On Thursday, June 7, both the General Assembly and Senate held voting sessions. Among the measures that received final legislative approval was a package of bills intended to promote firearm safety and stem gun violence. Consistent with policy language adopted at the May 19 Delegate Assembly, the NJSBA advocated in support of the following proposed enhancements and changes to laws governing firearms access:
Preventive Firearm Seizures S-160/A-1181 requires law enforcement, upon order of the court, to seize a firearm that is in the possession of a person determined by certain licensed health care professionals to be likely to engage in conduct that poses a threat of serious harm to the patient or another person.
Keeping Firearms from Dangerous Individuals A-1217/S-2259, titled the “Extreme Risk Protective Order Act of 2018, “would establish a process and procedures for obtaining an extreme risk protective order (ERPO) against persons who pose a significant danger or bodily injury to themselves or others by possessing or purchasing a firearm.
Reducing Magazine Capacity A-2761/S-102 bans firearm magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Magazines capable of holding up to 15 rounds of ammunition currently are legal in New Jersey.
Expanding Background Checks S-2374/A-2757 requires background checks for private gun sales. The bill requires all sales or other transfers of a handgun, rifle, or shotgun to be conducted through a state-licensed retail dealer or Federal Firearms Licensee. The bill requires the retail dealer or licensee to complete a National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) on the recipient of the firearm.
Defining “Justifiable Need” S-2376/A-2758 codifies regulations defining a “justifiable need” to carry a handgun into state statute. “Justifiable need” is defined as the urgent necessity for self-protection, as evidenced by specific threats or previous attacks which demonstrate a special danger to the applicant’s life that cannot be avoided by means other than by issuance of a permit to carry.
Armor-Piercing Ammunition Ban S-2245/A-2759 prohibits the possession of armor-piercing ammunition, and makes it a crime of the fourth degree to possess or manufacture such ammunition.
The following bill concerning election nominating petitions also received final legislative approval on June 7 and was sent to the governor’s desk:
Email Address on Nominating Petition A-3461/S-1974 requires that a petition of nomination of a candidate for any state, county, school, or municipal elective public office must include a functioning email address for the candidate. According the sponsor’s statement, this addition to the nominating petitions of such candidates would enhance the voters’ access to those candidates, particularly first-time candidates, and allow voters and organizations to contact candidates’ campaigns.
The Senate passed several other measures impacting school districts, which now move to the General Assembly:
NJQSAC and State Takeover Districts S-691 provides that in the case of a school district under partial or full state intervention, the state must withdraw from intervention in an area of school district effectiveness in which the district has satisfied 80 percent or more of the quality performance indicators under the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (NJQSAC) in that area. The bill provides further that the education commissioner and the State Board of Education may not use any other factor in making the determination to withdraw from an area of school district effectiveness if the district meets or exceeds the 80 percent threshold. NJSBA supports the bill.
“Safe Haven” Instruction S-1126 requires public school districts with high school students to provide instruction on “New Jersey Safe Haven Infant Protection Act” as part of New Jersey Student Learning Standards. That law allows an individual to give up an unwanted infant safely, legally and anonymously. NJSBA supports the bill.
Styrofoam Container Ban S-1486 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 (i.e., Styrofoam) 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 public school or public institution of higher education received it. Should the legislation become law in its current form, it would not go into effect for one year, giving school districts time to use up any existing inventory of the banned containers. NJSBA supports the bill.
IDEA Identification ProceduresS-2526 concerns state criteria for determining whether a child has a specific learning disability under federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). New Jersey State Board of Education regulations currently permit school districts to use two methodologies for determining whether a child has a specific learning disability under the IDEA: (1) a severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability; and (2) use of a response to scientifically based interventions methodology. This bill requires the state to also permit a school district to utilize a third approach permitted under federal IDEA regulations, which examines whether the child exhibits a pattern of strengths and weaknesses in performance, achievement, or both, relative to age, state-approved grade-level standards, or intellectual development, that is determined by the eligibility group to be relevant to the identification of a specific learning disability, using appropriate assessments. NJSBA supports the bill.
Assembly Passes Overdose Prevention Measure The General Assembly approved a bill aimed at preventing opioid overdoses in public and nonpublic high schools:
A-542 would require boards of education to develop a policy for the emergency administration of opioid antidotes to students and staff members. The policy would require high schools, and would permit any other school, to maintain a supply of opioid antidotes and permit emergency administration of an opioid antidote by a school nurse or trained employee. The opioid antidotes must be accessible during regular school hours and during school-sponsored functions that take place on school grounds. A board of education may, at its discretion, make opioid antidotes accessible during school-sponsored functions that take place off school grounds. The bill’s requirements would also apply to charter and nonpublic schools.
The bill directs the New Jersey Department of Education to establish guidelines for school districts in developing their policies for the administration of opioid antidotes. The guidelines will require that each school nurse, and each employee designated by the board of education, receive training on standardized protocols for the administration of an opioid antidote to a student or staff member who experiences an opioid overdose. NJSBA supports the bill.
Panic Alarm Bill One Step Closer to Governor’s Desk On Monday June 11, the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee released “Alyssa’s Law,” which requires public school buildings be equipped with a panic alarm system linked to local law enforcement to be used during a security emergency. The state, through the Schools Development Authority, would incur costs associated with installation of these panic alarms. During previous committee deliberations, the bill (A-764/S-365) was amended to require that the emergency light and panic alarm systems adhere to nationally recognized industry standards.
Similar pieces of legislation have passed both houses in previous sessions, only to be vetoed by former Gov. Chris Christie. It is the hope of the sponsors that the new governor will be more receptive to this proposal. The bill is named in honor of Alyssa Alhadeff, a 14-year old student, who was killed on Feb. 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Alhadeff had moved to Parkland from Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey in 2014. NJSBA supports the measure. A-764 was approved by the full General Assembly in April. Should the legislation pass the full Senate, it will need to return to the Assembly to concur with the committee amendments before going to the governor.