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Will Gov Sununu Save The NH Health Protection Program?

In Wake of Republican Healthcare Repeal Failure, Democratic Leaders Renew Call for Governor Sununu and Republicans to Work Across Party Lines on Healthcare

State Senator Jeff Woodburn and Rep Steve Shurtleff Push for Reauthorization of NH Health Protection Program

As millions of Americans are waiting with baited breath to see whether or not the Republicans in Washington D.C. are going to strip away their healthcare, the 50,000 Granite Staters who rely on the ACA’s expanded Medicaid program are waiting to see what Governor Chris Sununu will do.

From early on in his campaign, he has opposed the Affordable Care Act and has called for a repeal and then after he was elected, and the GOP took control in Washington, he began calling for a full repeal & replacement.

“To be clear, reform without an adequate replacement is not an acceptable option. Any repeal of the ACA must be simultaneous with a replacement,Sununu wrote in a letter to US Senate Majority Leaders.

“Reforming our nation’s health care system is imperative and our leaders must take swift, but thoughtful bipartisan action that is transparent and welcomes all sides to the table,” he added.

Now the Democratic Leaders in the NH Legislature are calling on Governor Sununu to put his words into action. Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn and House Democratic Leader Stephen Shurtleff urged Governor Sununu and legislative Republicans to finally get to work on reauthorizing the NH Health Protection Program:

“We are relieved that Republican attempts to undermine healthcare have failed and given that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, we urge Governor Sununu and his Republican leaders to begin negotiations with us to improve our healthcare system and bring down healthcare costs.”

“The most critical thing we need to do is reauthorize the NH Health Protection Program (NHHPP), which is scheduled to end next year, as soon as possible. The NHHPP is a uniquely New Hampshire solution that more than 52,000 Granite Staters rely on for their health care, drives down costs for our businesses, hospitals, working families and our state, stabilizes our insurance market, and plays a vital role in combating the opioid crisis.”

“Democrats have attempted to work with Governor Sununu and the Republican majorities in the legislature to reauthorize and improve this successful program all year, but have been brushed aside as they waited on their Republicans allies in Washington to act. Its time to do what’s right for the people of New Hampshire and we call on Governor Sununu and his Republican legislative majorities to stop putting partisan politics above the health and well-being of hard-working Granite Staters, stop dragging their feet, and begin working with us to renew this successful program as soon as possible.”

As the US Senate voted to give tax breaks to billionaires while slashing Medicaid and Medicare on their Healthcare plan, Governor Sununu remained completely silent.  In a letter to Senator Mitch McConnell on June 27th, he voiced concern over the cuts to Medicaid and NH’s ability to keep the 50,000 Granite Staters currently relying on the program insured.  Ensuring that the current recipients of insurance through the Medicaid Expansion would not be kicked off their healthcare was a cornerstone of Sununu’s campaign.

However Governor, it is time to put up or shut up.

Governor Sununu must work with both sides of the aisle and find a way to ensure that the NH Health Protection Program becomes permanent until such time that all Americans are fully covered.

ACLU of NH Sues To Block Secretary Of State From Disclosing Statewide Voter Information

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire today sued to bar the New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner from illegally disclosing statewide information concerning New Hampshire voters.  The complaint can be found attached below.

On Friday, June 30, 2017, Secretary Gardner agreed to produce to the recently-created Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (the “Commission”) statewide information concerning over 984,000 registered voters’ names, domicile and mailing addresses, and party affiliation, if any. This response ignored New Hampshire laws that place strict and binding requirements on how the State is to produce voter information.  (See RSA 654:31)

“The legislature carefully designed strict restrictions on the sharing of voter information for good reason: to protect voter privacy,” stated Representative Neal Kurk (R-NH), a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “These protections would be rendered meaningless by the transfer of this data to the Commission, which has established no security protocols and intends to post everything it receives online.”

Representative Kurk was involved in the crafting of the relevant statutes under RSA 654:31, which limit the prospect of mass dissemination of this statewide voter information in order to ensure that statewide voter information is only used for political purposes, not for commercial gain. (RSA 654:31(VI) explicitly prohibits voter information from being used for commercial purposes.)

