New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday signed into law a pair of bills expected to prevent “rogue operators” from using loopholes to keep winning school district contracts despite bad behavior.
The first law requires public identification of owners of previously barred school contractors and prohibits school boards from giving them contracts. The second boosts fines up to $15,000 for third and subsequent offenses of school bus contractors hiring unqualified drivers.
The bills passed the state legislature unanimously in June. It came after an investigation published by the USA TODAY NETWORK Atlantic Group’s investigation into loopholes that allowed contractors to work around laws meant to keep students safe on school buses.
Shortly after the investigation was published, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office charged F&A Transportation with theft by deception and contract fraud. The owners of that company, Ahmed Mahgoub and Faiza Ibrahim, allegedly hired unqualified bus drivers and didn’t perform adequate background checks. They were indicted in September, as SBF reported.
State Sen. Patrick Diegnan was among the primary sponsors of the new legislation.
“Right now, school districts are facing a challenge in just getting folks to be bus drivers,” he told The Asbury Press. “While we obviously have to transport our kids, we have to make sure it’s done safely.”