On Wednesday May 30, Gov. Phil Murphy took action on more than a dozen pieces of legislation that were sent to his desk earlier this spring. Several bills will have a direct impact on school districts and students, including one measure that will allow school board candidates to file joint petitions and run as slates.  The governor also approved a package of bills aimed at promoting student health and nutrition.

Joint Petitions and Bracketing for School Elections Now Permitted S-868/A-2030 (P.L.2018, c.20) permits candidates for a board of education to circulate a nominating petition jointly and be bracketed together on the ballot. Under the bill, two or more candidates may sign or circulate, or both sign and circulate, a joint petition of nomination for the same term. When two or more such candidates also wish to be bracketed together on a ballot, they must first notify the secretary of the board of education in writing prior to the drawing for position on the ballot. The candidates who are bracketed together will share a position on the ballot as a group and have their names printed together in the appropriate location on the ballot. The legislation would also permit a short nonpolitical designation, of up to three words, on their nominating petitions and on the ballot, which conveys the principles the candidates represent.

The new law goes into effect immediately, which means it will be operable for the November 2018 school board election cycle.

Summer Meal ProgramsS-1897/A-3504 (P.L.2018, c.28) expands summer meal programs to all school districts where 50 percent or more of students are eligible for free- or reduced-price meals. Specifically, the legislation requires every school district, in which 50 percent or more of the students enrolled in the district on or before the last school day before Oct. 16 of the preceding school year were eligible for free- or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program or the federal School Breakfast Program, to become a sponsor or site of the federal Summer Food Service Program.  The new law goes into effect on July 1.

Meal Denial ReportingS-1896/A-3502 (P.L.2018, c.28) requires every school district to biannually report to the N.J. Department of Agriculture the number of students who are denied school breakfast or school lunch. Under existing law, if a public school student’s school breakfast or school lunch bill is in arrears, the district must contact the student’s parent or guardian to provide notice of the arrearage and provide a period of 10 school days to pay the amount due. If the parent or guardian does not make full payment within such timeframe, the district must provide a second notice that school breakfast or school lunch will not be served to the student beginning one week from the date of the second notice unless payment is made in full.  The law became effective immediately upon the governor’s signature.

Non-Participation Report/Community Eligibility ProvisionS-1895/A-3503 (P.L.2018, c.26) requires every school district in which there is at least one school that qualifies for the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), but is not implementing it, to report the reasons for nonparticipation in writing to the N.J. Department of Agriculture and the N.J. Department of Education. The CEP is a federally-funded reimbursement alternative for eligible, high-poverty local educational agencies and schools participating in both the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. The CEP allows the nation’s highest poverty schools and school districts to serve breakfast and lunch at no cost to all enrolled students without collecting individual household applications. The law went into effect immediately.

Breakfast After the BellS-1894/A-3506 (P.L.2018, c.25) requires a public school in which 70 percent or more of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program or the federal School Breakfast Program, to establish a “Breakfast After the Bell” program. Under current law, a school with 20 percent or more of those eligible students must have a school breakfast program. The bill provides that, within six months of the bill’s effective date, each school district must submit a plan to the N.J. Department of Agriculture for the establishment of a “Breakfast After the Bell” program for all grades at each school that is subject to the provisions of the bill. A school district must establish the program no later than the first full school year after submission of the plan.  The measure becomes effective on May 30, 2019, one year from the date of the governor’s approval of the bill.

“Out-of-Network” Health Care Measure Now Law Last Friday, Gov. Murphy approved the “Out-of-Network Consumer Protection, Transparency, Cost Containment and Accountability Act.” Sponsored by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, Senator Joseph Vitale, Assemblyman Gary Schaer and Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, A-2039/S-485 (P.L.2018, c.) reforms various aspects of the health care delivery system in New Jersey to increase transparency in pricing for health care services, enhance consumer protections, create an arbitration system to resolve certain health care billing disputes, contain rising costs associated with out-of-network health care services, and measure success with regard to these goals.

According to the New Jersey Office of Legislative Services, the enactment of these reforms may result in cost savings to the State Health Benefits Program, the School Employees’ Health Benefits Program, and health benefits plans offered by local units due to a decrease in out-of-network charges. The legislation takes effect 90 days from the date of enactment.