Bill Update

NJACP Master List of Bills Tracked

Bill Released with NJACP Supported Amendments

The Assembly Appropriations Committee met on December 15th and released A-4146, which provides for the monitoring and evaluation of the transition of mental health and substance use disorder treatment service system to a fee-for-service reimbursement model. The bill was released with NJACP supported amendments that create a separate task force to monitor and evaluate the transition of services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to fee for service. The task force will include a NJACP representative as well as representatives from The Arc and ABCD. Other members will include the NJ Council on Developmental Disabilities. The purpose of the task force created by the bill is to ensure that rates are sufficient to provide access to services and supports. The bill was supported by all three provider associations and NJACP thanks Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle (D-37) and Senator Joe Vitale (D-19) for agreeing to the amendments.

 

Governor Christie Signs Legislation

Governor Christie signed the legislation below on December 5, 2016.

S-1041, which requires the Department of Human Services (DHS) to develop a timeline for use by individuals with developmental disabilities to gain the benefit of State and federal programs and also requires posting the timeline on DHS, Department of Children and Families (DCF), and Department of Education (DOE) websites, is sponsored by Senator Loretta Weinberg (D-37) and Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle (D-37).  The bill requires the state agencies to provide clear information to families and individuals with developmental disabilities on available state and federal services and how to access them. The timeline will be developed through the coordination of a number of the state departments listed above. The commissioners of Human Services, Children and Families and Education will be required to post the timeline on their websites. The bill is effective July 5th, which will allow for a period for development of the timeline. NJACP supported the bill and believes this law will assist families navigate a sometimes complex and confusing system.

 

Bill Update

 The Legislature convened on Thursday, November 3rd and considered the following bills of interest to NJACP:

Assembly Appropriations Committee

S-291, which authorizes health care providers to engage in telehealth and telemedicine, sponsored by Senators Joe Vitale (D-19) and Diane Allen (R-7), was unanimously released from committee. The bill authorizes health care providers in the State, including licensed physicians, practical nurses, registered professional nurses, advanced practice nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, clinical social workers, physician assistants, professional counselors, respiratory therapists, speech pathologists, audiologists, optometrists, pharmacists, and any other health care professional acting within the scope of a valid license, certification, or registration issued pursuant to Title 45, to engage in telehealth and telemedicine.  This authorization would extend to mental health screeners, who, as specified by the bill, would be allowed to engage in mental health screening procedures through telemedicine without necessitating a waiver from existing rules.

Treatment and consultation recommendations, which are made through the use of telemedicine, are subject to the same standard of care or practice standards as are applicable to in-person settings.  Unless a proper patient-provider relationship has been established in accordance with the bill’s provisions, however, a provider would be prohibited from issuing a prescription to a patient based solely on the responses provided in an online questionnaire. An in-person visit is required before the health care provider may prescribe controlled dangerous substances.

Especially important to individuals with disabilities the bill would also specify that Medicaid, NJ FamilyCare, and various insurance coverage providers (including carriers of managed care plans) must each provide coverage and payment for services provided through telemedicine, at least at the same rate that is applicable when the services are delivered through in-person contact or consultation.

NJACP supports the bill in an effort to increase access to healthcare for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, which may be especially impactful for mental health services. The opportunity to utilize telehealth and telemedicine may increase access where individuals previously were unable to access timely care. The bill now heads to the Senate floor. The Assembly has not yet heard the bill in committee.

Senate Health and Human Services Committee

S-2392, which establishes Office of Ombudsman for Individuals with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities and their Families, and is sponsored by Senators Tom Kean, Jr (R-21) and Brian Stack (D-33), was released from committee. The Office would be established in, but not of, the Department of the Treasury and the Ombudsman is to be appointed by the governor. The Ombudsman would act to assist families, loved ones and individuals with navigating the complex human services system. The Ombudsman would also track patterns of complaints along with issuing an annual report to the Governor, Legislature and Departments of Human Services and Children and Families about the Office’s activities. NJACP supported the bill to allow families another path for assistance in receiving supports and services. The bill now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

 

Provider Oversight Bill in Assembly Appropriations Committee

The bill to increase oversight for provider programs supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, known as the “Stephen Komninos” bill or A-2503, is up for a hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on October 27. This legislation has been reintroduced in various forms over the least two legislative sessions. While the bill is well intentioned to protect people, the version being heard today contains provisions that will not only be a huge expense for the system, but are onerous to providers and a threat to the independence of people who are living in the community without increasing health or safety. The bill up for a hearing today is sponsored by Assembly Human Services Chairperson Valerie Huttle (D-37). Click here to view an article published about the bill.

