TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie has conditionally vetoed a bill that establishes a task force to recommend closing one or more of the state’s seven developmental centers.
“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,” said Christie. “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.”
Christie edited the bill to reduce its membership from 11 to 5, with three members appointed by him and two recommended by the Senate president and Assembly speaker.
He also set a 90 to 180 day timeline for the commission to submit a plan to the governor, and changed the criteria the task force will consider to include more of how well communities are able to provide services to the developmentally disabled.
Christie said the state needs to close at least one center because “simply put, the state is currently operating more developmental centers than necessary,” since the number of people housed in them has declined by 1,200, or 33 percent, since 1998.
Tom Baffuto, executive director of The Arc of New Jersey, a family advocacy group that worried the legislation would inhibit the closing of institutions, said the governor made the bill much better.
The governor de-emphasized the importance of job losses in closing a center, by changing the word from "will" to "may" when it comes to considering the economic impact of a closure, Baffuto said. What is best for people with developmental disabilities is more important than a closure's impact on the local economy, he said.
"We appreciate this administration for making closure a priority. We see this as an opportunity to close many. We really don't need seven developmental centers," Baffuto said.
Baffuto added he hopes this legislation does not alter the administration's decision to close Vineland Developmental Center in Cumberland County.
Sen. Jeff Van Drew, (D- Cape May) said keeping Vineland open was exactly his aim in sponsoring the bill.
The action taken by the governor gives Vineland a new life" Van Drew said.
"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," he said.
Friday, August 26, 2011
Task force bill that would close developmentally disabled center is conditionally vetoed by NJ Gov. Christie
Posted by BA Haller at 7:30 PM