TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. and Senator Jim Beach that would allow school districts and nonpublic schools to receive reimbursements for costs incurred on or after January 1, 2016 for testing school drinking water for lead received final legislative approval today in the Senate.
Last year, the Governor directed the NJ Department of Education to mandate all of New Jersey’s schools to test for lead in drinking water and asked the legislature to include an additional $10 million in funding to support the plan in the FY 2017 budget. The corresponding language provision stipulated that the reimbursement would be made pursuant to program requirements to be established by the Department of Education, which would be effective upon filing with the Office of Administrative Law (OAL).
The department’s requirements stated that school districts would only be eligible to receive a reimbursement for lead testing performed after July 13, 2016. This bill, S-2675, would expand eligibility to nonpublic schools and would allow schools to receive a reimbursement for lead testing conducted on or after January 1, 2016, but before the department filed the program requirements with the OAL, as long as the lead testing meets or exceeds the program requirements established by the department.
“Lead poisoning can cause serious neurological damage in children that cannot be reversed,” said Senator Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “This bill covers the gap period between when some schools had proactively tested for lead in their drinking water and when the administration mandated testing and provided the funding to support it.”
“Ensuring that all children are safe from lead poisoning must be our number one priority. While there is currently no legal requirement to reimburse nonpublic schools for testing, this bill recognizes that all children are important,” said Senator Beach (D-Burlington, Camden).
The bill cleared the Senate by a vote of 37-0 and the Assembly by a vote of 69-0-0. It now heads to the Governor for consideration.