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About Matt Murray

Matt Murray is the creator and an author on the NH Labor News. He is a union member and advocate for labor and progressive politics. He also works with other unions and members to help spread our message. Follow him on Twitter @NHLabor_News

40% Increase In Premiums Highlight Need For A Better Healthcare System

Below is the press release from the NH Department of Insurance explain the massive spike in healthcare premiums, specifically on those who get insurance through the ACA marketplace.  Below that is my opinion on what we can do to fix this problem. 


Federal Government Announces 2018 Rate Increases

CONCORD, NH – NH Department Of Insurance Press Release  The federal government today published information on proposed rate increases for New Hampshire’s health insurance exchange in 2018, showing that consumers in the individual market may face increases of more than forty percent.

“Today’s news about rates is alarming, especially for the 94,000 New Hampshire residents who obtain their insurance through the individual market, but unfortunately, it does not come as a surprise,” said Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny. “A number of factors have led to rate increases for 2018 in New Hampshire and across the country, most notably the continued uncertainty at the federal level. My staff and I have been actively engaged to identify options to lessen the impact on the thousands of families who rely on health insurance through the state exchange.”

The 2018 rate information released today by the federal government details proposed increases to benefit plans that are submitted by insurance companies operating on the exchange.  (The New Hampshire Insurance Department is prohibited by law from releasing rate information until Nov. 1.)  A benefit plan is a specific plan that a New Hampshire resident would select for enrollment, such as a bronze, silver, or gold level metal plan.

Three companies have announced their intentions to offer plans on the 2018 exchange in New Hampshire: Ambetter, Anthem, and Harvard Pilgrim. A fourth, Minuteman Health, also has proposed rate increases listed on the federal site, but those plans will not be available to consumers, as the company announced in June that it would stop offering plans in 2018.

The information published today by the federal government shows that some of the state’s insurers have submitted benefit plans for the individual market with substantial increases. The New Hampshire Insurance Department looks at premiums each year from a market-wide perspective, comparing the median premium for a silver-level plan covering a 40-year-old non-tobacco-user.  For 2017, the median premium at this level was $335; the median premium at this level for 2018 would be $479, based on the carriers’ initially proposed rates.  If these rates are ultimately approved, this would represent a 43% increase between next year’s and this year’s median premium in the individual market.

Today, the Department issued guidance permitting insurers to assume the federal government will not be funding Cost Sharing Reductions (CSRs) in 2018.  In response, insurers might adjust silver level plan rates before the deadline for amending rate filings.

The New Hampshire Insurance Department has taken action in recent months to call policymakers’ and consumers’ attention to the impending rate increases and the possibility that companies might withdraw from the exchange in 2018. In June, the Legislature authorized the Department to create a market stabilization plan, and last month, the Department publicly shared its plan to reduce rates and promote stability in the individual market in 2018. Today, the Joint Health Care Reform Oversight Committee authorized the Insurance Department to pursue federal waivers in support of a market stabilization plan, but without relying on an assessment of health insurance carriers.


A completely new healthcare system for all Americans

The above press release from the NH Department of Insurance shows that our current system of private insurance is unsustainable.  A 40% increase in one year. Seriously WTF?  What we do not even know yet is how much out of pocket costs will also increase next year.  Out of pocket expenses include co-pays, co-insurance deductibles, and prescription costs.  These can cost people thousands of dollars on top of their thousands of dollars in premiums.

There is no doubt that Republicans are going to blame Democrats and President Obama for this increase while Democrats will blame Republicans for failing pass meaningful changes to the ACA to stabilize the marketplace.

But while I blame both of them for failing to do what is best for America, the majority of the blame falls directly on the private insurance corporations.  They are raking in obscene profits, continually increasing premiums to maximize their profits.  Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield reported $1 Billion in profits during the first quarter of 2016. That is a 44% increase in profits.

The corporations are shelling out hundreds of millions to lobbyists and politicians to prevent them from passing meaningful legislation that would help solve our problems.  For example, Congress has failed to pass legislation allowing medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices, which other countries do, saving them billions annually.  In 2016, the health products, insurance and pharmaceuticals industries spent a combined $400 million on their lobbying efforts.

Are you still surprised that Congress cannot pass meaningful healthcare reform?

This 40% increase combined with the insurance companies record breaking profits last year make it glaringly obvious that we need to move to a single payer system.  With a less than 2% overhead, Medicare is one of the most efficient programs in the government. With additional changes, like allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, the cost of healthcare would drop dramatically.

It is time for America to move to a national universal healthcare system. It is time for Medicare For All.

