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About NH Labor News

The New Hampshire Labor News is a group of NH Workers who believe that we need to protect ourselves against the attacks on workers. We are proud union members who are working to preserve the middle class. The NHLN talks mostly about news and politics from NH. We also talk about national issues that effect working men and women here in the Granite State.

Senator Hassan Joins Colleagues in Calling on Education Department to Explain Delay of Gainful Employment Rule

Image from Senator Hassan on FLIKR (All Rights Reserved)

Senators Argue Delay Hurts Students and Needlessly Stalls Important Protections for Taxpayers

WASHINGTON – Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined a group of her Senate colleagues in calling on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to explain the Department’s decision to delay the implementation of the Gainful Employment rule, which cracks down on for-profit higher education institutions that fail to prepare students for good-paying jobs that allow them to repay their student debt. Last week, the Department of Education announced it would postpone the deadline for failing schools to submit appeals of their debt-to-earnings rates and delay the use of a new disclosure template to provide students better information about their programs. 

“The Gainful Employment rule is a critical protection for both students and taxpayers,” the Senators wrote in a letter to Secretary DeVos. “It will encourage improvement of career education programs that fail to adequately prepare students for good-paying jobs that allow them to repay their student debt, and cut off federal financial aid to programs that continue to fall short of these reasonable expectations. This will help prevent students from amassing debt that they can’t repay and reduce taxpayer dollars being wasted on underperforming programs. Disappointingly, [the Department] has now moved the March and April deadlines back to July 1, 2017, on the grounds that the delay will allow time to ‘further review’ the regulation… [T]his delay needlessly stalls important protections for students and taxpayers and creates more uncertainty for schools.” 

The letter was also signed by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patty Murray (D-WA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jack Reed (D-RI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Al Franken (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Chris Murphy (D-CT).

Federal law requires career education and certificate programs at for-profit, not-for-profit, and public institutions to prepare students for “gainful employment in a recognized occupation” in order to qualify for federal student aid. The Department’s Gainful Employment rule seeks to hold institutions to that statutory responsibility. Final debt-to-earnings data released by the Obama Administration in January revealed that 98 percent of the 800 failing degree programs identified were offered by for-profit colleges. 

Full text of the letter is available here and below:

March 13, 2017
The Honorable Elisabeth DeVos
Secretary
Department of Education
400 Maryland Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20202

 

Dear Secretary DeVos:  

            We write today regarding our serious concerns over the Department of Education’s (ED) announcement delaying implementation of the Gainful Employment (GE) rule. 

            The Gainful Employment rule is a critical protection for both students and taxpayers.  It will encourage improvement of career education programs that fail to adequately prepare students for good paying jobs that allow them to repay their student debt, and cut off federal financial aid to programs that continue to fall short of these reasonable expectations.  This will help prevent students from amassing debt that they can’t repay and reduce taxpayer dollars being wasted on underperforming programs.  

            On January 9, 2017, the Department of Education released final Debt-to-Earnings (D/E) rates for all GE programs at public, non-profit, and for-profit schools.  These rates were generated using earnings data from the Social Security Administration and data on program completers reported by institutions.  GE afforded schools two opportunities to formally challenge ED’s calculations of their data before the January 9 release. 

            The rule, generously, gives schools a third opportunity for appeal after the release of final D/E rates.  Schools can submit alternate earnings data for “failing” or “zone” (near-failing) programs if that data will improve the program’s rate significantly enough to avoid sanctions.  The deadline for colleges to notify ED of their intent to file an alternate earnings appeal was January 23.  Schools then had until March 10 – more than six weeks – to submit their final appeals. 

In addition, schools were required to begin using the new GE Disclosure Template by April 3.  This new and improved template includes a more meaningful completion rate, the typical earnings of graduates, whether a program meets state licensure requirements, and a prominent warning for failing programs that do not have appeals pending.  The GE Disclosure Template will help students be better informed consumers.  

Disappointingly, ED has now moved the March and April deadlines back to July 1, 2017, on the grounds that the delay will allow time to “further review” the regulation.  According to a Department spokesperson, the delay was also due to “a question about whether schools can provide data to a third party.”  It is unclear how this question could not have been solved through follow-up guidance rather than delay.  The Department has already gone through an extensive federal rulemaking process and the Gainful Employment rule has been upheld by federal courts. Therefore, this delay needlessly stalls important protections for students and taxpayers and creates more uncertainty for schools. 

