The full state Senate convened for a remote voting session on Monday, June 15 and advanced the following bills being actively tracked by the NJSBA: 

Student Athlete Physicals S-251 During the fall athletic season of the 2020-2021 school year, the bill, as amended, would allow a student athlete who has not completed a physical exam to participate in school-sponsored sports. The amended bill requires the student athlete to complete a physical exam before the end of the fall sports season. As introduced, the bill would have waived the annual physical exam for student athletes during the entire 2020-2021 school year, according to the bill’s statement. 

The relaxation of the requirements is due to the impact of COVID-19 on the state’s health care system 

While pediatricians supported the amended bill, two legislators voted no because they believed students’ cardiac conditions should be checked before they are allowed to play sports.   

The bill was reported out of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee with amendments and passed unanimously by the full Senate.   

NJSBA supported the original bill, and strongly supports the bill as amended.    

Anti-Hazing Policies S-84 was named “Timothy J. Piazza’s Law” for a victim – a former New Jersey resident – who died after a fraternity hazing incident in February 2017. The bill, which was approved by the state Senate on Monday, would expand the scope of hazing activities deemed unlawful and increase the penalties for any hazing incidents that result in injury. It would also require institutions of higher education, and public and nonpublic high schools and middle schools to adopt anti-hazing policies. 

Regarding unlawful hazing activities, the bill’s provisions broaden the types of activities which would be considered hazing to include any conduct that causes, coerces, or forces another person to: 

  1. violate federal or state criminal law; 
  2. consume any food, liquid, alcoholic liquid, drug or other substance which subjects the other person to a risk of emotional or physical harm; 
  3. endure brutality of a physical nature, including whipping, beating, branding, calisthenics, or exposure to the elements; 
  4. endure brutality of a mental nature, including activity adversely affecting the mental health or dignity of the individual, sleep deprivation, exclusion from social contact or conduct that could result in extreme embarrassment; 
  5. endure brutality of a sexual nature; or 
  6. endure any other activity that creates a reasonable likelihood of bodily injury to the person. 

Under current law, hazing is a disorderly persons offense, punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to six months, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.  An act considered aggravated hazing, a crime of the fourth degree, is punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000, or both, if serious bodily injury results. 

Under the legislation, an act of aggravated hazing involving serious bodily injury would be upgraded from a fourth-degree to a third-degree crime.  A crime of the third degree is punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to five years, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.  

Pertaining to Public Middle and High Schools  The bill requires institutions of higher education and  boards of education of school districts with a high school or middle school to adopt a written anti-hazing policy.  The institutions and schools would be required to provide a program for the enforcement of the anti-hazing policy and adopt penalties for violations of the policy.  The bill provides that the penalties could include the withholding of diplomas or transcripts pending compliance with the rules, and the imposition of probation, suspension, dismissal, or expulsion. 

Further, the bill sets forth liability for any student or fraternal organization, or institution of higher education, which knowingly or recklessly promotes or facilitates a person to commit an act of hazing.  The entity would be subject to a fine of not more than $5,000 for each hazing violation and $15,000 for each aggravating hazing violation. 

Immunity from prosecution for any hazing activities would be offered to any person, student or fraternal organization if 9-1-1 is called or other emergency services contacted.  In order for this immunity to apply, the caller would have to remain on the scene with the person injured by hazing and cooperate with emergency services upon their arrival. 

NJSBA supports the bill. 

“Electronic Construction Procurement Act” S-2085 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 permitted 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 explicitly extends authorization to use  electronic procurement for construction projects. 

Importantly, if any local governing body chooses to use the electronic procurement process, the bill prohibits the unit from incurring any costs or fees related to its use, such as any cost or fee related to the use or purchase of any required equipment or software. Therefore, the legislation will not impose any costs on schools districts. In addition, official NJSBA policy holds to the belief 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 supports the bill. The Assembly version of the bill, A-3785, will be heard by the Assembly State and Local Government Committee on Wednesday, June 17. 

Assembly Labor Committee 

Apprenticeship Mentoring Program A-1408/S-973 requires the New Jersey Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development, in consultation with the New Jersey Department of Education 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 legislation.