From the NJ Statehouse: The Good, the Bad, the Missed, and What to Watch for Next

Contributed by Amara Willey and Liz Glynn.

Big win in NJ legislative session for ACA protection

For residents of NJ, there’s good news coming out of Trenton for a change that should have progressives cheering. There’s always a but, however, and other legislation didn’t make the cut and some that did isn’t quite what we hoped. So here’s the good, the bad and missed, plus be sure to check out what’s coming up in this next session.

The governor signed 80 percent of the bills that had passed both houses. These included a bill banning flavored vaping to reduce its appeal to children, a requirement that health insurance companies provide a choice that limits prescription drug costs to insureds, and the creation of a telephone hotline for state employees to confidentially report incidents of workplace harassment or discrimination. The 33 unsigned, or pocket-vetoed, bills included tightened regulations for tobacco and vaping sales, allowing preserved farms to hold 14 special events a year and requiring the installation of automatic fire sprinkler systems in new townhouses.

The Good

Happily, the majority of the ACA Protection Bills passed this session – paving the way to protect NJ patients from the GOP sabotage on the federal level. In addition, important policies have passed to advance racial justice and support working people, including driver’s licenses for all, voting rights restoration, expungement of marijuana offenses, and ending prison gerrymandering.

The ACA Protection Bills are a set of critical bills that create the safety net we need and protects NJ patients from the potential loss of guaranteed coverage for essential health benefits such as preventative care, treatment for substance use and mental health, and reproductive health services, and loss of protections for pre-existing conditions. Here’s a list of actual ACA Protection bills that have passed: 

S562/A5248 – Preserves certain requirements that health insurance plans cover essential health benefits
S626/ A1733 – Prohibits pre-existing condition exclusions
S3802/A5501 – Requires continuation of dependent coverage until age 26
S3803/A5507 – Requires health benefits coverage for certain preventative services
S3804/A5508 – Revises the law requiring health benefits coverage of contraceptives
S3806/A5503 – Establishes open enrollment period under the Individual Health Coverage Program
S3808/A5506 – Repeals NJ’s Basic & Essential health benefits plans to conform to ACA
S3809/A5500 – Expands rate review process for individual and small group plans
S3812/A5504 – Applies 85% Medical loss ratio requirement to large group plans

Other:

  • Online Voter Registration A422 modernizes our outdated process and allows easy online access for voter registration to increase participation in our democracy and improve accuracy.
  • Ending Prison Gerrymandering A1987 stops the outdated process of counting incarcerated people as residents of their prisons for the purpose of redistricting and will now count them as residents of the communities from which they have come to restore the voices and resources of their communities.
  • Maternal Health Bill A4934/S3374 extends and expands Medicaid coverage of postpartum women at a medically complex time to ensure the support and health of mothers and their children.
  • Voting Rights Restoration A5823/S4260 restores the right to vote to people on parole and probation and will increase participation in democracy and reinvigorate civic participation.
  • Driver’s Licenses for All A4743/S3229 ensures road safety and access to driver’s license for immigrants to thrive in our communities and take care of their families. 
  • Marijuana Expungement bill A5981/S4154 clears past criminal convictions of marijuana offenses and allows people with a record the opportunity for a clean slate to improve their lives.
  • Marijuana Ballot Question passed with more than three-fifths voting yes, and is now on the ballot for the November 2020 election. (https://apnews.com/372117448cd3dfbb415b1a67204a71b3)

The Bad

  • S3770 passed which creates a Path to Progress Committee in the legislature. This bill establishes a 12-member “New Jersey Economic and Fiscal Policy Review Commission” in the Legislative Branch of State government. This legislation implements a proposal in the New Jersey Economic & Fiscal Policy Workgroup’s “Path to Progress” report. The commission will be composed of six members of the Legislature (three from the Senate, three from the Assembly) and six public members. Senator Sweeney will be able to pick the Senators and influence the selection of the other appointees. 
  • S3813/A5510, which would have expanded the “Law Against Discrimination” to apply to health programs and activities, and to prohibit discrimination based on association with individuals in protected classes. It passed in the Senate, but strangely, didn’t get voted on in the Assembly.  To date, and we haven’t received a reasonable answer as to why.  
  • A3783 Railcar Safety would have required trains to have discharge response, cleanup, and contingency plans to transport certain hazardous materials, including fracked oil, by rail. Passed in the Senate but didn’t get voted on in the Assembly.

Missed Opportunities:

  • Bag Ban
  • Redistricting Constitutional Amendment
  • Green Amendment – constitutional amendment
  • Corporate Tax Credit Reform
  • Marijuana Decriminalization
  • Environmental Justice – S1700/A5094 Giving NJDEP authority to just say no to new pollution in already overburdened communities
  • ACA Protection Bills:
    • S3811/A5502 – Revises definition of small employer under New Jersey Small Employer Health Benefits Program.
    • S3813/A5510 – Expands “Law Against Discrimination” to apply to health programs and activities, and to prohibit discrimination based on association with individuals in protected classes
    • S3810/A5505 – Revises certain permissible rating factors for premiums charged for individual and small employer health benefits plans. 

Bills to Watch In this Next session:

  • Fair Work Week
  • Lowering Prescription Drug Prices
  • Coverage for All Kids
  • Annual Budget process – push for raising revenue with the package of proposals that Gov Murphy included in his budget but was rejected in legislature includes millionaire’s tax plus estate tax, sales tax, gun permit fees, opioid manufacturers tax, etc.

Sources:

New Jersey Citizen Action Newsletter (Liz Glynn)

https://whyy.org/articles/gov-murphy-signs-151-new-bills/

https://www.nj.com/marijuana/2019/12/new-laws-will-clear-nj-criminal-records-for-weed-and-allow-people-on-parole-to-vote.html

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