POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Bill to restore family planning funding heads to governor

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

Thursday is not the first day the Democrat-controlled Legislature attempted to restore $7.5 million in funding for Planned Parenthood and similar family planning centers, but it is the first under a new governor who’s vowed to sign it.

“This is the primary source of health care, so we are hopeful,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle.

Several members of the Assembly spoke to the fact that while they supported access to women’s health care, they never received answers on questions on where the money would be spent.

“My decision today is not a philosophical one, it’s a financial one. As a steward of money of the people of the state of New Jersey, I have to abstain on this bill,” said Republican Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz.

“I promise as the leader of the majority party that I will contact them,” said Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald.

The bill passed and is heading to the governor’s desk.

“Regardless of political party, we can all agree on one thing — that protecting the well-being of our children is of utmost importance,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Joann Downey.

Downey took to the floor to discuss a bill she was a primary sponsor on. At a previous education committee hearing, advocates explained, a school district out of fear of damaging its reputation, might hide information about potential child abuse by an employee.

On Thursday, the Assembly unanimously voted to make it a requirement for schools to disclose that information, and for the hiring district to investigate any claims they are given.

“If somebody gets falsely accused of something for any reason, that we’re now not marking that person for life, and not allowing them to get a job, and those questions were answered for me,” said Republican Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi.

Another education bill that passed unanimously was a bill to require schools to provide sexual abuse and assault awareness, and prevention to students in pre-K through 12th grade.

“Whatever we can do to teach our boys and our girls as to what is acceptable and what is not, I support,” said Schepisi.

Both education bills now head to the governor’s desk.

The conversation then shifted to property taxes. A bill up for the second reading in the Assembly would allow taxpayers to make dedicated prepayment toward anticipated property taxes.

“We’re trying to get ahead of this federal income tax because it caps at $10,000, so it has an adverse effect to property tax payers in New Jersey,” said Democratic Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo.

“We don’t want to waste municipalities’ expense and time to go through this,” said Democratic Assemblyman Roy Freiman.

“I don’t have a problem with it, but it should serve as a wake-up call to New Jersey that we need to lower our taxes,” said Republican Assemblyman Ryan Peters.

The bill passed with one vote against it and now heads to the Senate.

“By the administration pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord, it certainly is a detrimental effect,” said Huttle.

Last year, state lawmakers passed a bill that would have made New Jersey a member of the U.S. Climate Alliance.

The bill passed in both the Assembly and Senate, but was pocket vetoed by former Gov. Christie.

“I’m not against the environment. Let’s be clear on that, helping the environment. This particular piece of legislation really doesn’t do anything,” said Republican Assemblyman Kevin Rooney.

On Thursday, it passed so the bill and several others will now see new hope with a Democratic governor.

“We think they represent the values of the state of New Jersey and we’re eager to get them going forward,” said Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin.

It’s a sign that change is in the works for New Jersey.