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Legislative and Advocacy Round-up

December 2021

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Bucco Bill Helping People with Traumatic Brain Injuries Clears Committee

Individuals with traumatic brain injuries may soon be able to receive help in covering transportation costs to support group meetings thanks to legislation sponsored by Senator Anthony Bucco and advanced by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.

 

"The Traumatic Brain Injury Fund is an incredibly beneficial program that has provided support and services to New Jerseyans of all ages who have survived a serious brain injury," said Bucco. "It is important that our society do everything it can to care for these individuals during their time of need. My legislation will make sure that transportation costs incurred while traveling to vital support group meetings are covered by the Traumatic Brain Injury Fund. No person who has survived such a life changing event should be concerned about these expenses."

 

The bill, S-2999, expands the purpose of the Traumatic Brain Injury Fund to support transportation costs incurred by an eligible individual in accessing support group meetings. Under the legislation, support group meetings are defined as any gathering of individuals with traumatic injuries who meet in order to improve their general well-being.

 

The Traumatic Brain Injury Fund purchases supports and services for eligible New Jersey residents of any age, who have survived a traumatic brain injury, to foster independence and maximize quality of life when insurance, personal resources, or public programs are unavailable to meet those needs. A portion of the fund also is used to support public education, outreach, and prevention activities.

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Freiman, Lopez & Murphy Bill Allowing Residents to Use Disability Benefits to Pay for Transportation Passes Committee 


Recognizing the importance of equal access to transportation for residents with disabilities, legislation sponsored by Roy Freiman, Yvonne Lopez and Carol Murphy would allow the use of disability benefits to pay for certain transportation expenses.

 

Under the bill (A-1158), the Department of Human Services (DHS) would be required to authorize anyone receiving benefits from the State and/or federal government for a temporary or permanent disability to use those benefits to pay for transportation services from a registered transportation network company.

 

Companies that fall under this category include Uber and Lyft, which are available in many New Jersey communities and are often easier/faster to book and less expensive than taxis, and capable of getting passengers closer to their destination than public transit.

 

The measure would require DHS to work with the Department of Transportation to develop a public awareness campaign to inform disability benefits recipients about their new transportation options.

 

Upon the legislation being advanced by the Assembly Human Services Committee, Assembly sponsors Freiman, Lopez, and Murphy issued the following joint statement:

 

"Nearly 25 million American adults have a disability that limits their ability to travel in some way, while anywhere from 12 to 20 percent of them live in a household without a vehicle. These restrictions make it difficult for people with disabilities to make it to their appointments, visit friends and family, go to the store, and ultimately participate in our society."

 

"Whenever public transportation and taxis are insufficient, residents with disabilities must be able to turn to other modes of transportation. Now that many transportation network companies have worked to incorporate accessibility features, they can serve as an invaluable resource for people with disabilities."

 

"Allowing residents to use their disability benefits to pay for these services is absolutely essential to ensuring equitable access to transportation throughout our state."


The bill is pending further consideration by the General Assembly.

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Diegnan, Madden Bill to Establish Payment Programs for Accessible Transportation Services Passes Senate

 

In an effort to expand public transportation accessibility, the Senate passed legislation sponsored by Senators Patrick Diegnan, Jr. and Fred Madden that would require the Division of Developmental Disabilities in the Department of Human Services (DHS) to provide individuals with developmental disabilities (IDD) individual travel budgets.

 

The bill, S-3441, would require the DHS to develop a program to permit individuals to use the travel budget to pay for travel on the New Jersey Transit Corporation regular route bus, rail, light rail network, pay-per-ride trips provided through county transportation agencies. They would also be permitted to use transportation network companies and taxi services that have received Passenger Assistance, Safety, and Sensitivity (PASS) training.

 

"The goal of this bill is to ensure that individuals with developmental disabilities are able to independently utilize public transportation services day-to-day without financial anxiety," said Senator Diegnan. "Public transportation can be overwhelming, especially for those within the IDD community. All New Jerseyans need to have worry-free access to our transportation services."

