On Thursday, June 11, the Senate State Government Committee released S -729, a bill that would eliminate the state’s School Ethics Commission and transfer its duties and responsibilities to the State Ethics Commission.

The New Jersey School Boards Association testified at the committee hearing about the bill and sought several amendments.

The bill would impose financial fines for violations of the State Ethics Act; NJSBA told the committee about the chilling effect that such fines would have on board membership. NJSBA argued that penalties for failure to file a financial disclosure form or for a substantive violation of the act should not be mandatory for board of education members. NJSBA also reminded the committee that school board members are uncompensated volunteers who spend many dedicated hours on their boards in service to the community and should not be subject to mandatory fines for violations.

NJSBA also sought amendments that would give local board members a seat on the State Ethics Commission, and recommended that the commission be empowered to sanction those who bring frivolous complaints against board members.

The bill was released from committee unanimously; it is tentatively scheduled to be heard in the full Senate next week. A companion bill, A-1195, was introduced and referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.