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Nashua Teachers Union Joins Local Fight To Reduce Childhood Food Insecurity

“Childhood food insecurity is a national problem, it occurs when children receive insufficient food on a regular basis; in many cases missing meals entirely. After a while, these children also experience “fear of hunger” that affects their behavior as much as physical hunger affects their bodies. There are more than 16 million food insecure children in America today,” wrote the coalition End 68 Hours of Hunger.

Nearly one in four children face food insecurity. The “68 hours” between child’s free lunch on Friday and their free breakfast on Monday are specifically what End 68 Hours of Hunger is working to address.

“That insecurity can lead to some behavioral disruptions,” writes End 68 Hours of Hunger. “On Monday mornings they return to school ill, often spending the day in the nurse’s office. They are unable to focus and concentrate until they once again are nourished.”

The work they are doing to eliminate those 68 hours of hunger is having a noticeable impact.

“Teachers report that children are more responsible, and their performance improves.  Actual documented increases in reading and math scores have been reported as well.”

During their meeting on October 10, the Nashua Teachers’ Union Board of Directors unanimously voted to support End 68 Hours of Hunger – Nashua with a donation of $3,000.00 to purchase the food needed to feed about 200 Nashua students during February vacation.

“It was the fastest discussion we’ve had in regards to making donations,” said Nashua Teachers’ Union President Adam Marcoux. “It was never a question of if we would do something, it was a question of how much do they need to help our students over that vacation week. We have worked closely with End 68 Hours Hunger before, and people really appreciate what their organization does for our students.”

End 68 Hours of Hunger provides food for students over the weekend as well as the three vacation weeks. “It’s 2017 and hunger is still a problem for our students.” Marcoux went on to say, “I was talking with a retired nurse and this came up. She recalled speaking with a student at her school, asking if they were excited about the upcoming vacation. The student answered no. When asked why, they responded ‘because I don’t get to eat at home.’ It is a heartbreaking situation to think about our students having to worry about food.”

“One of the goals of the Nashua Teachers’ Union is to be a community partner, supporting groups and organizations that work to help our students and schools. We are proud to once again support End 68 Hours of Hunger in their effort to help our students.”

Members of the Nashua Teachers’ Union will also pack the food prior to the vacation week. “Packing the food is a lot of fun, too! Last year, we had people seeing who could pack the bag the best. By the end, we had people competing with each other. It made for a fun afternoon,” Marcoux said.

For more information on End 68 Hours of Hunger – Nashua, please visit www.end68hoursofhunger.org.

Featured Image: STEM Outreach – Turnagain Elementary School – by Army Corp of Engineers FLICR CC

Trump’s Sabotage Of The Affordable Care Act Will Hurt New Hampshire Families

Trump’s ACA Sabotage, Executive Order Will Gut Protections, Force Sickest to Pay Skyrocketing Prices, Destabilize Health Care for New Hampshire Families

Following an Executive Order that will increase junk insurance plans, news follows that President Trump will immediately end cost-sharing payments and destabilize health insurance markets

Concord, NH Yesterday, President Trump issued a new executive order that will expand the availability of junk insurance plans in a direct attempt to trigger the collapse of the entire private health insurance market and destroy the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Last night, the Trump administration signaled that it would also immediately end cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies, which analysts and advocates agree will destabilize health insurance markets in New Hampshire and across the nation.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated back in August that ending cost-sharing reductions would increase insurance premiums by 20% next year alone, effectively kick a million Americans off insurance, and add $194 billion to the deficit.

“These partisan, political acts are part of Trump’s relentless campaign to sabotage the ACA by forcing premium increases, creating instability in the market, actively interfering with the ability of consumers to sign up for coverage, and rolling back the contraceptive coverage mandate,” said Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins. “These actions threaten the collapse of the entire individual health insurance market and leave our sick and most vulnerable to pay the price.”

“For years, Trump and Congressional Republicans have called for the repeal of the health care law without offering any viable replacement. Trump is now bent on destroying the one health care law that allowed millions of Americans to gain health insurance and improved coverage for essential health care benefits like maternity, mental health, and prescription drugs. Trump is stripping these important consumer protections and ending critical payments that help millions of lower-income Americans afford coverage. Any problems in our health care system from here on out rest solely at the feet of President Trump and other politicians who have created instability and skyrocketing premiums, and allowed the sale of junk plans without the essential health coverage people need when they are sick,” Rice-Hawkins added.

“Last night, Trumpcare became a reality. By refusing to continue cost-sharing reduction payments, President Trump has committed his most shameful act of sabotage on the insurance markets, threatening the health and wellbeing of millions of Americans and making premiums skyrocket for millions more,” said Raymond Buckley, Chair of the NH Democratic Party.  “Governor Sununu’s self-proclaimed closeness with Trump and his administration hasn’t yielded any help for New Hampshire. Instead, Sununu’s constant praise and support of Trump is starting to look like blind flattery.”