The Real Risk To Our Voting Process Is Not ‘Voter Fraud’

The goal of technology is to make our lives easier. With the invention of computerized voting machines calculating votes at the end of the day has become drastically easier but the use of these machines can cause additional problems and threaten the security of the ballot.

Over the last three presidential elections there have been multiple reports of malfunctioning voting machines.  Some touch screen voting stations would select the wrong candidate and the voter would have no way to change their vote.

Other issues stem from a lack of paper ballot backups. If a person challenges the vote count, election officials cannot go back and count the votes by hand because their are no paper ballots.

In Wellington Florida, election officials certified the wrong candidate based on incorrect computer tabulations of votes cast. The results were corrected after a hand recount of paper ballots was used to verify the results.

Some states have even gone so far as to allow their ballots to be transmitted over the internet leaving them susceptible to tampering.

Right now, President Trump created a Voting Integrity Commission to address voting laws and requirements under the guise of protecting us from non-existent voter fraud. This commission is a sham and way for Trump to validate his lies about millions of votes being cast illegally and to push for stronger voter ID laws that have been proven to suppress votes.  It is highly unlikely that Trump’s commission will suggest that “motor voter” registrations be mandatory, or that states should move to voting by mail to expand voter participation.

While in person voter fraud is a more of an urban legend than reality (literally a handful of cases in hundreds of millions of ballots cast), there are a few areas that have the potential to compromise our voting process, swaying results and it revolves mostly around the ballot itself, counting ballots, and the electronic transmission of voting data.

Yesterday, The Hill released an article  showing how hackers corrupted voting machines at a cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas.

One of the nation’s largest cybersecurity conferences is inviting attendees to get hands-on experience hacking a slew of voting machines, demonstrating to researchers how easy the process can be.

“It took me only a few minutes to see how to hack it,” said security consultant Thomas Richards, glancing at a Premier Election Solutions machine currently in use in Georgia.

…The conference acquired 30 machines for hackers to toy with. Every voting machine in the village was hacked.

The Hill also notes that the vast  majority of the machines used in actual elections are not interconnected or connected to the internet making it harder for potential hackers to corrupt voting machines on a large scale.   However, small scale or isolated tampering could sway the results of a single polling place.

But what about those states that are toying with some form of online voting or voting machines that are connected to the internet to transmit votes?  These actions put our votes at risk and the security of the ballot box in serious jeopardy.

“Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia allow some form of Internet voting – transmitting votes either via email, electronic fax, or Internet portal – typically for use by overseas and military voters. Because of current technological limitations, and the unique challenges of running public elections, it is impossible to maintain separation of voters’ identities from their votes when Internet voting is used,” wrote Caitriona Fitzgerald, Pamela Smith, Susannah Goodman in their report The Secret Ballot at Risk: Recommendations for Protecting Democracy

In 2016, Common Cause released a report focused on protecting the vote and ensuring everyone has the ability to vote. They reviewed laws and procedures for voting in 11 “swing states” to see if our votes were at risk.

“Once voters learn laws they thought made elections safer, like voter ID requirements, actually prevent hundreds of thousands of eligible people from voting, they are more likely to see it as a manipulation of the system and reject it.  It is critically important that voters exercise their constitutional right, so take a few minutes to learn more, because the best way to fight back against politicians gaming the system to silence your voice is to make a plan to vote,” said Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn.

The report showed that my home state of New Hampshire faired very good when it came to tracking and protecting the votes after they have been cast through the use of paper ballots but was seen as “unsatisfactory” when it came to accessing the ballot box due to poorly written voter ID laws and inability of voters to register online ahead of time.

New Hampshire does not accept any form of “electronic” ballots and in-person voting is done on paper, though still calculated by a “scantron” machine.  Computer tabulation machines have been known to cause errors in voting results, but with a paper copy hand recounts and audits can be used to verify computer data.  Overall Common Cause rated New Hampshire as “excellent” in ensuring that our votes were not susceptible to outside hackers.

Other states did not fair as well.  Common Cause gave an “unsatisfactory” rating to Iowa, North Carolina, and Nevada when it comes to the potential of votes being tampered with after being cast.

Ballots cast online simply cannot be protected from undetectable tampering. Foreign or domestic hackers can access these ballots and alter their contents.

…Four of the states we reviewed put ballots at risk by allowing the ballots to be sent over the internet, where they are vulnerable to remote interception and undetectable altering. These states do not acknowledge the risks involved in internet voting.

Two of our swing states, Iowa and North Carolina, put ballots at risk by allowing overseas and military voters to vote via email. A third, Nevada has created its own internet portal for voter use.

