We’ve Got Answers to Your Questions for Our Legislators …

Lee Keough | January 26, 2018 | Politics
… And a chance to ask your questions about New Jersey's water quality

gray question 300 x200
A couple weeks ago we asked you to send us questions you have for the new Legislature. For the most part, we found that legislators haven’t firmed up all their plans for the new session – which last two years.

However, bills have already been introduced. For the most part, they are holdovers (or do-overs) from the last session, and it’s anyone’s guess if they’ll have more luck being passed than the previous session. (Although bills that were overwhelmingly supported by Democrats but vetoed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie will likely find a more receptive audience from Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.)

If you want to see what bills have already been introduced, visit the website of the Office of Legislative Services.

These two questions from readers, however, were easy to answer.

Question: Where should a person start if they want to discuss/recommend healthcare policy in New Jersey?

Answer: There are two approaches to this.

The first is to reach out to legislators themselves. (This works not just for healthcare but for any concern.) If you have an issue you’d like to see addressed by a law, you can always start with your own representatives (either State or Assembly). They might refer you to a member on the pertinent committee of either body – the Senate or the Assembly.

This is certainly the most direct way to get started, although you can’t just leave it at that. Legislators may not agree with you or may not want to take on the issue, for whatever reason. You have to follow up and follow through. Particularly in the case of healthcare, which is complex and has many competing interests, you would be wise to find other advocates to join you.

That’s the second approach: get additional support from the healthcare community. New Jersey is blessed with a lot of healthcare organizations, from academic centers and research groups to industry alliances, labor organizations, and advocates for patients.

Where to turn depends a bit on what type of policy you’re interested in, or who it impacts. Rutgers Center for State Health Policy has published many studies on how state healthcare systems are working – including access to care, workforce issues, and population health – and hosts events that are good forums to learn more and offer input.

The New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute gathers physicians, hospital leaders, and policy leaders to recommend proposals to improve the state’s healthcare operations and clinical outcomes, while reducing costs. The QI works closely with local leaders through the Mayors Wellness Campaign – designed to improve community health by partnering with farmers, exercise programs, and other health-related efforts – and leads several events, including regular open-house gatherings that can be a good opportunity to meet those involved with the state’s healthcare system.

New Jersey for Health Care is a coalition of groups, including labor, business, and patient advocates, focused on patient access and creating sustainable care. The group is politically active, rallying state and local leaders on specific issues, and works with partners to help individuals obtain insurance or otherwise navigate the system. The coalition is open to members and seeks to share personal stories about individual’s healthcare journeys.

Legislators themselves might point you to a group that can work with you, as they are familiar with the advocacy community.

Question: Will you attempt to kill Christie’s multimillion-dollar commitments to Capitol and Trenton projects?

Answer: While the Christie administration led the way on securing the financing for the $300 million renovation of the State House and the $216.5 million Trenton government-office building project, there’s little expectation that the newly sworn-in Legislature and its leaders will try to unravel or block these efforts in the new legislative session.

To get to the finish line, both projects had to win approval from more than just the Christie administration. In the case of the State House renovation, it was the little-watched State Capitol Joint Management Commission – a panel made up of both lawmakers and executive-branch officials – that provided the final go ahead. For the Trenton office buildings, the State House Commission and the Joint State Leasing and Space Utilization Committee, two other obscure panels consisting of both lawmakers and executive-branch officials, gave the final approvals.

If legislative leaders were truly opposed to either project, they would have exercised their influence to ensure they were voted down. And in the case of the Trenton office buildings, leaders from both parties shuffled in alternative members for a crucial State House Commission hearing after an initial vote on the project was deadlocked.

So no, don’t expect a roll-back on these projects. They seem to be a done deal.

Do you have a question about the current status of New Jersey’s water quality? Do you wonder if or how the state is protecting one of our most precious resources? If so, give us your question and we’ll try to get you the answer.

To participate, add your question to the box below. (It may look like there’s already text in the box, but when you start typing, yours will appear.) We will review your questions and answer some of them in a story in the near future.