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Legislative Action


As citizens of New Jersey, individuals with disabilities have the same rights as other individuals to advocate for laws that help them. Unfortunately, many individuals do not understand the legislative process and how they can effectively promote their issues to their state legislators. This guide provides an overview of how the New Jersey Legislature operates and provides strategies to help you with your legislative advocacy.

Through its Legislative Committee, Disability Rights NJ 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.

Please contact us at 609-292-9742 or advocate@drnj.org if you would like information about our legislative activities.

Education Testimonies

March 9, 2021 Senate Testimony on Bill S3434

This bill seeks to address the negative consequences of this school year, and the failures of students with disabilities to receive the services to which they are entitled. Providing students with disabilities an extra year of eligibility will assist these students to gain the skills that they were not able to gain during this past school year. However, it is important to note that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act provides compensatory education as an available remedy if the school district fails to provide an appropriate education. 20 U.S.C.A. § 1415(i)(2)(c)(iii). The Federal Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which encompasses the State of New Jersey, has stressed that a court’s discretion to fashion a compensatory education award under the IDEA is very broad. In Ferren C. v. Sch. Dist. of Phila., 612 F.3d 712, 717 (3d. Cir. 2010), the Third Circuit upheld a compensatory education award for a 24-year-old woman with autism. As such, we request that the legislation include language such as “nothing in this statute alters the rights of special education students to compensatory services or limits the delivery of compensatory education services to students who elect to attend an extra year of school,” to ensure that students with disabilities continue to maintain all of the rights under IDEA.

March 9, 2021 Senate Testimony on Bill S2160

The current OAL system for special education has been problematic for some time and violates the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Under IDEA, a written decision must be completed within 45 days after the filing. 34 C.F.R. 300.515; N.J.A.C. 6A:4-2.7(j). However, written decisions are never completed within that timeframe. For many years, hearings would be scheduled for many months after the filing and initial conference. Many times, the hearing dates would be spread out over a period of weeks and/or months. Eventually, in most of our cases, the school district would settle the matter on the eve of the hearing for the services that the student was seeking, but the delays resulted in the student receiving an inappropriate program for up to a year while the due process was pending. This failure has an extraordinary detrimental impact on the student and prevents the student from receiving the appropriate education program guaranteed by the IDEA.

March 9, 2021 Senate Testimony on Bill S3470

During the past year, many students with disabilities have struggled due the school districts providing remote learning. Although the school districts were required to implement each child’s individualized education program, the fact many school districts operated virtually has reduced the impact of the services that the student received. Many of these students have disabilities that render them unable to benefit from virtual or remote instruction for myriad reasons that include, but are not limited to, the inability to focus for an extended period of time without in-person redirection and the lack of cognitive ability to use educational packets to instruct themselves. A shortage of special education and related services personnel to deliver the necessary in-person instruction and services has also been a significant problem. In addition, for children who need social skills integration, the limited student interaction has prevented the students from fully experiencing the services needed to make substantial gainful progress on these skills.

It is important that students with disabilities receive the same rights and services as students without disabilities, and we believe that the legislation should be clear that it applies to all students. If the intent of the legislation is to only apply to “general education” students, then the legislation is discriminatory against individuals with disabilities, and should be revised so as not be discriminate against students with disabilities.

August 4, 2020 Testimony Before Assembly Health Committee regarding School Opening

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires exactly what the title implies: each child with a disability is entitled to an individualized plan developed to address that particular student’s specific needs. Just as no two disabilities are exactly the same, there can be no one-size-fits-all solution for educating all students in the midst of a pandemic. Some children with disabilities need hands-on services that are best provided in person, such as physical or occupational therapy. Returning to the classroom may be important so that they receive social interaction and inclusion with typically developing peers. Other children have certain underlying conditions that make in-person education during a pandemic a serious threat to their lives. When COVID forced schools to close in March, districts had very little time to develop effective plans for delivering special educational services to students with disabilities. Everyone tried to adapt – districts, teachers, parents and students all did the best that they could do under the circumstances. Significantly, realizing that remote services might not be effective for all students, the Department of Education directed that when schools reopen, districts should evaluate – for each individual child with a disability — whether the child met educational goals with the at-home services provided or whether that child needs compensatory services to make up for what was lost. In other words, if a student did not receive an educational benefit from remote services, districts should make up those services when schools reopen. DRNJ supports the Department of Education’s recommendation for compensatory services. Preserving that right is critically important to students with disabilities.

