The Arc New Jersey supported and Governor Chris Christie signed Charlie’s Law (A4081/S2662). The law is named after Charlie, the service dog belonging to Ben Shore, a 16-year-old New Jerseyan with autism. He was denied access to a Florida airport because of his service dog. Because refusal of service based on use of a service dog is a criminal offense in Florida, police were able to help him resolve the situation. By contrast, the only recourse in New Jersey was a civil lawsuit. Under Charlie’s law, businesses that deny access to service dog users face a $250 fine for their first violation, $500 for a second violation, and $1000 for the third and succeeding violations.
Maura Sullivan, Director of Government Affairs for The Arc Massachusetts, testified in favor of Nicky’s Law (S.64/H.80) at a hearing of the General Court’s Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. The bill creates a registry of individuals against whom there is a substantiated finding of abuse or neglect of a person with I/DD by the Massachusetts Disabled Persons Protection Commission and requires provider agencies to check the registry before hiring a new employee. During her testimony, she stated: “As I sit here today, I think about my oldest son, Neil, who is making a transition next week into 24/7 services, where I will not be able to supervise who is with him day to day and every night. I just don’t have words strong enough to describe the importance of keeping my non-verbal, loving and vulnerable son and all of our sons and daughters safe. We must pass this overdue legislation now and implement it immediately.”
The Arc New Jersey supported and Governor Chris Christie signed A3386/S2711. The bill provides for more sharing of information regarding abuse and neglect between the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Additionally, it mandates that DCF conduct a child abuse registry check on every individual seeking employment at DCF, in facilities or programs licensed, contracted, regulated, or funded by DCF or DHS, or seeking to provide community-based services to individuals with developmental disabilities.
The Arc of New Jersey has worked closely with a group of families, over the past number of years, on the Komninos’ Law. The legislation aims to protect individuals with I/DD from abuse and neglect. The original version included a number of troubling provisions that The Arc of New Jersey felt would be very costly and duplicative without improving the service delivery system for people with I/DD. We worked closely with sponsors of the legislation and the Governor’s Office to improve the language of the bill and we were glad to see Governor Chris Christie’s recent conditional veto addressed many of our areas of concern. At the end of July, the Assembly voted to approve the Komninos’ Law with the Governor’s recommended changes and the bill now awaits action by the Senate.
The New Jersey Self-Advocacy Project (NJSAP), a self-advocacy group affiliated with The Arc New Jersey, recently held events to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and National Disability Voter Registration week. To honor the anniversary of the passage of the ADA, members gathered at a contact booth at the Point Pleasant Beach Boardwalk to spread public awareness. On July 18, they joined REV UP NJ at the State House for National Disability Voter Registration Week to raise awareness of the voting rights of people with disabilities. In addition, NJSAP has recently developed a podcast called “In Their Own Words” focused on transportation issues. More than 120 self-advocates were interviewed about the barriers they have faced in accessing public transportation.
The Arc California and six other disability and aging organizations wrote a letter to Attorney General Xavier Becerra requesting that three items dealing with abuse of adults who are elderly or have disabilities be included in the 2018-2019 budget. The items were:
- Revival of the California Department of Justice’s “Face It, It’s a Crime” advertisement campaign that encouraged reporting of abuse of adults who are elderly or have disabilities. Reporting dropped significantly when the program stopped.
- Revision of the Department’s literature to note that crimes motivated by bias against disabilities are hate crimes.
- Revision of the Department’s literature to clarify that the term “dependent adult” includesmany adults with disabilities who live independently.
The state budget recently signed into law by Governor Chris Christie included funding for several priorities for The Arc New Jersey, including:
- $10 million for community-based services for people currently on the Community Care Waiver Waiting List;
- $8.6 million for community-based residential placements for 54 people currently living in state institutions;
- $1 million for 125 new housing vouchers;
- $46.2 million for service expansion for current and new Supports Program participants; and
- $23.9 million for general division growth.
Steve Larson, Senior Policy Director for The Arc Minnesota, recently retired after 15 years in that position. During his last two months on the job, he received several awards. The Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award. He received an award for his commitment to expand access to and improve consumer-directed services at the National Applied Self-Direction Conference. Additionally, he received a certificate of appreciation from Governor Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Department of Human Services for “for his dedication to improving the quality of life for persons with disabilities and their families throughout a lifetime of service and advocacy.”
The Arc New Jersey is advocating against passage of Stephen Komninos’ Law (S516/A2503) as written. The legislation aims to reduce abuse and neglect, by requiring, among other things, two site visits to every residential and day habilitation by the Department of Human Services. Members of the New Jersey Self-Advocacy Network (a self-advocacy group affiliated with The Arc New Jersey) testified that group homes and supervised apartments are their homes and that state inspections are an invasion of their privacy. The Arc New Jersey has attempted to work the family members behind the bill but has been unable to reach an agreement. The bill has passed the New Jersey Assembly and two Senate Committees and is awaiting a vote on the Senate Floor.