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Shea-Porter Introduces Corporations Are Not People Amendment

Constitutional Amendment Attacks Flood of Dark Money
Unleashed by Citizens United Decision
 

WASHINGTON, DC— Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) today introduced the Corporations are Not People Amendment, a Constitutional Amendment to ensure that people, not corporations, are entitled to First Amendment-protected political speech. The Amendment would reverse the catastrophic effects of 2010’s Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which has allowed dark money to flood our elections and drown out Americans’ voices in our democracy. 

“Getting dark money out of politics is the necessary first step toward restoring trust in elections and getting our government working for the people instead of for corporate interests,” said Shea-Porter. “With the Corporations Are Not People Amendment, we can stem the flood of money unleashed by Citizens United and make sure our government is working for real people instead of big business.” 

Shea-Porter’s amendment has earned endorsements from government accountability advocacy groups including Common Cause, People for the American Way, and Free Speech for People. 

“Common Cause commends Congresswoman Shea-Porter and the many other Members of Congress who have championed a Constitutional amendment to help reduce the influence of big money in politics,” said Aaron Scherb, director of legislative affairs for Common Cause. “This amendment would help ensure that the voices of all Americans can be heard in our democracy even if they can’t hire a lobbyist, make a large campaign contribution, or start a super PAC.”

The Corporations Are Not People Amendment is the first bill Shea-Porter is introducing as part of her People Not Profits initiative to root out corporate influence in Washington. In addition to getting money out of politics, Shea-Porter will tackle lobbying loopholes that currently allow revolving-door influence, and work to strengthen prohibitions against conflicts of interest so we can make sure government officials aren’t using their position for personal profit.

Republicans In The NH Senate Stick It To Low Income Workers Twice In One Day

Yesterday in a very busy day in the NH State Senate, Republicans voted on two bills that specifically effect low income families in New Hampshire.  They voted on an increase in the minimum wage and a bill to kick thousands off of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) also referred to as food stamps.

The Senate rejected the minimum wage increase that would have raised the minimum wage to $12 over the next few years, right down party lines.  The bill would have raised the wages of over 100,000 people in the Granite State.  

“While 29 states and D.C. have increased their minimum wage in the last 4 years, Senate Republicans have voted to kill a New Hampshire increase for the fourth time, making us the only New England state that maintains a $7.25 hourly wage. I am disappointed that my Republican colleagues continue to turn their backs on working people. This is not only an economic issue, but a moral issue,” said Senator Donna Soucy (D-Manchester), Deputy Democratic Leader and sponsor of SB 83.

“This Republican logic that you can limit access to food assistance programs like SNAP while also voting to maintain a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour that is keeping working people in poverty fails to pass muster. People working full-time in New Hampshire should be able to earn enough to support themselves and their families.”

“Paying decent wages just makes good economic sense,” added Senator Soucy. “Volumes of research have shown that well-paid workers are better employees, better customers and are more likely to spend their dollars on necessities. The more workers feel financially secure in our state, the stronger and more robust our economy and the greater our ability to attract and retain skilled workers. While I’m disappointed our Republican colleagues continue to fail our workers, Senate Democrats will continue to push for an increase in our minimum wage and will continue fighting to expand opportunity for all.”

It is important to remember that some of the Republican senators are business owners that would be directly effected by an increase in the minimum wage.

In his opposition to raising the minimum wage last year, Senator  Andy Sanborn stated that raising the minimum wage is a “war on employers” but fails to mention that his vote against an increase is all about protecting his own self interest.

The Chairman of the NH Democratic Party, Ray Buckley, blasted the NH GOP for failing workers yet again.

“For four years, Governor Maggie Hassan worked to make our state number one in the nation for economic opportunity, with the lowest unemployment rate in the country. Building on that progress means making sure everyone with a job can provide for themselves and their family. For the second time in two weeks, Republicans have denied New Hampshire workers a raise by voting down a minimum wage.