 

"Public transit services can pose many accessibility problems and in New Jersey, and we are actively working to eliminate those issues," said Senator Madden. "With a set budget outlined and a program that assists some of our most vulnerable residents, we can expand accessibility for New Jersey public transportation."

 

The Senate also approved S-3438, sponsored by Senator Diegnan that would require the New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJT) and the DHS to provide appropriate information to the 2-1-1 telephone system so that all relevant transit providers and information are included and available.


Both legislative initiatives we substituted by bills in the General Assembly which are pending action by the governor.

Legislation Exempting Disability Benefits Recipients, Applicants From Fees for Copy of Medical Records Passes Full Assembly

 

Aiming to reduce a financial obligation that many recipients and applicants of Social Security Disability benefits encounter, Assembly members Daniel Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Anthony Verrelli sponsor legislation that would exempt these patients from being charged a fee for requesting copies of their health records. The full Assembly unanimously passed the legislation.

 

Under the bill (A-4139), both applicants and current recipients of Social Security Disability benefits would be added to the list of individuals and groups who cannot be charged for a copy of a patient's medical or billing records. Low-income patients as well as non-profit organizations and lawyers representing the recipients/applicants will also be exempt from these fees.

 

The legislation would also require health care providers to deliver patient records in the manner specified by the person or group requesting those records, without the method of delivery impacting the aforementioned fees.


The bill is pending action by the governor.

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Legislation that advanced


Legislation listed below has advanced in the New Jersey State Legislature. Please contact Tom Grady, Director of Advocacy and Public Affairs if you would like more information about these bills at tgrady@bianj.org and/or whether you would like to contact your elected representatives to express your views on these bills.


S-1934: Authorizes use of disability benefits for transportation provided by transportation network companies.

 

S-1935: Requires DHS to employ Transportation Planning Coordinator to manage and oversee transportation services provided to DHS clients.


S-2969: Requires owners of multiple dwellings of three or more floors to provide priority status to residents moving to lower floors.

 

S-2999: Expands purpose of Traumatic Brain Injury Fund to support transportation costs incurred by eligible individuals in accessing support group meetings.


S-3298: Allows certain persons with developmental disabilities 21 years of age and older to attend special education programs and to simultaneously participate in adult day and employment programs.

 

S-3418: Provides fast track hiring and advancement employment opportunities by State for persons with significant disabilities.

 

S-3426: Provides for employment by State of certain persons with disabilities.

 

S-3438:  Updates 2-1-1 telephone system information to include all current modes of public transit and information on access and usage.

 

S-3441: Requires Director of Division of Developmental Disabilities to establish payment programs for purchase of transportation services from private sector and government transportation service providers.


S-3455: Revises eligibility requirements for NJ Workability Program and Personal Assistance Services Program.


S-4211: Establishes county college-based adult centers for transition for individuals with developmental disabilities; makes annual appropriation of $4.5 million.

 

S-4222: Eliminates requirement for DOE to set certain tuition rates for approved private schools for students with disabilities in certain cases.

 

S-4279: Authorizes proportional property tax exemption for honorably discharged veterans having service-connected permanent disability; extends eligibility to veterans suffering from mental illness; establishes eligibility of property owned by disabled veteran with surviving partner for exemption.

 

A-1158: Authorizes use of disability benefits for transportation provided by transportation network companies.


A-2559:  Provides for increase in allowance paid to war veterans with certain service-connected disabilities.

 

A-4139: Requires copies of medical and billing records be provided without charge to Social Security Disability benefits applicants and recipients; requires records be delivered in manner specified by requestor.


A-4856: Requires Internet websites and web services of school districts, charter schools, and renaissance schools to be accessible to persons with disabilities.

 

A-5294: Provides fast track hiring and advancement employment opportunities by State for persons with significant disabilities.