Buckley continued, “Make no mistake, Governor Sununu has precipitated Trump’s sabotage by fueling the flames of ACA repeal,  opposing Medicaid expansion, supporting various forms of Trumpcare, proposing Medicaid block grants, rejecting a reinsurance program, and refusing to join a bipartisan group of governors in calling for the protection of key health care protections. Rather than actively campaigning against dangerous Republican health care ideas, Sununu has either stayed silent or belatedly voiced his opposition once and disappeared. That is not leadership. Sununu is engaging in political calculation when Granite Staters need its governor the most.”

In a letter to President Trump in August, Governor Chris Sununu called for Trump to continue the cost sharing reduction payments. One of the main requests in the letter:

“Commit to funding CSR reimbursements for 2017 and 2018: Carriers calculate their rates far in advance, so continued uncertainty about the reimbursements fuel dramatic increases and could lead them to exit the market. This hurts consumers – most of all, those who cannot get coverage through work and do not qualify for federal subsidies. While I am sympathetic to the argument that these payments are a subsidy, to withhold them at this late date as carriers are trying to calculate rates is resulting in significant instability and further rate increases and fewer options.”

“Despite the American people’s rejection of the Affordable Care Act repeal, this new order is part of a concerted effort by the Trump administration to unravel the law’s patient protections and to destabilize healthcare marketplaces,” said Senator Shaheen. “This order only introduces more unnecessary chaos into our healthcare system, which undermines the healthcare that Granite Staters, and all Americans, depend on. The President must abandon these political efforts to destabilize the ACA, and finally prioritize working with Congress to address and fix this manufactured crisis. There are Republicans and Democrats who are ready to move forward with bipartisan legislation that will provide stability in the insurance marketplace, increase access to care and lower cost sharing.”

Senator Shaheen is leading efforts in the Senate to provide marketplace stability by permanently continuing and increasing eligibility for cost-sharing reduction payments. Her bill, the Marketplace Certainty Act, would make cost-sharing reduction payments permanent and expand eligibility to more working Americans.

“By deciding to stop payments for so-called cost-sharing reductions – which help lower deductibles, co-pays, and other out-of-pocket expenses – President Trump is cruelly and intentionally raising health care costs for millions of Americans,” said Senator Maggie Hassan. “The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that stopping these payments would cause health insurance premiums to skyrocket for millions of Americans while also ballooning the federal deficit, yet the President moved forward with this plan out of political spite. I have pushed for months to get Congress to act to provide certainty around these payments and help block the Trump Administration’s blatant sabotage attempts, and now is the time to finally stop this madness.”

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter said that Trump should be “ashamed” for his actions that “will torpedo the individual insurance market”

“He is right to be so ashamed of this spiteful action he would only announce it in the dead of night. Stopping these payments won’t just hurt the lower-income people whose out-of-pocket costs are defrayed by CSRs, it will also hurt every one of the millions of Americans who buy their own coverage. That’s because insurance companies say they are going to charge everyone more to make up for the lost funding. Congress must act immediately to fund CSRs and protect our constituents from Trump’s vengeful and destructive actions.”

Congresswoman Annie Kuster also spoke out against the order.

“President Trump’s announcement today sadly continues to take us in the wrong direction on health care. During the last several months, I have been encouraged by conversations with both Republicans and Democrats about how we can address the ongoing challenges with the Affordable Care Act.  I believe that there are areas where we can all agree on solutions to fix issues faced by some Americans. Today’s executive order simply reverts back to the failed repeal and replace mantra. This executive order will result in higher costs to consumers and less access to health care for Granite State families. I will continue to work with my Democratic and Republican colleagues to look for commonsense solutions to stabilize the individual marketplace and strengthen our health care system.”

This executive order is not about helping people gain insurance coverage it is outright sabotage.  Millions of hard working Americans will be harmed by this executive order.  Some will lose their coverage. Some will be force to go without coverage because the costs are too high. Some will be forced to pay outrageously high premiums as they have no other option for coverage.

The American People spoke out loud and clear against the Republican healthcare plan. The Senate rejected the measure over and over because even some Republicans know that this plan will due massive harm to the American people.  But President Trump does not care about the will of the people, he is running the country like a unhinged tyrant.


UPDATED to include statement from NH Democratic Leadership

Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn, Senate Deputy Democratic Leader Donna Soucy, House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff and House Deputy Democratic Leader Cindy Rosenwald issued the following joint statement:

“President Trump’s decision to end cost-sharing reduction payments will dramatically hurt New Hampshire families’ ability to afford and access the health insurance they need. The Trump administration’s varied attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and its protections are shameful and it is abundantly clear that this effort is an attempt to settle a political score rather than act in the best interest of the American people.

