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DeAngelo, Holley, Mazzeo & Downey Bill to Establish Plan to Publish Missing Persons Alerts on Social Media Advances

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Wayne DeAngelo, Jamel Holley, Vincent Mazzeo and Joann Downey to expand the reach of missing persons notices via social media cleared a Senate panel on Thursday.

The bill (A-2519) would require the attorney general, in consultation with the New Jersey State Police (NJSP), to develop a plan to disseminate Amber and Silver Alert information via NJSP social media accounts.

Any other appropriate state, county or municipal entity may also choose to broadcast the information using its social media accounts.

“Just as people use outlets like Facebook and Twitter to connect with friends and family, law enforcement officials can also use social media to reach the public when someone is missing,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex) “By employing networks we already have in place to further publicize Amber and Silver Alerts, we can reach a far larger audience at no additional cost and help reunite families as soon as possible.”

“Most people connect and receive their news through social media,” said Holley (D-Union). “Using social media to broadcast information about people who have gone missing is so simple, yet so smart. Anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account knows the power of sharing a post or retweeting. In missing persons cases, the more people we can reach can make a difference in the outcome.”

“Being able to get information out to as many people as possible about a missing person is crucial in these cases,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “Most people are plugged into social media and use it consistently. There is no reason why law enforcement should not be able to use it to spread the word about Amber and Silver Alerts, and help bring people who are in danger safely back home.”

“Law enforcement should be able to use any effective means of communication to help locate people who have gone missing,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “The fact that these cases involve children and people who are debilitated makes the situation more urgent. This is an effective way to get the word out to the public and increase the chances of finding people who have gone missing.”

Under the bill, information posted on social media may include, but not be limited to, a description and recognizable photograph of the missing person and any known details of the abduction or disappearance.

Under New Jersey law, broadcast media may use Amber Alerts to transmit an emergency alert to inform the public of child abduction. Similarly, Silver Alerts provide for the rapid dissemination of information about a missing person who is believed to be suffering from dementia or other cognitive impairment.

The measure was advanced by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee. The bill was approved 75-0 by the Assembly in June. It now awaits further consideration by the Senate.

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Holley & Chaparro Introduce Pro-Consumer Bill to Reduce Insurance Premiums for Certain Coverages for Residents Who Use Dashboard Cameras

(TRENTON) – Assembly Democrats Jamel Holley and Annette Chaparro recently introduced legislation that would require insurance companies to provide a reduction in certain automobile insurance premiums for residents who have installed dashboard cameras in their vehicles.

Most car insurers offer discounts for vehicles that have anti-lock brakes, air bag and passive restraint systems, and anti-theft vehicle recovery systems. However, the sponsors note that since dashboard cameras are a relatively new technology available to drivers, insurance provisions and regulations for dashboard cameras have yet to be developed in the state.

“Air bags, a collision-avoidance system and dashboard cams are all safety devices created to help decrease accidents,” said Holley (D-Union). “A dashboard camera and the actual video footage it provides of an accident will become an invaluable tool for insurance companies. Consumers who install dash cams in their vehicles should see a discount in their insurance rates for providing such transparency in their driving.”

The bill (A-4192) requires a 10 percent premium reduction for personal injury protection coverage, bodily injury liability coverage, property damage coverage, and physical damage coverage for a named insured who has installed a dashboard camera in the insured private passenger automobile.

Under the bill, the insurer may require reasonable proof that a private passenger automobile is equipped with a dashboard camera and that the camera is in operating condition before providing the reduction in premiums. A visual inspection of the automobile in accordance with the existing provisions of the law would be considered reasonable proof. An insurer may also require proof of ownership of the dashboard camera before providing any reduction in the premiums for that coverage.

“There are many benefits to a driver using a dash cam in their vehicle,” said Chaparro (D-Hudson). “The video obtained from a dash cam can give a clear picture of an accident, hit and runs and even help insurance companies ward against fraudulent claims. Drivers who use dashboard cams are going the extra mile to ensure the safety of their vehicle, themselves and passengers. There should be a discount on insurance premiums for their effort.”