As such, we seek your answers to the following questions: 

  • Why did the Department delay the deadline for schools to file alternate earnings appeals and use the GE Disclosure Template?
  • What is the scope of the Department’s current “review” of the GE regulations and their implementation?
  • Did ED explore alternative options to the delay for resolving any questions about the use of data by third-parties, including issuing guidance?
  • Of the programs for which the Department received notice of an intent to appeal by January 23, 2017, how many alternate earnings appeals have been submitted to the Department as of the date of this letter?
  • What is the timeline for the Department to resolve all of the alternate earnings appeals received by July 1, 2017?
  • Will you commit to swiftly enforce the requirement, which took effect February 8, that institutions provide warnings to current and prospective students for failing programs where no notice of an intent to appeal was received by January 23, 2017?
  • Will you commit to requiring schools to use the new GE Disclosure Template no later than July 1, 2017?
  • Will you commit to no further delays in the Department’s implementation and enforcement of GE? 

Implementation of this rule is an important part of your responsibility as Secretary to protect students and appropriately oversee taxpayer dollars.  In fact, in recent testimony before a House subcommittee, Department of Education Inspector General Kathleen Tighe agreed that “the gainful employment rule is a good rule in terms of protecting kids and protecting taxpayers’ dollars.”  Further delays or other attempts to undermine Gainful Employment implementation are unacceptable.

We look forward to your prompt response to our questions.

Sincerely,

AFGE: Trump’s Governmentwide Review Must Include Billions in Wasteful Contractor Spending

Government spends twice as much on service contractors as on civilian workforce

WASHINGTON – American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. issued the following statement in response to President Trump’s executive order calling for a top-to-bottom review of the executive branch:

“The federal government has two workforces: civilian federal employees and contractors. The contractor workforce has grown massively over the past two decades. Each year, the government spends more than twice as much on service contractors as it does on its own workforce.

“It doesn’t take a Wharton MBA to figure out that getting a handle on what contractors are doing and what they are charging should be the first priority in any governmentwide review of operational efficiency. 

“Contractor pressure groups spend millions lobbying the Congress to make sure that the facts and figures surrounding the annual $450 billion spent on them each year remains hidden and unaccountable.

“We remain hopeful that the administration is serious about draining this wasteful swamp of politically connected contractors. They have insinuated themselves into every government agency, performing work at a cost to taxpayers that is often twice or three times higher than would be necessary if government employees were hired to do the jobs.

“The very best approach to rooting out government waste is to require agencies to finally comply with their legal requirements to inventory all of their service contracts. Only then can the government make sourcing decisions – whether to continue outsourcing or to bring work back in-house – that align with the public interest in cost-effectiveness and accountability.

“We also urge the administration to include front-line employees’ input in its review and analysis. Whether it is the VA nurse at the bedside of a wounded warrior, the Border Patrol agent securing our homeland, or the EPA scientist working to keep our air and water safe and clean, federal employees are eager to help make sure that every dollar spent produces the best possible outcome for our fellow citizens.”

Kuster Discusses Importance of Affordable Care Act in Peterborough

Congresswoman Kuster discusses the importance of the ACA at Monadnock Community Hospital

(Peterborough, NH) –  Yesterday, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) joined healthcare providers and advocates as well as town and regional leaders in Peterborough to discuss the importance of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in rural communities. The discussion comes as Republicans in Congress are pushing legislation to repeal the law.  

“I remain very troubled by the reckless efforts of Republicans in Washington to repeal the ACA,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “The ACA is not perfect, but coverage through the law has been a critical component in fighting the heroin and opioid epidemic by providing access to recovery and treatment services. Uninsured residents in rural areas of New Hampshire have been reduced by half, and nearly 50,000 New Hampshire residents have access to private health insurance on the New Hampshire Exchange through Medicaid expansion.  Meanwhile, the Republican health care proposal would increase costs, limit access, and cover fewer Americans. I’m willing to work with Republicans and Democrats to improve the ACA, but I will not support a plan that will undo the progress that has been made the last few years.”   

