The following legislation was given final approval by the full state Senate on March 5 with the exception of S-688, which was approved on second reading but would need to be heard once more to win final approval.

Senate Voting Session

Incentivizing Electric School Buses  S-228 requires the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) to develop and administer a loan program to facilitate acquisition of electric-powered school buses by school districts and school bus contractors. Under the bill, the EDA would enter into a loan agreement with a district or contractor that has received program approval.  The EDA would then provide a loan to cover the difference in the cost of purchasing an electric-powered school bus instead of a traditional diesel or gasoline-powered school bus.

This bill has been approved by the full Senate and is now pending in the General Assembly.

Expanding Pre-Apprenticeship Opportunities S-688 enhances, and allocates funds for, pre-apprenticeship programs. The measure enhances and expands current initiatives under the “Youth Transitions to Work Partnership Act” to establish pre-apprenticeship programs to help young people enter apprenticeship programs with links to post-secondary education and other credentials. According to the N.J. Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the Youth Transitions to Work program provides greater opportunities and incentives for high school juniors and seniors and facilitates effective transitions to high-skill, high-wage employment in high-demand occupations. The bill increases funding for the Youth Transitions partnership and requires that consortia which receive Youth Transitions grants use a portion of the grants for pre-apprenticeship programs. The bill enhances the services provided to program participants by adding training in life skills, training in basic math and literacy skills, and supportive services, in addition to those provided in current law. The bill requires the consortia to maximize participation not only by women and minority group members, but by individuals with disabilities as well.

This bill is on second reading in the Senate; the Assembly version is still pending consideration.

Teacher Loan Redemption Program S-969 would establish a loan redemption program in the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) to allow teachers to redeem a portion of their NJCLASS loan amounts for service as a teacher in a high-need field in a “low-performing school.” NJSBA supports the legislation and believes that incentives, such as grants and loans, should be made available to attract outstanding students to the teaching profession, particularly in areas of critical shortage. The Association also believes that loans should be forgiven for students who agree to teach a certain number of years in areas of critical shortage. If the bill receives final approval in its current form, up to $1 million could be appropriated to the program.

This bill passed the Senate and is now pending a hearing in the Assembly Education Committee.

Gun Violence Awareness Day  SJR-41 this joint resolution designates June 2 of every year as “Gun Violence Awareness Day” in New Jersey to honor and remember all victims of, and others affected by, firearm violence.  The resolution also requires the governor to issue a proclamation calling on public officials and citizens of New Jersey to observe June 2 of every year as “Gun Violence Awareness Day.”

Plastic Bag Ban  S-864/A-1978 These bills would prohibit the provision or sale of single-use plastic carryout bags, single-use paper carryout bags, and polystyrene foam food service products, and limit the provision of single-use plastic straws.

The Senate version, which is significantly more detailed, passed the Senate by a vote of 22-14 on March 5.  This bill has an 18-month implementation timeline.

The Assembly version is still pending a review by the Assembly Solid Waste and Environment Committee.

Each bill’s definition of food service businesses includes institutional cafeteria(s), including those operated by or on behalf of any governmental entity.

The Senate version establishes the Plastics Advisory Council in the Department of Environmental Protection. The council shall monitor the implementation of the legislation to evaluate its effectiveness in reducing single-use plastics and plastic waste in the state. The council shall consist of 15 members including one local government representative.

Beginning two years after the effective date of the bill, a person would be prohibited from selling or offering for sale in the state any polystyrene foam food service product, and a food service business would be prohibited from providing or selling any food in a polystyrene foam food service product.

The following items would be exempt from the prohibition on polystyrene foam food service products for a period of two years after the prohibition takes effect:

  1. disposable, long-handled polystyrene foam soda spoons when required and used for thick drinks;
  2. portion cups of two ounces or less, if used for hot foods or foods requiring lids;
  3. meat and fish trays for raw or butchered meat, including poultry, or fish that is sold from a refrigerator or similar retail appliance;
  4. any food product pre-packaged by the manufacturer with a polystyrene foam food service product; and
  5. any other polystyrene foam food service product as determined necessary by the DEP.

The DEP would be authorized to extend any exemption listed above for additional periods not to exceed one year upon a written determination that there is no cost-effective and readily available alternative for the item.