The bill also provides that in the settlement of any claim involving a private passenger automobile, an insurer will review any available images from a dashboard camera (s) installed in any of the motor vehicles to which that claim relates.

The Commissioner of Banking and Insurance, in consultation with the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, would be directed to establish standards for the size, location and use of dashboard cameras installed in private passenger automobiles. The commissioner may maintain a list of those dashboard cameras approved as conforming to the specifications and requirements established for those cameras.

In addition, the bill specifies that the commissioner may suspend an insurer’s obligation to provide the premium reduction required pursuant to this bill if the commissioner determines that compliance with this requirement will result in an insurer’s financial condition becoming unsafe or unsound.

The bill was introduced on Monday, September 19. It has not yet been referred to a committee.

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Singleton, DeAngelo, Caride, Mukherji & Holley Bill to Augment STEM Education in NJ’s Schools Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Wayne DeAngelo, Marlene Caride, Raj Mukherji and Jamel Holley to enhance science, technology, education and math (STEM) education in New Jersey’s schools and better prepare students for the 21st century workforce was released earlier this week by an Assembly panel.

The bill (A-2195) would establish the four-year “New Jersey Innovation Inspiration School Grant Pilot Program” in the state Department of Education. The pilot program would award grants to school districts to support non-traditional STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) teaching methods for students in grades 4 through 12, support the participation of students in nonprofit STEM competitions, foster innovation and broaden interest in careers in STEM fields, and encourage collaboration among students, engineers, and professional mentors.

“This program can help broaden and encourage student access and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics order to advance our competitiveness and innovation in these fields,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). “The reality is that we are lagging behind other countries when it comes to STEM education, which places our students at a disadvantage if they want to pursue these fields professionally. Employment opportunities in STEM fields are only expected to grow. If we want our students to be able to compete, we have to expand STEM education in New Jersey.”

Under the bill, a school district may submit to the commissioner an application that includes a description of how the school district will establish STEM teaching programs that use a non-traditional STEM teaching method, identify and recruit partners and mentors to help implement these programs, and support teachers and participants. The application must also contain information on how the district will assess the impact of the STEM teaching programs on participating students.

“Job opportunities in these fields are projected to increase over the next decade,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “We have to do a better job of making STEM a substantial part of early education in our schools so students will be better equipped to compete for these jobs.”

“There is concern that American students, compared with their international counterparts, may not have the necessary skills or education to enter into a STEM field,” said Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic). “If we want our students to succeed in these fields, we have to invest early.”

“Biotech and high-technology businesses play a key role in our state economy,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “It is vitally important that the state support programs that ensure that our students have the educational foundations that will help them advance to a career in those industries.”

“These are the jobs of the future. Unless we make a concerted effort to strengthen STEM education in our classrooms, our students will get left behind,” said Holley (D-Union). “Enhancing STEM education in our schools will give our students the edge that others already benefit from.”

Under the pilot program the commissioner will award a total of six one-time, up-front grants of up to $150,000 each. Two grants will be awarded to districts located in the northern region of the State, two to districts in the central region, and two to districts in the southern region. In awarding the grants, the commissioner will give priority to applications from districts that intend to target activities in a rural or urban school, a low-performing school, or a school or school district that serves low-income students. The districts will be permitted to use the grant funds for a period of up to four years.

A school district that receives a grant is to use the funds to: promote STEM education and career activities; purchase supplies needed for participation in non-traditional STEM teaching programs; finance the expenses of student participation in regional and national nonprofit STEM competitions; and provide incentives and stipends for teachers involved in non-traditional STEM teaching methods outside of their regular teaching duties.

The measure was advanced by the Assembly Education Committee on Sept. 19.