 

A-5296: Provides for employment by State of certain persons with disabilities.


A-5336: Requires Director of Division of Developmental Disabilities to establish payment programs for purchase of transportation services from private sector and government transportation service providers.


A-5341: Updates 2-1-1 telephone system information to include all current modes of public transit and information on access and usage.


A-6111: “New Jersey Disability Savings Act.”


A-6145: Exempts sale of recreational safety helmets from sales and use tax.


A-6207: Eliminates requirement for DOE to set certain tuition rates for approved private schools for students with disabilities in certain cases.


A-6228: Establishes county college-based adult centers for transition for individuals with developmental disabilities; makes annual appropriation of $4.5 million.



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Signed into law

 

The following bills were signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy (pictured above):


S-3994: Temporarily modifies taxes and credits of casino licensees; permanently redefines promotional gaming credits to include certain coupons and table game wagers; requires priority funding for senior and disabled transportation services.

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Thank you to elected officials for supporting Alliance-backed legislation


The Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey supports a broad range of legislation that relates to brain injury. We appreciate those members of the State Legislature who support bills by registering as a cosponsor of or introducing legislation. We would like to publicly thank the following member(s) for sponsoring the following bills:


S-2999: Expands purpose of Traumatic Brain Injury Fund to support transportation costs incurred by eligible individuals in accessing support group meetings.

·        Senator Holly Schepisi


Moving Forward in 2022

Tom Grady, Director of

Advocacy and Public Affairs

 

As 2021 comes to an end and 2022 is about to begin, there are to be endings and beginnings.

 

The current legislative session will end in early January and a new session will begin. Some members of the State Legislature will not be part of this new sessions. There will be new members. This will be an opportunity for brain injury advocates to educate these new members about brain injury, the challenges people with brain injury face, and the needs that should be implemented to maximize the quality of life for people with brain injury, the families/significant others, and providers of care.

 

The new legislative session is also an opportunity to educate veteran members of the State Legislature. Many in the Legislature are familiar with brain injury. However, new issues emerge which may require involvement of legislators – our elected officials – who are there to represent YOU in State government.


There will also be change in legislative leadership. In the State Senate, both Senate President Sweeney – a strong advocate for people with disabilities – and Senate Majority Leaders Loretta Weinberg, will not be part of the new legislative session. Republican Leader Tom Kean will not be returning as well.

 

As for legislative leadership in the General Assembly, Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick, having won election to the Senate to succeed Senator Kean, will not be returning to the Assembly. Appropriations chair, John Burzichelli, will not be returning as well in addition to Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri-Huttle, who has been a supporter of brain injury issues, particularly with regard to concussion in youth; Joann Downey, chair of the Assembly Human Services Committee; and, Adam Taliaferro, chair of the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee

 

However, legislators who have led various brain injury-related causes WILL be returning to the State Legislature. This includes members of Senate: Anthony Bucco, Richard Codey, Kristin Corrado, Patrick Diegnan, Fred Madden, Holly Schepisi, Steve Oroho, Joe Pennachio, Ronald Rice, and Joe Vitale. Returning to the General Assembly include: Daniel Benson, Dr. Herb Conaway, Ronald Dancer, Aura Dunn, Roy Freiman, Tom Giblin, Louis Greenwald, Mila Jasey, Pam Lampitt, John McKeon, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, and Gary Schaer.


What does all this mean for you, the person impacted by brain injury, the advocate? It means that members of the State Legislature – your elected officials – are there to serve you, to be a resource to you, to be your voice in State government. Your elected officials can help you address a challenge you may be experiencing with an agency in State government. Or, they may work to advance a legislative concept that you bring to their attention. In either case, it is up to brain injury advocates to make their ideas and concerns known to elected officials. If you need assistance doing this, please

contact me at tgrady@bianj.org or 732-745-0200. 


Working together, we can maximize the quality of life for people with brain injury in New Jersey in 2022.


Let us start - today!


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