By default, New Hampshire is tied for last in the country when it comes to paying its workers. The Granite State also has by far the lowest minimum wage in New England and that’s a legacy New Hampshire Republicans should be ashamed of. If Governor Sununu is truly committed to strengthening our economy and expanding opportunity, he should first make sure the people who live here are making enough to get by.”

“Raising the minimum wage to $12 per hour would come at the expense of entry level jobs,” said Senator Dan Innis as he argued against the increase.  Obviously Innis is mis-informed.  Study after study continues to show real life examples of how raising the minimum wage spurs economic growth, creating new jobs, and increases spending in the local community.

In January, Maine’s newly increased minimum wage went into effect and the results show what most economist routinely say, it will help create jobs.

“Average hourly earnings for private-sector Maine workers increased to $22.70 an hour and total employment increased to an all-time high, with a gain of more than 4,000 seasonally-adjusted jobs from December….Significant employment gains were seen among Maine’s restaurants and hotels, with the accommodation and food service sector gaining 700 jobs,” reported the Maine Beacon.

Then just to show how much Republicans care about low income workers they also voted to pass SB 7, a bill to change the eligibility of low income families to receive SNAP benefits.  

Senator Martha Fuller Clark was very disappointed in this partisan attack on low income families. 

“In the same day that we are discussing increased tax breaks for businesses and voting against the long overdue increase to the state’s minimum wage, Senate Republicans are passing legislation that prevents thousands of food insecure Granite Staters from accessing the SNAP benefits they so desperately need. I have to wonder – why are my Republican colleagues making it so hard for working families to succeed in New Hampshire?”

Senate Bill 7 restricts the Department of Health and Human Services from requesting or renewing a waiver of the federal work requirements for food stamp eligibility without legislative approval and requires that the department use the federal resource limits for food stamp eligibility for anyone denied a waiver. Food service providers, including the New Hampshire Food Bank, remain concerned that this legislation will have a significant, negative impact on the thousands of individuals who rely on SNAP to secure stable access to nutritious food. Moreover, significant research demonstrates that abuse of food assistance programs is extremely low. 

“139,730 people in New Hampshire are food insecure and 24% of those individuals are veterans. No one in our state should have to choose between paying their bills and buying food for their family,”  continued Fuller Clark. “This legislation puts vulnerable Granite Staters needlessly at risk and places an undue burden on municipalities and already strained food bank services. Democrats will continue to fight against these dangerous and misguided policies that put our state’s families at risk.”

Sarah Mattson Dustin is a staff advocate with The NH Legal Assistance, who testified against the proposed bill,  was also displeased with this vote and vows to continue fighting for low income families.

“NHLA and our allies who work on behalf of low-income New Hampshire families recognize the improvements the NH Senate made to SB 7 today. But this bill as amended still makes it harder for the food stamps program to continue serving low-income working families with kids. We will keep advocating for these essential benefits, which are 100 percent federally funded and a crucial tool in the fight against child hunger. We heard in the debate that New Hampshire’s senators received HUNDREDS of messages against the bill. That is a great sign that New Hampshire voters are engaged and committed to protecting our most vulnerable neighbors. There is still much work to be done, but we are deeply grateful to everyone who stood with us and with low-income working New Hampshire families.”

Opponents of SB 7 continued to point out the SNAP is a federally funded program and the State only pays a portion of the administrative costs.  The changes proposed would increase administrative costs at the state level while kicking more than 10,000 people off the program.

SB 7, submitted by Senator Kevin Avard (R-Nashua), was “word-for-word from The Foundation for Government Accountability, a Florida “welfare reform” think tank and member of the right-wing State Policy Network,” wrote Granite State Progress.  GSP also posted Avard’s “Tirade Against Poor Families, Food Stamps, and the Bible on YouTube.

Hard working, low-income workers just got completely screwed by the Republican led Senate who once again blocked an increase in the minimum wage and simultaneously making it hard for them to feed their families.

