Discrepancy over pulling of healthcare bill

TRENTON – The sponsor of a bill that would have appropriated $6.3 million for women’s health services said she had to withdraw it because of difficulty in getting a hearing postponement.

However, the committee chairwoman said she was trying to work out such a rescheduling but that the bill was pulled before the matter could be resolved.

In either case, both the sponsor – Sen. Diane Allen, (R-7), Edgewater Park – and the Health committee chair – Sen. Loretta Weinberg, (D-37), Teaneck – expressed support for the goal of restoring funding for health services for women.

Allen said today she had no choice but to withdraw the bill altogether because she could not get the bill held from a hearing that had been scheduled for Thursday in Hackensack.

Allen said she wanted the bill held from consideration by the Senate Health committee because she would have been unable to attend that hearing. It’s always been common courtesy, she said, to hold bills in such situations when the sponsor requests it.

Allen said that on Tuesday she asked Weinberg to hold the bill, but was told by Weinberg she had to discuss it with Sen. President Steve Sweeney first. Allen said that she never heard back. As a result, Allen said, she had no choice but to pull the bill altogether, but plans to reintroduce it at some point.

Weinberg said she and Allen did discuss a postponement Tuesday on the Senate floor, that she told Allen she would discuss it with the Senate president to get his OK, and that she would get back to Allen by the end of the day. Weinberg said that the veto override session did not conclude until about 2:30, and that by 4:30, before she could get back in touch with Allen, she learned that Allen already had pulled the bill.

Allen said today she does not blame Weinberg for what happened.

“I never heard back from anybody,’’ Allen said, “so I didn’t have another opportunity to address this.’’

Weinberg, however, said, “I said to her clearly I will talk to the president  to make sure it’s OK to cancel and by time I got back, it wasn’t even the end of the day, I found out she’d withdrawn the bill. I believe something happened with the administration.”

The issue of women’s health care funding has been a controversial one throughout this just-concluded budget season, as well as last year when Weinberg fought for months to have money restored to that budget.

This year an effort by Weinberg to restore $7.5 million in funding for women’s health care services was vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie, and the Senate was unable to override the veto.

Allen and Sen. Jennifer Beck, (R-12), Red Bank, last week introduced their bill that sought to appropriate $6.3 million for women’s health services.

Their now-withdrawn bill would have specifically stated no funding could be used for abortions, and the money would have to come from resources certified by the administration but not yet appropriated.

Allen said she has always gotten along with Weinberg, and said, “I am committed to finding a way to make this happen,” and reiterated her plan to reintroduce the bill.

“It’s sad that women’s health care funding continues to be up in the air,’’ Allen said, and expressed disappointment with the politics.

Weinberg, also, expressed support for the common goal and said that in light of what happened with her own attempt to restore $7.5 million for women’s health services, the Allen/Beck bill was a good fallback position. 

“My attitude, from the beginning,’’ Weinberg said, “is that I really am not enjoying this being a political issue.”

She said she even intended to pursue a bill to restore that additional $1 million that could be used to leverage $9 million in federal funds, but keep it separate so as not to jeopardize the Allen/Beck bill.

Discrepancy over pulling of healthcare bill