NJACP will update members on the outcomes of today’s hearing as well discussions with the Senate sponsor, Senator Jennifer Beck (D-11).  As written the legislation is not expected to pass through both houses at this time due to the enormous expense associated with implementing the provisions contained in the bill. The bill continues to be monitored carefully.

 

Bill Update June 27, 2016

Along with the State Fiscal Year 2017 budget bill, the following bills were also approved in the Senate and Assembly on Monday, June 27th:

A-1662, which requires the development and maintenance of a data dashboard report to advise of open bed availability in residential facilities providing behavioral health services, and is sponsored by Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36) and Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle (D-37) was approved by the Assembly with one abstention. The bill requires timely access to information about the availability of psychiatric beds to prevent prolonged visits to emergency rooms that may not have adequate resources to care for someone with mental health issues. A Senate version has not yet been introduced. NJACP supported the measure.

A-3386, which provides protections for children under the age of 18 with developmental disabilities and individuals with developmental disabilities as well as individuals ages 18-21 receiving services from Division of Children’s System of Care, and is sponsored by Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36) was unanimously approved by the Assembly. Currently there are no statutory provisions that mandate the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to conduct a check on a person seeking employment at DCF or with a provider and there are no regulatory provisions prohibiting a person included on the central registry from seeking employment with DCF. The legislation requires more information sharing between DDD and DCF regarding investigations into abuse and neglect and individuals placed on the registry. A Senate version of the bill has not yet been introduced. NJACP supported the bill.

A-3824, which establishes the Office of Ombudsman for Individuals with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities and their families, and is sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle (D-37), passed the Assembly 67-8 with 3 abstentions. The bill establishes the Ombudsman to provide families with objective and confidential information and assistance with their services and supports. Given all the recent changes to the delivery of services and supports, this legislation may be of considerable assistance to families. The Senate version has been introduced and referred to the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. NJACP supported the bill. Click here to view the testimony.

ACR-109, which proposes a constitutional amendment to require payments by the State to State-administered retirement systems and establishes, in the Constitution, the right of public employees to their pension benefits and provides for enforcement of funding obligations and benefit rights, and is sponsored by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32), was approved by the Assembly with a vote of 50-25 with 2 abstentions. NJACP is concerned requiring a full contribution to the public employee pension system could affect funding available for supports and services for the state’s most vulnerable. NJACP continues to discuss this issue with policymakers, however, this is resolution is a priority for the Democratic Leadership in the Assembly and the Senate. The resolution only needs approval by the Senate for posting on the ballot in November.

 

Bill Update – June 21, 2016

 Assembly Appropriations Committee
  • A-3824, which establishes the Office of Ombudsman for Individuals with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities and their families, and is sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle (D-37), was released by the committee. The bill establishes the Ombudsman to provide families with objective and confidential information and assistance with their services and supports. Given all the recent changes to the delivery of services and supports, this legislation may be of considerable assistance to families. NJACP supports the bill. Click here to view NJACP’s statement of support. The bill now heads to the Assembly floor.
  • A-320, which establishes minimum Medicaid reimbursement rate for personal care services and is sponsored by Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-7) and Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle (D-37), was released from the committee. NJACP supports the concept of creating a floor for Medicaid rates to avoid arbitrarily reduction of rates below a certain level by managed care companies as has happened in NJ with personal care services. While providers are not in managed care currently, the system will be important if/when fee for service transitions to managed care. The bill now heads to the Assembly floor.