“The Secretary of State has no statutory authority to release a copy of the statewide public checklist to anyone other than a political party, political committee, or candidate for New Hampshire office,” stated Senator Betty Lasky (D-NH), another plaintiff in the case.

RSA 654:31(II)-(III) only allows requesters to: (i) view the statewide public checklist on the statewide centralized voter registration database at the state records and archives center during normal business hours where requesters are prohibited from printing, duplicating, transmitting, or altering the data and (ii) obtain hard copies of the public checklist from local municipalities on a town-by-town/ward-by-ward basis at a fee of at least $25 per municipality or ward.

“The Commission is not entitled to special, unwritten exemptions from the Secretary of State that circumvent New Hampshire law,” stated Gilles Bissonnette, Legal Director of the ACLU of NH. “He must apply the law to the Commission no differently than he would apply the law to a regular member of the public seeking this information.”

The lawsuit, Kurk v. Gardner, seeks to bar the Secretary of State from disclosing this information without full compliance with New Hampshire law. It was filed in Hillsborough Superior Court South.

FINAL Filed Complaint (1)

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

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

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

Today, our contract expires.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOP Healthcare Plan Looks To Strip Low Cost, Preventative Care Away From 13 Million Women

Image by Gage Skidmore FLIKR

As President Trump says, “Healthcare is complicated.” The fact is that creating a national healthcare program takes careful consideration as every part of the legislation effects millions of Americans.

For weeks now the mostly white men of the US Senate have been crafting their own version of the “repeal and replacement” for the Affordable Care Act. Until earlier this week we had no idea what these men were going to propose.  The “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017” is already being deemed a disaster and outright mean.

For women, specifically low income women and women of color, this new bill is a train wreck as it will strip away healthcare providers as well as preventative care options.

Republicans in the Senate are using the proposed “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017” to push their ideological, partisan agenda to destroy Planned Parenthood.  The GOP hatred of Planned Parenthood stems from the fact that Planned Parenthood provides abortion services, even though abortions are not paid in any part through taxpayer funds, and is only 3% of what Planned Parenthood does every day.

The new “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017” continues this attack on Planned Parenthood by attempting to “defund” Planned Parenthood. This Republican talking point has become a staple for many Congressional Republicans even though they do not seem to grasp exactly what Planned Parenthood actually does.

Congress wants to “defund” Planned Parenthood by refusing to fund them with money from the federal budget, when in fact Planned Parenthood is not a budgetary item that can be removed.  Planned Parenthood is a medical service provider, like any other doctor’s office or hospital, and receives an insurance reimbursement through Medicaid.

Over 2.4 million women a year visit Planned Parenthood for their preventative health care services at little to no cost to the patient.  Nearly 1 in 5 women have utilized the services provided by Planned Parenthood. This is 97% of what Planned Parenthood does: annual exams, birth control, cancer screenings, and disease testing and treatment.  Once again, in case it was not clear before, Medicaid cannot reimburse patients for abortion services except in the cases of rape, incest, or the life of the mother is in danger.

“This bill would be a disaster for women. It prevents patients who rely on Medicaid from accessing care from their established and trusted provider including annual exams, birth control, cancer screenings, and STI testing and treatment,” said Kayla Montgomery, Director of Advocacy and Organizing for Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund. “It reduces access to no-cost preventive services, including birth control. In addition to “defunding” Planned Parenthood and slashing Medicaid; the Senate bill guts Essential Health Benefit protections, including maternity coverage and prescription drugs.  This bill would disproportionately impact women who already face unfair barriers to care, including low-income women and women of color.”

The new “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017” further diminishes care for 13 million women, the majority are low income and women of color, as the proposed legislation repeals maternity coverage and prescription drugs like birth control pills.  These cuts have been opposed by the American Public Health Association, the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

As if the Republican healthcare plan was not unpopular enough already, taking away women’s access to Planned Parenthood health centers is completely against the will of the people.  Polling from Quinnipiac shows that 80% of voters oppose “defunding” Planned Parenthood and blocking access to Planned Parenthood health centers.

