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Quijano, Benson Bill to Reimburse School Districts for Lead Testing Approved by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly members Annette Quijano and Daniel Benson to reimburse school district for costs incurred during testing school drinking water for lead was advanced by the Assembly Education Committee on Monday.

“Lead testing is critical to maintaining a healthy school environment,” said Quijano (D-Union). “In the last year many schools have had to perform more comprehensive tests for lead which was not originally calculated in their budget. The state should provide additional funding support for lead testing to help our schools in this time of need.”

The annual appropriations act for fiscal year 2016-2017 included a $10 million appropriation to be used to reimburse school districts for costs incurred when conducting lead testing in drinking water in schools. The corresponding language provision stipulated that the reimbursement would be made according to the 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.

“High levels of lead have been discovered in more than a few school districts this past year,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “For underfunded school districts, reimbursement for testing and clean-up is critical to keep our children safe and is the right thing for the state to do.”

The bill (A-4284) would allow a school district 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, if the lead testing meets or exceeds the program requirements established by the department.

The bill will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.