(Note: The fourth state, not mentioned in the above quote, is Florida who allows absentee ballots from military service members to be cast via fax.) 

Ensuring everyone has access to the ballot box and that our votes are secure is the foundation of our democracy.  Voter ID laws block access to the ballot box and internet or computerized voting can put our ballots at risk.

What can we do to fix this?

Go back to paper ballots and count them by hand.  Eliminate the potential for hackers to tamper with voting machines by eliminating voting machines completely.  Going back to the old school way of doing it will protect our votes but it will take longer to get results. As a political junkie like myself, this means staying up till 2am to get results, and that is fine with me.

We need to focus our efforts to ensuring greater access to the ballot box and ensuring that our votes our secure and free from potential tampering

High Praise For The Passage Of The Veterans Affairs “Choice Program”

Friday Congresswomen Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter both voted “yes” on a bipartisan bill to extend the Veterans Choice Program for six months and make critical investments in VA health care, which passed the House with a unanimous vote of 414-0.

“I’m pleased that we were able to come together on the VA committee and in the House to pass this reauthorization of the Choice Program and bolster support for veterans,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “In a state like New Hampshire that lacks a full service VA hospital, we need to ensure that veterans are able to access care outside the VA in a timely and efficient manner. The Choice Program has been an important tool for many Granite State veterans, but not all veterans have found success in the program. I’m committed to working with my colleagues on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee to improve the Choice Program so that no veteran struggles to get the care they need.”

“I’m pleased that today’s bill includes an amendment I authored to improve VA hiring of mental health professions, who are on the front lines of our state’s efforts to combat the heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid crisis. Today’s bipartisan vote is an example of the good that can come when Democrats and Republicans work together to improve access to healthcare for our nation’s veterans. I was proud to support this bipartisan bill, which will extend the Veterans Choice Program for six months.  It makes much needed investments in the VA and includes several provisions that will help the VA fill its nearly 50,000 open jobs, most of which are in health care,” said Shea-Porter.

Both Congresswomen offered amendments that were included and approved in the final bill.

The new reauthorization also includes a provision from Congresswoman Kuster’s legislation, the GOOD Act, which will help improve veterans’ access to quality care by making the Department of Veterans Affairs more competitive when hiring physician assistants.

“I’m excited that this Choice Authorization includes language from my legislation, the GOOD Act,” said Kuster. “We need to make sure that the VA is competitive when hiring medical staff and my legislation will increase pay for VA physician assistants. I’m thrilled that earlier today the House passed additional provisions of GOOD Act and I urge the Senate to act on this commonsense legislation.”

For months, Shea-Porter has voiced deep concerns about failures in the administration of the Veterans Choice Program by the VA and its contractor, Health Net. In April, Shea-Porter sent a letter to Congressional leadership calling for the reorganization of VA’s Community Care programs, including Choice, into a permanent and sustainable program that meets the needs of New Hampshire veterans. The letter called on Congress to immediately address “problems with access to care as well as the Department’s inability to pay medical claims to community providers in a timely way.”

The legislation passed Friday will provide $2.1 billion for the Veterans Choice Program, funding the temporary program for another six months while the Veterans Affairs Committees continue work on a permanent solution to streamline and improve access to community providers, as Shea-Porter requested.

The legislation also included several provisions to improve hiring at the VA and makes critical investments in VA health care facilities. Several of the hiring provisions were passed by the House in March as part of H.R. 1367. That bill created a database to improve hiring for critical open positions. Shea-Porter successfully amended the bill to require that the database include mental health professionals. The database provision, and her amendment to include mental health professionals, were included in the bill passed today (Sec. 208).

Image from AFGE rally for the passage of the VA Choice Program

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the largest federal union which also represents civilian employees inside the VA, is “encouraged” by the passage of this bill.

“Today Congressional leaders came together, put party politics aside, and passed legislation that is vital to the future of the VA. We are very encouraged by the passing of this bill, which will allow additional investment in the VA, and allow the VA to manage non-VA care better than the broken Choice program,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr.

“While we still stand with the veterans who overwhelmingly tell us they want the VA for their healthcare, it’s important that those who cannot receive care at the VA have outside options. The VA Choice and Quality Employment Act isn’t a cure-all for the VA or the Choice program, but is a temporary fix that will allow more veterans access to the care they need,” Cox added.

Cox also highlighted that many of the problems plaguing the VA come from years of neglect and austere cuts to funding.

“But after years of starving the VA’s funding for the Choice program, it’s the investment in veterans’ first preference for medical care that has us most in support of this legislation.”