Today, we are calling on Governor Sununu and New Hampshire’s Republican legislative leaders to pass a reinsurance program to provide as much relief as possible to Granite Staters who will see premiums go up an average of 20% next year as a result of President Trump’s decision to cancel CSR payments. We are also calling on New Hampshire’s Attorney General Gordon MacDonald to join Attorneys General across the country who are promising to sue the Trump administration to protect cost-sharing reductions. We will work with anyone, anywhere to make sure Granite Staters continue to see the protections and guarantees they have received under the Affordable Care Act and fight back against President Trump’s destructive sabotage.”

Trinational Coalition Demands ISDS Be Removed From New NAFTA Proposal

As Battle Over NAFTA Investor Protections Heats Up, Trinational Coalition Delivers 400,000 Petitions Demanding Elimination of Corporate Rights and Tribunals

Investor-State Dispute Settlement Becomes Key Measure of Whether NAFTA Renegotiations Will Benefit Working People or Expand Corporate Power 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Growing public opposition to the expansive corporate privileges at the heart of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took center stage as the fourth round of NAFTA talks began today in Washington, D.C. U.S., Mexican and Canadian civil society organizations delivered more than 400,000 petitions demanding that NAFTA’s expansive corporate rights and protections and Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) be eliminated during renegotiations.

“If you want to know how trade deals like NAFTA have been rigged against working people and our communities, all you need to do is to look at the Investor-State Dispute Settlement process,” said Chris Shelton, president, Communications Workers of America.

“Americans want trade deals that will add new protections for our environment, create American jobs and raising wages, not another corporate giveaway by a phony populist like Trump, said CREDO political director Murshed Zaheed. “If Trump doesn’t use NAFTA renegotiation to eliminate the Investor State Dispute Settlement provision it will further expose his administration as craven crony capitalists masquerading as faux populists.”

“The Teamsters are North America’s supply chain union. With members in long-haul trucking and freight rail, air, at ports and in warehouses, as well as members in manufacturing and food processing, this union has a big stake in trade policy reform,” said Jim Hoffa, general president, Teamsters. “We will be monitoring the modernization of a flawed and failed NAFTA, and fighting to make sure that the new NAFTA works for working families.”

U.S. officials are expected to table a proposal on the controversial NAFTA investment chapter during this week’s negotiations. NAFTA’s investor protections and ISDS make it less risky and expensive for corporations to outsource jobs and empower them to attack domestic policies that protect public health and the environment by going before tribunals of three corporate lawyers who can order unlimited compensation to be paid to the corporations by taxpayers.

Last month, more than 100 small business leaders sent a letter calling for elimination of ISDS in NAFTA. Organizations representing U.S. state legislatures and state attorneys general and hundreds of prominent economics and law professors also have declared opposition to ISDS, as has a group of Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Conservative U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has warned about the threat of ISDS. But corporate interests are scrambling to defend the controversial regime they use to attack domestic laws and raid taxpayer funds.

While just 50 known ISDS cases were launched in the first three decades of this shadow legal system, corporations have launched more than 50 claims in each of the past six years. More than $392 million in compensation has already been paid out to corporations to date after NAFTA ISDS attacks on oil, gas, water and timber policies, toxics bans, health and safety measures, and more. More than $36 billion in NAFTA ISDS attacks are pending.

“People from the Yukon to the Yucatan are united in demanding an end to NAFTA’s corporate privileges that promote job outsourcing, lower wages and attacks on health safeguards,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “A NAFTA replacement deal that benefits people and the planet cannot grant corporations powers to skirt our laws and courts and demand unlimited taxpayer compensation from tribunals of corporate lawyers.”

“NAFTA is strewn with handouts to corporate polluters that must be eliminated, starting with the free pass for chronic job offshorers to attack air, water, and climate protections in tribunals of corporate lawyers,” said Ben Beachy, director of Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program. “Any NAFTA replacement must stop protecting multinational corporations and start protecting the workers and communities across North America who have endured decades of damage under this raw deal.”

“ISDS makes big corporations feel safer moving jobs around the globe to wherever workers are the most exploited and environmental regulations are the weakest, and it also puts democratically-enacted public interest laws in jeopardy both at home and abroad,” said Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign. “While many changes are needed to make a NAFTA replacement deal work for working families and the planet, if trade negotiators maintain ISDS, we’ll know the NAFTA renegotiation has been hijacked by special interests intent on preserving corporate power.”

“ISDS effectively usurps democratic governance, and makes it impossible for elected governments to create policy that benefits ordinary citizens without the threat of a corporate lawsuit,” said Carli Stevenson, campaigner, Demand Progress. “As we fight to preserve the free and open internet in the United States, we stand with activists worldwide against attempts by any corporation to use trade agreements to make their profits sacrosanct and act against the interests of citizens, workers, and consumers. ISDS should not be a part of any trade agreement.”

“ISDS empowers mega-corporations to attack democratic values, human rights, and environmental protections and force governments to award their corruption and greed with unlimited payments of our tax dollars,” said Matt Nelson, Executive Director of Presente Action. “The reality is clear, forces pushing the ISDS have no loyalty to their governments or the people, only to their pipedreams to rule our public institutions like their own private castles.”