Kuster was joined by Dr. Michael Lindberg, Chief Medical Officer at Monadnock Community Hospital (MCH), and other senior officials at MCH; as well as Jennifer Frizzell, Vice President of Public Policy at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England; and Sean Ryan, Executive Director at Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, among others.

“Monadnock Community Hospital (MCH) was honored to host Congresswoman Annie Kuster in a roundtable discussion on the anticipated repeal of the Affordable Care Act,” said Dr. Michael Lindberg, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Monadnock Community Hospital. “Here at MCH, our mission is to improve the health and well-being of our community. We affirm the importance of health insurance that has been made available to thousands of New Hampshire residents who could not afford coverage prior to the Affordable Care Act. We also support the New Hampshire Hospital Association’s concern that any roll-backs in Medicaid coverage for New Hampshire residents could present significant hardship to our patients who rely upon it for coverage.”

NH Congressional Delegation Responds To New Report On GOP Healthcare Plan

Yesterday the independent, nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its analysis of the Republican health care bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) and the results are staggering.  

The CBO estimates that 24 million more people will be uninsured in 2026 if the Republicans in Washington force through their healthcare alternative.

Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans called the AHCA an assault on older Americans. “This bill will make Americans sicker and poorer. President Trump promised to replace the ACA with a plan that expanded health care coverage at a lower cost. This plan does neither but rather provides the wealthiest Americans and insurance corporations with enormous tax cuts.”   

“This nonpartisan report from the Congressional Budget Office confirms our worst fears about the catastrophic impact of Trumpcare,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “President Trump and Republican leadership do not have a mandate to throw 24 million Americans off of their healthcare. Trumpcare would result in higher healthcare costs and less coverage which will be devastating for Granite Staters. It would also roll back the progress we have made in combating the opioid epidemic. I’ll continue to stand up for Granite State families and fight against this partisan attempt to undermine healthcare coverage in this country. Republican leadership in Congress should withdraw this disastrous bill and work with Democrats to improve the Affordable Care Act.”

“Today’s report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office confirms that Trumpcare would lead to huge premium hikes for Granite Staters and people across America,” said Senator Maggie Hassan. “According to the CBO, if you buy your own health insurance, under Trumpcare your premiums will go up by an average of 15-20% over the next two years, and premium increases will be even worse if you are between the ages of 50-65. Meanwhile, health insurance CEOs will receive a new tax break as hard-working Granite Staters see their premiums spike and 24 million Americans lose their coverage. I will continue to fight back against this misguided Trumpcare legislation.”

“Today’s estimate by the independent Congressional Budget Office that 14 million Americans would lose their insurance next year under the Republican health plan should be the nail in the coffin for this draconian proposal, which would not only take away Americans’ insurance but also slash Medicaid, end Medicaid expansion, roll back requirements that insurance cover basic medical services, increase deductibles, and raise premiums for older Americans – all while slashing taxes for the wealthiest,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01).  “According to CBO, 24 million people would lose their coverage by 2026, meaning the Republican plan not only erases the gains we’ve made since the Affordable Care Act but would actually leave fewer people with coverage than before the law passed. Now that the Republican health bill’s devastating impact has been laid out in black and white, it’s time for President Trump and Congressional Republicans to join the American people and the health care industry in rejecting this harmful bill, and instead come to the table to find bipartisan solutions that make our health care system work better for everyone.”

“Today’s news only confirmed what we already knew – the Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act would increase costs, limit access, and cover fewer Americans. This reckless plan jeopardizes the health and safety of Granite State families and Americans nationwide, as it rips away healthcare from millions while asking millions more to pay higher costs for less coverage,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02).  “The Affordable Care Act is not perfect, and I’m willing to work with Republicans and Democrats to improve the law, but not at the expense of the healthcare of New Hampshire middle class families and seniors.”

Kuster continued, “The plan would cut Medicaid spending and phase out the expansion, which has helped thousands of people in New Hampshire access health insurance and has increased treatment and recovery services for those struggling with substance use disorders. Repealing health care subsidies would drive up costs for seniors and less healthy individuals, and provisions to defund Planned Parenthood do nothing to increase access to care. Appallingly, the plan is a giveaway to the wealthiest Americans, even including a tax break for insurance CEOs making more than half a million dollars. I continue to urge my Republican colleagues to abandon this dangerous plan and instead come to the table in good faith to help improve the system for all Americans.”

