GOP Leader Opposes Fatherhood Legislation

By John Celock

The top Republican in the New Jersey state Assembly on Thursday opposed legislation to create a state panel to examine policies related to fatherhood.

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) told his colleagues during a floor debate on the fatherhood bill that the issue could be handled by non-profit groups and not by government. The legislation, which passed the Democratic-controlled Assembly, would establish a state Council on Responsible Fatherhood and a Responsible Fatherhood Fund in order to develop programs to promote fatherhood and educate men on how to be more involved fathers

Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Palmyra), the bill’s sponsor, told colleagues before Bramnick’s opposition speech, that the bill would help address a series of issues across the state. He said that children without involved fathers are more likely to drop out of school, commit crimes and become pregnant as teenagers.

Bramnick, a moderate Republican who is a legislative ally of Gov. Chris Christie (R), did not disagree with Singleton’s intentions but rather his approach.

“It is essential for our society to have strong families. Don’t we have strong institutions in the private sector, churches, synagogues and mosques? Does it have to be taxpayer money,” Bramnick said. “We should first reach out to organizations throughout this state and ask them to lend a hand. I think government and spending taxpayer money on this is a last resort.”

There was little response to Bramnick and lawmakers then voted 45-27 to pass the bill. Singleton told the Asbury Park Press earlier this week that the bill would not cost the state money, rather outside donors would be sought for the program.

Fatherhood initiatives have been gaining support among non-profit groups and state leaders in recent years. A White House report commissioned by President Barack Obama has recommended an increased focus on the subject and recommended public and private initiatives to address the involvement of fathers. The federal government also has a National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse located within the Department of Health and Human Services.

Illinois and North Carolina have created boards similar to what Singleton has proposed in New Jersey. The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitative Services both pushed for state fatherhood legislation under former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) and approved a state fatherhood program under Gov. Sam Brownback (R), one of the nation’s most conservative governors. The Kansas Department of Children and Families also has published a Strong Dads handbook online, as part of a
“Strong Dads, Strong Kids” initiative, that they noted is funded by both the state and federal governments. The Kansas program also includes a website with links to both public and private sector resources.