“Investor-State Dispute Settlement puts power in the hands of international tribunal that do not have the best interests of workers, public health, and the environment, but rather benefit corporations looking to make a profit or gain more power,” said Patrick Carolan, executive director, Franciscan Action Network. “This is not in line with Catholic Social Teaching and Franciscan values which emphasizes the need for just and fair laws for all people.”

“Big Pharma is already demanding more extensive provisions on intellectual property in NAFTA to extend their market monopolies on medicines even longer. At the same time, it’s also pushing to expand NAFTA’s investment chapter to include intellectual property claims. This would mean pharmaceutical giants could use the system of closed-door tribunals to try to overturn important, long-standing features of a country’s laws on patents or other aspects of intellectual property, in pursuit of yet more profits for the one of the most profitable industries in the world, said Richard Elliott, executive director, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.

Sen Rand Paul Submits National Right To Work Bill (Again) As A Fundraising Ploy

Paul fund-raises on his ‘right to work’ bill, rates a zero on
Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights report card

Image by Stump Source FLIKR CC

By BERRY CRAIG

AFT Local 1360

Rand Paul is all in for “right to work,” but he knows his national RTW bill is going nowhere.

Kentucky’s tea party-tilting junior senator never figured it would. He knows hogs will fly before the legislation winds up on the desk of President Trump, a fellow RTW fan.

Paul is clued in to the fact that the Democrats can filibuster the measure to death.

But passing the bill wasn’t Paul’s point. Putting his John Hancock on the legislation was.

Paul’s uber-conservative, well-heeled, union-despising donors are as crazy about RTW as he is. Paul proposed the bill to give himself a chance to burnish his anti-union creds with his bankrollers.

Koch Industries is the pseudo-populist Paul’s third largest contributor, according to the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. The National Right to Work Committee piled $7,500 into Paul’s campaign coffers.

Charles and David Koch and other kleptocrats have also extended their largess to pro-RTW Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Bluegrass State’s senior senator.

Paul and McConnell realize that GOP-majority state legislatures are where RTW laws get passed. They were on Cloud Ten–the one above Nine–last January when the Republican-run Kentucky General Assembly approved a RTW bill at warp speed; GOP Gov. Matt Bevin lost no time in signing it.

Kentucky unions have filed suit to overturn the bill.

More than just union members understand that RTW laws are among the oldest union-busting tools around. “In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work,’” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. cautioned in 1961. “It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights.”

Added King: “Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.”

Also in 1961, King warned that “the labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth [italics mine].”

Last year, every Republican in the House and Senate got an “F” on a congressional report card issued by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, George F. Curry wrote in the Daytona, Fla., Times.

The LCCHR is an umbrella organization with more than 200 member groups. It graded all lawmakers on how they voted on legislation important to the civil and human rights community, explained Curry, editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service and former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine.

Paul rated a zero.

President Trump’s Approval Rating In Free Fall

Even when Trump won the Electoral College, after losing the popular vote, his approval ratings were slightly underwater. In fact, Trump somehow won the Electoral College with a 61% “unfavorable” rating, the “worst in presidential polling history,” according to Gallup Polling.

Today, Morning Consult, released the results of a new nationwide poll of more than 470,000 people showing a significant drop in the President’s approval ratings.

Morning Consult reported that after the election Trump had only a 46% approval rating and a 34% unfavorable rating. After the inauguration, Trump’s approval rating jumped slightly but never reached 50%.

Since January, Trump’s approval rating has fallen from 49% to 43% but his disapproval numbers went from 43% to 53%.

Below are two snapshots of Trump’s approval ratings from January and then what Morning Consult found today.

 

 

 

A majority of the states saw a drop in approval ratings, however key “battleground” states where Trump’s favorability was close to zero at the election have plummeted in 2017.

  • Michigan: -22% net percentage point change
  • Arizona: -26%
  • New Hampshire -18%
  • Wisconsin: -18%
  • Pennsylvania: -16%
  • North Carolina: -18%

It is not just “battleground” states that saw a significant drop in approval ratings. States that Trump carried in the general election have “soured” on Trump in 2017.

  • Tennessee -23%
  • Mississippi -21%
  • Kentucky -20%
  • Kansas -19%
  • Indiana -19%

The biggest drop in approval ratings came from traditionally “blue” states.

  • Illinois: -30%
  • New York: -30%
  • District of Columbia: -29%

The poll shows that the people of Washington D.C. disapprove of Trump the most with -60 net approval rating.

It appears that millions of people across the country are waking up and are realizing that Donald Trump is nothing more than a con man, who hoodwinked them in the general election. He continues to lie to the public about his connections to the Russian government. He continues to push policies that contradict his campaign promises. He also continues to fill the swamp with unqualified people, like Besty DeVos and Scott Pruitt.