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Zwicker, Benson, Schaer & Holley Legislation Urging Congress to Ensure Students Access to Debt-Free Higher Education Clears Assembly

Legislation Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Daniel Benson, Gary Schaer and Jamel Holley sponsored urging Congress and the President of the United States to enact legislation ensuring students have access to debt-free higher education at public colleges and universities gained approval from the General Assembly on Thursday.

The cost of college has risen more than 250 percent over the last three decades while income for typical families grew by only 16 percent, making it difficult for a student to graduate without debt, as reported by the White House.

“A college education is one of the most valuable investments a family can make, but it has never been more difficult for families to afford the dream of a college education, as the cost has grown exponentially in decades,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). “As a result, an increasing number of young Americans, including many from New Jersey, have been forced to assume significant student loan debt to afford the cost of higher education.”

“Student loan debt saddles the very students who most depend on a college degree to level the economic playing field. This debt constrains their career choices, hurts their credit ratings and prevents them from fully participating in the economy,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Excessive student loan debt places in jeopardy the quintessential milestones of the American Dream, such as buying a home or car, starting a family and saving for retirement. Our goals for higher education in this country must include providing a debt-free education for college-bound students.”

“Young people in New Jersey and throughout the country should have the same opportunity offered to those who went to college in previous generations, including the ability to attend public colleges and universities without taking on burdensome debt,” said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). “It should be a public policy goal of the federal government to establish a debt-free public higher education system to enable students to attain a college degree without burdensome debt.”

“Given the importance of higher education to the nation’s economy, the national goal should be to expand the opportunity to pursue and attain a college degree in this country,” said Holley (D-Union). “It should become easier not harder for students to meet their educational goals and obtain a degree. Establishing a debt-free public higher education system should be included in national public policy objectives for higher education.”

New Jersey ranks ninth in the country in student loan debt, with the average student loan debt for New Jersey’s public and private college and university graduates at more than $30,000 in 2016, according to a study conducted by LendEDU.

The Assembly passed the measure 61-0-13.

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Coughlin & Holley Bill to Permit Municipalities to Create, Maintain Emergency Special Needs Registries Clears Committee

Legislation Would Facilitate Administration of Assistance to Vulnerable Individuals During Emergencies

Legislation Assembly Democrats Craig Coughlin and Jamel Holley sponsored to advance disaster preparedness by helping ensure that New Jersey’s seniors, people with disabilities and others in need of special assistance receive aid during emergencies was advanced Monday by an Assembly committee.

“In an emergency situation, time is of the essence. The faster authorized personnel can find and assist those who need help, the better,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “If they have a directory with the names and addresses of individuals in need of special assistance, municipal police, fire and first aid and rescue units will be better equipped to locate these members of their community quickly, deliver the necessary services and save lives.”

The bill (A-2741) would authorize municipal governing bodies to pass ordinances requiring the municipal clerk to create and maintain confidential contact lists to help ensure the safety of residents who may require special assistance during an emergency.

The municipal list would include the name, address and special circumstance of each resident who voluntarily self-identifies as being in need of special assistance in case of an emergency. The clerk would provide copies of the list, which would not be a public record, only to police departments, fire departments and first aid or rescue squads serving the municipality.

Under current law, counties already are authorized to maintain such registries.

“A disaster can be catastrophic for everyone in a community, but when it comes to vulnerable individuals – for example, our seniors and those with disabilities or illnesses that may limit mobility – not being to leave the situation or call for help may be particularly tragic,” said Holley (D-Union). “When municipalities know to be on the lookout for these individuals, it can help ensure that no one in the community gets left behind.”

The measure was advanced by the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee.

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DeAngelo, Eustace, Mukherji & Holley Bill to Create Registry of Organizations Providing Services to Veterans Clears Committee

Legislation Assemblymen Wayne DeAngelo, Tim Eustace, Raj Mukherji and Jamel Holley sponsored to create a “one-stop shop” for military veterans seeking assistance in New Jersey was advanced Monday by an Assembly committee.

