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Monday, January 29, 2007

A holiday lesson

The brouhaha over a bill to remove the requirement that schools teach about Memorial Day and Veterans Day, among other holidays, is almost over. Gov. Corzine on Friday issued a conditional veto of this misguided legislation. Both houses of the Legislature are going to accept his recommendations.

Several readers have asked who introduced this proposal (Sen. John Adler, D-Camden and Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-Mercer) and why the public didn't know about it until it was passed - unanimously in both houses no less. The answer is Trenton's variation of "earmarks,'' the very local, often expensive projects that get added to bills in Congress without hearings. In this case, the holiday teaching change was part of an otherwise worthy bill to reduce some of the state mandates on school districts.

Earmarks are a slick way for congressmen to act in favor of constituents and/or lobbyists outside the glare of a committee hearing. Add-ons like this holiday provision are almost as bad. It's hard to believe that no legislators questioned how patriotic holidays are a mandate worth dropping. But the fuss this has caused offers a lesson to all legislators: Read every bill through before voting. The public expects nothing less.

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