Workers across the country are also starting to realize that while Trump campaigned on renegotiating NAFTA, to help bring back jobs and raise wages for working people, the fact is that his new NAFTA looks a lot like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that he claimed to be against.

Initial reports are showing that the new NAFTA will do nothing to help workers worldwide and will do nothing to stop the offshoring of American jobs. Because the new NAFTA negotiations are being held in secret, we do not really know how bad the overall agreement will be.

It is good to see that people are finally starting to wake up and see Trump as the con man he really is.

Documented Or Undocumented, Immigrants Are Human Beings And Deserve Care And Respect

Protestors at an anti-Trump rally (FLIKR CC Alisdare Hickson)

by Carol Backus and Eva Castillo Turgeon

Last Sunday’s editorial headline about police practices when encountering undocumented immigrants is deeply offensive to people of faith and good will across the Granite State. While we agree with the editor’s assertion, “State and local police should not be stopping people based on skin color or foreign accent,” we are troubled by language elsewhere in the editorial that dehumanizes immigrants.

Human beings are not fish or game to be caught and released. We are not domestic animals to be penned in barns. Actions, not people, can be illegal. To label immigrants as illegal is an attempt to dehumanize them. When people are dehumanized, they are easily targeted as undeserving of respect and basic human rights. Labeling people negatively may be unintentional, but it is nonetheless harmful.

People who are unable to produce citizenship papers are human beings and deserve the same care and respect as members of the Union Leader editorial board and staff or the authors of this op-ed.

A person may be in New Hampshire without documents for a variety of reasons: they may have overstayed a tourist visa; they may have jumped off a merchant ship; they may have crossed a border without stopping at a check point; they may be a victim of human trafficking; their abusive spouse may have taken their documents; they may have an expired student visa; or for any number of other reasons. Unless we know a person’s story, we don’t know why they are here without documents. When we know their story, we can decide whether they have committed an illegal act, and if so, whether it was justified.

The process for sorting out these situations must be humane. A humane attitude on the part of police and the larger community will lead to resolution of policies affecting the millions of people who live in the U.S. without documents. We at the Granite State Organizing Project, a New Hampshire faith-based community organization, laud the efforts of state and local police departments to clarify their roles regarding immigrants.

As a matter of public safety, it is crucial for everyone in our communities to feel safe reporting a crime, calling for help on the roadside, escaping from an abusive spouse, or cooperating with the police on community projects. As so many of our immigrant neighbors come from mixed status families (e.g. a parent without documents, children who are citizens, etc.) it is very important for everyone to know that casual contact with local police will not result in the catastrophic family separations we have been reading about in the news.

Decisions of local police departments not to act as enforcement agents on immigration issues that do not involve serious misdemeanors or felonies seems to us reasonable and a wise use of resources. We hope that the state police will also develop wise and humane policies.

Wise policies will also recognize that immigration has always strengthened our country. Wise policies will be good for our state’s economy as we seek to find workers that our employers tell us are needed to fill job vacancies.

Except for a handful of Native Americans, we are all descendants of immigrants. First came the European colonists who were undocumented from the perspective of the people already living here. After its establishment as a colony of Great Britain and later as a state, New Hampshire benefitted from waves of immigration as French-speaking, Irish, Italian, Greek and other immigrants came to live here. Each wave experienced its share of conflict as those longer settled resented the newcomers. With time New Hampshire gained the gift of diversity that resulted from this immigration.

Now we find ourselves with undocumented people living in our midst. Many of them have been here for years and even decades, living as quietly as they can, trying to keep their families together. Our challenge is not how to deport them, but how to offer a path for their legal integration into the social, economic, and civic fabric of our state. If we undertake this, New Hampshire and its citizens will not be diminished, but will grow stronger.

 

Carol is President of the Executive Committee of the Granite State Organizing Project and Eva is First Vice President.

Trump ‘Rolls Back’ Mandatory Birth Control Coverage

In their continued assault on women’s reproductive rights, the Trump administration just announced a new “roll back” of employer mandated coverage for birth control.

“The new regulations, effective immediately, would exempt all employers and insurers from covering or paying for coverage of contraceptives if they object “based on its sincerely held religious beliefs,” or have other “moral convictions” against covering such care,” wrote the Atlantic Magazine. “Employers were required to cover at least one of all of the 18 FDA-approved methods of birth control with no cost-sharing for the patient.”

The Affordable Care Act’s birth control provision saved women an estimated $1.4 billion on birth control pills in its first year alone. Thanks to this benefit, more than 62 million women now have access to birth control without copayments.

“The Trump administration just took direct aim at birth control coverage for 62 million women. This is an unacceptable attack on basic health care that the vast majority of women rely on,” said Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood. “With this rule in place, any employer could decide that their employees no longer have health insurance coverage for birth control.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, after the Affordable Care Act’s birth control provision took effect, fewer than 4 percent of American women had to pay out of pocket for oral birth control. That number was more than 20 percent before the law’s passage. Specifically in New Hampshire, 58% of women get their healthcare from their employer.