“Infusing our nation’s largest healthcare system with $1.4 billion for hiring, workforce improvements, and the authorization of 28 new leases that increase the department’s internal capacity to deliver care will make a huge difference at a time when the VA is facing nearly 50,000 vacancies nationwide. With the VA now more able to gather data in recruitment, retention, and staffing, there will finally be some transparency – but it’s not enough.”

After praise the passage of the VA choice program, AFGE is also calling on Congress to take action of similar legislation to address the staffing needs of the VA.

“We at AFGE believe that for true transparency, and a fully-operational department, Congress must pass Rep. Anthony Brown’s bill, the VA Staffing and Vacancies Transparency Act of 2017. If Rep. Brown’s bill is passed, we will finally have transparency in the VA, and the ability to identify the necessary hires the department needs. That in turn will allow more veterans to receive more access to the only healthcare system created for veterans, and by veterans in this country.”

Senators Urge Sec. Mattis Not To Enact Trump’s Discriminatory Anti-Transgender Policy

Shaheen, Hassan Join Bipartisan Letter Urging Secretary Mattis Not to Implement Transgender Ban

Last week, President Trump tweeted that transgender individuals could no longer serve in the US Armed Forces.

“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

If enacted this new policy against transgender individuals would reverse policies issued by Sec of Defense,, Ash Carter in 2015 that stated:

“No Service member shall be involuntarily separated or denied reenlistment or continuation of active or reserve service on the basis of their gender identity, without the personal approval of the Under Secretary of Defense for personnel and Readiness.”

However since Trump’s policy announcement on twitter, the White House and the Department of Defense have not issued any official policy changes, leaving the thousands of transgender Service members hanging in the balance.  Since the official policy announcement in 2015, there have been zero reported issues by any branch of the military.

Now, everyone is waiting to see what Secretary of Defense James Mattis will do next.

Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan joined a bipartisan letter signed by 43 additional Senators to Secretary Mattis urging him to advise the President against implementing the announcement he made via Twitter Wednesday that transgender Americans can no longer serve in the military.

“We strongly oppose this policy change, and urge you to advise the President against it,” the Senators wrote in the letter. “This announcement contradicts existing Defense Department policies, undermines our military readiness, and puts our transgender service members as well as their commanders in an impossible situation.”

“We appreciate General Dunford’s message that no policy changes should be made until implementation guidelines have been issued. We further write to request that, at a minimum, you do not separate any service member due to the person’s gender identity until you have completed the assessment that you announced on June 30, have reported back to Congress about any challenges that you foresee in the accession and retention of transgender troops, and determined the Department is unable to mitigate these challenges.”

Veterans like Jason Lindsay fear that this policy shift is a “colossal step backwards” in a statement issued Wednesday.

“As an Iraq war veteran and member of the LGBTQ community who was personally impacted by ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ I am appalled at Donald Trump’s announcement this morning banning transgender people from serving in the military,” said Jason Lindsay, Executive Director of Pride Fund to End Gun Violence. “This is blatant discrimination, full-stop, and a colossal step backwards for our country.”

“Trump vowed to protect the LGBTQ community during his campaign, but his methodical dismantling of LGBTQ protections and rights shows his true intentions. This morning’s announcement is a direct attack on the transgender community,” said Lindsay.

The full text of the Senators’ joint letter is included here and below.

Letter to Mattis on transgender troops

Trump Bans Transgender Individuals From Serving In Armed Forces

(DoD Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann)

Once again, Donald Trump shows us that he is no friend to the LGBT community.  Taking to twitter this morning, Trump announced a new policy banning Transgender individuals from serving in the military.

He said: “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

This horrible new policy announcement puts the thousands of LBGTQ service members in very precarious position.  This takes us back to the days of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” where Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender individuals we forced to hide their identity.

Since 2016, transgender service members have been allowed to serve openly in the Armed Forces. However, that order did not allow transgender people to enlist until the conclusion of a one-year implementation period that was supposed to end at the beginning of July. However, in June, service chiefs requested a six month delay to study the issue further.

Currently, the U.S. military has 15,000 transgender individuals serving, making it the largest employer of transgender individuals in the nation. Thus far, the Defense Department has not issued a statement on Trump’s tweets. Questions remain regarding how Trump’s discriminatory ban will be enforced.

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, who in 2006 as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, fought to overturn “don’t ask, don’t tell,” fired back at Trump with her statement.

“This morning’s tweets from the President are a disgraceful slap in the face to the thousands of transgender troops who are actively serving our country, and to all transgender Americans who aspire to serve. These troops are patriots who deserve to be appreciated for their service, not used as political props by their Commander in Chief. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I will fight to prevent President Trump’s ugly rhetoric against our troops from becoming reality, and to make sure these troops know that Americans appreciate their service and sacrifice.”