Yesterday, Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan held an emergancy field hearing on the newly released, “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017,” at the University of New Hampshire School of Law.

At the hearing, Planned Parenthood advocate Ruthie Redmond praised both Senators Shaheen and Hassan for their commitment to the life-saving and life-changing health care provided at Planned Parenthood health centers. With such strong support for stopping Trumpcare from the federal delegation, patient advocates expressed disappointment in New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, and his silence thus far during the healthcare debate.

During the event, Planned Parenthood patient Ruthie Redmond called on Governor Sununu to stand up for women. “Sununu’s tepid support for the AHCA and his silence on the devastating impact of defunding Planned Parenthood leads me to believe he’s quickly forgotten the campaign promise he made to the women of this state – to “stand up to his party and protect access to women’s health,” said Ruthie Redmond, of Manchester, NH.

“We thank Senators Shaheen and Hassan for being champions for women’s health in the US Senate, and always standing up for the 11,000 NH patients who rely on Planned Parenthood’s services. In order to keep Granite State women and families healthy, we must all work together to stop this dangerous bill,” added Montgomery.

We must make our voices heard and stand in opposition to the ideological, partisan attacks on the premier low-cost health care provider in the country.  Call your Senators today (202-224-3121) and tell them to oppose the “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017” and that you specifically oppose the cuts to Planned Parenthood.

Republicans Force Through The NH Budget With Tax Giveaways To The Wealthy

Today, the New Hampshire House and New Hampshire Senate voted to approve the state’s two-year budget.  The vote 198-69 in the House and 14-9 in the Senate, were mostly along party lines.

The Governor and the rest of the NH Republican Party are praising the budget because it contains “no new taxes” and additionally cuts taxes for businesses saying that will somehow magically create jobs.  What they conveniently avoided talking about are the cuts to job training programs that businesses say are necessary to train workers for the vacant jobs available right now.

There are also cuts to the state’s nursing home budget, decreased funding to the NH University system that will lead to higher tuition rates, less money for drug treatment rehabilitation services, less money to fight the growing opioid epidemic,  and so much more.

The House Democrats were angry that the Republicans forced these massive cuts through to give big business more tax breaks.

House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff:

“This budget is a major disappointment for New Hampshire.  Democrats repeatedly expressed our desire to work with the majority on a bipartisan budget that upholds New Hampshire values, and at every turn we were ignored as House leadership turned to the far right of their party to craft their plan.”

“Democratic proposals to adequately fund mental health and developmental disability services, and to provide sufficient funds to take on the opioid epidemic, were moderate and reasonable.”

“The decision by House budget writers to ignore Democratic proposals, and instead include poison pills like the Hyde amendment, a Medicaid waiver requirement that will likely end the state’s successful Medicaid Expansion program, and the inclusion of further tax cuts for big business, solidified Democratic opposition to what could have been a bipartisan proposal.”

“This budget isn’t even honest or transparent with taxpayers.  Hundreds of millions of dollars in spending, which was purposely left out of the budget to achieve an artificially deflated bottom line, will now be determined through the ten member Fiscal committee.”

“The gimmicks, harmful policy choices, and lack of a serious long-term investment in our state all make this budget unacceptable to House Democrats.”

Representative Mary Jane Wallner:

“This budget represents a missed opportunity to make the investments our state needs to stay competitive and grow our economy.  At a time when our business community is begging for an educated workforce as their top priority, this budget fails to invest in education and cuts state revenues for years into the future.”

“At a time when the opioid crisis continues to grow, with more deaths and more deadly drugs hitting our streets, we have failed to make the investments needed to effectively combat this harmful epidemic.”

“New Hampshire’s successful Medicaid Expansion program currently provides health care for over 53,000 Granite Staters.  This budget puts that program at risk of being ended based on the decisions of bureaucrats in Washington.”

“The Republican majority could have worked with Democrats to pass a bipartisan budget that works for all New Hampshire citizens.  The fact that they chose an ultra-conservative tact at every opportunity sets our state back and is a disappointment to all who support responsible, bipartisan government.