“Birth control is not controversial — it’s health care the vast majority of women will use in the course of their lifetime. Two million women rely on Planned Parenthood health centers each year for birth control. Nine out of ten women of reproductive age will use birth control in their lifetime.  This administration is carrying out a full-scale attack on birth control— eliminating insurance coverage for birth control, eliminating programs that help women with low incomes access birth control, and moving to prohibit health care providers from even giving women information about birth control or abortion. We cannot allow President Trump to roll back the progress women have made over the past century,” added Richards.

“This administration’s obsession with rolling back women’s reproductive rights and access to care is dangerous and reflects a shallow understanding of women’s health,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “This order will undoubtedly increase unwanted pregnancies and abortions, at a time when both are at an all-time low. I will continue to fight for women’s access to coverage for preventative services, including birth control, and will oppose any effort that infringes on, or compromises, their reproductive freedom. I urge the President to consult health experts and reverse this ill-considered policy shift, and work with Democrats to improve access to healthcare, which includes reproductive health services. ”

Senator Shaheen is a dedicated advocate for women’s reproductive rights. Senator Shaheen has been fighting for years to increase coverage of women’s preventative care in the annual defense authorization bill, and just last month, added an amendment to an appropriations bill that would boost funding for international family planning and reproductive health programs, and repeal the Global Gag Rule.

“Protecting women’s rights to make their own reproductive health decisions is critical to ensuring that women can fully participate in our economy, and also in our democracy,” Senator Maggie Hassan said. “Rolling back full coverage, with no out of pocket costs, for birth control is a direct attack on women’s access to health care and on their right to make their own health care decisions. Nine out of ten women of reproductive age will use contraception at some point in their lives.  Since this benefit went into effect, women nationwide have saved over $1.4 billion on birth control, and this move by the Trump Administration would put a financial burden on hundreds of thousands of women. It is unacceptable that the Trump Administration has repeatedly worked to undermine women’s access to critical health services, and I will continue fighting back against these attacks, including working to ensure that all women have the essential preventative health services they need at no out-of-pocket cost.”

Earlier this year, Senator Hassan helped introduce the Save Women’s Preventative Care Act to ensure that coverage for preventative health care services, such as breast cancer screenings, birth control, and domestic violence screenings, can’t be revised or rolled back by the Trump Administration.

“I am outraged by the Trump Administration’s most sweeping attack yet on women’s access to health care,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. “The vast majority of American women get their health insurance through an employer, and this rule will endanger their access to contraceptives, which are used by many women to treat medical conditions as well as to prevent unwanted pregnancy. We must defeat this rule and make it clear to President Trump that women and men reject this interference in access to birth control.”

“Birth control is an important medication for millions of women and efforts by the Trump Administration to limit access to contraceptives are appalling,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “The rule announced today would allow employers to deny coverage for contraceptives,  making them unaffordable for many women in New Hampshire and across the country. I will fight this misguided move by President Trump to deny access to what is truly basic health care.”

Granite Staters Speak Out Against Cuts To Medicare And Medicaid

Granite Staters Call for No Cuts to Medicaid and Medicare to Pay for Tax Breaks for the Rich and Corporations at Manchester, NH Community Forum

National Day of Action Calls on Congress to Protect Health Care for Millions in the Budget and Reject Massive Tax Breaks for Wealthiest Americans

Manchester, NH – After Congress spent weeks once again attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, over thirty Granite Staters attended a community forum co-organized by Granite State Organizing Project (GSOP) and Rights & Democracy (RAD) on Wednesday, October 4 to educate the public on the Congressional  budget proposal. New Hampshire seniors, working people, Representative Robert Backus, and voices from the front lines of healthcare including doctors gathered to discuss what’s at stake under budget plans. These Granite Staters joined hundreds of others across the country at similar events for this national day of action led by Health Care for America Now (HCAN). On this day of action, grassroots groups across the country mobilized against the latest effort to strip health care from millions of Americans while at the same time advancing a tax cut proposal that benefits primarily the richest 1% of households.

The event highlighted the devastating impacts of the House  Budget Resolution, which cuts $1.5 trillion from health care, especially Medicaid while giving tax breaks to the rich and corporations. The resolution includes the adoption of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) repeal proposal that the House passed in May that could take healthcare away from over 23 million people and make permanent cuts to Medicaid for seniors, people with disabilities, children, and veterans.  House Speaker Paul Ryan plans a vote on the House budget proposal this week.

“We’ve seen time and again that Congress will stop at nothing to strip millions of Americans of vital care, and now they are using the budget process to make the same kind of devastating cuts to health care that were so unpopular in the last few repeal bills,” said Viola Katusiime, an Organizer for GSOP. “Americans across the country rose up to beat back repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and we will remain vigilant as Congress tries to gut essential health care programs to pay for tax breaks for the 1 percent.”

