Just when you thought that New Jersey’s Chris Christie’s 15% approval rating as Governor couldn’t get any lower after a miserable 7½ years, think again. His inability to stand up to the deep pocketed ExxonMobil and preference to give something to the rich while able and willing to pick the pockets of the “unrich” taxpayer, or waking up to prize a healthy non-profit, masked by a sudden new found compassion for “some” drug addicts, have driven him to shut down state government in search of needed incoming funds, in retaliation to being challenged directly by NJ’s Speaker!
Christie now owns the title of the Grinch who attempted to steal NJ Taxpayer’s Summer. Since all of NJ’s State Parks and beaches were closed, including Liberty State Park that is home to the big July 4th Fireworks Display and concert in Jersey City. Did I say all of NJ’s State Parks? Island Beach State Park was open to Christie and his family since their summer home is there, but for the rest of us — Fuhgeddaboutit!
Now for the good and promising news:
Looks as if a deal was made Monday July 3rd and Christie has allowed the NJ taxpayers to get some of the services for which they have already paid. Beaches open!
Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop had a “plan B” and the Jersey City Fireworks Display will be held at Exchange Place on the Hudson River.
Meanwhile in the flurry of legislative activity, other than the State budget, two important legislative bills directly affecting New Jersey’s transgender people passed the legislature on a bipartisan basis and now await Chris Christie’s signature.
On June 29th S3017 which “Prohibits health insurers, SHBP, SEHBP, certain health care providers, and Medicaid from discriminating in providing coverage and services based on gender identity” passed the Senate unanimously 31-0.
In March, it had previously passed in the Assembly as A4568 by a vote of 62-6-7, and the final vote on June 29th after a clarifying amendment was 68-3-5). The legislation was introduced to counter some of the negative effects should Obamacare be repealed.
Also on June 29th the New Jersey Assembly voted to require the NJ Commissioner of Education to develop basic guidelines for all 600 some odd Boards of Education to comply with existing legislation in New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination and it’s anti-bullying laws. Basic guidelines so that there is not the expense of inventing 600 wheels!
A4652/S3067 “Requires Commissioner of Education to develop guidelines for school districts regarding transgender students.”
On June 19th it passed the Senate 25-10 (I was away and had no idea of the vote), but on June 26, which happened to be our planned LGBT Lobby Day, it was heard in the Assembly Budget Committee and our super advocates were out in full force to counter the misleading, questionable and often patently false testimony of the anti LGBT industry paid lobbyists (including “Ex-gay” Little Gregory, now Reverend, Quinlan)! The number of allies who did not testify, but indicated support including the Teacher and School Administrators organizations, was truly impressive. It passed the Budget Committee on a bipartisan vote of 11-2. So with the Assembly voting on June 29th 59-15-3, it passed both houses handily, what is next?
The big challenge:
According to the New Jersey Legislatures website, “After final passage, the bill is sent to the Governor. The Governor may sign it, conditionally veto it (returning it for changes) or veto it absolutely. . . . A bill becomes law upon the Governor’s signature or after 45 days if no action is taken. If the House of origin is in recess on the 45th day, the time is extended until it reconvenes . . . If vetoed, a bill may become law if the Legislature overrides the veto by a 2/3 vote.”
Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock. Now it is up to Governor Christie, who actually has the ability to show common sense human compassion and fiscal responsibility if he wants. Being a lame duck it is his choice to actually help the most vulnerable of his constituents and show real humanity. If Christie vetoes the bills, he puts the onus on Republican lawmakers who are up for reelection this November — some of whom are in competitive districts. Dealing with many Republicans over the years, I believe that many are personally supportive of transgender issues and people, but overriding Christie’s veto is another story. So far, no Republican has cast the final decisive vote and he has not been overridden. (In 2015 we had 7 Republicans vote for our birth certificate bill and needed only 3 votes for the override, perhaps our 3 Republican sponsors, but could only hold 2 . . . leaving us one short.)
Will morality, compassion, courage and justice win out? A few calls and letters can’t hurt! To be continued.