Tag Archive: Linda Stender

Weinberg & Stender: Reports of override’s death are exaggerated

The two point people working to override Gov. Christie’s veto on women’s health care funding say they’re not done fighting –  and won’t give up in the face of some Republicans peeling off to back their party’s governor. Loretta Weinberg:

We will continue to appeal to lawmakers of good conscience on both sides of the political divide, because failure on this override would be a catastrophe of epic proportions for health care in NJ.

Yesterday, as Weinberg and Stender were about to start a news conference, Senate GOP staffers came in to distribute a release announcing that 6 of the 7 Republicans who backed the funding when the bill came up in June would now vote against the override (the 7th, Sen. Jennifer Beck, is out of the country). Weinberg & Stender say there’s strong-arming going on by GOP leaders ideologically opposed to funding women’s health care (scroll for it). And those 6 are their first mission.

Linda Stender:

For our part, this battle’s not over until the vote is taken, and legislators are called on to either stand with us, or against uninsured women in NJ.

Both continue to ask Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff’s for an explanation of the reasons he opposes their bill, and believe the flip-flops partly traceable to him. They cite a letter he released yesterday citing unspecific and vague actuarial concerns for the State employee prescription drug program – more than 1 month after the legislature voted.

That’s relevant because the suggestion of how to generate funding – using surplus funds in the prescription drug program – was actually suggested by the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services. And the Treasurer’s 3-paragraph letter never addressed that, or much else. (Actually, failure to fund would cost us money).

There sure seems to be no trouble digging up the money for stuff Gov. Christie wants to spend on.

Weinberg & Stender Video

As promised earlier, here is the video of Senator Loretta Weinberg and Linda Stender at their news conference this morning, talking about the “tough uphill battle” for bi-partisan support in the legislature to override Gov. Christie’s veto of $7.5 million funding for women’s health care at family planning centers.

There’s some levity at the governor’s expense. Then, the serious businesss, calling out the Republican governor wrapping his own ideology inside a hypocritical, and faked, excuse that New Jersey can’t afford not to cut tens of thousands of New Jersey women loose, and exercising party discipline at the expense of good policy.

Stender, Weinberg on Continued Effort to Restore Funding for Women’s Healthcare (A-3019) from NJ Assembly Democratic Office on Vimeo.

Weinberg & Stender for the Jersey Girls

Screen shot of Weinberg/Stender signatures

Late this morning, Loretta Weinberg and Linda Stender stepped up to a microphone and launched an effort to generate enough support from responsible legislators of conscience – of both parties – to override the veto of Governor Chris Christie. A letter from them both (posted after the jump) went to every legislator in both houses today.

We should have video later today – I’ll post when I get it. There was apparently a little satire prologue.

As this effort gets off the ground, Chris Christie is pulling in GOP senators who previously supported restoring the state’s funding to women’s health care centers. A simple, cold demonstration of party unity. Six senators – Diane Allen (a particular disappointment), Christopher “Kip” Bateman, Andrew Ciesla, Christopher Connors, Sean Kean and Robert Singer – all now say they would reverse their yes votes in an override because state Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff convinced them that the money Democrats had earmarked to pay for the restoration would put the state’s prescription drug program in a $5.6 million deficit. And by the way, the Treasurer, who skipped a request to appear in public before the Senate Health Committee has never told the legislators why he differs with the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services, who suggested the $7.5 could be generated by taking surplus cash from the state employee prescription account.

At stake is the health of more than 136,000 Jersey Girls – the number served last year by family planning centers whose funding is now in doubt. Many of those women have had nowhere else to go.

Also at stake, the number of abortions NJ’s likely to see next year if Christie’s veto holds. The legislators cite research from the Guttmacher Institute demonstrating that without family planning funding to support contraceptives, NJ will actually see an increase in abortions due to an explosion in unplanned pregnancies. Legislators who claim the pro-life mantle should think hard. Last year, these centers helped prevent 40,000 pregnancies, 19,000 abortions.