May 12, 2021 Testimony before Senate Education Committee Bill A5366/S3434

During the COVID pandemic, many students with disabilities have struggled due to school districts’ remote learning. Although school districts were required to implement each child’s individualized education program, students that are turning 21 would be receiving transition skills such as independent living skills or vocational skills that are not readily transferrable to virtual instruction. In addition, many of these students have disabilities that render them unable to benefit from virtual or remote instruction for myriad reasons that include, but are not limited to, the inability to focus for an extended period of time without in-person redirection and the lack of cognitive ability to use educational packets to instruct themselves. A shortage of special education and related services personnel to deliver the necessary in-person instruction and services has also been a significant problem. In addition, for children who need social skills integration, the limited student interaction has prevented the students from fully experiencing the services needed to make substantial gainful progress on these skills.


This bill seeks to address the negative consequences of this school year and the failures of students with disabilities to receive the services to which they are entitled. Although the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides compensatory education as an available remedy, 20 U.S.C.A. § 1415(i)(2)(c)(iii), this remedy can be difficult for parents to obtain. Many districts will only consider compensatory education if the parent files for due process. Providing students with disabilities an extra year of eligibility statutorily would make it easier for parents and students to obtain additional services for the time and services lost due to the pandemic.

Community Living Testimonies

December 10, 2020 Written Testimony to the Assembly Human Services Committee Bill A4013 (Billy Cray’s Law)

The use of mandated electronic monitoring devices (EMDs) in community settings violates an individual’s right to privacy, and there is little to no evidence that the use of EMDs in community settings actually results in less abuse and neglect. In addition to being unlikely to prevent abuse or neglect, the requirement for EMDs in community setting creates new problems. First, the introduction of EMDs in any part of the home conflicts with Medicaid’s Home and Community Based Settings Rule due to its failure to ensure the privacy of the individuals. Second, the consent structure contemplated in this draft creates a hostile environment that limits the self-determination of individuals who may or may not want video recording in their home and drives away already scarce staff. Third, the bill will result in unintended consequences that could affect the ability of individuals with disabilities to have access to a community placement. Fourth, the bill fails to address how the EMDs are monitored, and who has access to the recordings. Finally, we offer that a variety of less restrictive alternative strategies exist that could be implemented to reduce abuse and neglect with fewer unintended consequences. These alternatives include enhancing reporting and oversight and supporting a competent and qualified workforce.

January 25, 2021 Testimony Before Assembly Health Committee Bill A5123

We understand the intent of this bill is to increase access and opportunities for individuals residing in licensed settings to have and use appropriate technology and supports to facilitate social connectedness and prevent social isolation. The bill requires residential providers, as a condition of licensure, to adopt and implement policies to encourage and enable residents to engage in communications with family members, friends, and other external support systems, as well as increase access to recreational, religious, and other activities outside of the group home setting. We fully support these objectives as they are exactly the kinds of outcomes that the HCBS settings final rule is intended to achieve. All individuals who are receiving services under DDD’s Supports Program or Community Care Program are a part of this Medicaid HCBS program. A 2020 report by the Council on Quality and Leadership looked at the impact of the HCBS Final Rule outcomes on health and safety. Their findings revealed a significant relationship between these outcomes and people with I/DD’s emergency room utilization, less incidents of abuse and neglect, and fewer injuries. This rule aims to ensure individuals are participating in meaningful activities, including those of ones’ choosing, and are having richer and more fulfilling lives, all of which serve as social determinants of health; and data coming from quality reports, such as the Council on Quality and Leadership, should inform how to make the system better.

Institutional Care Testimonies

January 21, 2021 Testimony Before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Bill S2759

While supportive of the creation of a Long Term Care Facility Advisory Council, we respectfully request that the Legislature consider naming Disability Rights NJ to this advisory council because of our unique role as the entity charged under federal law investigating allegations of abuse and neglect of residents of nursing homes who have disabilities. As such, Disability Rights NJ has a similar federal mandate as that of the Long-term Care Ombudsman. We would note that our constituency is not limited to a specific age group, we provide protection and advocacy for all individuals with disabilities who reside in long-term care facilities.


Disability Rights NJ is also concerned with the language in this bill that states the Department shall conduct a licensure survey at least once every two years for repeated noncompliance. Respectfully, this language may be confusing because it may be interpreted to mean that no annual licensure survey is required. If the annual survey is no longer required, then there would be less oversight than is currently required. Disability Rights NJ would oppose any loosening of such oversight. This concern was addressed in the changes to A4478, and we support those changes, and would recommend S2759 be modified to include similar language.

August 13, 2020 Written Testimony to Legislative Committees by Bill

S-2758 (Cryan) / A-4482
Disability Rights NJ strongly supports the establishment of a direct care loss ratio reporting and rebate requirement as we believe this will help to ensure that adequate funds go directly to support the care of individuals who reside in long-term care facilities.

S-2759 (Vitale) / A-4478Disability Rights NJ is concerned with the language in this bill at 1(a) that states a penalty or action shall include conducting a licensure survey of a long-term care facility at least once every two years for repeated noncompliance. This language is confusing and makes it seem that there would be no annual licensure survey. If the annual survey is no longer required, then there would be less oversight than is currently required. Disability Rights NJ would oppose any loosening of such oversight.

