Five Bills to Reduce Teacher Shortage Pass Assembly Committee – On March 4, the Assembly Education Committee passed five bills aimed to address a teacher shortage in the state by targeting teacher recruitment and retainment. The following bills face review in other committees and full legislative bodies before consideration by Gov. Phil Murphy.



A1676 Requires the Department of Education to (1) create a database of novice teachers, including information on their employment status, certificates, endorsements, and contact information and (2) host three job fairs per year to connect school districts with novice teachers.
A1669 Removes as a requirement to obtain teacher certification passing a basic skills test in reading, writing, and math.
A1619 Creates a Grow Your Own Teacher Loan Redemption Program within the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority, which would offer high school graduates from communities experiencing teacher shortages up to $10,000 a year for five years in loan redemption in order to incentivize a return to their communities.
A3413 Establishes a task force to reconsider teacher evaluation processes, including student growth objectives (SGOs).
A2362 Establishes the New Jersey Student Teacher Scholarship which would provide up to $7,200 per semester to teaching students conducting full-time clinical practice in New Jersey in order to reduce financial barriers to teacher certification.



Senate Advances Bills to Transition Towards Renewal Energy – On March 4, the Senate Environment and Energy Committee advanced a trio of bills which push for a transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy, in line with the state’s aim to reach 100% green energy by 2035. SCR11 would amend the state constitution to prohibit the creation of fossil fuel plants; S198 would mandate the divestment of the state’s pension and annuity funds from the 200 largest publicly traded fossil fuel companies; S2816 would require public utilities to submit to the Board of Public Utilities plans for electric infrastructure improvement. The bills remain pending approval by other committees and the full senate, and no assembly equivalents exist.



Public Administration

Contested Revision to Open Public Records Act Advances – On March 11, the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee advanced S2930 – and the Assembly State and Local Government Committee advanced its equivalent, A4045 – which would amend the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), a law which was created to increase public access to government records. The legislation proposes a variety of changes to address privacy concerns as well as the phenomenon of commercial requestors submitting such a high volume of requests that municipalities must add more staff to handle them. Critics of the proposal argue the changes will affect all requestors and potentially constitute an appeal of the legislation. 

Lawmakers to Host Four Public Hearings in March on Murphy’s Proposed Budget – Lawmakers will hold four hearings for the public to comment on Gov. Murphy’s proposed $56 billion budget. Public input in past years has led to the creation of a state-level child tax credit program. The dates and locations of the four hearings are below, and those wishing to attend may register in advance here

  1. March 11, 9:30am, convened by the Assembly Budget Committee at the State House in Trenton.
  2. March 19, 10am, convened by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark.
  3. March 20, 9:30am, convened by the Assembly Budget Committee at the State House in Trenton.
  4. March 26, 10am, convened by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee to take place virtually.



Bill Advances to Increase Infrastructure Funding Through Higher Gas Tax and EV Registration Fee – Lawmakers are fast tracking A4011 (S2931 in the Senate), introduced on March 4, which would increase the state’s gas tax collections and create a new fee for electric vehicle (EV) registration. The fee to register zero-emissions vehicles would start at $250 on July 1, 2024 and rise $10 annually to reach a final rate of $290 by 2028. Revenue from this fee and from increasing the rate of gas and diesel taxes would be directed to the Transportation Trust Fund, a fund which pays for transportation infrastructure improvements. The gas rate will rise to meet the needs of the fund; the new EV fee ensures that owners of vehicles which do not use gas contribute to the upkeep of the state’s road system.

NJ Transit Holds Hearings on Fare Hikes – The week beginning March 4, NJ Transit held ten legally mandated public hearings regarding its proposed 15% increase to train and bus fares, set to begin on July 1, 2024. The fare hikes aim to address the agency’s impending $100 million budget gap. Participants in the hearings contributed varying perspectives. In South Jersey, some transit users expressed concern with the general quality and reliability of service to commuters in the region, while others expressed support for a corporate transit fee. In Secaucus, several dozen opponents of the plan – including Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla and members of advocacy group Safe Streets JC – articulated the concern that the fare hikes would affect marginalized communities in particular. 



Bills to Expand Punishment for Online Crimes Pass Assembly Judiciary Committee – On March 4, the Assembly Judiciary Committee advanced five bills to expand punishment for online crimes, aimed to address issues of safety, harassment, and cyberbullying for women and children. The legislation now faces review in other committees before a full assembly vote.



A1939 Makes sending unsolicited nude pictures a disorderly persons offense, which carries a prison sentence of up to six months and a $1,000 fine.
A1930 Anyone 18 years or older who commits cyber-harassment would be found guilty of a third-degree crime, which carries a prison sentence of up to 5 years and a fine of $15,000.
A3730 Allows victims suing perpetrators of ‘revenge porn’ to use fictitious names or initials on court documents.
A3591 Makes unauthorized location tracking of a person a fourth-degree crime.
A3539 Changes language in state statute from ‘child pornography’ to ‘child sexual abuse material.’