National COSH Announces Action Agenda: “Protecting Workers’ Lives and Limbs”

90+ Groups Endorse New Workplace Safety Protections
to Save Thousands of Lives, Billions of Dollars

Advocates also call for action in local communities and workplaces

San Diego – Today the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) announced a new action agenda: “Protecting Workers’ Lives and Limbs.”

Advocates say the comprehensive platform for strong worker safety protections can save thousands of workers’ lives and reduce costs to employers by billions of dollars. Delegations of safety advocates from 12 communities will schedule visits to present the platform to members of Congress in ten states in the coming weeks. 

“Out-of-touch politicians are misreading the results of the last election,” said Jora Trang, managing attorney at San Francisco-based Worksafe and president of the National COSH board of directors. “Nobody voted to get sick or die at work. We need stronger safety protections and tougher enforcement – not weaker laws and fewer life-saving regulations.”

On a typical day, 13 U.S. workers die from preventable hazards in the workplace.  Among those who have lost their lives in March 2017 are:

·      Construction worker David Williams, 36, killed when a trench collapsed at a building site in San Antonio, TX

·      Roberto Cortez, 36, died after a fall from an unmanned tree service truck in Bell Canyon, CA

·      Timothy Dragon, 42, lost his life at the Granite City Steelworks in Granite City, MO

 Recent Congressional actions have put workers at risk by taking steps to reverse longstanding recordkeeping rules and eliminate sanctions against federal contractors who violate safety laws. Delegations led by local COSH groups will schedule visit to Congressional offices as safety activists prepare to observe Workers Memorial Week. The observance, marked in communities around the world from April 23 through April 30, honors workers who have died on the job.

“Protecting Workers’ Lives and Limbs” has been endorsed by 92 local, regional and statewide organizations representing workers, unions, environmentalists and civic groups. Key elements of the platform include: ensuring health and safety protections for all workers, reducing and working to eliminate the use of toxic chemicals; ensuring injured workers access to quality medical care; accurate counting of all occupational injuries and illnesses, and measures to adapt to – and reduce – further climate change.

“Every day in this country, workers are dying from conditions we know how to prevent,” said Joseph Zanoni, PhD, director of continuing education at the Illinois Health and Safety Education and Research Center and chair of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Section of the American Public Health Association (APHA). The OHS Section of APHA is one of the endorsers of “Protecting Workers’ Lives and Limbs.”

“There’s no reason for a worker to drown in a trench or get crushed to death by a machine without proper guarding,” said Zanoni. “We can prevent these tragedies by engaging workers in training and applying proven safety practices – and if we do, we’ll save lives, increase productivity and reduce the high cost of caring for sick, injured and fallen workers.” 

More than 4,500 U.S. workers die every year from preventable workplace trauma and an estimated 95,000 die from long-term occupational illnesses. Millions more are injured after exposure to preventable safety hazards. The cost to U.S. employers for workers’ compensation alone was $91.8 billion in 2014, representing a fraction of the total cost of workplace deaths injuries and illnesses.

In addition to meeting with members of Congress, health and safety activists plan to push for better safety practices in U.S. workplaces and enhanced protections in state and municipal law.

For example, following a recent tragedy, the Boston City Council passed a new ordinance giving city officials authority to deny construction permits to companies with a record of poor safety practices. Boston construction workers Kelvin Mattocks and Robert Higgins drowned to death in a trench in October 2016 because their employer, Atlantic Drain Services, failed to follow required safety precautions by shoring up the excavation site. Atlantic Drain had a long history of safety violations; the company and its owner, Kevin Otto have been indicted for manslaughter. The Massachusetts legislature is considering a bill to increase penalties against employers when a worker is killed on the job.

In Dallas, after construction worker Roendy Granillo died of heat exhaustion in 2015 during a triple-digit heat wave, his family joined a successful campaign to pass a new city ordinance requiring mandatory rest and water breaks on building sites.

We can’t wait for tragedy to strike before we take action,” said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH. “We have to improve our safety laws and insist on tough enforcement before workers are hurt or killed on the job.”

