On July 16, the “New Jersey COVID-19 Emergency Bond Act,” (S–2697/A–4175) passed both houses, largely along party lines, and was signed by the governor. The law authorizes the state to borrow up to $9.9 billion to address the state fiscal crisis created by revenue losses due to the pandemic, subject to the approval of a committee of four lawmakers.
The fate of the new law will now be decided in the courts. The state Republican Committee and several lawmakers filed suit in Superior Court in Mercer County on July 16 to block the measure. New Jersey Chief Justice Stuart Rabner has already issued an order moving the case straight to the New Jersey Supreme Court. Oral arguments are scheduled for August 5.
In addition to approving the bond act, Gov. Murphy also signed the following bills into law on Thursday:
Electronic Procurement S-2085/A-3785 (P.L.2020, c.59) requires all state-level contracting units to use an electronic procurement process for public works construction contracts whenever such a project requires public advertisement. While the use of electronic procurement would be required for state agencies, the bill is permissive for school districts and other local governing units, such as counties and municipalities.
The electronic construction procurement process to be used by boards of education would be the process developed by the director of the Division of Local Government Services to implement a 2018 law known as “Local Unit Electronic Procurement Act.” That law permits local units to use electronic procurement practices for the purchase of utility services, the sale of surplus property and any other purpose authorized by the local governing body. S-2085/A-3785 explicitly extends authorization to use electronic procurement for construction projects.
Official NJSBA policy holds 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 supported this legislation. The law goes into effect on April 1, 2021.
Apprenticeship Mentoring Program S-973/A-1408 (P.L.2020, c.58) requires the N.J. Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development, in consultation with the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) and the chief diversity officer of New Jersey, to establish a peer-to-peer statewide apprenticeship mentoring program for women, minorities, and people with disabilities. According to the bill statement, the purpose of the program is to provide mentoring and support services to women, minorities, and people with disabilities, as well as to establish a network of peers involved in apprenticeship groups among those groups. The bill also requires the labor commissioner to analyze which groups of people are under-represented in industries throughout the state, and then form employee resource groups for apprentices involved in those industries. NJSBA supports the measure, which goes into effect one month following the governor’s approval.