At stake, too, is access to services that include not only birth control and routine gynecological exams but also prenatal care, screenings for high blood pressure, anemia, diabetes, sexually transmitted infections, and breast and cervical cancer, and critical education & outreach to people who need it.

Money’s also at stake, but it’s not Christie says. By providing publicly-funded contraceptive services, NJ saved $156M in state & federal Medicaid dollars in 2008, the legislators say, money NJ would have had to spend on pre- and post-natal care, delivery and infant care. NJ would save an estimated $4 for every $1 spent, by allocating $7.5 million, or 1/10th of 1% of the total budget. Weinberg and Stender also said they would require the state to apply for 90% match in federal dollars – funding we are eligible for right now – which would save an additional $90M over the next 5 years. Weinberg/Stender letter after the jump.

The Double Standard

Chris Christie’s double standard never ceases to amaze! But it’s more than past time that we all take on his “double speak” each time he does it!  For instance and I paraphrase slightly: “Why would I put more money into a broke pension system?” Of course, why ask the obvious: “Why is it broke?” Has he contributed to the severe pension problems by skipping state pension payments in this year’s budget? Even Governor Jon Corzine, whom he trashes at every opportunity, managed to pony up a portion of the state’s contribution.  By the way, public employees have continued to pay their own share each and every year.

Now to the budget.

Need $7.5 million for family planning centers? Oh, not a priority, according to the Gov. We can’t possibly find that.

Need $65 million to close a gaping budget hole when it was realized that doing away with the Sunday closing laws in Bergen County would make a very serious political problem for Republicans in Bergen? Oh, that was easy. Just say “We’ll improve tax collections”…..and poof, we found $65 million in anticipated revenue.

Need $5 million to buy Senator Doherty’s vote for the budget? Just change another line item.

Gee, a political problem when the Christie budget increased the co-pay for the prescription program for low income seniors. Oh that was easy too, let’s get dollars from the national democratic health care reform money coming to our state. You know, the same program his party has been bad mouthing.The one Republicans worked hard to defeat.

Maybe removing more than 900 folks from receiving life saving drugs is not such a great idea. Got caught short on that one when Senator Joe Vitale and the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Aids brought it to light. Find the dollars by just saying we’ll get better discounts from the pharmaceutical industry and then criticize the Senator “for playing politics” when he wrote to restore these much needed funds.  That was really a smooth one Governor! Well maybe those same pharmaceutical companies can increase the discount in the employee prescription program for the family planning centers.

Tax credits (or even bail outs …. Xanadu?) for private business are good ideas if we can keep jobs in New Jersey. No big argument here. So let’s do it to keep Honeywell in Morris County. Oh the TV and movie industry? Gee who cares if Law & Order moved from North Bergen to New York to film their series. Who cares if that part of North Jersey lost jobs and all the small business around who serviced such endeavors?  Governor, tell us the difference between the two.

Ok. You all have the idea. We should headline these in Blue Jersey each and every time he does it. Did I miss any? Send them in.

Now back to Family Planning Centers. Every major newspaper in the state has endorsed the restoration of these funds. Organizations like Catholics for Choice, Women’s Political Caucus, Women Advocating for Good Government (WAGG) and The League of Women Voters have already supported this effort and are lining up their membership. I expect to hear soon from the National Council of Jewish Women. The Legislative Black Caucus has also joined the chorus. We cannot let folks get away with claiming this is a budget problem! It is not. The Governor knows it, the Treasurer probably knows it which is why he was afraid to be questioned in public and certainly the Commissioner of Health & Senior Services knows it. And don’t keep repeating that the Federally Qualified Health Centers can take the new patients. They can’t. They’ve said so themselves and their financial reports back them up.  And again, don’t repeat that the CEED program can take all comers for mammograms and pap smears. Maybe they can, but where do these women go to get the doctor prescriptions they need to access these services.  Stop the myth spinning. Women’s health is too important to continue this cynical endeavor to placate the right wing of the Governor’s party!