 

Assembly Judiciary Committee  

  • ACR-109, which proposes a constitutional amendment to require payments by the State to State-administered retirement systems and establishes, in the Constitution, the right of public employees to their pension benefits and provides for enforcement of funding obligations and benefit rights, and is sponsored by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32), was posted for a hearing in the Judiciary Committee. However, testimony was abbreviated and committee members were not permitted to ask questions. NJACP is concerned requiring a full contribution to the public employee pension system could affect funding available for supports and services for the state’s most vulnerable. NJACP continues to discuss this issue with policymakers and is supporting the efforts of business groups to oppose the resolution, however, this is resolution is a priority for the Democratic Leadership in the Assembly and the Senate. The resolution now heads to the Assembly floor. To read more about the hearing, click here.

Minimum Wage Bill Update – June 16, 2016

The Legislatures proposal to incrementally raise the minimum wage to $15 hour by 2021 was released from the Senate Budget and Appropations Committee on June 16th. The wage would then be raised annually according to the Consumer Price Index. The companion bill has already cleared the Assembly.  S-15, sponsored by Senator Sweeney and Joe Vitale (D-19) will now head to the Senate floor for a vote and then to the Governor’s Desk, where it is expected to be vetoed. The Legislature is expected to approve resolutions to place the minimum wage increase on the ballot. While supporting the intention of the proposal, adequate Medicaid reimbursement is needed to sustain quality services and supports. NJACP continues to educate policymakers about the proposal’s impact to providers.

 

State Budget Season Update – June 16, 2017

With only two weeks left to approve a budget for State Fiscal Year 2017, Senator Sweeney reports Governor Christie and the Legislature will not have a negotiated budget, as was anticipated. The Legislature will introduce its own budget bill, approve it and send it to the Governor’s Desk. The Governor has the power to line item veto any provision in the bill.

If the budget was a negotiated budget the two branches of government would work together toward an agreed upon bill.

NJACP will closely monitor this process and continue to advocate to keep the increases for community living for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

For more information on this process, click here.

 

Bill Update – June 7, 2016

With the June 30th deadline looming for the Legislature to pass and the Governor to sign a balanced state budget, the Legislature is also busy considering the final bills of the year in June, and this month is no exception. On June 6th the Legislature considered the following bills of interest to providers on below:

 

Assembly Human Services Committee

A-3824, which establishes the Office of Ombudsman for Individuals with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities and their families, and is sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle (D-37), was released by the committee with one abstention. The bill establishes the Ombudsman to provide families with objective and confidential information and assistance with their services and supports. Given all the recent changes to the delivery of services and supports, this legislation may be of considerable assistance to families. Assemblywoman Huttle, as sponsor and Chairperson of the Assembly Human Services Committee, was a strong supporter of the bill and reached out to NJACP for support. Maureen Shea, NJACP Director of Government Affairs, testified in support of the bill. Click here to view the testimony. The bill now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

A-3634, which requires one member of a board in charge of an institution for persons with mental illness or a developmental disability to be a family member of a resident, and is sponsored by Assemblywoman Huttle (D-37), was released by the committee. The bill requires developmental centers to have a family member on the board. The sponsor commented she felt this would strengthen the boards of developmental centers as she believes families are the strongest advocates for their children. NJACP is monitoring the bill and will be considering it in further detail at the next NJACP Legislative and Policy Committee meeting. The bill now heads to the Assembly floor.

 

Assembly Women and Children Committee

A-3612, which requires counties to design and construct inclusive playgrounds to receive State funding for recreational and conservation purposes, and is sponsored by Assemblyman Lou Greenwald (D-6), was released by the committee with technical amendments. The bill will increase the numbers of inclusive playgrounds around the state and also requires these playgrounds to be at the top of the priority list for distribution of funding. NJACP supported the bill in committee. The bill now heads to the Assembly floor.