“We’re going to make it clear to public officials, if you stall on safety legislation or cut back on regulations, you are putting people’s lives at risk,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, also a co-executive director of National COSH. “If a worker dies from a cause you failed to prevent, that’s on your watch – so you better start thinking about what you will say to that person’s family.”

“Protecting Workers’ Lives and Limbs” is available in English and Spanish on the National COSH website here and below.

A list of the 92 organizations endorsing the platform is here and below. 

Protecting Workers' Lives and Limbs -3-15-17 3-30 pm(2).compressed

Protecting Workers' Lives and Limbs Endorsements_0

 

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

Good And Bad News On Senator Lasky’s Bills To Make The Voting Process Easier

This week the Senate held two votes on legislation submitted by Senator Bette Lasky to expand access and ease the voting process.

The first SB 113, which passed the Senate with a voice vote, would allow cities and towns to “conduct a trial of electronic poll book devices for voter registration and check-in for elections.” This would simplify check in procedures as the lists would continually be updated through an online database.

“I’m thrilled that the Senate has taken this pragmatic step forward in modernizing our election process. New Hampshire prides itself on a tradition of strong citizen participation in elections. But we also know that high voter turnout can create long lines at the polls. We must do everything we can to ensure that voting is accessible and efficient for everyone,” said Senator Lasky.

“This pilot program gives communities the opportunity to test electronic poll books in upcoming elections in the hope that this resource will help election workers process voters more quickly and ensure that busy Granite Staters have every opportunity to participate. The program also provides enhanced protections against fraud, and the increased efficiency provided by this technology also helps free up election workers to move more quickly through their post-election responsibilities.” 

Several states have successfully adopted the electronic poll book system. Proponents of the program cite the tool’s ability to help election workers access a statewide voter database to quickly look up and identify eligible voters, redirect individuals who are in the wrong polling location to the correct polling site, scan a driver’s license and sign in electronically, and reduce wait times at high traffic polling locations. Access to increased information also helps prevent against voter fraud.

The second, SB 194, was killed by Republicans in party line vote. The bill would have authorized online voter registration in New Hampshire. When tied with electronic poll books, voters could register online and then go vote without having to wait in long lines at the polling place.  Typically the longest line in a polling place is those registering to vote.   

“Making the process of registering to vote and casting your ballot more secure and accessible is something we should all be able to agree on,” said Lasky.Allowing our citizens to register to vote online would help make the process more efficient and increase the number of citizens exercising one of their most important rights. I remain confused as to why Republicans continue to block legislation that makes voting more accessible to the people of New Hampshire.” 

38 states have already implemented online voter registration. Research shows that the convenience of online voter registration greatly increases registration and participation.

This is only the first in a long line of proposed legislation that affects our voting process.  The Governor and Republican leadership are pushing for “stronger Voter ID” laws, which have been proven to lower turnout and disenfranchise voters.  They are also considering eliminating same day voter registration.  

Ending same day voter registration and blocking online voter registration could result in a drastic drop in voter participation, especially in Presidential election years.  Then again, maybe that is what Republicans want, as records show that higher turnout elections tend to favor Democrats.  

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.”

 

Republicans In The NH House Sideline Bill To End Discrimination Against Transgender Individuals

CONCORD, N.H. — Thursday, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 187-179 to table House Bill 478. The measure sought to update the state’s law against discrimination to provide protections for transgender individuals in housing, employment and public spaces, including hospitals, stores and restaurants.

Efforts to revive debate on the measure failed on a 168-180 vote.

“I introduced HB 478, because transgender Granite Staters need to be protected from the real and pervasive discrimination they face,” state Rep. Ed Butler, D-Harts Location, said following the vote. “Today’s vote sends the message that discrimination is okay, and it motivates me to redouble my efforts to ensure everyone in New Hampshire is treated equally and fairly under the law, including transgender residents and visitors.”

