The last legislative update was early on election day. It’s a whole different world now!

In the meantime, things in New Jersey have continued along, with the biggest topic in the statehouse right now being marijuana.  On election day, New Jersey voters overwhelmingly approved marijuana legalization.  The ballot question (read more about it here: https://www.njspotlight.com/2020/10/nj-election-2020-ballot-question-1-legalizing-marijuana-pro-con-tax-revenues-decriminalize/) makes it legal for adults 21 and over to use marijuana recreationally. When I started putting this update together, I was sure that I would be writing that the only thing waiting would be the governor’s signature.  Enabling legislation – the regulatory framework around marijuana legalization – had sailed through its first committee in both houses and was scheduled in Senate Budget and Assembly Appropriations Committees and for floor votes in both houses.  Decriminalization had passed in the Assembly and was scheduled for a full vote in both houses, as the Senate made some amendments.

But as is often the case, it didn’t happen yesterday.  The decriminalization bill was pulled from the Assembly board list over those amendments, which reduced the charges for possession of psilocybin mushrooms.  The enabling legislation didn’t move in budget committees or the floor over concerns that the regulatory framework was not providing enough revenue, including revenue to reinvest in those communities most impacted by racism in the criminal justice system.  https://whyy.org/articles/n-j-weed-bill-on-hold-as-social-justice-advocates-push-for-justice/.  Before the voting session began, however, news outlets reported a deal between the Senate and the governor on an excise tax to raise more revenue.  The Senate announced that it would be holding a committee and a voting session; the Assembly already has the regulatory framework bill on its committee agenda for Thursday.  We shall see what happens.

In other news:

  • As a librarian – I may not work as one, but I am a certified librarian – libraries serve an important role in our society.  In normal times, they serve up far more than books:  libraries can help everyone with research, they provide Internet access and computers for those without, they provide meeting space, programming and serve as social centers.  The list could go on and on; suffice to say, libraries are important.  In 2017, a ballot question to bond for library construction was approved, with the state providing half the funds for projects.  Those bonds, however, weren’t sold until earlier this year.  The legislature has finally moved on approving projects that will benefit from the funding, and the bill now awaits the governor’s action.  Read more about it here: https://www.njspotlight.com/2020/11/90-million-local-county-libraries-assembly-funding-list-of-projects/.
  • As many of you are experiencing, public tracing and community notification of COVID cases isn’t always thorough and efficient.  NJSpotlight News writes about the difficulties of contact tracing.  https://www.njspotlight.com/2020/11/patchwork-public-health-system-adds-to-challenge-of-covid-19-contact-tracing-community-notification/
  • The QSAC bill that the governor vetoed has been reintroduced in a slightly different form.  We have heard that it will move in December.

RESULTS FROM MONDAY, NOVEMBER 9

  • S1 – Encourages sharing of services; makes appropriations. (Monitor) (Reported out of committee, 2nd reading in Senate; Referred to Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee) [This does not affect schools]
  • S526 – Provides that purchase of insulin is not subject to deductible and requires health insurers to limit copayments and coinsurance for insulin. (Support) (Reported out of committee with committee amendments, 2nd reading in Senate)
  • S2908 – Increases child care provider payments and revises hourly limits on child care for school-aged children under subsidized child care assistance program during 2020-2021 school year. (Support) (Reported out of committee, 2nd reading in Senate)

RESULTS FROM THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 12

  • A4410 – Establishes Community College Opportunity Grant Program in Higher Education Student Assistance Authority to provide last-dollar financial aid grants to county college students and Student Success Incentive funding to county colleges. (Support) (Reported out of committee, 2nd reading in Assembly)
  • A4603/S3043 – Extends deadline for completion and filing of annual audit of school district 2019-2020 school year. (Oppose) (Reported out of committee with committee amendments, 2nd reading in Assembly)
  • A4905 – Allows health insurers to provide certain health care benefit plans to local boards of education and eligible employers who do not participate in SEHBP; modifies employee contribution for New Jersey Educators Health Plan and its equivalent. (Support) (Reported out of committee, 2nd reading in Assembly)
  • A4975 – Postpones New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (NJQSAC) review for certain school districts to accommodate disruption due to COVID-19 pandemic. (Support) (Reported out of committee, 2nd reading in Assembly)
  • A4409/S1271/S2660 – Establishes requirements for closures of private career schools and institutions of higher education, modifies review process of new academic programs, and requires approval of branch campuses. (Monitor) (Reported out of committee with committee amendments, 2nd reading in Assembly)

RESULTS FROM MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16

  • A3601/S1028 – Allocates Amistad Commission in but not of DOE; requires commission to elect chairperson and appoint executive director; requires public schools to include instruction on accomplishments and contributions of African Americans to American society. (Support) (Passed in both houses and sent to governor)
  • A4409/S1271/S2660 – Establishes requirements for closures of private career schools and institutions of higher education, modifies review process of new academic programs, and requires approval of branch campuses. (Monitor) (Passed in Assembly)
  • A4410 – Establishes Community College Opportunity Grant Program in Higher Education Student Assistance Authority to provide last-dollar financial aid grants to county college students and Student Success Incentive funding to county colleges. (Support) (Passed in Assembly)
  • A4544 – Permits school nurse who is retired from TPAF to return to employment during public health emergency and state of emergency for COVID-19 pandemic, for up to two years without reenrollment in TPAF. (Monitor) (Passed in Assembly)
  • A4603/S3043 – Extends deadline for completion and filing of annual audit of school district 2019-2020 school year. (Oppose) (Passed in both houses and sent to governor)
  • A4810 – Establishes Government Efficiency and Regulatory Review Commission. (Monitor) (Passed in Assembly)
  • A4905/S3045 – Allows health insurers to provide certain health care benefit plans to local boards of education and eligible employers who do not participate in SEHBP; modifies employee contribution for New Jersey Educators Health Plan and its equivalent. (Support) (Passed in both houses and sent to governor)
  • A4975 – Postpones New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (NJQSAC) review for certain school districts to accommodate disruption due to COVID-19 pandemic. (Support) (Amended on Assembly floor, 2nd reading in Assembly)
  • AR139 – Condemns hate and bias crime. (Support) (Passed in Assembly; filed with Secretary of State)
  • S526 – Provides that purchase of insulin is not subject to deductible and requires health insurers to limit copayments and coinsurance for insulin. (Support) (Passed in Senate)
  • S2691 – Authorizes school districts to maintain surplus at four percent for 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years. (Support) (Passed in Senate)
  • S2820 – Allows registered voters to submit application to vote by mail using online voter registration website maintained by Secretary of State up to seven days before election. (Monitor) (Amended on Senate floor, 2nd reading in Senate)
  • S2908 – Increases child care provider payments and revises hourly limits on child care for school-aged children under subsidized child care assistance program during 2020-2021 school year. (Support) (Passed in Senate)

Until next time!

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