Advocating and advancing the human, civil and legal rights of persons with disabilities


Legislative News

Through 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 advocating.

State and Local

On June 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; and
  • $140,000.00 will be transferred from the New Jersey Brain Injury Research Fund to Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey for specialized community based services.

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 healthcare;
  • Tax credit for low-wage workers;
  • Funding for legal services for the poor;
  • Fully funding the pension system; and
  • Income tax increase and corporation business tax

National and Federal

DRNJ 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.

On July 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 cut.

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New Jersey's designated protection and advocacy system for people with disabilities

Disability Rights New Jersey
210 S Broad Street, 3rd Floor
Trenton, New Jersey 08608
1.800.922.7233 (in NJ only) • 1.609.292.9742 (Voice)
1.609.777.0187 (Fax) • 1.609.633.7106 (TTY)
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