The bill (A-3748) would require the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs to create a comprehensive online registry of organizations providing services to veterans. Inclusion on the webpage would not constitute an endorsement of an organization by the department or state.

“Men and women in uniform make sacrifices to help people here at home and all around the world, but when they need a little help themselves, they sometimes find the system difficult to navigate,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Creating a registry is a simple task that can go a long way toward making life easier for some of our nation’s finest citizens.”

“New Jersey must embrace its obligation to honor veterans and do everything possible to serve them, just as they’ve served this nation,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “By providing these upstanding men and women with a directory where they easily can connect to organizations that are familiar with the needs of veterans, the state can eliminate confusion and significantly reduce the amount of time veterans have to spend researching what’s available to them.”

“A single website listing resources for veterans is a common-sense solution that will help those who served navigate the maze of organizations providing services,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson), a former sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. “We owe it to our vets to help them avoid unnecessary frustration and simplify their access to organizations that understand their needs.”

“Veterans should never have to go searching from place to place to find answers,” said Holley (D-Union). “Putting all the organizations that can help them under one roof is a smart, easy way to support those who answered their nation’s call to serve.”

The measure was advanced by the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, of which DeAngelo is vice-chair.

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Assembly Panel OKs Oliver, Conaway, Tucker, Sumter & Holley Bill Requiring Attorney General’s Office to Handle Investigation of Police-Related Homicides

Bill is Designed to Bring Fairness & Impartiality to the Process after High-Profile Acquittals Across the Country

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Sheila Oliver, Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D., Cleopatra Tucker, Shavonda Sumter and Jamel Holley to help ensure impartiality when a law enforcement officer kills someone in the line of duty was approved by an Assembly panel on Monday.

The bill (A-1115) provides that, whenever a person’s death occurred during an encounter with a police officer or other law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the decedent was in custody, the state Attorney General would supersede the local county prosecutor, utilizing existing supersession authority, and conduct, personally or by a designated deputy or assistant attorney general, any investigation, criminal action or proceeding concerning the incident.

“The failure of grand juries to indict police officers in the deaths of unarmed African-American victims across the nation has led to widespread concern for many, many reasons, including a stark lack of confidence by some in the criminal justice system,” said Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). “These high-profile cases are sensitive enough without local communities having to wonder whether the collaborative relationship between the local prosecutor’s office and local law enforcement gives rise to a conflict of interest that would influence the proceedings. While every case is different, this is a very legitimate concern that can be addressed with this common sense bill.”

The bill was inspired by the failure of grand juries to indict police officers in the deaths of unarmed African-American victims Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, among others, which have led to widespread protests and calls for reforms to the criminal justice system. A Houston Chronicle investigation also that found “police have been nearly immune from criminal charges in shootings” in Houston and other large cities in recent years. In Harris County, Texas, for example, grand juries haven’t indicted a Houston police officer since 2004; in Dallas grand juries reviewed 81 shootings between 2008 and 2012 and returned just one indictment. Separate research by Bowling Green State University has found that officers are rarely charged in on-duty killings.

“This bill is designed to address the perception of bias in police misconduct investigations,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “Recent high-profile decisions by grand juries not to charge police officers in cases of police-involved fatalities have eroded the public’s trust when it comes to allowing county prosecutors to investigate the local police officers with whom they regularly work and rely upon. Under this bill, these cases would be handled by a special prosecutor.”

Under the bill, the Attorney General or designee would present evidence concerning the incident to a county grand jury or a state grand jury, either one regularly impaneled or one requested to be impaneled by the Attorney General or the Director of the Division of Criminal Justice for this specific purpose, in order to determine if the evidence supports the return of an indictment against the officer.

“By design, the relationship between police and prosecutors is a close one and that closeness has led to doubts as to the fairness of having local prosecutors bring charges against local police to grand juries,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “A bill likes this removes the appearance of a conflict, and that alone is a giant step forward in bringing greater fairness and impartiality to the criminal justice process.”