Raymond Buckley of the NH Democratic Party called on Governor Sununu to “provide his opinion” on the newly proposed legislation and how it will hurt efforts to combat the opioid crisis in NH.

“Trumpcare’s fatal flaw is what it does to older and low income Americans. This CBO projection means that some Americans will pay more than five times what they do for coverage today. That kind of premium hike on our most vulnerable is flat wrong. That’s not to mention the 24 million Americans are projected to lose coverage in the next ten years under Trumpcare. Any plan that hikes rates and kicks tens of millions off their coverage should be denounced in loud terms but Governor Sununu has yet to provide his opinion on how the specifics in this bill will impact Granite Staters.”

“Republican governors across the country have rejected this bill from day one, including neighboring governors Paul LePage and Charlie Baker. If Governor Sununu is serious about combatting the opioid crisis and ensuring care to those who need it, he’ll stand with the large number of Republicans and Democrats across the country loudly rejecting this bill rather than sticking his finger into the political winds or trying to please the President,” concluded Buckley. 

“Adding insult to injury, this plan significantly weakens Medicare, reducing the solvency of the trust fund by 3 years — breaking President Trump’s promise to protect Medicare. In contrast, the ACA extended the Trust Fund’s solvency by 11 years.  Older Americans know how important affordable health care is for their families and will continue to fight against this proposal. The members of the Alliance call on Congress to scrap this bill immediately,” added Fiesta. 

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 3-10-17: Updates On Labor Bills, Minimum Wage, and School Vouchers

 Once again, the NH House acted like so many of my students do, allowing work to pile up and waiting until the final hour to do the work that needs to be done. This week, the House met for two long days, and because it had not met the prior week, faced a deadline for acting on over 100 proposed pieces of legislation. Given how long some debates can take, never mind the time consumed in roll call votes and all kinds of maneuvering, it made for very long days. Near the end late on Thursday, tempers began to fray and the Republican majority used their power in an increasingly aggressive manner. When it was done, all legislation had been acted upon, and the House will not meet again for two weeks.

Labor Bills. In regards to issues of concern to the labor community and to working people in general, it was not a great week. On the bright side, right to work was finally put to rest for 2017-2018, when the House refused by a strong majority to take up the House version of so-called Right to Work legislation. So ends that saga for 2017-18 and we owe a great debt of thanks to all the representatives, especially our Republican friends, who stood with us under intense pressure and defeated this nefarious legislation, aimed solely at weakening the labor movement and its ability to speak out on behalf of working people across New Hampshire.

Minimum Wage Increase. The defeat of so-called Right to Work was good news. On a more disappointing or sour note, the House rejected a proposed increase to the minimum wage, once again protecting New Hampshire’s status as the only New England state (and one of only 18 states nationally by the end of 2017) to still adhere to the ridiculously low Federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr. Remember, when the minimum rises (and keep in mind, 70% of those who work for the minimum are above age 20 and not teenagers); the money is almost all spent locally, helping local businesses and boosting our state economy. And even if you and I don’t work for minimum, raising the floor puts upward pressure upon all wage levels, which benefits all working people. So it was disappointing that the increase was once again rejected on a relatively close, largely party-line vote.

Employment Bills. Other proposed labor legislation, including limitations on credit history checks and criminal background checks (all with necessary exemptions for certain occupations and businesses), failed to pass the Republican majority in the House. This same majority, however, made sure to maintain NH’s minimum marriage age for girls at age 13, refusing to raise it to age 18. Combine that with our low minimum wage, and you really have to start wondering just where it is we are living! The House also refused to acknowledge basic civil rights for the transgender population, turning an innocuous protection of basic rights into a ‘bathroom bill’ and in the process, legitimizing discrimination and possible harassment of members of the transgender community. Change is not easy, and the battles are long and hard, but these issues will not go away and should not be forgotten in the future.

