On Monday, Nov. 21, the full General Assembly convened for a voting session and sent a handful of bills impacting New Jersey’s public schools to the governor for his consideration, including one that has been actively endorsed by the NJSBA.
Class III Officer Proposal Returns to Governor The General Assembly gave final legislative approval to a bill that will create a new class of school security officer. The bill had been sent to the governor earlier this year, but was subsequently returned to the Legislature with recommended changes. S-86 seeks to establish “Class III” special law enforcement officers (SLEOs) to provide security in public and nonpublic schools and county colleges. Such officers would be authorized to provide security at a school while they are on school premises during hours when the school is normally in session or when it is occupied by students or their teachers. To be eligible to serve in this capacity, Class Three SLEOs would be required to:
- Be retired police officers less than 65 years old;
- Have served as duly qualified, fully-trained, full-time municipal or county police officers, or as members of the state police;
- Be separated from that prior service in good standing within three years of appointment as a Class Three SLEO (or within five years during the first year following the bill’s enactment);
- Be physically capable of performing the functions of the position;
- Possess N.J. Police Training Commission Basic Police Officer Certification or N.J. State Police Academy Certification;
- Complete the training course for safe schools resource officers (SROs); and
- Be hired in a part-time capacity.
The NJSBA has actively endorsed the concept of this legislation. In its October 2014 final report, NJSBA’s School Security Task Force recommended that the state establish a new category of SLEOs to provide security in schools. And in July 2015, the final report of the New Jersey School Security Task Force, which was established through legislation in 2013, included a similar recommendation.
Both the Senate and General Assembly have now unanimously approved S-86 with the governor’s conditional veto recommendation that he issued in September. Through that conditional veto, the governor reinserted a requirement that was removed during committee deliberations that will require class three SLEOs to complete SRO training. The NJSBA supports the bill in its current form, which will likely be signed into law in the coming weeks. The bill will go into effect seven months following the governor’s approval.
The General Assembly also passed the following measures that had already been approved by the full Senate, one of which was immediately signed into law by the governor:
A-4328/S-2749 provides that the state will procure, in an expedited manner, professional services contracts for: technical assistance to evaluate the qualifications of bidders on a pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) procurement and online automated reverse auction services to support comparison of the pricing for the PBM procurement; real-time, electronic, line-by-line, claim-by-claim review of invoiced PBM pharmacy claims using an automated claims adjudication technology platform that allows for online comparison of PBM invoices and auditing of other aspects of the services provided by the PBM; and a PBM for the State Health Benefits Plan or the School Employees’ Health Benefits Plan. Essentially, this measure expedites the process in which the state selects contracts and controls costs for state worker prescription drugs. According to the bill’s Senate sponsor, Senate President Sweeney, the measure is expected to save at least $200 million in prescription drug costs.
Following its passage, Gov. Christie promptly signed the measure into law. New Jersey will be the first state in the nation to put this program in place. Due to its potential to save substantial amounts of public funds, NJSBA supports the proposal.
A-2158/S-2241, a school security initiative, authorizes the use of an emergency reserve fund or proceeds from bonds issued by the New Jersey Economic Development Agency to finance school security improvements. The bill defines “school security improvements” as improvements to school facilities, which are limited to safety and security measures involving building monitoring and communication technology designed to address school crime and the safety of students, staff, and visitors to school facilities. School security improvements may include such items as: security cameras to monitor the school; an electronic notification system that automatically notifies parents in case of a school-wide emergency; an automatic door locking system for access control; and a badge system for school employees. NJSBA supports this proposal.
A-4064/S-2708 authorizes the state treasurer to sell and convey all of the state’s right, title and interest in and to the property known as the Millburn Regional Day School in Millburn Township, Essex County. The property has been declared surplus. The property will be offered first to the Millburn Township Board of Education and second to Millburn Township for an appraised value of $3,550,000. This past September, the voters of Millburn approved the school district’s referendum that authorized the district to raise funds to finance the purchase of Millburn Regional Day School.
The General Assembly also approved the following measures:
A-4019 requires school districts to allow a student who has completed basic training and is an active member of a branch of the United States Armed Forces to wear a military dress uniform while participating in his or her high school graduation ceremony. The bill joins its upper house counterpart, S-2491, in the Senate Education Committee.
A-3396 directs the State Board of Education to require that a school district incorporate in each of the grades kindergarten through eight financial literacy instruction to pupils enrolled in those grades. NJSBA supports the bill. This measure also now goes to the Senate for further consideration.