A-3386, which provides protections for children under the age of 18 with developmental disabilities and individuals with developmental disabilities as well as individuals ages 18-21 receiving services from Division of Children’s System of Care, and is sponsored by Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36) was released from committee. Currently there are no statutory provisions that mandate the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to conduct a check on a person seeking employment at DCF or with a provider and there are no regulatory provisions prohibiting a person included on the central registry from seeking employment with DCF. The legislation requires more information sharing between DDD and DCF regarding investigations into abuse and neglect and individuals placed on the registry.  NJACP has communicated our support of the concept to the sponsor. The bill now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

 

Assembly Judiciary Committee

 ACR-109, which proposes a constitutional amendment to require payments by the State to State-administered retirement systems and establishes, in the Constitution, the right of public employees to their pension benefits and provides for enforcement of funding obligations and benefit rights, and is sponsored by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32), was released from committee. NJACP is concerned requiring a full contribution to the public employee pension system could affect funding available for supports and services for the state’s most vulnerable. NJACP continues to discuss this issue with policymakers, however, this is resolution is a priority for the Democratic Leadership in the Assembly and the Senate. The resolution now heads to the Assembly floor.

 

Business Groups Form Coalition to Oppose Ballot Measures

On Friday, February 19, New Jersey business organizations, including the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, held a press conference to announce a coalition dedicated to the opposition of two ballot measures and a sick leave bill proposed by the Legislature. The ballot measures include constitutionally-mandated public pension payments; a minimum wage increase to $15 per hour; and the fast tracking of mandated paid sick leave. During the news conference, a number of small business owners spoke in compelling terms about the negative impact these proposals will have on their ability to sustain a competitive and financially viable business.

The coalition also announced the formation of a grassroots organization called Opportunity New Jersey, whose mission will be to increase public awareness of the impact that policies and legislative action will have on the state’s economy and job growth for all of New Jersey’s citizens. Opportunity New Jersey will be a 501(c)(4) organization and will raise donations from individuals, businesses and organizations. NJACP is a member of the Chamber of Commerce and also has concerns regarding these proposals and their impact on the availability of services and supports to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

 

Elder Task Force Bill Heads to Governor – April 20, 2016

S-157, which establishes “New Jersey Task Force on Abuse of Persons who are Elderly or Disabled” and is sponsored by Senators Fred Madden (D-4) and Joe Vitale (D-19) and Assemblywomen Shelia Oliver (D-34), Amy Handlin (R- 13) and Valerie Huttle (D-37), unanimously passed both houses of the Legislature. The bill would create an 11-member task force that would be required to evaluate current policies that are designed to protect older adults and persons with disabilities from instances of abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation; identify any existing circumstances that might allow for the inadequate protection of this population; and develop recommendations for more effective and efficient legislation, policies, and strategies. Speaker Oliver and Assemblywoman Handlin testified about their goals for the task force and its focus on the many phone and newspaper scams aimed at vulnerable populations.  NJACP monitored the bill.

 

Senate to Vote on Mandatory Sick Leave Bill – Feb 11, 2016

The Senate will vote today on a measure, S-799, that mandates sick leave for employees in New Jersey. Under the bill, employees would earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work. They would be allowed to accumulate at least 40 hours of sick leave if they work for a company with 10 employees or fewer, and at least 72 hours for larger companies. Employees would be entitled to be paid for the full amount of unused sick leave at the end of the year, or be paid for half of it and carry the other half over to the next year. The bill also prohibits retaliatory personnel actions against an employee for the use or requested use of earned sick leave. The legislation also includes record keeping requirements for employers and penalties for non-compliance. The bills primary sponsor in the Senate is Senator Loretta Weinberg (D-37).

The legislation was posted on the Senate floor without committee reference, meaning the bill will not be debated in committee before being voted on in the Senate. The bill was heard in committee in the last legislative session, where it passed largely along party lines with Democrats, with the exception of Senator Jeff Van Drew (D-1), supporting the bill and Republicans opposing it. On the Assembly side, the bill was released from committee, but was not voted on the Assembly floor. There is some disagreement between Senate and Assembly leaders if the legislation should pre-empt local sick leave ordinances in municipalities such as Jersey City. An agreement on the issue has not yet been reached.

As the legislation requires additional costly mandates on employers and exposes employers to additional liability, NJACP is working with the Chamber and a coalition of business groups to oppose the bill. It is expected Governor Christie would not support the measure. NJACP will advise if there are additional advocacy efforts necessary and will keep members updated on the status of the legislation.