…….This News Could Make You Sick!
Let’s start with the recent Supreme’s ruling on “honest services”. I’m not a lawyer and can’t pass any legal judgment on what this ruling actually means for many of the NJ pols caught in the web created by this federal law. But apparently, this past Friday was Joe Ferriero’s birthday and some Bergen County “worker bees” thought the court ruling was a great gift for their Chairman. Hence Mr. Ferriero’s “Wall” on his facebook page which is available for anyone to see – even if you’re not a “friend” to the former Democratic Chair. A few Ferriero minions, and current employees took time to wish “their Chairman” a happy birthday and to celebrate their joy and implicit hope that he will soon be back! They were almost giddy in their excitement. Folks like a former Freeholder, a relative of a County Prosecutor, a young employee slated for future promotion, etc. How disappointing. The legality of Mr. Ferriero’s situation will soon be sorted by the judicial system. But why do so many think that the kind of behavior evidenced by Mr. Ferriero should be celebrated? He and Dennis Oury hid their ownership of a grant consulting company hired by several Bergen communities over which they had an undue influence. Actions which caused embarrassment (and legal expenses) to some of the elected officials in those towns and certainly to our party. A cause for celebration? Certainly for him on a personal basis, but for government and for our party….certainly not!
More News To Make You Feel Sick. Family planning funds! I assume that by now most of you know that the Governor removed every penny of the $7.5 million dollars used to provide health services to uninsured and underinsured women in our state. Outrageous! Along with several of my democratic women colleagues in both the Assembly and the Senate, we’ve been fighting to get these dollars restored. Look back to Thursday’s Assembly Budget Committee hearing on our supplemental bill. Assemblywoman Linda Stender and I appeared along with several advocates and professionals from the family planning centers. There sat Assemblyman and Republican State Chair, Jay Webber! In response to testimony on how many unintended pregnancies are avoided through services provided by these agencies, (yep, that means birth control) Republican State Chair Jay Webber went on to say how offended he was about reducing the cost of children who could have been been born had these families not avoided pregnancy. Children important to our future. This is the second decade of the 21st Century and I was sitting there in my “mature” years arguing about uninsured women’s right to practice birth control! An issue that was fought and won early in the last century. Outrageous indeed!! In watching the clip of my “exchange” with the Republican State Chair, my anger is evident, but not nearly as evident as what I felt. Where are the good Republican women (and some of the great guys who sit alongside them)? They must speak out against moving women back to a time when they had so little control over their reproductive lives. This is not about abortion. It is about access to birth control.
And then there was the clip of the Governor on 101.5 being questioned by Eric Scott about women’s health services as he protested several times “this has nothing to do with mammograms” or with women’s health. HIV testing, breast exams, birth control, pap smears, pre-natal exams, and pregnancy counseling has nothing to do with women’s health? How insulting. He went on to argue that he supposed these funds were “not important” or they would have been reinstated. What crass treatment of the women of New Jersey. We will be fighting this today during our Senate and Assembly sessions. I am confident we will have the necessary votes to move the bill. However, without the help of Republican women, we will not have the votes to override a possible veto by the Governor. The bill makes it clear that the money cannot and will not be used for abortion services, and it provides a clear funding source without addition to the bottom line of the budget. Maybe the Governor will hear from enough women across the state so he will join us in recognizing that these programs are not Democrat or Republican, Conservative or Liberal programs. They are about Women’s Health!
And so today is the time when we stand up for our core ideals and vote on a Republican constructed budget which cuts taxes for millionaires and increases taxes for low income workers in New Jersey. A budget which makes New Jersey one of only 5 or 6 states that does not fund family planning centers. A budget which cuts school and municipal aide by hundreds of millions of dollars, increases the cost of commuting on our buses and rails, does away with senior property tax rebates, and increases a myriad of fees. Enough to make all of us sick.
One bright spot of the week was Saturday night’s elegant Garden State Equality Dinner. Great to watch Senators Nia Gill, Ray Lesniak and former Senator Bill Baroni being inducted into the Garden State Hall of Fame. Even sweeter joining Senator Frank Lautenberg on stage as he received the “Loretta Weinberg Lifetime Achievement Award” (that was a shameless commercial) and announced to the 600 folks in the audience that the Docs said his cancer was in remission. Hooray, and may he continue his outstanding service for many more years to come!