“If you are a trans service member affected by Trump’s outrageous announcement that he is barring transgender people from serving in the U.S. military, please contact us,” said Devon Chaffee, Executive Director of ACLU-NH. “You and your service to our country deserve better than a Commander-in-Chief who rejects your basic humanity.”

Though some claimed that Trump was a “friend” to the LBGTQ community, it was clear that his support of North Carolina’s HB2, aka the bathroom bill, showed that he does not support the rights of trans individuals.  Now with Vice President Mike Pence by his side, Trump will most likely push even more anti-LBGTQ policies based on their warped ideological views.

“As an Iraq war veteran and member of the LGBTQ community who was personally impacted by ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ I am appalled at Donald Trump’s announcement this morning banning transgender people from serving in the military,” said Jason Lindsay, Executive Director of Pride Fund to End Gun Violence. “This is blatant discrimination, full-stop, and a colossal step backwards for our country.”

“Trump vowed to protect the LGBTQ community during his campaign, but his methodical dismantling of LGBTQ protections and rights shows his true intentions. This morning’s announcement is a direct attack on the transgender community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the only way we can protect our community is to elect pro-equality Democrats at the state and federal levels—which is exactly what Pride Fund has done, and will continue to do,” said Lindsay.

In New Hampshire, Freedom New Hampshire has been pushing to expand transgender protections and codify new anti-discrimination laws against trans individuals.

Linds Jakows, campaign manager for Freedom New Hampshire called Trump’s tweets an “open attack” on the LBGTQ individuals serving in our nations Armed Forces.

“This is a clear and open attack on the brave individuals serving in our Armed Forces. Like all service members, those who are transgender go to work everyday, putting their lives on the line to defend our nation and the freedoms and values we hold dear. They should be treated with the same dignity and respect that all of our nation’s military members deserve,” Jakows stated.

“Today’s announcement sends an especially concerning message for transgender Granite Staters. Currently, New Hampshire is the only state in New England that does not explicitly protect transgender residents or visitors from discrimination in housing, employment or public services.

“Freedom New Hampshire is closely monitoring the situation, and remains committed to protecting all New Hampshire’s transgender residents and visitors from discrimination in housing, employment and public services,” Jakows concluded.

Another organization fighting for the rights of trans people is Rights & Democracy who had already planned an event in Manchester to show support for transgender individuals and continue to push for strong anti-discrimination laws.

“More than ever before, transgender nondiscrimination protections in New Hampshire are vital to the health and well being of our communities statewide,” they wrote on their Facebook Event page.

After today’s announcement showing our support for transgendered individuals is more important than ever.

Join Rights and Democracy’s event in Manchester July 29th.

Help Send Matt From The NH Labor News To Netroots Nation 2017

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and I in Providence RI for Netroots 2012

For seven years now I have been blogging and building up the NH Labor News to be the strong progressive news outlet that it has become.  While there are many people who contribute content to the NH Labor News, the majority of the work is done by me, on my free time.

Over the years I have asked for a little help from all of you to help offset some of the costs associated with running the site or to attend training classes.

Today is one of those days.

Next month I will be attending the annual Netroots Nation convention, in Atlanta Georgia.  Thanks to a generous donation from the United Steelworkers my ticket to the convention is covered.  However, this means that I must pay for travel and hotel charges on my own.

Help offset the cost of attending Netroots Nation in Atlanta by making a donation of $10, $20, or $50.

Click here to make a donation directly through PayPal.

A little information about Netroots Nation.

Netroots is one of the largest gatherings of progressives in the country.  The convention brings together labor unions, women’s health advocates, LGBTQ advocates, bloggers and organizers from across the country.  The three day convention hosts hundreds of different learning sessions on every progressive issue we are facing here in NH and across the country.  These classes help teach me how to better communicate our message as well as how to boost our reach through social media.  This is where I learned much of the information that I teach at some of the local trainings like the NH Progressive Summit.

Matt Murray And Gov. Howard Dean at NN14

Over the years I have seen Vice President Joe Biden, Sen Bernie Sanders, Sen Elizabeth Warren, dozens of Congressional Representatives, Governor Howard Dean, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, AFT President Randi Wiengarten, NEA President Lilly Garcia and faith leaders like the Rev Dr William Barber.

This year I am looking forward to seeing Vice President Al Gore, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI).