The proposed budget cuts would fundamentally transform Medicaid for the worse, ending its guarantee of coverage for children, seniors, and people with disabilities including 171,500 New Hampshire Medicaid recipients. These cuts would also be a devastating blow to New Hampshire’s state budget and cripple its ability to face public health emergencies like the opioid crisis, which is ravaging communities across the Granite State (since under the administration plans it will be up to each state alone to manage health care emergencies without additional support from the federal government).

Medicare serves over 55 million people ages 65 and over and people with permanent disabilities, including 266,210 people in New Hampshire. But the Medicare cuts of $487 billion over 10 years and efforts to privatize Medicare through vouchers in the budget resolution would devastate this program and leave seniors and people with permanent disabilities without an affordable option for care.

At the same time, the federal budget proposal includes trillions of dollars in tax breaks for the rich and corporations. Under the administration’s proposed tax plan, wealthy households’ income tax rate will be reduced by almost 5 percent, and the corporate tax rate will drop by 15 percent, among a variety of other tax breaks. These tax cuts in total will cost $1.5 trillion – the same amount as the health care cuts in the House budget resolution, including significant Medicaid cuts and $500 billion in new cuts to Medicare, a vital program for seniors.

While Senator Jeanne Shaheen regrettably could not attend the event she voiced her solidarity with the Granite Staters in attendance in a letter she sent to them:

“I share your commitment to supporting the individuals who rely on the quality, consistent access to health care services that Medicare and Medicaid offer. We must continue to invest in them and resist reckless attempts to cut these programs by prioritizing tax cuts for the wealthy. Please be assured that, in reviewing any new tax proposals, I will be looking to see how the plan will impact middle-class families and small businesses across the state of New Hampshire.”

To learn more about how Granite Staters are fighting this unjust and immoral budget, please contact Viola Katusiime with Granite State Organizing Project at violakat@granitestateorganizing.org or Kathy Staub with Rights & Democracy at kathy@radnh.org.

Hassan And Senate Democrats Push “Bump Stock Ban,” However This Cannot Be The End Of The Conversation

By WASR (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

“Thoughts and prayers from politicians are not going to stop the next shooting,” said Zandra Rice-Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress. “What we need to do is focus on preventative measures. We know that reasonable, common sense gun laws and regulations work. Closing the automatic weapons loophole is a small but critical step in preventing another mass shooting tragedy.”

Earlier this week, Senator Maggie Hassan helped introduce the Automatic Gun Fire Prevention Act, a bill to close a loophole that allows semi-automatic weapons to be easily modified to fire at the rate of automatic weapons, which have been illegal for more than 30 years.

“As we continue to mourn the victims of the horrific attack in Las Vegas and their loved ones, we must finally act to address the gun violence that plagues our nation,” Senator Hassan said. “While automatic weapons have been illegal for decades, some firearm accessories allow shooters to fire at similar rates to that of automatic guns, and we know that the shooter in Las Vegas possessed such accessories. There is no reason to have weapons that can fire at such high rates other than to inflict massive harm, and we should take the common-sense step of closing the loopholes that allow dangerous individuals to mimic the effect of deadly, fully automatic weapons.”

Under the National Firearms Act, the sale, manufacture and transfer of automatic weapons are illegal. However, bump stocks, slide fire devices and other similar accessories can be attached to semi-automatic weapons, allowing them to reach fully-automatic rates of fire.

Semi-automatic rifles typically have a rate of fire between 45 and 60 rounds per minute. A bump stock, or other similar devise increases the semi-automatic rifles rate of fire between 400 and 800 rounds per minute.

This bill would ban the sale, transfer, importation, manufacture or possession of bump stocks, trigger cranks and similar accessories that accelerate a semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire. The bill also makes clear that its intent is to target only those accessories that increase a semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire.

I applaud Senator Hassan for signing on to this important legislation. At the same time, I believe we should be doing more than prohibiting “bump stocks.”

This legislation to ban bump stocks is a good place to start the discussion but it cannot end there.

Congress should be pushing for a ban on “assault” style rifles, that were make to inflict massive damage on the battlefield and have no practical use for civilians. Congress should be pushing for background checks on all gun sales, closing the “gun show” loopholes that allow people to sidestep the current background check laws. Congress should be pushing for the registration and licensing of all guns. Congress should be pushing for mandatory safety and technical testing prior to approving a license for a gun.

We regulate everything from our drinking water to the cars we drive yet when it comes to guns it is “laissez faire.” We are quick to make changes when a man attempts to take a bomb onto an airplane in the sole of his shoe.  Yet after 60 people died and hundreds more are injured, no real changes are being suggested.

What will it take before all of the members in Congress take against against the gun lobby and do what is right for the health and safety of the American people?  How many more innocent people have to die before they take meaningful action to stop the gun violence epidemic that has grown over the last decade?