The women (and many of the good men) in our state will not let any legislator stand up with a straight face and try to claim this is all about the budget, or that poor women will have access to health care without this funding.

Assemblywoman Stender and I have not yet talked to our legislative leadership to work out the timing of a legislative override. It has to originate in the Senate, since that’s where the bill originated. We’ll let you know as soon as we have an agreed upon schedule.  In the meantime, keep letters and emails coming to the legislature. We absolutely need your help on this one. Get your family, neighbors, and friends to join the growing chorus. This is the time for all blue (and even red) New Jerseyans to join together and start with the Senate – your own Senator or any other you know.

Keep your voices heard!

 

Chris Christie vetos Family Planning

Bad news. – promoted by Rosi

Governor Christie has always been kinda hostile towards women’s health, but at least his is advise is clear: have more babies and get more cancer.

Here’s a quick-time reaction from the bill’s sponsor, Senator Loretta Weinberg.

The Governor Did Invite Us……

…..to talk about Family Planning Centers, their funding and women’s access to health care.  Assemblywoman Linda Stender and I met with Governor Christie and Lt Governor Guadagno for an hour this afternoon. It was a seemingly amiable and respectful exchange. Mr. Christie was interested in the statistics we gave him outlining the number and kinds of services provided at these centers. He did say that the Treasurer questioned the funding source we have in the bill, so we supplied him with the OLS analysis which confirmed our figures.  No promises were made, but he did say we would have an answer sooner, rather than later.  Both Assemblywoman Stender and I assured him that we would prefer taking this issue off his plate while giving back to uninsured women this important access for themselves and their families.  However, though we thanked him for his courtesy during the meeting, we also made it clear that this is not an issue which can be easily dismissed. Women’s access to health care is a priority and will continue to be!  This funding must be restored.

Assemblywomen storm the Gov’s office

Almost a dozen Democratic Assemblywomen stormed Chris Christie’s office today to talk to him about restoring the $7.5 million for family planning his budget removed. Brava, to them. A bill restoring the funds passed both houses last week, but Christie is mum on whether he’ll sign it into law. This is not the first time they’ve tried to get the governor’s attention.

He wasn’t there. Two of his aides met the women at the door, requesting they call in advance if they want to see him. Christie was at a private residence in Somerset County talking about his property tax cap plans at an event. Asw Valerie Huttle is one of the bill’s sponsors:

We were dismissed, in my opinion, as we walked into the governor’s office without any real sense of a schedule or ‘I’m going to take care of this.’

The assemblywomen – joined by Asm John Burzichelli – made no appointment. But Linda Stender, another sponsor, said she tried Friday to make an appointment with (pro-choice) LG Kim Guadagno. Her call was never returned.

They’re right to wonder. Christie has not distanced himself from on-the-record statements made by his GOP State Chair, Asm Jay Webber, that the $7.5 million in family planning funds simply funnels money to abortion providers. The bill specifically prohibits those funds paying for abortions, but anti-abortion activists, like Webber, complain 29 of the 58 clinics affected are run by Planned Parenthood.

The reality? More than 136,000 New Jerseyans are served in the family planning centers whose budgets are being slashed. They get screenings for breast and cervical cancer and for high blood pressure, for anemia and diabetes, for HIV/AIDS and for sexually transmitted infections. Many of their patients are uninsured; the clinics are their primary care. This includes women who get their birth control care there, and say they may have to go off birth control if they lose the clinic.

Know what you get if you have sexually-active people with no access to contraception? You get more abortions. Somebody tell Jay Webber. Somebody tell Chris Christie.  

The Press Was Elsewhere!

This past Thursday was a busy day for many of us, but if one just read the mainstream press, you might not have realized it.

