NEWARK, NJ - A new bill advanced in the state legislature today that would require an electric public utility to verify with every residential customer whether anyone in the home uses life-sustaining equipment powered by electricity.
The legislation was created in response to the death of Linda Daniels, a 68-year-old Newark resident who died last year after her oxygen mask lost power when her electricity was disconnected by PSE&G. The bill is titled “Linda’s Law” in her memory.
Electric public utilities would verify medical customers on a semi-annual basis. The information would come in the form of a physician's note. The bill would also prohibit an electric public utility from discontinuing service for nonpayment to a customer who relies on medical equipment powered in their home.
Yvonne Lopez (D-Middlesex), James Kennedy (D-Somerset/Union) and Eliana Pintor Marin (D-Essex) were the legislation's main sponsors. They, along with Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji, Wayne DeAngelo and Lisa Swain said more needs to be done by electric public utilities to meet the needs of medically dependent customers.
“We know that [the state Board of Public Utilities] regulations consider temperature as well as other factors prior to ordering a shut-off, however the health of our most vulnerable populations must also be made a priority factor in determining a discontinuation of service,” the bill’s sponsors said in a joint statement.
The state Board of Public Utilities, a quasi-judicial agency that monitors utility services and responds to consumer complaints, is still investigating Daniel's case, the majority press office wrote in its statement.
PSE&G said it has already taken steps that make it easier for it to know which customers are using life-sustaining equipment. The company is using a permanent bill message that solicits life-sustaining equipment information from customers, a standalone bill insert and increased social media messages to inform people of the new process.
"PSE&G supports the goal of S3029/A4430 and is committed to continuing to work with the bill’s sponsors on specific changes that will ensure the bill’s provisions can be effectively implemented and administered," the company said in a statement.
The state Assembly Telecommunications Committee today advanced the bill. It will head to the Assembly speaker for further consideration.