its Legislative Committee, DRNJ monitors significant legislative
and regulatory issues, providing comment and feedback to public
officials and those who represent us regarding the needs of people
with disabilities and the potential impact of regulations and legislation.
Following are brief highlights of legislation that DRNJ is currently
30, 2014, Governor Chris Christie signed the fiscal year 2014-2015
state budget into law. Some highlights of programs affecting people
with disabilities are listed below.
- An increase of $2.1
million for the Children’s System of Care in the Department of
Children and Families;
- Level funding for
the Division of Disability Services, Commission for the Blind
and Visually Impaired, and the Division of the Deaf and Hard of
Hearing all located within the Department of Human Services;
- Closures of North
Jersey Developmental Center and Woodbridge Developmental Center
during the state fiscal year 2015;
- $1.9 million for the
Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services to develop 175
new community-based beds. Of those 175 new beds, 155 will be designated
for individuals discharged from state psychiatric hospitals and
20 beds will be designated for individuals at-risk of hospitalization.
- Money saved from the
closure of Hagedorn State Psychiatric Hospital will fund 133 residential
placements, expand both supported employment and outpatient services
and provide rental assistance to consumers with mental illness;
- Maintain funding for
the Part C Early Intervention program at approximately $86 million;
- $140,000.00 will be
transferred from the New Jersey Brain Injury Research Fund to
Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey for specialized community
The Governor did exercise
his line-item veto power. Some highlights of what was removed from
the budget are listed below.
- Increases in women’s
- Tax credit for low-wage
- Funding for legal
services for the poor;
- Fully funding the
pension system; and
- Income tax increase
and corporation business tax
advocates for federal legislation benefiting people with disabilities
and their families. DRNJ is a member of the National Disability
Rights Network (NDRN) Legislative Committee. Below is an update
of federal legislation.
31, 2014 the House Ways and Means Committee considered and released
by voice vote HR 647, the ABLE Act. The ABLE Act has 380 sponsors
and co-sponsors in the House of Representatives. The Act would expand
saving options for people with disabilities and could be used to
compliment a special needs trust. HR 647 was also referred to the
House Energy and Commerce Committee and is waiting for a mark-up
session and committee vote before it can be voted on the floor.
The companion bill is S313 which is still awaiting action in the
Senate Finance Committee. The Senate bill has 75 sponsors and co-sponsors.
There is broad bi-partisan support for this legislation in both
chambers of Congress.
The Autism CARES Act
formerly known as the Combating Autism Act was passed by the Senate
on Thursday, July 31, 2014. The Act was passed in the House earlier
this year and is now awaiting the President’s signature. The Act
was set to expire at the end of September. The bill extends research,
surveillance, public awareness and professional training activities.
The Convention for the
Rights of Persons with Disabilities is an international treaty reaffirming
the rights of persons with disabilities across nations. The President
supports this treaty; however, the Senate has yet to come up with
the 2/3 majority necessary to ratify treaties. The treaty was voted
out favorably from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in July
2014. It has not received a floor vote in the Senate. Passage during
this Congress is now unlikely since many Senators have committed
to not voting in favor of treaties during a lame duck session.
A Senate Finance Hearing
was held on Thursday, July 24, 2014, to begin a discussion on the
financial status of Social Security Disability Insurance. The SSDI
fund is projected to be short funds beginning in 2016. This projection
has been in place since 1995. If Congress is unable to resolve the
financial status by 2016, SSDI beneficiaries could face a 20% benefit