Snowballing Effects of FAFSA Processing Delays – The problematic rollout of a new Free Application for Federal Student Aid form – Better FAFSA – has caused a snowball effect on higher education enrollment. The simplified form is intended to improve completion rates, yet a delayed start, slow processing, and lingering errors have had the opposite effect. Many NJ universities, including Rutgers, Kean, Fairleigh Dickinson, and Rowan, as well as the College of New Jersey, have delayed their enrollment deadlines to June 1. This aims to account for these delays, as students should know their aid awards in order to make informed decisions about which colleges to attend. Further, only 42.1% of graduating seniors in NJ high schools have completed the form – down nearly 20% from last year. Some predict this will lead to lower overall enrollment and diversity in NJ higher education institutions.



NJ Health Officials Look to Add Genomic Sequencing to Mandatory Newborn Tests – Members of NJ’s newborn screening advisory review committee plan to add genomic sequencing (a technology to document a person’s entire DNA) to the state’s mandatory newborn blood screening program. The process may serve as a tool to screen babies for diseases more fully. However, advocates at the American Civil Liberties Union have raised concerns about police access to blood spot records and the privacy of DNA sequencing data. Though the plan would take several years to implement, a subcommittee will have recommendations and a report ready before the committee meets again in November. 


Public Administration

Senate Committee Advances Mandate for Pay Transparency in Job Postings – The Senate Labor Committee unanimously advanced S2310/A4151 on May 6.  This bill would require employers to include information on salary, hourly pay, and benefits in job descriptions or face penalties of $300 to $600. The bill’s sponsors state that transparency on compensation benefits both jobseekers and employers. The New Jersey Business Industry Administration withdrew its opposition once the fine amounts were reduced. The bill faces review in the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee before a vote by the full body, and its Assembly equivalent remains pending in the Labor Committee. 

Controversial Bill Revising Public Transparency Legislation Passes Both Houses – S2930/A4045, legislation revising the state’s policy on public records access, passed the Senate 21-10 and the Assembly 44-25-1 on May 13. The bipartisan legislation aims to reduce the burden of a high volume of commercial records requests on governmental agencies with limited capacities. However, it has received strong opposition from many who argue it would render the state’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA), which enables people to request public records, ineffective. Opponents are concerned over the following changes, among others: (1) the end of fee-shifting, the mandatory awarding of attorneys’ fees to those who successfully challenge a record request’s denial in court; (2) the creation of a new track for commercial requests with a longer timeline for request fulfillment; (3) a new rule allowing the denial of requests for records which were created, ​​maintained, or received by an agency different from the one receiving the request; and (4) a new rule permitting governments to sue requestors if they believe the requests are intended to stunt government operations. Gov. Murphy must now choose whether to sign the bill into law.

Bill Would Fine Employers for Threatening Workers over Immigration Status – Proposed legislation S2869/A4081 would fine employers who threaten to leverage their workers’ immigration status against them in labor disputes. In addition to fines for violation of state labor laws, violators would face penalties of $1,000 for the first offense, $5,000 for the second, and $10,000 for any subsequent ones. Advocates note these fines would be inconsequential to larger companies and recommend revocation of business licenses for companies with multiple labor violations. The bill passed the Senate Labor Committee on May 6 and awaits review in the Assembly Labor Committee. 



Passengers Submit Complaint over New Policy for Transit Ticket Expiration – Ahead of a 15% public transit fare hike set to begin on July 30, NJ Transit has begun to publicize a new policy in which all one-way fares will expire if not used within 30 days, starting on July 1. The change forms a part of the fare increase package approved on April 10, 2024. Previously, tickets did not expire until used, and NJ Transit does not issue refunds for single-ride tickets. Joe Versaggi, president of the NJ Association of Railroad Passengers, filed, along with other passengers, a formal complaint with the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs over the change.



NJ Supreme Court Rules State Cannot Request Silence from Victims of Sexual Harassment – In a May 6 decision, the NJ Supreme Court ruled a state administrative regulation unconstitutional which calls on investigators of public-sector sexual harassment claims to request silence from victims and witnesses except for legitimate business reasons. The current regulation was amended in 2020: when the subject complaint was filed in 2016, victims could face disciplinary action for speaking publicly about their cases. The Supreme Court decision reversed a previous appellate panel ruling, arguing that because victims and witnesses are not informed that they will not face penalties for speaking publicly about their claims, the regulation constitutes unconstitutionally chilled speech.