TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie today issued a conditional veto of a bill that would create a task force regarding proposed closures of state developmental centers.
Christie said in issuing the conditional veto on S2928 that he wanted to underscore the importance of providing a high quality of life in the most integrated setting possible for New Jersey’s residents with developmental disabilities.
Christie said he wants to see changes to improve the bill.
Christie in a release said that he recognizes the importance of a fundamental civil rights issue, establishing a process to study and carefully implement any reduction in the number of operating developmental centers, in line with the Governor’s goal of providing individuals with developmental disabilities the services and support they need in the least restrictive setting.
“It has been my view all along that the decision on whether or not to close a developmental center is first and foremost a civil rights issue and not a budgetary issue,” wrote Christie. “To ensure a better quality of life for individuals with developmental disabilities, New Jersey must provide these individuals with developmental disabilities with the ability to live in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.”
Christie recommended changes to narrow the scope and composition of the task force to increase its effectiveness and to ensure that New Jersey continues its commitment to providing individuals with developmental disabilities the ability to live in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.
“I support the sponsors’ intention of putting forward legislation that acknowledges the importance of enabling individuals with a developmental disability to receive services and support in the least restrictive setting appropriate to their needs,” Christie said. “However, I am concerned that this legislation, as drafted, will hinder the State’s efforts to comply with the Olmstead decision, which requires states to provide community living options and other supports to individuals with developmental disabilities who do not require or want institutionalized care.”
The Governor’s recommended changes protect the flexibility needed for the state to effectively comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Olmstead decision and meet the needs of the most vulnerable in the future. Those changes include:
- · Clarifying the criteria used by the Task Force to make its decisions, including a higher prioritization of the present capacity of a community to provide or develop specialized services and supports to individuals with developmental disabilities or the time required to allow for the development of the capacity to provide such specialized services, and the addition of the operational needs of the Department of Human Services as a consideration in the criteria;
- · Setting a 90 to 180 day timeline for the submission of a closure plan to the Governor and the Task Force’s dissolution, and;
- · Changing the Task Force membership from 11 members to 5, including 3 members appointed by the Governor and 2 members, each of which appointed by the Governor on the recommendation of the Senate President and Assembly Speaker, respectively.
The recommendations of the Task Force with respect to the closure of any developmental center will be fully binding.
S-2928 was sponsored by Senators Jeff Van Drew, (D-1), Cape May, and Brian Stack (D-Hudson).
Van Drew, whose district includes the Vineland Developmental Center targeted for closure, said in a release that he was encouraged by today’s action.
Proposed changes may be considered today by the full Senate, he said.
“The action taken by the governor gives Vineland a new life. Under this bill, all seven developmental centers will be studied comprehensively by a task force which will decide on facility closures. The decision made by this panel after a thorough review will be binding.”