Today at the Senate Education Committee hearing Garden State Equality marshalled attendees and speakers to an unusual legislative event – one devoid of naysayers – whereas at the Senate Budget Committee hearing the naysayers were all too present.
In this morning’s hearing on the Anti-bullying Bill (S2392) all were in agreement that we need to change the culture of kids, that names can hurt you, and that even some teachers can callously promote or ignore bullying. One young speaker said, “It started in elementary school. People were so cruel. I almost killed myself.” A mother spoke movingly about her son who did commit suicide. Other speakers included a lesbian, a transgender person, and survivors of bullying – all recounting very personal, isolating, frightening, devastating experiences. Seldom do we have a bill which costs almost nothing and yet which everyone agreed can do so much good. The bill was unanimously approved. Later in the day the Assembly unanimously approved the companion bill (A3466).
It was something of a culture shock to go next to the Budget Committee hearing where speakers were saying that Planned Parenthood promotes promiscuity, engages in fraud, and that any funds given to them frees up other monies to perform more abortions. The bill under review (S2393) would require our recalcitrant governor to file an application for expansion of Medicaid coverage for women’s health and family planning services for individuals with incomes from 133% to up to 200% of the poverty level. These funds, which can not be used for abortion, are for a wide variety of medical services which were contemplated in the very State budget which Republicans avidly supported. That did not stop Republicans from voting against the bill, but with a majority of Democrats on the committee and Senator Weinberg testifying in support, the bill was approved. It had already been approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee (A3273).
On other matters the Senate Budget Committee postponed a hearing on the bill (S2293) to transfer $5 million unexpended funds to Women’s Health and Family Planning, for which the identical Assembly Bill (A3274) has already gained approval. However, it did approve a bill (S2214) which restores income eligibility level for AIDS Drug Distribution Program to 500% of the federal poverty level. – All in all, a very good day for two committees in Trenton.