If you can, please make a donation to help offset the costs of this trip.  If you do not want to make a donation through PayPal, email me directly at NHLabor (at) Gmail.com and I can provide my home address where checks can be sent.

Thank You in advance for all your help and continuing to spread our message.


For groups looking to get an extra bang for your buck, donations of $75 or more, come with three months of free advertising on the NHLN.  Email me directly (NHLabor (at) Gmail.com) so I can send you an invoice for your records.

Concerned Citizens Confront Secretary of State Gardner Over Information Provided To Election Commission

Today a group of concerned citizens traveled to Concord to have a frank discussion with New Hampshire’s Secretary of State, Bill Gardner.  The group had serious concerns about the information being provided to the President’s “Election Integrity Commission” and what the information would be used for.

The commission sent a letter to all 50 states last week requesting them to release personally identifying voter information, which it will then make public. Gardner serves on the commission and last week stated he will give the voter file to the commission. The NH ACLU filed a lawsuit for a temporary injunction on the matter earlier today to prevent him from doing so.

Today when asked Gardner provided some new details into what the commission is doing and that he does not want to make this information public.

First, Gardner explained that Kobach issued a retraction letter, though he has not seen it yet.

 

Gardner went on to say that he does not approve of the ‘Election Integrity Commission’ plan to publicly distribute personal voter data.

“I will make sure that that information is not gonna be put in the public domain,” said Gardner.

It is clear that Gardner shares the concerns of these fellow Granite Staters.

 

The big question is: What does Kris Kobach want to do with this information?  Does Kobach plan to give this information to President Trump?

One Granite Stater asked, “Can you guarantee the current administration won’t be using that database in any way, shape, or form?”

Gardner responded, “We’ll have these discussions when there’s the first meeting,” implying he still does not know what the information is being gathered for.

Mo Baxley of Laconia then asked, “And you won’t turn over the information until those conversations.”

Gardner stated, “I want to make sure that this is not in the public domain, and what the guarantees are for that, and I expect that that is the case, and before it gets turned over, I will make sure that I’m satisfied that, that, that’s the case.”

 


Special Thanks to Granite State Progress for capturing all of this exchange on video.

Granite State Progress is a progressive advocacy organization that addresses issues of immediate state and local concern. Granite State Progress works as a communications hub for the progressive community to provide a strong, credible voice in advancing progressive solutions to critical community problems. Press releases online at www.GraniteStateProgress.org.

Governor And Union Fail To Reach Agreement Leaving NH State Employees Without A Contract

The New Hampshire State Employees Association (SEIU1984) and the State of New Hampshire have failed to reach a contract agreement and workers are now working without a contract.

As of now the NHLN does not have any details on the negotiations other that what the SEA said in this brief statement issued on June 30, the last day of the fiscal year for the state of NH.

Today, our contract expires.

After months of bargaining, all Gov. Sununu can say is, “no.”

On June 28, 2017, our bargaining team met with the state for one last attempt in securing a contract. However, Gov. Sununu has shut the master bargaining team down at every turn – refusing any wage increases and responding with outrageous demands in return.

Wage increases? “No.” Keeping health care cost-saving incentives? “No.” The master bargaining team is even facing opposition in changing the capitalization of certain letters in the contract. Gov. Sununu’s team keeps saying “no.”

The governor and his team have made it clear they have no intention of working together to better the working conditions of state employees. They’re refusing to do anything to aid in recruitment and retention, dismissing improved standards for part-time workers, and threatening to end aspects of our preventive health care – even though it’s mutually beneficial. They’re willing to threaten the health and safety of state employees just to “get a win” for the governor.

We thought our top elected official would eventually work with us. We believed he had his employees’ best interests at heart. Our master bargaining team has worked tirelessly for over 10 months to develop a contract that benefits both state employees and the people they serve. We’re disappointed this administration doesn’t see the value in the individuals who keep this state running.

When it comes to helping real people—the people he depends on—Gov. Sununu’s favorite word is no.

The Governor had no problems cutting taxes in the State’s budget but his team is rejecting the idea of giving the people who actually do the work for the state a slight pay raise as unthinkable.

Our state employees deserve better than this. They deserve to be treated with respect and be allowed to bargain for fair wages and benefits.  If our state can afford to give tax breaks to the wealthy, then they damn well should be able to pay our state workers better.

Is Your Employer Tracking Your Movements Through Your Company Cell Phone?

Image from pricenfees.com

Republicans Squash Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter’s Attempt To Provide Real Privacy To Workers.

Not long ago when you left the office for the day that meant that you were done for the day.  Then came pagers and cell phones, where you could be immediately contacted even when you were not at work.  Then came smartphones and the ability to check work related emails from anywhere in the world.  Now many employers provide a smartphone for their workers to allow them to check their message outside of normal work hours.