Education. In the realm of education legislation, any proposals deemed to put any sort of restraints or accountability upon charter schools were rejected by the House. More dangerously, a bill passed allowing towns without a public school or missing certain grades (for example, have a grade school but no high school) to contract to use public funds to send students to private schools, including sectarian or religious schools. Like the voucher proposal working its way through the Senate, this sort of legislation aims to weaken public schools by eroding the public sector’s financial base. The result of these diversions of public funds is higher local taxes, which further inflames anger at public schools, or declining facilities, which are then pointed to as reasons why there needs to be “more competition,” as if public education is like choosing between fast-food burgers, chicken, or tacos. We are asking members and supporters to reach out personally to their legislators and request they oppose any form of vouchers and specifically Senate Bill 193 and HB 647. For more information on the proposed legislation, please visit our website at STOP SCHOOL VOUCHERS IN NH.

NH Retirement System. Lastly, in regards to the NH Retirement System, the House defeated an effort to increase the retirement pension age and passed a bill to halt the raiding of pension fund monies to pay for fiscal analyses of said pension funds! These were good moments, but progress in this area was counterbalanced by passage of a whole series of bad legislation in the area of election law, all of which will have the effect of clamping down on students’ ability to vote as part of a wide assault on voting rights here in NH. So, good with the bad. HB 413FN which would have the state meet its obligation and pay 15% of the retirement costs back to local communities is scheduled before the House Finance Committee for Executive Session on Monday.

In Memoriam. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not pass along a sad note. We learned yesterday of the passing of Brian Costa, the Keene Chief of Police. Chief Costa came up through the ranks and was a good union man, serving in the Keene Police Officers Association, and later as president of the Keene Police Supervisors, both being AFT-NH locals. Even as chief, he never forgot his union roots and worked tirelessly on behalf of the men and women of the Keene Police as well as improving the safety and security of the entire Keene community. We will miss him dearly, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

PLEASE NOTE: There will be no Legislative Bulletin next week due to the hiatus in House activity but will be on alert for breaking news.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

Union-Busting House Bill Would Silence the Voice of Workers, AFGE Says

Bill would limit federal employees’ access to union representation

WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees strongly opposes legislation moving through the House that would limit an employee’s access to union representation and financially penalize employees who voluntarily serve as union representatives.

The Official Time Reform Act of 2017 would arbitrarily cap how much time union volunteers can spend per day on representational work, such as resolving workplace conflicts between employees and managers, or meeting with agency leaders to discuss workplace improvements. It also would create a financial disincentive for employees to volunteer as union representatives by cutting their retirement for any time spent on representational work above the arbitrary caps.

“This legislation is a blatant attempt to bust federal employee unions and silence the voice of workers in decisions that impact not only their jobs, but services the American people rely on,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

The legislation targets federal employees’ use of official time, which is the system Congress established to ensure that all employees entitled to union representation receive it – regardless of whether they choose to join the union. Federal employees who volunteer as union representatives spend all or part of their work day on official time, where they work with employees and managers to resolve disputes, address issues of discrimination and retaliation, and effect improvements in the workplace that benefit all employees. Official time is official agency business.

“Federal managers and their employees are fully competent to negotiate the terms of official time, when it is needed, how much is needed, and where it should be used to address unique agency and workplace issues,” AFGE said in a letter to lawmakers.

“This legislation creates a form of micromanaging that will tie the hands of supervisors and agency officials when it comes to scheduling meetings, legal proceedings, and non-official time work for union representatives, ultimately discouraging the use of official time.”

Employees are allowed to use official time only to perform representational activities, such as setting procedures that protect employees from on-the-job injuries, enforcing protections from unlawful discrimination, providing workers with a voice in determining working conditions, and representing employees in grievances and disciplinary actions.

Union representatives are not allowed to use official time to conduct union-specific business such as organizing new members, holding internal union meetings, electing union officers, or engaging in partisan political activities.

Outsourcing Alert: Town of Raymond Looks To Outsource School Support Staff

The Town of Raymond is looking to outsource workers in the school’s cafeteria
with low wage for-profit contractors.

This week, voters in the Town of Raymond will vote on a warrant article that would sell off lunch room services to a for-profit contractor.

This is not the first time that towns have considered privatizing services in a cost saving effort.  Eventually those savings are lost and the contractor ends up costing the town more money in the long run.

The town of Raymond considered outsourcing in 2009, however the voters rejected the proposal.

