ASSEMBLY, No. 5814

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

219th LEGISLATURE

INTRODUCED JUNE 1, 2021

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman† LISA SWAIN

District 38 (Bergen and Passaic)

Assemblyman† P. CHRISTOPHER TULLY

District 38 (Bergen and Passaic)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

†††† Creates School Bus Safety Ombudsman position in, but not of, Department of Education.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

†††† As introduced.

††


An Act concerning school bus safety and supplementing chapter 39 of Title 18A of the New Jersey Statutes.

 

†††† Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

†††† 1.††† a.† There is established in but not of the Department of Education the Office of the School Bus Safety Ombudsman. †For the purpose of complying with the provisions of Article V, Section IV, paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution, the Office of the School Bus Safety Ombudsman is hereby allocated within the Department of Education, but notwithstanding this allocation, the office shall be independent of any supervision or control by the department or any board or officer thereof, or any other cabinet-level department, board, or officer thereof. The purpose of the office is to oversee the school busing industry and to coordinate enforcement and accountability among the department, school bus drivers, school bus contractors, and the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.

†††† b.††† The Governor shall appoint a School Bus Safety Ombudsman, who shall be qualified by training and experience to perform the duties of the office.† The ombudsman shall be a person of recognized judgment, integrity, and objectivity, and shall be skilled in communication, conflict resolution, and professionalism.

†††† c.†††† The ombudsman shall organize and direct the work of the office, including the work of such professional and clerical staff as may be necessary to carry out the ombudsman's duties.

 

†††† 2.††† a.† The duties of the School Bus Safety Ombudsman shall include, but not be limited to, the following:

†††† (1)†† review a school bus driverís information collected by the Commissioner of Education pursuant to section 6 of P.L.1989, c.104 (C.18A:39-19.1);

†††† (2)†† review all training certifications for school bus drivers from employers pursuant to subsection b. of section 2 of P.L.2015, c.123 (C.18A:39-19.3);

†††† (3)†† assist in the development of a student information card pursuant to section 3 of P.L.2015, c.123 (18A:39-19.4);

†††† (4)†† review statements provided by a board of education or contractor that verify a school bus driver, whose bus driverís license is suspended or revoked, no longer operates a school bus for the board or contractor pursuant to section 1 of P.L.2018, c.152 (C.18A:39-19.6);

†††† (5)†† the establishment of a publicly accessibly database that compiles the violations and subsequent fines of school bus drivers, school bus contractors that employ the school bus drivers, and the owners, operators, or any officers associated with the school bus
contractor. The ombudsman shall develop and implement an appeal mechanism to resolve any dispute raised by a school bus driver, school bus contractor, or owner, operator, or officer associated with a school bus company concerning inclusion in the database;

†††† (6)†† maintain a list of all persons barred from bidding on any pupil transportation contract† pursuant to section 3 of† P.L.††† , c.††† (C.††††††† ) (pending before the Legislature as Assembly Bill No. 5818 or Senate Bill No. 3849 of 2021);

†††† (7)†† render a decision as to whether a person shall be debarred from bidding on a pupil transportation contract pursuant to the provisions of P.L.††† ,c.††† (C.††††††† ) (pending before the Legislature as Assembly Bill No. 5818 or Senate Bill No. 3849 of 2021);

†††† (8)†† collect and review the name, address, and contact information of school bus contractors and the owners of school bus contracting companies;

†††† (9)† determine if a board of education or contractor has failed to comply with the provisions of N.J.S.18A:39-20;

†††† (10)† review and recommend changes to the commissioner of the rules and regulations governing school bus safety; and

†††† (11)††† any other duties the ombudsman deems appropriate to ensure the safety of school buses for students in the State.

†††† b.††† The ombudsman shall treat communications received in the course of the ombudsmanís duties, including personally identifiable information regarding students, parents or guardians, school bus drivers, and others from whom information is acquired, as confidential, except when disclosure is necessary to enable the ombudsman to perform the duties of the office and consent for disclosure is obtained.† Upon receipt of information that by law is confidential or privileged, the ombudsman shall maintain the confidentiality of such information and shall not disclose or disseminate the information except as provided by applicable State or federal law.

†††† c.†††† As used in this section, ďpersonĒ means an individual and any business, including any corporation, partnership, association, or proprietorship in which such individual is a principal, or with respect to which the individual owns, directly or indirectly, or controls any of the stock or other equity interest of such business.

 

†††† 3.††† The ombudsman shall submit an annual report to the Governor, the Legislature pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1991, c.164 (C.52:14-19.1), and the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission which includes a summary of the services provided, and enforcement actions taken, by the ombudsman during the school year, and any specific recommendations the ombudsman deems appropriate and necessary concerning the oversight and management within the ombudsmanís purview.

†††† 4.††† This act shall take effect with the enactment into law of P.L.    , c.†† (C.†††† ) (pending before the Legislature as Assembly Bill No. 5818 or Senate Bill No. 3849 of 2021).

 

 

STATEMENT

 

†††† This bill creates the School Bus Safety Ombudsman position in, but not of, the Department of Education to monitor and administer all school bus safety and oversight activities.† The School Bus Safety Ombudsman will be appointed by the Governor and will have, but not be limited to, the following duties:

        review a school bus driverís information collected by the Commissioner of Education for a criminal history check or check for alcohol and drug-related motor vehicle violations pursuant to current statute;

        review all training certifications for school bus drivers from employers;

        assist in the development of a student information card;

        review statements provided by a board of education or contractor that verify a school bus driver, whose bus driverís license is suspended or revoked, no longer operates a school bus for the board or contractor;

        the establishment of a publicly accessibly database that compiles the violations and subsequent fines of a school bus driver, the school bus contractor that employs the school bus driver, and any owner, operator, or officer associated with the school bus contractor. The ombudsman will develop and implement an appeal mechanism to resolve any dispute raised concerning inclusion in the database;

        maintaining a list of persons debarred from bidding on pupil transportation contracts;

        render† a decision as to whether a person shall be debarred from bidding on a pupil transportation contract;

        collect and review the name, address, and contact information of school bus contractors and the owner or school bus contracting companies;

        determine if a board of education or contractor has approved or assigned an unauthorized bus driver;

        review and recommend changes to the commissioner of the rules and regulations governing school bus safety; and

        any other duties the ombudsman deems appropriate to ensure the safety of school buses for students in the State.

†††† The bill also requires the ombudsman to submit an annual report to the Governor, the Legislature, and the New Jersey Motor Vehicle

Commission which includes a summary of the services provided, and enforcement actions taken, by the ombudsman during the school year, and any specific recommendations the ombudsman deems appropriate and necessary concerning the oversight and management within the ombudsmanís purview.