Additionally, any further investigation, criminal action or proceeding, following an indictment, would be conducted under the law as any other investigation, criminal action or proceeding resulting from a grand jury indictment; provided that the venue for any such criminal action or proceeding would occur in a court located in a county other than the county in which the incident, resulting in the officer’s indictment, occurred.

“The simplest way to remove the appearance of a conflict created by putting prosecutors in charge of investigating police officers they regularly work directly with is, in fact, to no longer have them be in charge of prosecuting those police officers,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). “For grieving families this may help provide a measure of closure, rather than living the rest of their lives with the sense that justice was never served.”

“This is all about justice. Communities in New Jersey – and everywhere – deserve to know that fatal incidents involving police will be handled with the utmost fairness. The current system is prone to many questions that only continue to foment unrest and mistrust with our judicial system. This bill would create a better approach,” said Holley (D-Union).

The legislation was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee. The bill would take effect four months following enactment.

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Holley Bill to Fund Counseling for Victims of Sexual Assault Gains Assembly OK

Legislation Assemblyman Jamel Holley sponsored to fund counseling for victims of sexual assault gained approval Thursday in the General Assembly.

The bill (A-927) would establish the Sexual Offender Victim Counseling Fund and create a $100 assessment for convictions of certain sexual offenses in order to fund counseling for victims and their families. This assessment would be in addition to any other fine, fee or assessment imposed upon the convicted person.

“Victims of sexual violence often feel alone. They need to know support and resources are available to them as they work to move forward,” said Holley (D-Union). “The Sexual Offender Victim Counseling Fund would allow for the provision of counseling for individuals who have been through traumatic experiences.”

Among the offenses for which the $100 assessment designated in the bill would be imposed are: aggravated sexual assault; sexual assault; aggravated criminal sexual contact; kidnapping; endangering the welfare of a child by engaging in sexual conduct which would impair or debauch the morals of the child; creating child pornography; luring or enticing a child; criminal sexual contact if the victim is a minor; criminal restraint if the victim is a minor and the offender is not the parent of the victim; or an attempt to commit any of the aforementioned offenses.

The measure gained unanimous Assembly approval.

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Mazzeo, Eustace, Gusciora & Holley Bill Allowing PTSD Victims to Qualify for Medical Marijuana Treatment Signed into Law

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Vince Mazzeo, Tim Eustace, Reed Gusciora and Jamel Holley allowing victims suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to qualify for the use of medical marijuana was signed into law on Wednesday.

“Veterans – especially post-9/11 veterans – are the group most affected by PTSD,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “The VA has stated that it wants each veteran to find the medication with the least amount of side effects that allows them the optimum level of independence. For many, medical marijuana is the drug that best fits that criteria and the only one to provide veterans with significant relief from the anxiety associated with PTSD.”

The new law (A-457) adds post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of debilitating medical conditions that would qualify a patient to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program.

“For many veterans, the effects of PTSD are not always healed by time and can be lasting and profound,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “When it comes to PTSD, medical marijuana holds the promise of providing significant relief as it does for many other illnesses and conditions that are not easily treatable with traditional medication.”

PTSD is a mental health condition that is triggered by a traumatic event such as a physical or sexual assault, childhood neglect or physical abuse, a natural disaster, exposure to combat, or other extreme or life-threatening events. Symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, uncontrollable thoughts about the event, emotional distress, physical symptoms, feelings of numbness or detachment, engaging in dangerous or self-destructive behavior, and experiencing suicidal thoughts.

“Statistics show that roughly one out of five military personnel deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan have experienced PTSD,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Meanwhile, medical marijuana has been reported to alleviate many of the debilitating side effects of PTSD without the anesthetizing quality of many traditional medications. Given PTSD’s prevalent and debilitating nature, we should be doing whatever we can to help victims cope and overcome it.”

