Several new bills relevant to firefighting, education, and the nexus between them have advanced in the New Jersey State Legislature today.

Legislation sponsored by Senator Joe Pennacchio that would provide course credits for high school students who become volunteer firefighters was approved by the Senate Education Committee.

Senator Pennacchio’s bill, S-3901, would permit students to be eligible for credits in health, safety, and physical education for successfully completing a course at a county fire academy, provided they meet certain criteria.

To receive credits, a student must be between 16 and 18 years old, they must also complete an examination to become a junior firefighter, or equivalent, and must volunteer at their local fire department for a period of two years.

Legislation sponsored by Senator Bob Singer that would require students to complete financial aid applications to receive their high school diploma was approved by the Senate Education Committee.

Senator Singer’s amended bill, A-1181/S-2054, establishes that students, or their parent or guardian, must submit a financial aid application in a form prescribed by the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESSA) as a prerequisite to receive their high school diploma from a public and charter school.

The amended bill also directs the Executive Director of HESSA, in consultation with the Commissioner of Education, to provide certain resources and instructions to parents, students, and school districts to help complete financial aid applications.

A student may be exempt from the requirement if they submit a signed waiver from their parent or guardian requesting an exemption or obtain appropriate authorization from their school counselor. Students that are at least 18 years old may submit an exemption request on their own.

These requirements, as prescribed under the bill, would begin with the 2022-2023 grade 11 class and extend for the next two years thereafter.

The Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee approved legislation today sponsored by Senator Robert Singer that would establish the “Volunteer Fire Company Assistance Program” along with a special non-lapsing State fund that would receive an appropriation of $10 million to support the operations of volunteer fire companies.

Under the legislation, S-3925, the Director of the Division of Fire Safety would be required to develop and administer a grant program to annually distribute money in the fund to volunteer fire companies in the form of grants to support the ongoing operations and sustainability of volunteer fire companies, including the purchasing of emergency equipment.