Recognizing Senate President Sweeney’s Leadership and Impact on the Disability Community

December 16, 2021

Senate President Steve Sweeney, who has been a staunch advocate for people with disabilities in New Jersey, will be stepping down from his Senate position after losing his bid for re-election in November. During his 20-year tenure in the Senate, he championed disability initiatives such as banning the use of outdated terminology to describe intellectual disability, increasing funding for extraordinary special education costs, and improving the wages of Direct Support Professionals.

As a parent of a daughter with special needs, Senate President Sweeney brought a perspective and understanding that fueled his passion.

In 2015, Senate President Sweeney partnered with Autism New Jersey and other advocacy agencies to course correct a preliminary draft of the Statewide Transition Plan for Home and Community-based Services. At that time, all states were required to submit a draft plan to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to come in compliance with CMS’s final rule on community living standards for people with disabilities. Autism New Jersey was deeply concerned that New Jersey’s draft plan was arbitrarily restrictive, limited consumer choice, and would suppress housing development and innovation. Senate President Sweeney agreed and worked closely with Autism New Jersey to craft amendments to the plan that eased some of these restrictions and re-focused the plan on individuals’ needs and choices.

“Having a leader like Senate President Sweeney recognize the policy implications of this complicated matter and the impact it would have on thousands of those with disabilities was critical,” reflected Suzanne Buchanan, Autism New Jersey’s Executive Director. “His work with us on the Statewide Transition Plan is just one example of many where his influence made a difference.”

Senate President Sweeney’s years of advocacy for individuals with disabilities tangibly improved the lives of some of the most vulnerable citizens of our state, and the impact of his leadership will be felt for decades to come. Autism New Jersey gratefully acknowledges Senator Sweeney’s unwavering commitment and wide-ranging policy accomplishments on behalf of the developmental disability community and wishes him all the best in his future endeavors.