Massive Pushback Sinks New Jersey’s Attack on Religious Exemptions by Erin Elizabeth for Health Nut News
Hundreds of protestors made their voices heard outside a window to the state Senate chambers at the Statehouse in Trenton on Monday, speaking out against a bill that would eliminate religious exemptions in New Jersey.
It passed the Assembly, but the Senate, lacking the votes to approve it, abandoned an effort Monday night to pass the controversial bill that would eliminate a law allowing 14,000 school children in New Jersey exemptions because of their family’s religious beliefs.
Once Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, gaveled out without taking up the bill, a significant and sustained cheer from the large crowd of parents who turned out to oppose the bill erupted from the gallery and hallway outside the Senate chambers in Trenton.
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Lawmakers remarked that opponents had staged one of the largest and longest protests in Statehouse history.
Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, who said he was one vote short to pass the bill (A3818), and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, the bill’s sponsors, said they were not deterred by the raucous crowds, who for hours chanted, “Kill the Bill!” and “In God We Trust!”
Sen. Joseph Lagana, D-Bergen, could be heard explaining to Vitale that he wouldn’t vote yes because it “is just too personal for me.”
At about 6 p.m., Vitale confirmed he did not have the 21 votes needed to pass the bill in the 40-member Senate. But Sweeney did not confirm Vitale’s assessment until he gaveled out for the night two hours later.
The bill passed the state Assembly by a 45-24 vote with seven abstentions mid-afternoon Monday. From the gallery seating upstairs, the audience erupted, “We will not comply!”
The state Senate has two voting sessions scheduled in January before the two-year session ends on Jan. 13. If it doesn’t pass by then, the legislative hearing process would have to start over. Should the Senate pass the bill, it would be up to Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, to decide whether to sign it into law or veto it. Asked about the measure during an unrelated event in Saddle Brook on Monday, Murphy would not say whether he’d sign it. He said: