Current Issues in Legislation
Updated: July 2020
NJSHA’s Legislative Committee works hand-in-hand with our governmental affairs consultants, Lynn Nowak and Jacy Lance at Porzio Governmental Affairs. In 2019, NJSHA tracked 258 bills introduced and moving through the Legislature. A new legislative session began on January 14, 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the New Jersey Legislature to move to remote sessions starting on March 16th, focusing almost entirely on COVID-related bills for the months of April, May and June. The pandemic also prompted the NJ Legislature to extend the 2020 Fiscal Year three months, to September 30, 2020. A supplemental spending bill for July 1 – September 30 was passed by the Legislature in June. The Legislature returned to some in-person meetings and resumed non-COVID related business in July. An abbreviated State Budget for October 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021 will be negotiated and passed by the Legislature in the early Fall.
We will continue to update NJSHA-related bills as they move through the legislative process. Bill text is not available until legislation is re-introduced and referred to Committee. We will update this page often.
Telepractice in Schools: The transition to virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic brought to light many issues surrounding the details, ethics and efficacy of providing speech services through telepractice. NJSHA has worked with the Department of Education to share members’ concerns and best practices with officials at the highest levels, including participation on two conference calls with Dr. Kim Buxenbaum, the director of the DOE Office of Special Education, on May 12 and May 28. The School Affairs Committee (SAC), led by Nicole Ford, has drafted a comprehensive guidance document addressing how speech services should be provided via telepractice under state of emergency. Members of the Legislative, Ethics and Multicultural Committees contributed to this effort and the paper was submitted to the DOE July 2020. The NJ DOE intends to link NJSHA’s document to its website. To read NJSHA’s guidance document sent to NJ DOE click here.
Re-Adoption of the Special Education Code: In early spring, the NJ State Board of Education began the task of re-adopting the State’s special education rules before they sunset (expire). The Board of Education recognizes that a number of significant updates to the Code are necessary, however, in the interest of re-adopting the Code before the sunset date, the current rule re-adoption makes only very minor, technical changes. The State Board endeavors to conduct a more thorough update to the special education code in the coming months, after hosting listening sessions across the state and soliciting input from students, teachers and parents. NJSHA has been, and will continue to be, involved at every step.
The public opportunity to provide comments on the Proposed Re-adoption of the Special Education Code was scheduled for April 1 at 2:00 PM, but the public listening session did not occur due to cancellation of all public meetings due to COVID-19. However, NJSHA did submit written comments from Sue Goldman on behalf of SAC and the Multicultural Affairs Committee. Subsequent State Board of Education meetings were held virtually on May 6, June 3, and July 1 (which was also scheduled to be a public testimony hearing but was cancelled due to COVID). The rule proposal was published in the NJ Register and the period to submit written comments to the State Board of Education ended on July 3, 2020. Again, despite receiving very detailed commentary on many aspects of the Special Education Code that need to be updated. At this time the Department is only making very few technical changes to prevent the rules from expiring, and will be conducting a more thorough review in the coming months. NJSHA’s positions have been registered with the Department of Education on numerous occasions and Porzio will continue to monitor SBOE meetings to track the progress on this issue. To read NJSHA’s position proposed by SAC click here and for the position proposed by the Multicultural Affairs committee, click here.
As you know, in March of 2019, Governor Murphy signed legislation (P.L. 2019, c. 41) that removed the need for audiologists to obtain a separate license to dispense hearing aids. That element of an audiologist’s professional work would become part of his or her audiology license. This came about as a result of a joint effort by the New Jersey Speech-Language-Hearing Association (NJSHA) and the New Jersey Academy of Audiology (NJAA).
However, a second step is required in order for that law to become effective and that is the passage of administrative regulations to implement the law. This required approval of the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Advisory Committee and the Division of Consumer Affairs, overseen by the Office of Administrative Law. After many months of waiting, the proposed regulation was finally published in the New Jersey Register on October 5, 2020. This kicks off an official 60-day comment period required for all proposed regulations. NJSHA is preparing a letter of support to be submitted to the Advisory Committee well in advance of the December 4 deadline. Following that deadline, comments will be reviewed by the Division and the Advisory Committee and after that adoption of the regulation is published in the Register, the final necessary action. Unfortunately, there is no specific time frame established between the comment period deadline and final adoption of the rule.
We will keep the website updated with any new information. Please join us for a live virtual event, Grassroots in Audiology Advocacy: NJSHA is Listening! on at 7:00 pm on November 5, 2020 to discuss this and other legislative issues. Click here to learn more and register today!
Advisory Council on Deaf and Hard of Hearing: In the 2018-2019 legislative session, NJSHA worked to secure amendments to this bill to add a speech language pathologist who has experience working with deaf and hard of hearing populations. An audiologist was already included in the bill as introduced. The bill numbers for the 2020 session are S.2441 (Kean, R-Union) and A.4151 (Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen). The amendments requiring the inclusion of a speech language pathologist remain in the bill. Read the bill.
Medicaid Coverage for Hearing Devices: A.856 Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson) – This bill expands Medicaid coverage for assistive hearing devices including hearing aids, cochlear implants when prescribed or deemed medically necessary by a physician or audiologist. It was introduced in the 2018-2019 legislative session but did not receive any hearings. The bill was reintroduced for the 2020-2021 Legislative session and we will continue to monitor. Read A.856.
The New Jersey Department of Education: On April 1, 2020, members of the State Board of Education approved a resolution designating May as Better Hearing and Speech Month. If they had been able to meet in person, the President of the BOE and Commissioner would have presented it to NJSHA representatives in person, with a photo op, as they did last year. The below photo is (left to right) Board President Kathy Goldenberg. Mary Faella (NJSHA Past President and Legislative Chair), Commissioner Lamont Repollet, Sue Goldman (NJSHA Board of Directors member), and Jacy Lance (Lobbyist, Porzio Governmental Affairs).
NJSHA wishes to extend our appreciation to all governmental bodies recognizing the contributions of the speech-language pathologists and audiologists to the communities they serve
- Single Licensure for Audiologists: NJSHA is actively involved in the promulgation of regulations to implement PL 2019 c. 41, which allows audiologists to dispense hearing aids without obtaining a second license. This bill was signed into law in March of 2019 and the Committee has approved draft language to update the regulations. The proposal is now being reviewed by the Administration before it will be published in the NJ Register for public comment. NJSHA has been regularly following up on the status.
- Telemedicine/Telehealth: On November 3, 2019, the Committee proposed new rules to implement the law (P.L. 2017, c. 117) that provides the framework for the use of telemedicine and telehealth. As described above under “Triumphs,” NJSHA was actively involved in the crafting of this legislation. The public comment period on the regulations closed on January 3, 2020, and NJSHA submitted comments expressing support of the rule proposal. However, much like the regulatory process for Single Licensure for Audiologists, the Committee has not yet approved the final rules.
Criminal History Checks for Licensure Applicants: S.942 Singleton (D-Burlington) / A.1393 Lopez (D-Middlesex) – Requires certain standards for professional and occupational boards considering applicants with criminal history records. This bill was heard in the Senate Commerce Committee on January 27, 2020 and was second referenced to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. The bill was heard in the Senate Budget Committee on June 25 and was passed 36-0 by the full Senate on June 29. The bill is now awaiting a hearing in the Assembly. We will continue to monitor this bill. Criminal History Checks for Licensure Applicant