ADVERSE COMMITTEE EXPERIENCE OF THE WEEK
House Concurrent Resolution 2 was being heard in House State Affairs Committee on Feb. 7. It’s a resolution that says the governor should do more to stop horrible things from happening to children. Who doesn’t agree with that?
Rep. Geran Tarr presented her bill to the committee, saying that adverse childhood experiences (ACES) are a health crisis involving abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction. She spoke to the high cost of these experiences — obesity, higher drug abuse, higher Medicaid costs, higher suicide.
Tarr also talked touchingly about her own adverse childhood and the trauma experienced by her brother, who eventually committed suicide. It’s what motivates her to protect children.
It all seemed to be going well, and resolutions like this are rather routine. After all, no one can force the governor to stop everyone from beating and raping children. There is no fiscal note and no deliverables required.
HAPPY FAMILIES ARE ALL ALIKE
But then Rep. DeLena Johnson asked a reasonable question. She wondered aloud how far government should go to ensure a happy childhood.
That’s a question that reveals philosophical differences between Republicans and Democrats: Everyone wants children to have happy childhoods, but who defines what a good home is, and what the role of government is in such happiness.
Johnson was simply asking Rep. Tarr if she had any discomfort about the State becoming an Orwellian Big Brother inside families, or engaging in social engineering by deciding what constitutes a good childhood.
It was the same thing pondered by author Leo Tolstoy, who wrote in Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Who is the arbiter of when a family is just too dysfunctional? It’s the question of the ages for policy makers.
Tarr had a response:
“No, I don’t think that it is social engineering. I don’t think that people or that children should have to be beaten. Or sexually abused. I just disagree. I think children are innocent. They have no ability or choice in the situations that they are brought into and I think it’s a responsibility. For me its a moral issue more than anything else, a responsibility to care for all children until such time as that it’s not necessary.”
She concluded her response. Chairman Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins wanted to move along to the “net neutrality” bill. He wasn’t liking where this was going. Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux covered her face with her hands. Even Rep. Adam Wool looked surprised.
But Rep. Johnson was not done. She put her hand up.
“I would rather not get into it,” said Kreiss-Tomkins, weakly.
Over his objections, Johnson blurted out for the record that in spite of what Tarr had just insinuated, Rep. Johnson was not in favor of beating children or abusing them.
“I want to fly the flag that we’re not for abusing children,” Johnson said. “And that if we don’t have the resolution, that we are? I felt like that was what was just being said. And I want to make sure that it was clearly stated that it was not my intent.”
Johnson had made the classic rookie mistake of falling down the rabbit hole with Geran Tarr. Rep. Ivy Spohnholz had made a similar mistake last year regarding the “Wear Blue for Child Abuse Awareness Month” email she had sent to legislators, and she got an earful from Tarr about it. You just don’t go there with her; it’s her signature topic and Spohnholz could just go get her own signature topic.
And that’s Must Read Alaska’s random committee hearing of the week.