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Diegnan Bill to Further Enable Transition to Electric School Buses Advances

TRENTON – The Senate Education Committee advanced legislation sponsored by Senator Patrick Diegnan that would authorize school districts to enter into extended contracts and lease terms for electric school buses, in addition to permitting the New Jersey School Boards Association to serve as a government aggregator.

The bill, S-3263, represents a continuation of state efforts to enable the transition towards electric school buses. In 2022, the Governor signed P.L. 2022, c.86 to establish the “Electric School Bus Program”. That legislation, also sponsored by Senator Diegnan, provided for $45 million over three years in grant funding to support the purchase of electric school buses and necessary charging infrastructure.

“School buses are a safer and more environmentally friendly way to get kids to school, reducing traffic, total vehicle emissions, and providing more safety in the event of an accident,” said Senator Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “Although less harmful than the use of personal vehicles, currently utilized diesel buses continue to create harmful emissions. Electric school buses, though, completely eliminate that toxic exhaust, protecting our children’s health and setting an example of sustainability for our future generations.”

Current law allows districts to enter into a contract for the lease of electric school buses and associated infrastructure for a period of 10 years. Under the bill, this provision would be altered to instead allow districts to enter into a contract for electric school buses as well as related charging equipment and services for a period not to exceed the service life of the electric school bus.

“This legislative effort would give New Jersey schools the flexibility they need to enable their transition towards electric school buses, a goal that is held back by financial constraints, a lack of familiarity with the technology, and because many districts do not own their own buses and instead rely upon contracted services,” added Senator Diegnan. “In essence, this bill would extend the benefits of electric buses to more districts and more children than previous programs have thus far accomplished.”

The legislation would additionally permit the New Jersey School Boards Association to serve as a government aggregator, effectively allowing it to procure electric school buses and necessary infrastructure on behalf of its members. In doing so, the School Boards Association can aggregate demand and obtain more favorable contract terms at a lower cost, while enabling districts that would otherwise be unable to afford or implement such a transition the ability to do so.

The bill was advanced in a 3-2 vote.