Thursday’s vote came only a couple of weeks after a GOP-led House committee gave the measure a favorable recommendation on an overwhelming 15-2 vote, following hours of moving testimony from supporters of the bill, which outnumbered opposition 7 to 1.

“Those legislators who heard from transgender constituents, learned about their lives and why these protections are needed, voted overwhelmingly in favor of the measure just two weeks ago,” Gerri Cannon, a New Hampshire transgender woman and a member of the Freedom New Hampshire coalition, said. “It is shameful that opponents of HB 478 would use scare tactics to permit discrimination against transgender Granite Staters.”

Organizations and individuals who spoke against the bill cited unfounded claims that protecting transgender individuals from discrimination would make the state less safe. This assertion was proved false by those entrusted to protect the public, including the N.H. Chiefs of Police Association and the N.H. Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, both of whom support the legislation.

Since HB 478 was introduced, 7,600 individuals, businesses and organizations have joined the Freedom New Hampshire coalition. Constituents made more than 8,200 contacts to legislators in support of the bill. The coalition will continue efforts to shine a light on the very real discrimination transgender individuals face on a daily basis and the urgent need for nondiscrimination protections.

“While we are disappointed with today’s vote, we are incredibly proud of the work that we have accomplished since this bill was introduced,” Linds Jakows, campaign manager for Freedom New Hampshire, said. “Since January, we have created a strong, diverse and bipartisan coalition of people from all walks of life who support transgender nondiscrimination protections in New Hampshire. This coalition is not going anywhere. We will continue our efforts to obtain explicit nondiscrimination protections for transgender individuals in New Hampshire.”

“In an act of weakness, House Speaker Shawn Jasper tabled HB478 rather than having representatives debate the legislation on the floor,” said NH Democratic Party Chair, Ray Buckley.  “Because of this, transgender people will be subject to discrimination.”

“…Governor Sununu has legitimized the idea that the transgender community does not matter and does not belong. He will have to answer for the consequences,” added Buckley. 

The House Democratic Leader, Rep Steve Shurtleff said the vote was “particularly disappointing.”

“We had the opportunity to take a strong stand in support of our most vulnerable citizens, and the House’s failure to act means that our transgender sons, daughters, friends and neighbors will continue to face discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations,” Shurtleff said.

For Republican leadership to orchestrate the derailing of this bill at the eleventh hour once again speaks to the misplaced priorities of the Republican Party.  As legislators, it is our job to engage the challenging issues that come before us, not to run away from them.”

“After witnessing the damage that North Carolina’s reputation and economy suffered after failing to protect against transgender discrimination, this move by New Hampshire Republicans to follow in their footsteps is even more shortsighted,” Shrtleff concluded. 

Despite Thursday’s vote, Freedom New Hampshire’s bipartisan and diverse coalition is committed to passing explicit nondiscrimination protections for transgender Granite Staters.

The measure will likely not be considered again before 2018. In the meantime, Freedom New Hampshire will continue efforts to shine a light on the very real discrimination transgender individuals face on a daily basis.

“Transgender Granite Staters deserve an up or down vote. It’s not a question of ‘if’ New Hampshire will adopt explicit nondiscrimination protections for transgender Granite Staters, but ‘when,’” Jakows concluded.

(Featured Image: ‘The Plight of the Transgender’ Image by Rose Morelli, www.facebook.com/Rosemorelliphotography)

New Hampshire Congressional Delegation Strongly Opposes GOP Repeal Of ACA

This week, Republicans released their new plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and replace it with something much worse.

“House Republicans should be ashamed of their new bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would hurt New Hampshire workers and families by ending Medicaid expansion, driving up premiums, leaving fewer people with coverage than before the law passed, and setting us back in the fight against the heroin, fentanyl, and opioid epidemic,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. “Despite months of pleas from their own constituents, who are terrified about losing their coverage, House Republicans have written a bill that shows total disregard for the people they are supposed to represent and instead bows to special interests. Unbelievably, after almost eight years, House Republicans still refuse to say how much their plan would cost and how many people it would force off their coverage – Republican leadership is trying to jam their bill through before the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office even has the chance to score it. Instead of House Republicans’ backroom approach, the American people deserve an honest bipartisan debate on a bill that doesn’t erase the Affordable Care Act’s progress in driving the uninsured rate to the lowest on record, but instead makes needed fixes and improvements to our health care system to ensure all Granite Staters have access to affordable, quality healthcare.”