June 16, 2020 Testimony Before Joint Assembly Committees of Aging and Senior Services and Military and Veterans Affairs

Disability Rights NJ’s COVID-19 advocacy has been all-encompassing since mid-March; more information can be found at our COVID-19 website, which is at the top of my remarks. Today, I would like to highlight three areas of our recent work that I believe may be helpful to your committees and the broader discussion of ensuring the health and safety of residents of institutions during public health emergencies.

Voting Testimony

February 11, 2021 Testimony Before Senate, State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Bill S3203

According to a report by the Program for Disability Research at Rutgers University, the number of eligible voters with disabilities is growing with the aging of the population and advances in
medical technology.

1 In New Jersey, approximately 836,000 eligible voters (or 13.5% of all voters) have a disability.

2 However, according to the report, in 2018, nationwide, the voter turnout for individuals with disabilities in New Jersey was approximately 13.4% lower than among individuals without disabilities.

3 There are many reasons for this turnout gap including illness or disability, transportation problems and difficulty accessing the polling place or the voting machine.

4 Changes to the voting process that addresses these issues are likely to decrease the turnout gap for individuals with disabilities.

Early in-person voting provides more opportunities for individuals with disabilities to vote on an accessible machine. Although vote-by-mail has become much easier to access and provides individuals with a broader period in which to cast their vote, many individuals with disabilities are unable to vote secretly and independently through vote-by-mail. The vote-by-mail ballot is a paper ballot so individuals with visual impairments and dexterity impairments are unable to either read the ballot or fill it out without the assistance of another individual. Although Governor Murphy’s 2020 executive order permitted the use of an electronic vote-by-mail ballot, individuals with disabilities still had to print the ballot out, sign it and return it in the envelope, which had the potential to prevent the individual from having full accessibility. As aresult, many individuals still prefer to vote in person on an accessible machine which ensures they can vote secretly and independently.

Assistive Technology Testimonies

January 25, 2021 Testimony Before Assembly Education Committee Bill A5123

We understand the intent of this bill is to increase access and opportunities for individuals residing in licensed settings to have and use appropriate technology and supports to facilitate social connectedness and prevent social isolation. The bill requires residential providers, as a condition of licensure, to adopt and implement policies to encourage and enable residents to engage in communications with family members, friends, and other external support systems, as well as increase access to recreational, religious, and other activities outside of the group home setting. We fully support these objectives as they are exactly the kinds of outcomes that the HCBS settings final rule is intended to achieve. All individuals who are receiving services under DDD’s Supports Program or Community Care Program are a part of this Medicaid HCBS program. A 2020 report by the Council on Quality and Leadership looked at the impact of the HCBS Final Rule outcomes on health and safety. Their findings revealed a significant relationship between these outcomes and people with I/DD’s emergency room utilization, less incidents of abuse and neglect, and fewer injuries. This rule aims to ensure individuals are participating in meaningful activities, including those of ones’ choosing, and are having richer and more fulfilling lives, all of which serve as social determinants of health; and data coming from quality reports, such as the Council on Quality and Leadership, should inform how to make the system better.

January 25, 2021 Testimony before the Assembly Education Committee Bill A4856

Federal law under § 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that websites be accessible to individuals with disabilities. Unfortunately, many websites and internet programs do not meet this requirement. With the shift that has happened in education due to COVID-19, schools are infusing even more technology into the curriculum. We have seen learners struggle with this shift due to a lack of accessibility in these digital learning materials. In order to compliment the virtual learning, schools are utilizing more web-based materials, which may lack the accessibility features necessary to ensure that every student can learn. In addition, schools are employing more recorded learning modules, whether created by teachers or readily available on the internet. These video learning supports do not always have captions or transcripts to ensure accessibility.
Disability Rights NJ comes here today to speak in support of the bill and its efforts to ensure that educational websites and services are accessible to students with disabilities. This bill aims to require school districts to show how any website or web service, as defined by the bill, is available and accessible for students with disabilities. This bill helps expand the accessibility requirements of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act to any public K-12 education program or school in the state. Further, Disability Rights NJ believes this bill will provide more state level accountability to ensure that school district websites meet the federal requirements for website accessibility.

COVID-19 Testimony

June 25, 2020 Testimony before the Assembly Human Services Committee

Disability Rights NJ supports the Manatt recommendation that the Governor create a Task Force to focus, in part, on increasing quality, affordable home and community-based services to allow people with disabilities to live in their own homes with the services and supports they need to live lives of inclusion. If nothing else, this COVID-19 emergency showed that individuals with disabilities living in institutions, including DCs and nursing homes, were at much higher risk of infection, and tragically, death than individuals living in the community.