Governor Phil Murphy signed a set of school bus safety bills and conditionally vetoed another one on Monday, seven months after a fatal crash that killed a middle school student and teacher from Paramus prompted lawmakers to take a more critical look at the drivers and companies responsible for transporting school children.
“After the tragic school bus accident in Paramus earlier this year, it became clearer than ever that we must act to protect our children and educators through common sense school bus safety reforms,” Murphy said in a news release. “Thanks to our actions in partnership with the Legislature, parents will be able to send their children to school knowing that school buses and school bus drivers are being held to extremely high standards designed to ensure the safety of students.”
The four bills the governor signed included NJ A4339 (18R), which requires school bus companies to comply with federal regulations when it comes to safety, noise emissions, insurance, drug testing and other issues, and NJ A4345 (18R), which mandates that all school bus drivers and aides undergo safety education training twice a year.
He also signed NJ S2848 (18R), which requires anyone with a bus driver license to submit a medical report by a certified medical examiner and requires drivers over age 70 to show proof once a year of physical fitness. Those over age 75 must submit proof every six months.
A fourth bill, NJ S2850 (18R), will require that when the state Department of Education informs a school board or school bus contractor that a driver has had their license suspended or revoked, the board or contractor must confirm with the DOE that the person is no longer operating a bus.
Murphy conditionally vetoed a measure, NJ A4342 (18R), which would mandate that every school district require students to carry a school identification card while on field trips and sporting events. Districts would have to compile and file a list of names of all students traveling on a school bus to such events.
In his conditional veto statement, Murphy said the state Attorney General advised him that “the broad and mandatory nature … of this bill could be subject to a successful unfunded mandate challenge” since the state is not allocating additional money for districts to comply with the bill.
Murphy is recommending the Legislature amend the bill to permit, rather than mandate, districts to implement an ID card-carrying policy.