Congresswoman Kuster said the ACA is “not perfect” but “their proposal would increase costs, limit access, and cover fewer Americans” in her statement.

“It’s clear why Republicans in the House felt it necessary to keep this Affordable Care Act repeal plan hidden behind lock and key. Their proposal would increase costs, limit access, and cover fewer Americans. 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 thousands of Granite Staters and millions of Americans nationwide,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. 

“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 providers such as Planned Parenthood do nothing to increase access to care. This is a huge giveaway to the wealthiest Americans, and the plan appallingly even includes a tax break for insurance CEOs making more than half a million dollars. I urge my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to rethink this misguided approach and instead come to the table in good faith to help improve the system for all Americans,” Kuster added. 

The Alliance for Retired Americans called the bill “another tax giveaway” to the wealthiest Americans and would “gut” the Medicare Trust Fund.

“After seven years Republicans have finally shown us what their repeal of Obamacare looks like. It would be a disaster for older and working Americans and for our health care system,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans. “The bill repeals the increase in the Medicare payroll tax for high earners. That will reduce the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund by 4 years, from 2029 to 2025. This is an insult to the fifty-seven million Medicare beneficiaries who have earned their guaranteed Medicare benefits, and many millions more who contribute to Medicare expecting it to be there when they retire.   

“The bill also cuts federal funding for Medicaid by $560 billion over 10 years. Cuts of this magnitude will force states to make deep cuts in the number of people who receive benefits, or the amount of health care provided. Over 70 million beneficiaries rely on Medicaid, including almost 6 million seniors who depend on it for their nursing home and home care services. The GOP’s message is, ‘Sorry, you’re out of luck.’

“Republicans have topped this off by changing the age rating for older Americans from 3:1 to 5:1, or even greater in some states. Enabling insurers to charge older Americans that much more will greatly increase costs for people over the age of 50,” Fiesta concluded. 

Senator Jeanne Shaheen said the bill would hurt middle class families in New Hampshire and across the U.S.

“This repeal bill would be nothing short of a disaster for healthcare coverage in New Hampshire and a devastating blow to our efforts to combat the opioid epidemic,” said Shaheen. “This is clearly a broken promise by President Trump and Republican leadership who assured the American public that nobody would be kicked off of their healthcare coverage. It’s unconscionable that this bill would decimate the Medicaid program and eliminate healthcare subsidies for the middle class while the wealthy get another tax break and insurance company CEOs get a pay bump. The bill also defunds Planned Parenthood, jeopardizing vital preventative and reproductive care for thousands of women in New Hampshire. It took Republican leadership seven years to come up with this repeal bill.  This proposal clearly demonstrates why Republican leadership should keep the Affordable Care Act and finally commit to working across the aisle to improve it.” 

Senator Maggie Hassan spoke out against the new House bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act and New Hampshire’s bipartisan Medicaid expansion plan, force older Americans and middle class families to pay more while providing tax breaks for insurance CEOs and the wealthiest Americans, force drastic cuts to New Hampshire’s traditional Medicaid program for children, seniors and people with disabilities, and defund Planned Parenthood.

At a press conference in the Capitol with Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), Senator Hassan specifically highlighted the devastating impact that the House bill would have on New Hampshire’s bipartisan Medicaid expansion plan and efforts to combat the heroin, fentanyl and opioid crisis.

“Make no mistake – this so-called replacement plan would end Medicaid expansion, which experts have said is the most important tool available to fight the substance use crisis. The House Republican plan also hurts children, seniors and people with disabilities with drastic federal cuts to the traditional Medicaid program. It would force states to either cut services our citizens need or to raise taxes,” said Senator Hassan.

