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PREVIEW – Senate Committees To Review COAH, Underage Drinking Monday

Committees Will Also Look at ‘Silver Alert’ for Missing Persons; Public Reporting of Hospital Errors

TRENTON – On Monday, Senate Committees will meet to review current issues impacting affordable housing in New Jersey, including efforts to reform the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), and the Governor’s calls to delay a 2.5% commercial developer’s fee in light of the current national economic crisis.

The Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee, chaired by Senator Ronald L. Rice, will hear testimony from Joseph V. Doria, Jr., Commissioner of Community Affairs, and Lucy Vandenberg, the Executive Director of COAH, at 10:00 AM in Committee Room 7 of the Statehouse Annex. Commissioner Doria and Executive Director Vandenberg have been invited to give the Committee an overview of the current status of COAH, including the impact of the economic downturn, the number of municipalities which have filed affordable housing plans as of the December 31 deadline, and the effect that reform efforts, including the delay on the 2.5% developer’s fee, will have on meeting affordable housing goals.

At 2:00 PM in Committee Room 6 of the Statehouse Annex, the Senate Economic Growth Committee will meet to consider a bill sponsored by the Committee Chairman, Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, which would make various reforms concerning affordable housing laws in the State. Senator Lesniak has led the effort to reform COAH in New Jersey, pointing out that unfunded housing mandates hurt municipalities, and that the developer’s fee would only stifle needed economic growth during the current national recession.

In addition to the two hearings involving affordable housing, the Senate Education Committee will meet at 10:00 AM in Committee Room 6 to consider S-2491, sponsored by Committee Chairwoman, Senator Shirley K. Turner, and Senate President Richard J. Codey, to create a Task Force to study underage drinking at New Jersey’s institutions of higher education. Senator Turner and Senate President Codey have spoken out against efforts to lower the drinking age, pushed by a group of college presidents known collectively as the Amethyst Initiative.

The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee will meet at 1:00 PM in Committee Room 1 to consider S-2471, sponsored by Committee Chairman, Senator Joseph F. Vitale, Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney, and Committee Vice Chairwoman, Senator Loretta Weinberg, to require the Department of Health and Senior Services to publicly report certain patient safety indicators on a hospital by hospital basis, and prohibiting health care facilities or physicians from charging patients for certain medical errors. The sponsors noted that a patient safety report card would give health care consumers better information before selecting their hospital, and would put increased pressure on hospitals to improve patient safety.

The Senate Law, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee will consider S-1844, sponsored by Senator Sandra Bolden Cunningham, and Committee Chairman, Senator John A. Girgenti, to establish a “Silver Alert” system for the rapid dissemination of information regarding a missing person who is believed to be suffering from dementia or another cognitive impairment. The concept behind the “Silver Alert” is modeled after New Jersey’s successful “Amber Alert” system for missing children.