legupdateA bill advanced through the Senate on Monday that would require the parents of school children who wish to be exempt from mandatory immunization on religious grounds to file a notarized statement explaining how the vaccinations violate tenants of their faith. S-1147 was released by the Senate  Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, which approved it by a 5-2 margin.

Nearly 9,000 school children did not receive vaccines in the 2013-2014 school year because their families requested an exemption based on their religious beliefs.

The vast majority of the schoolchildren last year still have received the required amount of shots the law requires. But the number of exemptions sought on religious grounds has grown from 1,641 in the 2005-2006 academic year to 8,977 in the 2013-2014 year. The largest number of exemptions was sought in Hunterdon, Monmouth, Warren and Sussex counties.

When combined with the 1,592 children who did not receive the shots for medical reasons last year, about 2 percent of the student population is unvaccinated, according to the state.

This issue became the focus of medical professionals nationally after more than 100 people visiting Disneyland in California contracted measles earlier this year. There are two confirmed cases in New Jersey but they are not linked to the outbreak in Anaheim, the New Jersey State Health Department has noted.

The New Jersey School Boards Association supports the bill.

April Voting Times S-2453, which requires earlier mandatory polling hours for school elections, was approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on Mar. 9.

This bill requires polls for school elections to close at 8 p.m. to be consistent with general and primary elections.

NJSBA believes that, during April school board elections, the polls should remain open, at a minimum, between the hours of 5 p.m. and 9 pm and during any additional time that the school board may designate between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. and should remain open as long as necessary to permit those in line at the time set for closing the polls to cast their ballots.

Any limitations on these hours would unnecessarily suppress voter turnout in an election where the voters are determining not only whom they wish to have represent them on their local school board but where they are also determining the local budget for their schools. Because of the unique nature of these elections, voter turnout can be lower than at the general election.  Local property taxpayers deserve the maximum opportunity to be heard in these elections that directly impacts each community’s support for its local schools.

Assembly Voting The state Assembly also held a voting session on Monday. Education-related bills that moved during that session include A-1013/S-266, which requires that high school drivers education courses, new driver brochures and the drivers licenses written exam all include information on the dangers of driving in an aggressive manner. NJSBA supported this bill.

A bill that establishes a task force on engineering curriculum and instruction, A-1468, also passed the full Assembly on Mar. 9. NJSBA supported the bill.