Assembly Committee Advances Bills to Support Schools Facing Aid Cuts – The Assembly Education Committee advanced on April 5 two bills which aim to support school districts facing state aid cuts following revised school funding formulas, rising property valuations, and inflation. A4161 would appropriate $71.4 million in grant funds for schools facing significant aid cuts, aiming to provide a safety net for these schools. A4059/S3002 would allow districts to submit budgets five days after the fiscal year 2025 budget is signed into law rather than in March or May. This change would allow them to plan for any sharp changes in state aid. Both laws await approval by the full Assembly and consideration by the Senate.

Proposed Student Support Act Sparks Outcry – Fourteen Democratic lawmakers introduced on April 4 and 8 the “New Jersey Student Support Act” A4144/S3035 legislation. This bill would provide tax credits to people for making contributions to institutions which provide scholarships to students whose families make incomes up to 4.3 times the federal income guidelines for reduced lunch prices. Over fifty activists and advocates signed a letter to Gov. Murphy and legislators expressing staunch opposition to the legislation. They argued that it resembles a voucher system and will divert students and funding from the public school system. 



Casino Workers Sue State over Loophole Which Allows Smoking on Gambling Floors – In a lawsuit filed in Superior Court on April 5 against Gov. Murphy and NJ’s acting health commissioner Kaitlan Baston, organizations representing Atlantic City casino workers alleged the permittance of smoking inside Atlantic City casinos violates the state’s constitution. This suit was brought forth by the union representing many Atlantic City casino workers, United Auto Workers, and an organization called ​​Casino Employees Against Smoking’s Effects (CEASE). They argue that the 2006 legislation known as the Smoke-Free Air Act, which bans indoor smoking almost everywhere except casino gaming areas, violates a state constitutional provision guaranteeing a right to safety by exposing workers to secondhand smoke in the workplace. The suit also argues the law violates a constitutional provision forbidding special laws or exclusive privileges to corporations like casinos. Pending legislation which would eliminate the smoking ban exception on casino floors has faced opposition from the casino industry in the past, but Gov. Murphy has indicated that he would sign it into law. 



Bill Would Raise Tax Rate for Online Gambling to Raise Revenue Amid Shortfall – Sen. John McKeon proposed a bill which would increase a tax on online wagering and sports betting from 15% and 13%, respectively, to 30% for both activities. The increase would provide much-needed revenue for the state as the legislature considers a fiscal year 2025 budget with a $2.2 billion structural deficit. McKeon argues the rate increase would help respond to concerns over regional competitiveness which got in the way of legislation aimed to remove an indoor smoking ban exception on casino floors. He has proposed other legislation to enact further protections in the gaming industry. They include a bill barring points-betting apps which allow people under 21 to place non-monetary wagers and another which would allow lawsuits against casinos that allow people to gamble who have put themselves voluntarily on gambling ban lists. 



Pending Legislation Would Criminalize Squatting – Lawmakers introduced A731/S725 in January, which would criminalize unlawful occupancy of dwellings or “squatting.” Sponsors argue that squatting has long been an issue in the state and aim to enact more protections for homeowners. Immigration advocates argue that fearmongering over migrants has provoked the proposal. 


Public Administration

Lawmakers Revise Bill to Amend Open Public Records Act – Sponsors of S2930/A4045, legislation which would amend the Open Public Records Act, may delay a vote on the bill until they have finished negotiating bill amendments with advocates. The bill aims to reduce strain on municipalities who receive high volumes of requests from corporate entities. The measures include, among other things, removing a fee-shifting mechanism which is used to enforce the legislation, reducing which laws are considered public under state law, and allowing custodians to reject requests they consider harassment. Journalists, government watchdogs, and other advocates argue the proposed legislation will undermine governmental transparency. The bill was recommitted to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on April 8.