Senate wrap: Disability tax, nonprofit database, and school kid surveys

TRENTON – Along with the hot topic bills like family planning, tax refunds, and background checks for Boards of Education, the state Senate handled some other business on Monday afternoon.

-Sponsored by Shirley Turner (D-15), of Lawrenceville, S2609 reduces employee temporary disability benefit contributions for calendar year 2012. It was approved, 31-7, today. Currently, the fund has two revenue sources, a 0.5 percent wage tax paid by employees and an experience rating tax applied to wages paid by employers.

For 2012 and subsequent years, the bill requires a determination made by the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development of the annual rate of contribution to be paid by employees, which – after employer contributions – should total 120 percent of the benefits estimated for the next calendar year, plus 100 percent of the current cost minus remaining net assets.

The bill also limits the rate of employee contributions under private disability benefits plans to not be higher than the rate under the state disability plan.

The bill passed in the Senate, 21-11, in April, and also caught GOP opposition in the Assembly, although it passed in early May, 51-23-2. It will now be forwarded to the governor’s desk for review.

-Following a conditional veto from the governor, A2173 passed unanimously today. The bill requires the Department of State to establish and maintain a website to provide a clearinghouse of information for nonprofits. It passed the state Senate unanimously in March, but was conditionally vetoed in May. It was amended, then cleared by the Assembly, 76-0.

-Current law requires written consent from a student’s parent or legal guardian for students to be able to respond to certain academic or nonacademic surveys, assessments, analyses or evaluations.  S1696, which says school districts would only have to obtain consent if students are required to complete the survey, assessment, analysis or evaluation,  passed today, 26-13, with Republican opposition.

Under the new bill, students would be permitted to participate in voluntary surveys, assessments, analyses, or evaluations if the district sends prior written notification to the student’s parent or guardian.

According to the bill, it “mitigates the negative impact (of the current law) on New Jersey’s ability to collect data important to public health and safety issues affecting the state’s student population.”

-Several bills were passed unanimously today, including S483, which expands availability of general development plan approvals and long-term vesting of preliminary and final site plan approvals in Smart Growth areas (38-0); S264, which implements recommendations of the Assembly Coastal New Jersey Evacuation Task Force (38-0); and A2366, which concerns contracting and licensing procedures for certain organizations under contract with the Department of Human Services and the Department of Children and Families. Senate wrap: Disability tax, nonprofit database, and school kid surveys