“In March 2009, Raymond voters OVERWHELMINGLY passed a resolution, by 621-324 votes, against the School Board outsourcing any support staff positions, including the cafeteria program,” stated AFT New Hampshire.

AFT New Hampshire also said, “100% of the employees live in Raymond.”  These are real, local people that would lose their jobs or be forced stay at a drastically reduced pay and more than likely, lose their benefits.  “Research shows that contractors often target wages and benefits for deep cuts when they take over a district’s food services operations.”

The Raymond Educational Support Staff is asking for voters in Raymond to “Vote NO on the School Board’s Warrant Article 9 and vote YES on the Citizens’ Petition Warrant Article 10.”

More information is available in the PDF here and below.

 

Featured image from USDA of a school cafeteria worker.

NH Legislature Rejects Abortion Ban and Preserves Buffer Zone Law

PPNHAF volunteers gather for a rally before the vote on HB 578 and HB 589

Bipartisan tradition of respecting women’s health and privacy upheld in the Granite State

(Concord, NH) – Earlier today the NH House acted on the repeal of the NH Buffer Zone and a ban on abortion,  HB 589 and HB 578 respectively. These bills were the first legislative proposals to come before House members this biennium which would impact the landscape for accessing reproductive health in the Granite State.  Planned Parenthood opposed both measures. Neither bill will move forward to the NH Senate.

Quote from Kayla Montgomery, Director of Advocacy and Organizing, Planned Parenthood NH Action Fund:

Today, the New Hampshire House rejected two measures that would have restricted or compromised the ability of women to access personal and private reproductive health care. The majority of NH House Representatives listened to their constituents, including the thousands of Planned Parenthood supporters who lobbied against these measures. These bipartisan votes continue the Granite State’s strong tradition of respecting women and doctors, not politicians, to make personal, private decisions about pregnancy and childbearing.”

Yesterday nearly a hundred supporters from around the state came to Concord to talk to their state reps about these bills, and what Planned Parenthood means to them.

HB 578-FN: relative to banning abortion after viability. This bill, both in its original form and as amended by the Judiciary Committee, restricted the right of New Hampshire women to make private medical decisions later in pregnancy. It is part of a larger strategy by the bill’s proponents to chip away at abortion rights through multiple restrictions. The Committee amendment, titled the “Viable Fetus Protection Act” replaced the original bill and would have introduced new limitations to abortion access in state law without protecting longstanding rights.  The amendment failed on a vote of 189 – 170, and the bill was then tabled. The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade held that the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of liberty protects a woman’s decision to have an abortion, limits government involvement with private medical decisions prior to fetal viability, and enables states to restrict post-viability abortions with exceptions to protect the health and life of the pregnant woman.  Support for Roe v. Wade and for access to safe, legal abortion is stronger in New Hampshire than any state in the nation.

State Representatives from across the state watch ‘Across the Line’ – a virtual reality film which puts viewers in the shoes of a patient entering a health center for a safe and legal abortion and demonstrates why buffer zones are important.

Supporters also joined State Representatives for a lunch gathering to discuss these bills and view a showing of “Across the Line” which is seven minute virtual reality experience which puts viewers in the shoes of a patient entering a health center for a safe and legal abortion

“New Hampshire’s Buffer Zone law, enacted in 2014, was carefully tailored to strike a balance between public safety, free speech, and privacy rights. Planned Parenthood is committed to protecting the privacy and safety of our patients, while respecting first amendment rights. No woman should face intimidation, physical obstruction or fear of harm while seeking to access confidential medical care,” added Montgomery. 

HB 589-FN: repealing the law governing access to reproductive health care facilities. This bill would have repealed the Buffer Zone law which was passed in 2014. Planned Parenthood argued that health centers need the flexibility to implement Buffer Zones when the privacy and safety of patients is at risk. Undoing this law would be a step backwards and removes an important tool from the toolkit. The House Judiciary committee recommended a bipartisan report of ITL on this bill and the House voted to uphold the committee report by a margin of 191-165.

AFGE Says VA Accountability Act ‘Does Nothing to Improve the VA’

AFGE slams new legislation in House and Senate for diminishing veteran care and silencing veteran advocates at the VA

WASHINGTON – New legislation introduced in the House and Senate this week has been met with fierce opposition by the union that represents 230,000 VA employees. The VA Accountability First Act of 2017 – H.R. 1259 introduced by Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee – and the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2017 – S. 493 introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida – pits VA officials and managers against frontline employees at the nation’s largest integrated health care system.