Senator Hassan added, “Repealing Medicaid expansion would severely hurt the ability of those on the front lines to save lives and turn the tide of this deadly substance abuse epidemic. Substance use treatment providers have been clear that if Medicaid expansion is repealed, they will have to significantly cut back on the help that they can provide to those in need. To pull the rug out from millions of people across the country who are seeking a lifeline from the throes of addiction is the height of irresponsibility. And we cannot – and we will not – let it happen.”

Rep Ellen Read: When will the House listen to NH?

The call to end the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision—the decision that allowed an unlimited flood of corporate and dark money into elections by creating the shadowy “SuperPAC”, and declaring that corporations were people and that money was the same thing as free speech—has come before the NH House again for the third biennium in a row. The vote is Thursday.

In 2014 the NH House passed a bill to call upon Congress to end Citizens United, only to have it defeated by one vote in the Senate. In 2015, the Senate passed it unanimously, but the House, after miraculously overturning the committee recommendation to kill it and then actually passing it, in a very rare move decided to reconsider the vote and then defeated it.

This year, the House has already overwhelmingly passed HR 7, the “Real Reform Amendment”, calling upon Congress to make it so that only eligible voters in an election can influence an election with money—including both direct contributions and independent expenditures. Because one has to be an actual human being in order to vote (unless corporate America gets their way!), corporations, superPACs, and wealthy special interests would be automatically barred from contributing to campaigns or taking out independent ads (the “not approved by any candidate” ads that have become so ubiquitous since 2010). They could still organize their members within their organizations, of course. HR 7 passed with a hearty bi-partisan vote of 211-75.

Since 2014, 69 NH towns have each independently passed Town Warrant Articles and Town Resolutions calling upon the State House to pass a call for an amendment to deal with the corrupt Citizens United decision. HR 7 would certainly fit the demands of those 69 towns. The only problem with HR 7 is that it is a resolution, not a bill…which means that the Senate will likely refuse to hear it.

HB 116, on the other hand, will be heard by the Senate if it passes the House, because it is a bill. Unlike HR 7, it does not include specific language for a proposed amendment—it merely acknowledges the need for something to be done and creates four public hearings throughout the state, at which the residents of those 69 towns that have locally demanded this action as well as the general public, can submit official statements to inform our Congressional delegates of what exact language NH would support.

However, the highly partisan Election Law Committee, which has consistently voted on virtually every bill along party lines (including voting down a bill allowing senior citizens who do not have driver’s licenses to use the photo ID issued by their assisted living facility to vote, as well as a bill that would create a mathematical formula to determine the best district lines in order to prevent the egregious gerrymandering NH has seen under both parties), has, true to form, voted down HB 116…along the same party line vote as virtually every other bill.

Ninety percent of NH citizens, regardless of party affiliation, believe that money is corrupting our political process and is giving us “the best Congress money can buy”. In the presidential primaries, NH voted overwhelmingly for the two candidates that were viewed as an end to our current “pay-to-play” system, spawning national movements on both the left and the right that were fueled by an American people utterly sick of their government being bought and paid for. A recent 20-year study by Northwestern and Princeton has proven what Granite Staters have known all along: that while the will of wealthy special interests determines political outcomes, the will of the American public has “only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy”. This is not the representative democracy we all were told America was meant to be.

How can the NH House in good conscience continue to ignore NH citizens when we are so fervently demanding action on the rampant corruption in D.C.? With the partisan committee recommendation to kill HB 116, it will be difficult to save it on the floor—but every representative who voted for HR 7 should logically vote for the much more modest and more effective HB 116. Passing it through both the NH House and Senate will make NH the 18th state (and last New England state) to call for such an amendment. NH has a chance once again to lead the nation in politics…this time in cleaning it up. And to the NH House I would say, “cleaning time has come!”

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