in an expanded polystyrene food container before a school or public institution of higher education received it.

NJSBA stated concerns and asked that more research be done on the issue and explained that districts may have to spend significantly more when purchasing different types of paper goods. The bill was released by the committee. However, the legislators stated that they would do further research on the issue.