American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr., who served as a VA nurse for more than 20 years, immediately decried the proposed legislation, saying:

“Once again, some lawmakers have completely ignored the evidence that the VA provides veterans the best – and only – integrated healthcare system tailored entirely to their needs. Instead of hiring the more than 45,000 frontline caregivers are veterans desperately need, they’d rather spend their time sticking it to the people who serve veterans every day.”

In addition to the punitive measures that could be used against future whistleblowers at the VA, the VA Accountability First Acts destroy the right of every VA front line employee to use union grievance procedures to efficiently and fairly address proposed adverse actions. The egregious proposal would leave VA frontline employees – 120,000 of which are veterans themselves – with only a rushed management-run appeals process. Not only that, but all frontline employees and managers would be left with weaker rights to appeal to the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB) – their first chance at an independent review.

If enacted, the bills could inhibit the recruitment and retention of frontline workers who are already in dire need at the agency, which was noted in a signed letter from Cox to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Chairman Roe and Ranking Member Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota.

“The VA Accountability First Act of 2017 is a union-busting bill – plain and simple. It will only advance the agenda of the Koch brothers, anti-union lawmakers, and private, for-profit corporations that would reap the benefits of a dismantled VA medical system. Backhanded efforts to eliminate employees’ workplace rights does nothing to improve the VA or veterans’ care. In fact, it leaves nation’s veterans without the advocates who are empowered to speak up on their behalf every day.

“Every lawmaker who is willing to put veterans and their country above politics should oppose this bill. Veterans and all Americans should be able to get the true story of what is happening at the VA, and if this bill passes it will only ensure that VA officials and managers can be shielded from public scrutiny.”

Shaheen Blasts Trumpcare As “Out of Touch” With Stories From Working People In NH

On Senate Floor, Shaheen Shares Stories of Granite Staters Who Rely on the Affordable Care Act, Calls Trumpcare
“Totally Out of Touch” With Lives of Working Americans
 

(Washington, DC) — U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) spoke on the Senate floor today to share the stories of Granite Staters who have been helped by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, and against President Trump and Republican leadership’s proposed repeal bill. Shaheen highlighted her conversations with Granite Staters across New Hampshire whose lives have been saved thanks to the ACA and Medicaid Expansion. “For ordinary people in New Hampshire and across America, repealing the Affordable Care Act isn’t about politics, it’s about life and death,” said Shaheen. “It’s about people being cut off from treatment for substance use disorders.  It’s about cancer patients being turned away from life-saving therapies.  It’s about children with serious preexisting conditions being denied health coverage.”

During her remarks, Shaheen said Republican leadership’s legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act “would have catastrophic consequences” for New Hampshire. “It is especially distressing that Trumpcare would roll back expansion of the Medicaid program, which has been an indispensable tool in our efforts to combat the opioid epidemic,” Shaheen said. That “could terminate treatment for hundreds of thousands of people across America who are recovering from substance use disorders.”

Shaheen went on to share stories of Granite Staters who are getting treatment for substance use disorders with help from the ACA. One letter that Shaheen read was from Nansie Feeny of Concord, NH, who wrote: “[My son] Benjamin went to Keene State College with the same hopes and dreams many have when building their American dream.   While there he tried heroin.  Addiction overcame him… It was due to Obamacare that we were able to get him insured so that he could get the proper help he needed and [into] a suboxone program that assisted him with staying ‘clean.’  In April it will be a year for Ben in his recovery. Without Obamacare this would not have been possible.”

Shaheen urged her Senate colleagues to “come together to repair the flaws in this landmark law and ensure that it works even better for all Americans.”

During her remarks, Shaheen also voiced her concerns about Seema Verma, President Trump’s nominee to serve as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and said that she will vote against her confirmation. “Ms. Verma made it clear that [prenatal care and maternity coverage] should be strictly optional – and women should pay extra for it if they want it,” said Shaheen. “The American people do not want drastic cuts to Medicaid – cuts that will threaten coverage for children, seniors, people with disabilities, and patients receiving treatment for substance use disorders.”

 

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