It was Women’s Healthcare Week, and many of our women legislators decided to mark the occasion by protesting Governor Christie’s wiping out all the dollars ($7.5million) in the Family Planning budget.  As has been noted before, this money is earmarked for uninsured or underinsured men and women who get HIV testing, cervical cancer screening, family planning information and general reproductive health care through these centers. Joined by Assemblywomen Valerie Huttle, Linda Stender, Linda Greenstein, Elise Evans, Cleopatra Tucker, Pam Lampitt, Annette Quijano, Mila Jasey, Joan Voss, and Connie Wagner, we held a well attended press conference, that is except the press! Though, NJN did stop in for a brief moment or two. Apporximately 50 pink shirt supporters joined us bringing along hundreds of signed post cards protesting these cuts!  The cards were delivered to the Governor’s office. Do you think he’ll read them? In my remarks, I suggested some cuts to other programs within the budget to transfer much needed funds to this program.  Let’s see if the Governor will look at these re-ordering of priorities, and we’ll know if this budget cut is a matter of dollars or a matter of philosophy!

My next stop was the Senate State Government Committee meeting to speak for my bill giving the Governor veto power over the minutes of the Passaic Valley Sewer Authority and the North District Water Commission.  These were the only two commissions we could find which were State appointments with no governor veto power.  I reminded the committee, that I started on this road several years ago and first coined the description “shadow governments” to describe these authorities. In 2007 when Assembly colleagues Gordon Johnson, Valerie Huttle and I first  took a look at the PVSA, we found that over a six year period, they spent more than $13 million on legal fees, and more than $3 million on consultants. Included in the consultant fees was $100,00 for a well connected flak to produce a children’s coloring book called, “Messy Marvin”.  Makes Brian Christiansen look like one of the pikers of the hangers on at the PVSA. It’s all so outrageous!

And as outrageous, is it took several years to get this bill posted in committee. Since Governor Christie has rightly made an issue of these “shadow governments” which spend millions of our tax dollars and user fees with very little accountability, this bill should pass both houses before the summer break.



Next was the Judiciary Committee meeting
where we approved the nominations of Lori Grifa as the Commissioner of Community Affairs and Harold Wirths as the Commissioner of Labor & Workforce Development.  Acting Commissioner Wirths was closely questioned about his lack of experience (he has been a Republican county Freeholder) in the area of labor relations.  I was concerned with his continuing in his Freeholder position while serving as an “acting commissioner”.  Asked OLS for an opinion on the subject, and they said it was important to get an Ethics Board ruling.  It was claimed that such a ruling had been forthcoming last February which gave him permission as long he turned down his Freeholder salary.  I still believe this could be a court challenge, but since he was resigning both his elected position and his service on a bank board with his confirmation, it became moot.  Both nominees now move to the full Senate for a vote.

We all know we have a reduced statehouse press corps., and they were covering the Millionaire’s Tax hearing and the Lesniak theater action for the voucher bill held on the statehouse lawn. Curious juxtaposition! Several hundred religious and private school students were brought to Trenton to support the Lesniak/Kean bill. I didn’t hear anyone from the Governor’s office refer to them as “Drug Mules” or denounce them as youngsters who had no idea why they were there.  Don’t get me wrong – I think it was great that these young people got to see their government in action! They probably learned more that day than they would in classrooms. I do, however, think the Governor’s “double standard” is quite evident! Students who support Christie’s initiatives can get the day off from school, but those students who disagree with his cuts to public schools deserve to be derided and insulted.  

The prior Monday, I had the great pleasure of joining Senator Ray Lesniak for our book signing at Kean College for “What’s Love Got to Do With it“, about the fight for Marriage Equality in the New Jersey State Senate. It’s a beautiful book with wonderful pictures and contains many of the words which were shared on January 7, 2010.  There were more than 100 people who turned out for this event at the new Kean Human Rights Institute. My thanks to Ray for including me in this adventure. Yes I know: Lesniak & Weinberg – definitely an odd couple – but fun nevertheless!

