The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday afternoon unanimously released the nomination of nominee Mary O’Dowd, acting commissioner for Health and Senior Services, to become commissioner.
Earlier in the day, committee Chair Sen. Nicholas Scutari, (D-22), Linden, had said he didn’t think they would reach the point of voting on her nomination because of the amount of questions they had, but he did ask her to return later to address issues regarding medical marijuana.
On other issues, asked what her role would be in regards to the politics and competitiveness of hospitals, she said she would continue to get them to work together, make sure they understand their community responsibilities, and said “in many cases, hospitals are working very well.”
She would not speak to restoration of specific funds on any program after Sen. Nia Gill, (D-34), Montclair, questioned her about restoring money for family planning services. Gill said that when Gov. Chris Christie vetoed restoration of $7.5 million for family planning last year he did so saying it was a fiscal concern, but Gill said this year’s proposed budget shows the money is available.
She asked O’Dowd if she would work with the Legislature to restore funding assuming the money is there, and O’Dowd said she would work with the Legislature.
Gill also raised concerns about HIV-positive patients with income levels below 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines receiving a full complement of medically necessary drugs as opposed to those above that limit not receiving the same full complement.
O’Dowd said the determination was based on the federal regulations, but Gill maintained it was the state’s fiscal decision.
“That says a great deal about the values of the administration,” Gill said.
And Scutari returned to questioning O’Dowd about her involvement – if there was any – in the medical marijuana program and the selection of the alternative treatment center sites.
In the morning committee hearing, O’Dowd maintained that she had no involvement in the development of that program.
Scutari asked O’Dowd to return at a later date to answer more questions on this issue after she has familiarized herself more with it. She said that since her appointment as acting commissioner, she has been making herself more familiar with the program, and was willing to reappear before the committee.