Child-care centers in New Jersey would have to follow up with parents or guardians if a child is absent without notification, under a bill that has been unanimously approved by the Legislature.

The bill is among nearly two dozen awaiting action on Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk. He’ll have until early January to sign or veto the bill, S559/A3277.

Sen. Richard Codey, D-Essex, said that in 2019, 53 children died nationwide due to being left in a hot car. Two of those deaths occurred in New Jersey.

“If a child does not arrive at daycare, daycare would be required to reach out to parents to make sure that everything is alright,” Codey said. “So that would cover any number of reasons beyond just a child left in a car in hot weather, as well.”

The Senate passed the bill 39-0 in July, the height of hot-weather season. It didn’t move in the Assembly until October and then passed in mid-November. It would take effect immediately upon being enacted.

The bill requires parents and guardians to notify child-care centers if a child will be absent. If a child is absent without notification, the center would have immediately try to contact the parent or guardian to let them know of the absence and determine the reason for it.

“I have to say that when I first read this bill, I was somewhat horrified that we actually have to have a bill for this,” said Assemblywoman Lisa Swain, D-Bergen.

“I would like to see it even stronger, bring it parity with what we do in the school system for absences,” said Assemblywoman Aura Dunn, R-Morris.

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Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, R-Union, said “it is amazing that we have to do this” and suggested a low-tech way for frazzled parents to remember their children are in the back seat.

“I heard a really good solution – not a solution, but something that somebody down in Florida does, which is they remove their left shoe and put it in the back seat of their car with their child. You’ll never leave without your shoe, so you’ll never leave without your child,” Munoz said.

The idea for the ‘left show’ campaign appears to have originated in a Florida newspaper column in 2014.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at

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