So all this while the very much smaller group of print media folks were elsewhere. And how about Channel 12? Do they ever really cover New Jersey News live? Seems every time I turn them on they are doing the “Weather on the Ones” or the “Pet Doctor”. We need to keep NJN. They are the only statewide New Jersey television news. I’ve written to the administration  to try and find out if anyone has actually worked on a plan to transition NJN into a private company. And what happens to their state owned assets? Lots of unanswered questions here, but we must work to preserve this NJ television news.

Keep your voices heard!

The McBride nomination was the surprise they all knew about

Talk about grandstanding. If you listen to Republicans, many of the nominations from the Governor during lame duck were completely unexpected, came out of nowhere and are cause for uproar. Take for example Ed McBride, the Governor’s former chief of staff to a judgeship in Burlington County who the GOP says was a complete surprise and pushed them over the line. The reality is far from that and indicates grandstanding to score political points. Call it the surprise they had advance notice of:

So, let’s go back. On November 12, Christie and Corzine met face to face for the first time since the election. They were joined by the ArchBishop of Newark, because the meeting took place after the blue mass. There, they discussed transition and according to Corzine some appointments the Governor was hoping to make in the coming weeks before leaving office.

Was there an actual agreement? hard to say. But if there was at least a gentlemen’s agreement, at some point it deteriorated. Perhaps it was the sheer number of nominations and appointments Corzine asked for: 180.  The Christie people feel that this is an attempt to jam through unpopular appointments at the 11th hour. Or perhaps it was the nomination of Chief of Staff Ed McBride to a judgeship. Here is where this gets tricky. The Corzine camp says it was made clear as early that Newark meeting that McBride was one of the appointments he’d like to make. They think for Christie’s people to object now is disingenuous.

Separately, Blue Jersey has also been told that the Governor conveyed his intention to nominate McBride in that very first meeting. Not only did Christie and his team know, but sources in the Governor’s Office confirm to BlueJersey that Christie’s senior staff was directly informed of Corzine Chief of Staff Ed McBride’s judicial nomination several days before the nomination was dropped.  In addition, we’re also told that McBride personally reached out to each member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, both Demcorat and Republican, days before the nomination was filed.

The same situation happened with Senator Phil Haines, who for months was speculated to get a nomination for judgeship.  Then he gets the nomination he’s been seeking and rumored to have and he turns it down. He didn’t turn it down because he doesn’t want it, in fact he really does. He just will wait until Christie nominates him again. In fact, Haines pending nomination became an issue in the local Medford Council race last cycle, where his rumored successor Chris Myers was called on to withdraw from the race and answer questions on the matter.

Along with those situations, you have Tom Kean Jr. crying about a nomination to the BPU when he himself stood in the way of the potential nomination of Linda Stender long before it came to this.

Whether or not the Governor should have made appointments before lame duck is a separate issue from whether the Republicans are just trying to score political points and run out the clock before he can make the appointments and nominations. And even though two wrongs don’t make a right, the 257 lame duck nominations the GOP approved when Don DiFrancesco left office in 2001 shows that they know how the game has been played and only have born again opposition to it because of how Corzine is now leading the way. To act like they didn’t know is beyond disingenuous.  This is the surprise they all knew about in advance. Doesn’t that mean it’s not really a surprise at all?

Stender wants you to “Go Red”

Linda Stender has recorded a PSA encouraging women to learn more about heart disease:

The PSA coincides with “American Heart Month” and the American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” campaign, which seeks to raise women’s awareness of cardiovascular disease – the number one killer of women in America.

Here’s some more information on the impact of heart disease:

About 450,000 women die annually from heart disease and stroke, including nearly 14,000 in New Jersey. Although heart disease is normally associated with men, it is also the No. 1 killer of women over the age of 20, according to the heart association.

Have you had your heart checked?