On Monday evening NJ Assembly bill A4913 passed the Assembly by a vote of 46-28. On December 10, the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee reported favorably and with committee amendments to expressly require the Commissioner of Human Services to adopt rules and regulations to effectuate the bill’s purposes. UULMNJ provided testimony before the committee. (Read testimony.) This bill passed the NJ Senate on December 17, 2015 by a vote of 26-8. Thanks to the NJ Drug Policy Alliance and our Criminal Justice Reform task force members who took the time to contact assembly representatives and the Speaker in advance of Monday’s vote. Advocacy is making a difference!
This bill would remove the eligibility restrictions for receiving general assistance benefits under the Work First New Jersey program for persons who have been convicted of an offense involving the use, possession, or distribution of a controlled dangerous substance. Under S2806/A4913, people convicted of offenses involving controlled dangerous substances would be subject to the same eligibility requirements to receive general assistance benefits as apply to the general population, with no additional requirements or restrictions.
Currently, persons convicted of offenses involving the use, possession, or distribution of a controlled dangerous substance are ineligible for general assistance benefits, except that a person whose conviction involves possession or use may become eligible for benefits if the person enrolls in or completes a licensed residential drug treatment program. For persons enrolled in a treatment program, this exception is contingent on continued participation in the program and periodic drug screenings demonstrating the person has not used any controlled dangerous substance. There is currently no exception to the general assistance eligibility restriction for persons convicted of offenses involving distribution of a controlled dangerous substance.
The bill now awaits Governor Christie’s signature. With his signature we can roll back this lifetime punishment and give everyone the second chance they deserve to rebuild their lives and become productive citizens! Call his office (609-292-6000) or email today and ask him to sign this important piece of legislation for a stronger New Jersey.