Assembly Passes Bill to Keep Afloat Schools Facing Steep Cuts in State Aid – On April 15, the state Assembly passed A4161, a bill which would allow school districts to fill budget gaps created through steep reductions in aid from the state. The bill would enable specific districts to raise their levies by up to 9.9%, capped at the amount of state aid the district lost that year, and create a $71.4 million grant program to assist districts in need. In 2018, legislation known as S2 established a new funding formula aimed to shift aid from overfunded districts to underfunded ones, but inflation and rising property valuations have led to unanticipated sharp reductions in state aid for some districts. Acting Education Commissioner Kevin Dehmer assured the Assembly Budget Committee on April 10 that these swings in aid would decrease in the future, though legislators remain skeptical. School districts urge quick action, as they must provide their budgets and rehire teachers by May 15. The bill’s Senate equivalent awaits review.  

Assembly Passes Bill to Facilitate Hiring of Small School Bus Drivers – On April 15, the state Assembly passed A2180, a bill aimed to facilitate the hiring of small school vehicle drivers. Schools have reported difficulty finding drivers for these vehicles, as they must compete with delivery companies for eligible workers. The legislation would create a “Type S” vehicle certificate for drivers of cars or minivans that weigh at least 3,000 pounds and carry fewer than nine students, eliminating the need for a commercial driver’s license. The bill’s Senate equivalent, S3000, remains pending. 



Bill Would Address Emergency Medical Technician ShortageS2435, which aims to facilitate Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training, passed the Senate on March 18 and awaits review in the Assembly. Current regulations restrict state aid for time intensive, mandatory EMT training, which has caused many volunteer squads to shutter. These closures strain the system which in turn causes worker burnout – a cycle which exacerbates shortages. Under the proposed legislation, volunteer ambulance, first aid, and rescue squads could receive reimbursement from the state’s EMT Training Fund even when they charge insurance companies and private individuals for services. This change would allow squads which charge for services to do so without incurring additional costs for EMT training.  



Lawmakers Initiate Effort to Enable Accessory Dwelling Units Statewide – Sen. Britnee Timberlake (D-Essex) has proposed S1106 (A2792 in the Assembly), legislation which would establish statewide standards for accessory dwelling units (ADUs), cottages or other smaller, free-standing residential units on properties with an existing residence. Gov. Murphy and other legislators hope to advance the construction of these units given a 250,000-unit affordable housing deficit in the state. ADUs offer “gentle density” – slow density increases which do not overwhelm existing infrastructure or change the character of a town. The proposed legislation would require municipalities to allow ADU construction (with limited exceptions); ban the sale of ADUs separately from the main residence; and require municipalities to promote ADU construction to meet their affordable housing obligations. 


Public Administration

Court Rules Prosecutors’ Association Not Subject to Transparency Mandates – In an April 17 ruling, the NJ Supreme Court ruled that the County Prosecutors Association of NJ (CPANJ) does not have to disclose its records to the public under the state Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and common law right to access. The American Civil Liberties Union of NJ sued for access to the Association’s financial records, meeting minutes, briefs filed in court, and policies. Though CPANJ is a non-profit organization whose membership comprises only the 21 county prosecutors in the state, the court found that the organization does not meet the definition of a public agency under OPRA. The decision comes as legislators face backlash for a proposal which advocates argue would gut OPRA and enable governmental secrecy.   

Federal Appeals Court Upholds Injunction on County-Line Ballot in June Democratic Primary – On April 17, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a preliminary injunction against the use of county-line ballots in the June 2024 Democratic Party primary. The county-line ballot design, unique to NJ, gives preferential placement to candidates endorsed by county parties. Litigant Rep. Andy Kim argued the design was unconstitutional; the Camden County Democratic Committee appealed, arguing its associational rights were harmed by the injunction. A final decision on Rep. Kim’s lawsuit remains pending, as does a 2020 lawsuit targeting the county-line ballot filed by former congressional candidate Christine Conforti. 

Private Prison Company Sues Over Law Banning Immigrant Detention Centers – In a complaint filed on April 15 with the District Court, the GEO Group alleged a law passed in 2021 barring immigrant detention centers in New Jersey is unconstitutional. The Group, one of the largest of private prison companies in the country, would like to open an immigrant detention center in Newark, and it argues the law unfairly discriminates against privately contracted immigration detention services. A judge held in August 2023 that the ban is partially unconstitutional, as it violates the constitutional provision that state laws cannot override federal statutes. That decision remains pending on appeal.