Republican Senators filed 75 amendments on the state budget Monday before debate began at around 4 p.m. this afternoon. It’s unclear how many of them they planned to call, but one of those amendments so infuriated Democratic lawmakers that they held a press conference to address it.
The amendment filed by Sen. Len Suzio, R-Meriden, eliminated $1 million in state funding for Planned Parenthood. Its comes less than a month after the organization was fighting back Republican attacks at the national level.
Judy Tabar, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, said without the money services will have to be reduced. She said the money is used to offset the cost of services for clients based on income. Currently the organization serves 63,000 patients each year and 90 percent of those services are preventative.
She said she is disappointed by the amendment, but she was also heartened by the response of Democratic lawmakers.
House Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said he’s disappointed Republicans are taking fiscal matters and interlacing their “extreme policy agenda” in the middle of a very serious discussion on the budget.
“When it gets into social policy it steps over the line,” Sharkey said. “We have very serious work to do.”
Sen. Ed Meyer, D-Guilford, said the lawmaker who wrote the amendment is out of step with the mainstream of the Republican Party. He pointed out Prescott Bush, the politician the annual Republican fundraiser is named after, served as the treasurer of the first national capital campaign of Planned Parenthood in 1947.
Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, called the amendment was a “waste of time.”
“We ought not to be doing stupid amendments like this,” Prague said.
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, said it was not a caucus amendment. Sources say Suzio was privately encouraged not to submit it, but any Senator can file an amendment on a bill.
Suzio said he can’t understand why the amendment caused such an overreaction. He said it represents 1/2000th of the budget and didn’t understand why it would create an uproar. He said it’s an issue that cuts across party lines and he doesn’t believe the state should be giving money to such a radical organization.
He suggested the money go to another community health care center that’s less controversial.
He said frankly he’s more interested in calling the amendment he drafted that forces the state to restructure its debt payments. He said restructuring debt won’t impact the social programs that Democratic lawmakers don’t want to cut.
More than three hours into the debate there haven’t been any amendments called by Republican lawmakers.