Pew Research reports that nearly 70% of workers use their smartphone or Personal Digital Assistant (PDA / Tablet) to check work related emails over the weekend.  However providing employees with a smartphone also allows employers to track employee’s movements with the phone’s built in GPS.

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) disagreed with employers being able to track employees phones when they are not working . There is no federal privacy law protecting workers from their employers tracking them.  Currently only a handful of states even have protections.

“It is reasonable to imagine legitimate business purposes for using GPS tracking technology during business hours – while an employee is carrying out their work responsibilities. It is simply wrong, however, that this tracking should carry over into the employee’s personal time – into their personal life. Certainly, not all employers would take advantage in this way, but the fact that there is no privacy law to protect employees from such behavior is indefensible,” said Shea-Porter.

Shea-Porter proposed an amendment to the so-called ‘Employee Privacy and Protection Act’ that is currently being marked-up in the House Education and Workforce Committee that she is a member of.

The so-called ‘Employee Privacy and Protection Act’ was one of three anti-worker bills considered during today’s markup, that would further tilt the playing field against workers seeking to bargain for better wages and working conditions. Since Republicans took control of the House in 2011, they have convened 28 hearings and markups in the Committee on Education and the Workforce aimed at undermining workers’ rights to bargain for a better life, replacing the once bipartisan recognition of the central role of workers in the American economy and democracy with relentless partisan attacks.

“My amendment seeks to improve this situation by offering a basic level of privacy protection for the employees of businesses that seek to use the lopsided process established under this bill,” she added.

However, partisanship in the committee prevailed over the privacy of workers and the amendment failed.

It is ironic that Shea-Porter’s amendment to the ‘Employee Privacy and Protection Act’ was rejected as the basis of the bill is “to protect workers privacy” by prohibiting employers from providing personal contact information about their employees to union organizers.

It is obvious that this bill is more about blocking union organizing efforts and less about workers privacy.

Election Integrity Commission Wants Access To Our Personal Voter Information, Sununu Agrees

The Presidential Advisory Committee on Election Integrity, led by Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach just sent a letter to all 50 Secretaries of State to gain access to personal information on registered voters.   Kocach is also inquiring from the Secretaries of State to provide details of possible voter fraud cases, law changes to “protect voter integrity,” and how the commission can do to “support local and state election administrators with regard to information technology security and vulnerabilities.”

The letter, made public by the Connecticut Secretary of State, Denise Merrill, shows exactly what “personal information” Kobach is requesting.

“In order for the Commission to fully analyze vulnerabilities and issues related to voter registration and voting, I am requesting that you provide to the Commission the publicly- available voter roll data for Connecticut, including, if publicly available under the laws of your state, the full first and last names of all registrants, middle names or initials if available, addresses, dates of birth, political party (if recorded in your state), last four digits of social security number if available, voter history (elections voted in) from 2006 onward, active/inactive status, cancelled status, information regarding any felony convictions, information regarding voter registration in another state, information regarding military status, and overseas citizen information.”

The biggest catch is that “any documents that are submitted to the full Commission will also be made available to the public” warned Kobach.

This idea is not sitting well with many people, including Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

“We fully condemn actions taken today by the President’s Election Integrity Commission seeking disclosure of data and personal information on virtually every voter across the country.  This meritless inquisition opens the door for a misguided and ill-advised Commission to take steps to target and harass voters and could lead to purging of the voter rolls.

We urge Secretaries of State who received a letter from Kris Kobach to reject this request and discourage state and local officials from participating in this Commission’s dangerous activities.

Today’s action underscores the fact that the Election Integrity Commission is operating in a reckless manner and its activities threaten to have a chilling effect on minority voters

We encourage the public to contact 866-OUR-VOTE to report complaints or any suspicious activity regarding the activities of the Election Integrity Commission.

We know that voting discrimination and voter suppression are the real threats to American democracy and we will resist the Commission’s attempt to divert federal resources and attention away from these problems.”

 

Multiple reports have concluded that in-person voter impersonation is extremely rare.  There have only been four cases in the last ten years of confirmed voter fraud with hundreds of thousands of votes cast. However this did not stop President Trump from claiming that millions voted illegally.

NH’s Secretary of State Bill Gardner has made clear—as recently as the February 14, 2017 edition of the Concord Monitor—that he has found no proof supporting President Trump’s baseless allegation that thousands of Massachusetts residents were bused to New Hampshire to cast ballots against him.  Secretary Gardner’s office also has repeatedly said—correctly—that there is no widespread voter fraud here.

