NJ Set to Expand Coverage of Palliative Care Services – The NJ Assembly approved amended legislation to expand insurance coverage for palliative care on Dec. 7. A5225 would enable Medicaid coverage of services for those with serious advanced illnesses, including pain and stress relief, programs to improve quality of life, and measures to relieve burdens on caregivers. The coverage would also extend to those currently in hospice care. Though these Medicaid expenditures will cost the state money, various analyses have shown that palliative care services significantly reduce hospitalizations and government spending on expensive inpatient services. The bill was passed by both houses on June 30 and received a conditional veto from Governor Murphy on Nov. 20, who asked that the Department of Human Services be granted two years to implement these changes. An amendment to the timeline was added, and the Assembly passed the revised bill 72-0-0. (Source: NJ Spotlight News)
Legislators Seek Appropriation of Funds from Opioid Settlements for Addiction Recovery Services – Settlements with opioid manufacturers, distributors, and retailers will provide the state of New Jersey with $1.1 billion over the next two decades to combat the opioid epidemic. Half of the funds will go to counties or municipalities, half to the state to administer, and proposed legislation would allow lawmakers more say over how the state may distribute funds. S4016 would appropriate approximately $2 million to the Department of Human Services for addiction treatment services. The bill passed the Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee on Nov. 30 and was referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. (Source: NJ Spotlight News)
Tentative Agreement from RWJ Nurse Strike Sets Stage for New Legislation – A tentative agreement was announced on Dec. 1 between the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and nurses on strike since August 4 with the United Steelworkers Local 4-200. The union signed a memorandum of agreement and will now proceed with informational sessions with its members ahead of a vote. Though the specifics of the agreement have not yet been shared, union leadership has called the agreement historic and confirmed that it includes the safe staffing ratios for which they have been fighting, setting a precedent for the healthcare industry in NJ. Union leadership is hopeful that the legislature will consider during the lame duck session S304, a bill introduced earlier this year which would codify safe standards for nurse staffing. (Source: NJ Spotlight News)
Bill Advances to Allow All Licensed Clinical Social Workers to Bill Medicaid for Services – On Dec. 11, the Senate passed S2716, which would allow all licensed clinical social workers to bill Medicaid for their services, expanding access to mental health services for Medicaid recipients. Currently, most Medicaid holders can only receive care from licensed clinical social workers employed by a hospital, physician’s group, or community-based behavioral health organization. This limits access to mental health services for low-income people, a problem exacerbated by the increased need for mental health services and increased Medicaid enrollment since the pandemic. Now, the legislation must advance quickly to gain approval before the end of the lame duck session. (Source: NJ Spotlight News)
Public Administration and International Affairs
In Proposed Resolutions, Three Democrats Call for Ceasefire, Republicans Support Israel – Assembly members Sadaf Jaffer, Reginald Atkins, and Shavonda Sumter have signed on to resolution AR196, which calls for a ceasefire in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. More specifically, they call for an end to violence from all parties in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel, total hostage release, the cessation of violence towards civilians, and humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza. Republican lawmakers have introduced resolution AR200 which condemns Hamas for its attack on Israel and supports Israel’s right to exist. A third resolution, AJR238, also sponsored by Democrats, calls for an end to hostilities between Israel and Palestine. (Source: NJ Spotlight News)
Bill to Require Gyms to Allow Online Cancellation Advances – On Nov. 30, after adding amendments, the Senate Commerce Committee approved A3892, which would require gyms and health clubs that allow online signups to also allow online cancellations. The Federal Trade Commission receives thousands of complaints annually regarding practices that allow for automatic renewals without consumer consent or make service cancellation very difficult. Federal regulations remain pending, and a representative of the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association argued that a patchwork of regulations would make it difficult for businesses to comply. Though previously approved by the Assembly, the amended bill must now be approved by both houses and the Governor. (Source: NJ Spotlight News)
Paterson to Handle Some 911 Calls Without Police – The March police killing of Najee Seabrooks, a violence intervention worker experiencing a mental health crisis, spurred protests and a state takeover of the Paterson Police Department. State authorities plan to implement in Paterson ARRIVE Together, a statewide program to pair law enforcement and mental health workers in response to 911 calls which will receive $10 million in funding in the 2024 budget. The program is tailored to community needs, and in Paterson, a three-part pilot program could serve as a model for other communities. Law enforcement would refer 911 calls regarding people who need mental health assistance to a non-profit, CBH Care; NJ Transit Police and CBH Care will conduct affirmative outreach at the city’s bus terminal; and CBH Care will work with Paterson emergency dispatchers to develop best practices for call referrals. (Source: NJ.com)
Bill Introduced to Stop Hiring of Predators in Colleges – A NJ Advance Media report published in August 2023 found that a coach previously fired from high school coaching for sexual misconduct was hired a decade later at a college, where he was arrested for sexual assault of a teenager. Assemblyman Jay Webber introduced a bill in 2018 to prevent the hiring of predators in schools, which was codified as P.L. 2018 c. 5. Known as the “Passing the trash” law, it mandates that districts share complaints against educators unless the complaints were found to be false and bans separation and confidentiality agreements. Assemblyman Webber introduced A5835 on Dec. 7 to close the loophole which allows predators to move from employment at high schools to colleges, requiring institutions of higher learning to thoroughly review applicants’ employment histories. (Source: NJ.com)
Final Legislative Actions
|Updates certain insurance company investment provisions in accordance with the Investments of Insurers Model Act.
|Requires certain documentation of needs of students with disabilities during school security drills and emergency situations and in school security plans; requires staff training on needs of students with disabilities in emergency planning.
|Allows certain airports to carry over certain grant money into future years.
|Provides for civil actions against persons or entities profiting from commission of human trafficking offenses or maintaining victims of such offenses.
Enroll = passed by both houses, sent to the governor for signature.