Republicans In The US House Push Through Drastic Cuts That Will Hurt Working People

Today, the US House voted, mostly along party lines to approve the Republican budget proposal.  The proposal would stick it to federal workers who will be forced to pay more for retirement benefits, eliminate cost of living adjustments for retirees, increase the calculation of retirement benefits from three years to five years, eliminate Social Security stipends for federal workers who retire prior to age 62, and takes an axe to Medicare and Medicaid.

“The budget does not achieve one penny of deficit reduction by closing tax loopholes that benefit billionaires and corporations. Instead, it drains resources from programs the American people need and strongly support, particularly those helping the most vulnerable Americans,” wrote the House Democratic Budget Committee Members. “The Republican budget burdens American taxpayers with a $1.6 billion bill to begin constructing a costly and ineffective border wall along the U.S. southern border with Mexico.”

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) was a resounding “No” on this budget proposal.

“A budget is a moral document that lays out our priorities for America. This year’s House Republican Budget once again shows a dangerous and destructive vision of our nation’s future that would leave seniors and working families to fall further and further behind,” said Shea-Porter.

“Today, House Republicans voted to end the Medicare guarantee and instead give seniors vouchers to fend for themselves. They voted to slash Medicaid, which supports about two-thirds of nursing home residents. And their budget calls for changes to the tax code that would further benefit the wealthiest and the biggest corporations at the expense of working families and small businesses. Like the President’s budget, this budget would use these tax cuts for the wealthy as an excuse to slash spending on education, infrastructure, medical research, veterans benefits, and other investments in our future.”

“Today, House Republicans showed us their road map to exacerbate inequality in America. I will keep fighting to keep this budget’s dangerous vision from becoming our reality,” Shea-Porter concluded.

Congresswoman Annie Kuster also voted against the budget resolution.

“The extreme Republican budget that I opposed today sets all the wrong priorities for hardworking families in New Hampshire and across our country,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “This budget gives massive tax cuts to the ultra-rich while slashing critical education funding, infrastructure investment, consumer protection, and other vital needs.  The resolution also massively cuts Medicaid and Medicare and repeals the Affordable Care Act, which has been so critical in responding to the opioid epidemic. I will continue to oppose these misguided priorities as I fight for middle class families.”

The Hill magazine explained the proposed cuts to federal retirement in their article.

“A 6 percentage point increase in employee contributions to the Federal Employees Retirement System, phased in over six years; the elimination of cost of living adjustments for FERS employees and a 0.5 percent reduction in COLAs for Civil Service Retirement System enrollees; elimination of the FERS supplement for employees who retire before Social Security kicks in at age 62; and basing the value of retirement benefits on the highest five years of employees’ earnings instead of the current highest three years.”

This means that federal workers are going to be forced to an addition 6% towards the federal retirement program. That is a pay cut for workers even after Trump announced a measly federal pay raise of 1.4%.

“In the years after the Great Recession, no other group sacrificed more for the American public than federal employees,” said J. David Cox, American Federation of Government Employees National President. “They have given up more than $182 billion in wages and benefits – totaling $91,000 per career civil servant.”

If these provisions are incorporated into the final budget, federal workers will see less money in their paychecks.

“This sets the stage for the federal community to pay for tax reform,” Jessica Klement, legislative director of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association told the Hill. “You’re paying for middle class tax cuts on the backs of middle class federal employees and retirees. It goes against the fundamental premise of this tax reform package.”

News also broke yesterday that federal workers are going to see a 6.1% increase to their healthcare premiums next year.

“These rate hikes mean less take-home pay for current and retired federal workers and another year of difficult decisions by many families on how to pay their bills. The premium hikes announced today by the federal government far eclipse any increase in wages or Social Security payments next year,” said Cox.

The pain for working people does not end there.  Republicans hacked up Medicare and Medicaid, slashing $1.5 trillion dollars from the programs over the next 10 years.  The plan would cut more than $1 trillion from Medicaid, the single largest insurance provider in the country, and $500 million from Medicare, to give more tax breaks to the wealthy.

“Cuts of more than $1 trillion to Medicaid will force states to make deep cuts in the number of people who receive benefits, or the amount of health care provided,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans.  “Over 70 million beneficiaries rely on Medicaid, including almost 6 million seniors who depend on it for their nursing home and home care services.”

“This budget raises the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 and turns guaranteed benefits into a system of inadequate vouchers. It is a stab in the back to the millions who contribute to Medicare throughout their lives, expecting it to be there when they retire.”

“Knowing that President Trump is colluding with House Speaker Ryan to pass this budget after he promised not to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security is beyond appalling. Alliance members will send a clear message to members of the House: Hands off my Medicare and Medicaid,” Fiesta concluded.

If this budget does go through as written it will increase our national deficit and slash programs working people rely on.

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