Due to concerns over the growing coronavirus pandemic, the only committee to meet March 16 was the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee, which advanced approximately two dozen measures in direct response to the public health emergency.  According to a joint statement from Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, these initiatives are “designed to help New Jersey residents and businesses continue to live, work and thrive as the threat of the coronavirus grows and ultimately subsides.”

On Monday afternoon, the full Assembly held a voting session and approved each of the measures approved by the committee, as well as a handful of other bills that bypassed committee and went straight to the floor. The package now heads to the state Senate.

Nearly all of the passed bills were newly introduced on Monday and approved on the same day.  As a precautionary measure, public attendance at the State House was heavily restricted, and there was limited opportunity to provide feedback or testimony on the legislation.  In general, the NJSBA supports the school-related bills, but continues to review their impact on our members and students.  The Association will weigh in on the measures, as appropriate, as they move forward.

Several of the proposals would directly impact New Jersey’s public school districts.  They include bills that facilitate the use of remote or virtual instruction when schools are closed due to an emergency; ensure students eligible for school meals continue to receive them during school closures; establish a fund to reimburse schools for coronavirus-related cleaning; and provide grants to certain school districts to provide or expand access to technology.

The following is a full list of 30 measures advanced by the Assembly on Monday, beginning with those most directly related to school district operations.  The full text of each bill can be obtained on the NJ Legislature’s website: www.njleg.state.nj.us.

A-3813: Permits use of virtual or remote instruction to meet minimum 180-day school year requirement under certain circumstances.

A-3839: Makes supplemental appropriation of $20 million from General Fund to NJDOE to support school facility cleaning and sanitization.

A-3840: Requires school districts to provide school meals or meal vouchers to students eligible for free and reduced-price school meals during school closures due to COVID-19 epidemic.

A-3842: Establishes Bridging the Digital Divide in Schools Grant Program in NJDOE to provide and expand access to technology and equipment for students in certain school districts.

A-3849: Permits public agencies to respond to requests for government records within 21 calendar days during a period of emergency or other exigency.

A-3850: Allows public bodies to conduct meetings by electronic means during periods of emergency.

A-3095: Provides county clerks with an additional week to mail ballots for 2020 primary election.

A-3841: Extends time to file gross income tax or corporation business tax return by one month.

A-3843: Requires health insurance and Medicaid coverage for testing and treatment of coronavirus disease.

A-3844: Concerns business interruption insurance during coronavirus disease state of emergency.

A-3845: Expands EDA small business loan program to include small businesses negatively affected by certain epidemics.

A-3846: Creates “Epidemic and Emergency Relief Fund;” provides for lost income of workers affected by epidemics.

A-3847: Provides paid leave without utilizing accumulated leave for local government employees under certain circumstances.

A-3848: Concerns time off from work in connection with infectious disease.

A-3851: Extends deadlines for adoption of county and municipal budgets under certain circumstances.

A-3852: Allows conduct of state business and legislative sessions at locations other than Trenton during periods of emergency or other exigency; allows conduct of legislative business using electronic means.

A-3854: Authorizes licensed health care facilities and laboratories to develop and administer coronavirus disease (COVID-19) tests.

A-3855: Requires food access information be displayed on websites of 2-1-1 system and executive branch departments during public health emergencies.

A-3856: Makes FY 2020 supplemental appropriation of $10 million for residential facility sanitation due to coronavirus disease outbreak.

A-3857: Makes FY 2020 supplemental appropriation of $5 million to Community Food Bank of New Jersey to provide meals for children who are out of school and received subsidized lunches.

A-3858: Requires N.J. Commissioner of Human Services to issue supplemental cash assistance payments to recipients of certain public assistance programs under certain circumstances.

A-3859: Concerns prohibition of residential tenant eviction and eviction due to residential foreclosure during certain emergency circumstances.

A-3860: Facilitates use of telemedicine and telehealth to respond to health emergencies.

A-3861: Permits corporations to hold shareholders’ meetings in part or solely by means of remote communication during state of emergency.

A-3862: Permits professional and occupational licensing boards to expedite licensure of certain individuals during state of emergency or public health emergency.

A-3863: Extends petition filing deadline by two weeks for all candidates, and waives signature requirements for candidates for party office, for 2020 primary election.

A-3864: Authorizes Notaries Public to perform certain notorial acts remotely.

A-3865: Limits return of items purchased from retail food stores under certain circumstances.

ACR-165: Urges DHS to apply for federal waivers to facilitate and increase access to SNAP benefits during coronavirus disease outbreak.

AJR-158: Urges FCC to take temporary measures to secure broadband access for those affected by COVID-19.

Senate President Steve Sweeney also proposed a series of legislative and administrative actions that would help provide economic relief from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Such actions include payroll tax and sales tax holidays, a tax filing deadline extension, and extending unemployment benefits. According to a statement from the Senate President, these initiatives “would help mitigate the financial consequences of the public health crisis for New Jersey residents.” For more information, click here.