“New Jersey is home to an estimated 428,000 veterans, with as many as 20 percent of them suffering from PTSD,” said Holley (D-Union). “If medical marijuana holds the promise of helping more veterans overcome combat-related trauma and assimilate back into civilian life, we should be helping, not hindering that.”

To qualify for medical marijuana, the patient’s PTSD symptoms would have to be resistant to conventional medical therapy, which generally combines psychotherapy with antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. To be authorized for use of medical marijuana, the patient would have to meet the other requirements of the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act as well, including obtaining certification of the patient’s condition from a physician with whom the patient has a bona fide physician-patient relationship.

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Holley, Jasey, McKnight and Quijano Legislation to Enhance Security & Safety Measures in NJ’s Schools Continues Advancing

Assembly approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Jamel Holley, Mila Jasey, Angela McKnight and Annette Quijano to enhance security in New Jersey’s schools and better protect students and teachers from a wide range of potential threats was advanced Monday by the Senate Education Committee.
Both bills were approved by the Assembly in April.

“We’ve learned some hard lessons over the years about the dangers facing our schools and our students,” said Holley (D-Union). “It is critical that we educate school staff about the best safety practices, and keep security and safety measures at the forefront when building new schools and renovating existing ones. Investing in the safety of our students and school staff is a must.”

“The prevalence of school shootings in this country has made it abundantly clear that schools need to be prepared to respond to safety threats that were unimaginable in the past,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “We owe it to students and the staff charged with their safety to give them the resources needed to protect themselves if they are ever faced with a life-threatening emergency.”

“When a school is attacked, people will often ask how the perpetrator was able to get in. This is a valid question and one of many that should be considered when building new schools or renovating existing ones,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “Making safety an integral part of a construction or renovation project can help better protect schools from indiscriminate attacks.”

“This bill is important because it stresses the importance of preparedness and training for instances when the difference of acting immediately can save lives,” said Quijano (D-Union). “Requiring law enforcement, emergency responders, and all school employees to train together annually ensures that wherever and whenever an emergency situation occurs, we have provided everybody there with the tools and training they need to protect our children. This is common-sense legislation that I’m proud to support.”

The first bill (A-3348) would implement safety and security recommendations from the 2015 New Jersey School Security Task Force report for new school construction projects and existing buildings. The task force determined that “school renovations and new construction must strike a balance between providing a welcoming educational environment and a safe environment in which students can learn and teachers can teach. Well-reasoned school design will encourage proper security measures to be employed by school districts and save the cost of retrofitting buildings.”

By enacting these task force recommendations, the bill seeks to strike that balance.

The bill is also sponsored by Holley, Jasey and McKnight.

Under the bill, the following items, among others, should be considered in the architectural design for the construction of new school buildings: marked school entrances with a uniform numbering system, keyless locking mechanisms, access control systems which allow for remote locking and unlocking, sufficient space for evacuation in the event of an emergency, and areas in the school building intended for public use separated and secure from all other areas.

When it comes to new construction projects and existing school buildings, in addition to employing Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design principles, the bill would require that design plans include items such as a requirement that school security personnel be in uniform, limiting the number of doors for school staff access, having exterior doors remain locked, creating secure vestibules at the school’s main entrance, and using surveillance cameras as a target-hardening tool.

The other bill (A-3349) would revise current law on school security drills. Under the bill, all employees in school districts and nonpublic schools would be provided with annual training on school safety and security. Under current law such training is only provided once to certificated staff members. The bill would also provide that the training be conducted collaboratively by the district or nonpublic school and emergency responders in order to identify weaknesses in school safety and security procedures and to increase the effectiveness of emergency responders. It would also require that a law enforcement officer be present for at least one school security drill in each school year to make recommendations on any improvements or changes to drill procedures deemed necessary.

The bill is sponsored by Holley, Jasey, McKnight and Quijano.

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