The Arc New Jersey met with Majority staff from the state Senate and Assembly to discuss draft legislation in response to an audit of background checks for employees of community providers. The bill’s goal is to eliminate gaps in the background check requirements in order to ensure the health and safety of people with I/DD living in the community.
Representatives from The Arc New Jersey met separately with staff from the gubernatorial campaigns of Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno and former Ambassador Phil Murphy. They discussed issues important to I/DD community including the shift to a fee-for-service for Medicaid, DSP wage increases, and the importance of community integration. These meetings gave the chapter an opportunity to educate the candidates about the issues and the chapter ahead of election day.
The Arc Mercer, a local chapter of The Arc New Jersey, recently created a self-advocacy organization for LGBTQ people with I/DD called Special Needs Alliance for Pride (SNAP). SNAP serves the role of providing support, socialization, and advocacy. Lt. Governor candidate and former Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver recently attended an event they hosted to speak to members about the importance of diversity in the state.
The Arc New Jersey is in the process of publishing its annual “Get Out the Vote” Guide. The Guide will include information about candidates for Governor and 120 legislative seats. Gubernatorial candidates are being asked to share their stances on DSP wages and Medicaid issues. The Guide will also include information about finding you polling location, registering to vote, and seeking accommodations.
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.
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 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.