Today on MSNBC, NH’s Governor Sununu said he would “comply” with the federal government’s Presidential Commission on Voting Integrity’s request for voter information.

 

The act of handing over certain confidential voter information is illegal under New Hampshire state law, specifically RSA 654:31-a. Since no individual instances of voter fraud are being investigated by the commission, state law prohibits Governor Sununu or Secretary of State Bill Gardner from disclosing birthdates or social security information, as Kobach requested. This information is maintained by the Secretary of State’s Office and the governor has no authority under state law to authorize its release.

“It is disappointing that Governor Sununu has chosen the Trump administration’s unwarranted request over the privacy of Granite Staters. He is once again falling in line behind President Trump and pledging to hand over our highly personal information to a federal government commission created at best to soothe the President’s ego, and at worst, undermine the integrity of our elections and disenfranchise millions of voters,” said NHDP Chair Ray Buckley. “It is outrageous that Governor Sununu is characteristically shooting from the hip rather than taking the time to understand what is best for the citizens of New Hampshire. Granite Staters will hold Sununu accountable for putting the privacy of our most personal information at risk to once again cozy up to the Trump administration and its dangerous effort to combat a problem that doesn’t exist.”

Gilles Bissonnette, legal director of the ACLU of New Hampshire, told the New Hampshire Union Leader, “there are strict state laws limiting how much information about voter files can be turned over or made public.”

“We expect that the secretary of state will not honor any request to produce information that is private and confidential. Any transfer of information must be in full compliance with all state disclosure laws. The Commission should not be able to obtain information that is unavailable to any ordinary member of the public.

Unfortunately, this Commission likely will be a pretext to enact new restrictions on the right to vote. Led by Mr. Kobach1, it is based on the false premise that there was widespread voter fraud last November. Yet New Hampshire conducts fair, honest, and democratic elections, and there is no evidence of significant voter fraud here. The Secretary of State’s Office2 and the Governor3 have both repeatedly acknowledged that there is no widespread voter fraud in the Granite State. Once again, our expectation is that, while on this Commission, Secretary Gardner will only join conclusions in the Commission’s final report that support voting rights and are based on actual proven facts.”

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) today urged New Hampshire to deny the Trump Election Commission’s request for personal voter data. In a letter to Governor Chris Sununu and to Secretary Gardner, who is a member of the Commission, Shea-Porter asked the state to join five others that have already denied the frivolous and intrusive request.

Shea-Porter wrote:

“I write to urge you to deny the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity’s request for the personal information of every registered New Hampshire voter. In a letter addressed to you, the Commission requested the name, last four Social Security digits, birthdate, political affiliation, address, military status, and voting history of nearly one million Granite Staters. Secretary Gardner, as a member of the Commission, it is imperative that you both deny this request and inform your fellow members that this misguided effort is unacceptable and deeply troubling.

“As you know, we Granite Staters greatly value our privacy rights. We are the “Live Free or Die” state, and this request is undoubtedly an assault on our freedom. This request violates the privacy of our state’s residents and represents an unprecedented intrusion by the federal government into our state’s electoral data. California, Connecticut, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, and Virginia have already refused this request. The New Hampshire Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has indicated that full compliance with this request would violate our state’s laws governing the public disclosure of voter information.

“In closing, I urge you to shield New Hampshire voters from this historic federal intrusion into law-abiding Americans’ right to privacy whose only “offense” was exercising their Constitutional right to vote. This could further dampen participation in our elections. Therefore, it is necessary for you both to publicly reassure our state’s voters that you will not comply with the Trump Commission’s demand.”

Contact Governor Sununu and urge him not to comply with Kobach’s request and to keep our personal information, private.

Kobach’s full letter to Connecticut Sec of State is attached below.


UPDATE 7-1-17

NHPR reports that Sec Gardner will comply with the request made by Kobach and the Election Integrity commission.

Faced with a flurry of questions from the press and the public about the state’s response, Gardner said he wanted to emphasize that some of the information mentioned in the letter — like social security numbers — won’t be provided to the commission because it’s not part of New Hampshire’s public voter checklists.

“What is public is what has been public for decades. In this state, every town and city clerk must keep every checklist they use in an election for at least five years so that any citizen can go in and look at the checklists,” Gardner said in an interview Friday afternoon in his office, where staffers spent the day fielding calls about the state’s plans to participate in the request.

“Checklists have always included names, addresses and party affiliation, if there is a party affiliation. So that’s all that’s being asked of us.”

PEIC Letter to Connecticut
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