MARIJUANA

It’s on; it’s off; it’s on, it’s off; it’s on; it’s off.  I’m not talking about an engagement or a wedding; I’m talking about marijuana legalization.  For the past two weeks, Trenton has held its breath waiting to see the outcome.  The Assembly canceled four scheduled session days to give the governor and the legislature time to work out the issues.  (Legislative fuzzy math:  the governor has 45 days to act on a bill that the legislature sends to his desk, but it’s 45 days when the originating house – the first one to move on the bill – is in session.  The Assembly, the originating house, was scheduled to meet on February 8.  The marijuana legalization bill, which needed clarification on underage use penalties, would have become law on the 8th unless the governor vetoed it on that day.  So, the sessions were canceled.)

On Friday, there was a deal.  This was the third? the fourth? time word of a deal was in the works.  This time, it didn’t fall apart.  And so, yesterday morning, the legislature met at 9:00 (remotely) to vote on marijuana legalization:  https://www.politico.com/states/new-jersey/story/2021/02/22/new-jersey-legalizes-cannabis-after-years-of-failed-efforts-and-toxic-negotiations-1364873.

STATE BUDGET

Marijuana was taking up so much of the state’s bandwidth that there hasn’t been that much focus on the budget.  Nonetheless, the governor’s budget address is today!  What should we be looking for in the budget?  Listen to NJSpotlight’s John Reitmeyer talk about what to expect on NJTV:  https://www.njspotlight.com/video/what-to-expect-from-gov-murphys-budget-address/   The Wall Street Journal reports that the state will make a full pension payment, not just a 90% payment, and Politico reports there will be $578 million additional school aid, as well as more money for pre-k expansion. (These articles are behind paywalls, sorry!)

TESTING

And in case you missed it, on Friday Governor Murphy and Acting Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan announced New Jersey would be applying to the federal government for a waiver for testing. https://www.njspotlight.com/2021/02/nj-request-to-waive-student-standardized-testing/, as well as announcing additional funds and programs for schools: https://www.nj.com/education/2021/02/nj-using-105m-in-coronavirus-relief-to-help-students-struggling-with-learning-mental-health-during-pandemic.html.  In a letter to school officials yesterday, the USDOE announced that there won’t be blanket waivers this year.  However, states can decide to shorten the assessments, administer them remotely, or delay them until summer or fall, and schools won’t be held accountable for the results of how students perform. You can read more about it, and find a  link to the letter, in this article: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/education/2021/02/22/schools-must-give-standardized-tests-year-biden-administration/4550916001/

POLITICS UPDATE

The last update included some “musical chairs” with legislators announcing their retirement.  Some more news in LD 2:  Senator Chris Brown will not run again.  Former Assemblyman Vince Polistina (R) is interested in the seat.  Former Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian (R) was considering it, but has already moved back to considering the Assembly.  On the democratic side, Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D) may run for the Senate seat.  It will be a race to watch.  In addition, the death over the weekend of Senator Gerald Cardinale, who served for over 40 years in the legislature, opens the seat for Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi in LD 39.

RESULTS FROM FEBRUARY 9

  • S829 – Requires property condition disclosure statement to indicate presence of lead plumbing in residential property. (Support) (Reported out of committee with committee amendments, 2nd reading in Senate)

RESULTS FROM FEBRUARY 11

  • S3203 – Requires in person early voting period for certain elections; makes appropriation. (Monitor) (Reported out of committee with committee substitute, 2nd reading in Senate)
  • S3322 – Allows county boards of elections to determine location of ballot drop boxes by majority vote of its members. (Monitor) (Reported out of committee with committee amendments, 2nd reading in Senate)
  • A3548/S1140 – Requires health benefits coverage for adolescent depression screenings. (Support) (Reported out of committee, 2nd reading in Senate)
  • S1 – Encourages sharing of services; makes appropriations. (Monitor) (Reported out of committee with committee substitute, 2nd reading in Senate)
  • S3033 – Establishes School and Small Business Energy Efficiency Stimulus Program in BPU. (Support) (Reported out of committee, 2nd reading in Senate)

RESULTS FROM FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 19

  • A1070/S2892 – Requires Secretary of Higher Education to develop guidance for institutions of higher education to identify cultural barriers in recruitment and retention of underrepresented students for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs. (Support) (Passed in both houses and sent to Governor)
  • A4004/S2410 – Establishes Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic Task Force on Racial and Health Disparities. (Support) (Passed in Senate)
  • S2834 – Mandates training on culturally responsive teaching for all candidates for teaching certification. (Support) (Passed in Senate)
  • S3033 – Establishes School and Small Business Energy Efficiency Stimulus Program in BPU. (Support) (Passed in Senate)

RESULTS FROM MONDAY, FEBRUARY 22

  • A2455 – Establishes pilot program in DOE to support FIRST Robotics Programs in school districts. (Support) (Reported out of committee with committee amendments, 2nd reading in Assembly)
  • A2863 – Requires public water systems to provide notice of elevated lead levels in drinking water to customers and local officials; requires landlords to notify tenants of elevated lead levels. (Support) (Reported out of committee with committee amendments, referred to Assembly Appropriations Committee)
  • S3203 – Requires in person early voting period for certain elections; makes appropriation. (Monitor) (Passed in Senate)
  • S3322 – Allows county boards of elections to determine location of ballot drop boxes by majority vote of its members. (Monitor) (Passed in Senate)
  • S968 – Requires public water systems to provide notice of elevated lead levels in drinking water to customers and local officials; requires landlords to notify tenants of elevated lead levels. (Support) (Reported out of committee with committee amendments, referred to Assembly Appropriations Committee)

BILLS TO BE CONSIDERED WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 24

  • A4598/S2767 – Establishes oversight database to aid in civil service hiring process for law enforcement officers; requires Statewide diversity analysis of law enforcement. (Support)
  • A4680/S2932 – Concerns subcontracting agreements entered into by four-year public institutions of higher education. (Monitor)
  • A4830 – Requires in person early voting period for certain elections; makes appropriation. (Monitor)
  • A4859 – Mandates training on remote teaching for all candidates for teaching certification. (Support)
  • A5007 – Requires DOE to compile list of professional development programs on virtual and remote instruction; requires public school teachers and school leaders to complete professional development program on virtual and remote instruction. (Seek Amendments)
  • A5147 – Establishes Alleviating Learning Loss in New Jersey Grant Program in DOE to assist public schools in establishing or expanding certain educational programs to address learning loss in students. (Support)
  • A653/A954/A1699/S526 – Provides that purchase of insulin is not subject to deductible and requires health insurers to limit copayments and coinsurance for insulin. (Support)
  • S2765 – Requires Civil Services Commission to undertake various initiatives to increase diversity and inclusivity within law enforcement agencies. (Support)
  • S2766 – Requires Civil Service Commission establish mentoring program for minority civil service law enforcement applicants. (Support)

WHEN IS THE LEGISLATURE MEETING AGAIN? (subject to change)

  • Tuesday, February 23   Governor’s Budget Address
  • Thursday, February 25  Assembly Voting Session
  • Wednesday, March 3    Assembly Committees
  • Thursday, March 4       Senate Committees
  • Tuesday, March 9         Senate Committees
  • Wednesday, March 10  Assembly Committees
  • Thursday, March 11      Senate Committees
  • Monday, March 15       Assembly Committees
  • Wednesday, March 17  Assembly Committees
  • Thursday, March 18      Senate Voting Session
  • Thursday, March 25      Assembly Voting Session

 

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