In the Senate, the vote was strictly down party lines.  The Republicans steamrolled Democrats to force this draconian budget through.

Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn (D-Whitefield) released the following after the vote:

“Today, Democrats stood united with working families and their priorities by voting against the Republican budget. Even though we approached our Republican colleagues many times in the spirit of compromise and offered countless amendments to make the budget reflective of the needs of real people in our communities, our efforts were rejected at every turn. The Republican budget agreement caves to the wealthy elite and short-changes those who are most in need.”

“It’s a grave mistake to force the people of New Hampshire to line the pockets of corporations while the critical investments our state so desperately needs go unmet. In good conscience and good faith, Democrats are not able to sign off on a budget that diverts funds away from our state’s critical substance misuse and mental health crises for the sake of more reckless business tax cuts. This budget continues a troubling pattern of forcing the working people in our state to pick up the bill.”

NHDP Chair Ray Buckley released the following after the budget votes:

“Governor Sununu’s reckless and dangerous budget will take New Hampshire’s progress and turn it into disrepair. The governor wants to give corporations a tax cut they never asked for. By doing so, he’s denying businesses the workforce training they did ask for.

These tax cuts are paid for by underfunding programs like the alcohol fund, DCYF, and the developmental disability waitlist. The governor may think these tax cuts are no big deal, but they’re a big deal to the people in the state who are seeking refuge from abuse and addiction or who need help with a disability.

This budget will deny them the resources they desperately need to stay afloat.

Corporate tax cuts will make students and their parents dig deeper for a tuition check. This governor, for lack of attention to detail, is blindly leaning on his ideology to solve problems that require the kind of serious attention he is too apathetic to give.”

So once again the New Hampshire Republican Party, led by their Trump loving Governor, Chris Sununu, have shown the people of New Hampshire that they only care about giving more money to big business and the rest of us can suck it.


After the initial publication of this post the NH Fiscal Policy Institute released their statement on the NH Budget.  The statement highlights just a few of the programs that will be directly effected by the cuts in the NH Budget.

“The state budget passed today by the New Hampshire House and Senate makes important strides in funding for critical health needs in the state, increasing capacity in the mental health system, boosting funding for child protection, and providing compensation rate increases for direct health service providers,” said John Shea, executive director of the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute.

“Importantly, the budget increases the thresholds for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits to 60 percent of federal poverty guidelines and provides annual adjustments to ensure benefits will keep up with inflation. This change will make a real difference for families who struggle to afford basic needs.”

“Policymakers also increased the state’s Rainy Day Fund to $100 million, which will provide a solid foundation in the event of an economic downturn or fiscal crisis,” noted Shea.

“At the same time, the tax changes in this budget reduced available revenue by $23.7 million and left policymakers with fewer resources to address needs that would have provided benefits to all New Hampshire residents and businesses, such as increasing funding for schools, roads, and other public infrastructure, and making higher education and workforce training more accessible.”

“The tax rate reductions passed in this budget increase the risk of reduced revenue for future years, and may limit the state’s ability to address future needs,” added Shea. “While this budget makes some important strides, the state may continue to fall behind in areas that are essential to ensuring a strong economy.”

New Hampshire Delegation Strongly Opposes Governor Sununu’s Decision Not to Join U.S. Climate Alliance

Delegation writes to Sununu to express support for
New Hampshire joining U.S. Climate Alliance

(Washington, DC) – Today, New Hampshire’s Congressional Delegation wrote to Governor Chris Sununu to express their support for New Hampshire joining the United States Climate Alliance. The Alliance, which has grown to include 12 states, governed by both Republicans and Democrats, is committed to upholding the goals of the Paris Climate Accord. In the letter, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) highlighted the importance of striving to meet the ideals of the Paris Climate Accord for the benefit of both the environment and economy in New Hampshire. Yesterday, Governor Sununu said that New Hampshire would not join the U.S. Climate Alliance.

“Governor, we write in support of New Hampshire joining the U.S. Climate Alliance. It is vital that the Granite State continues to be a leader on climate change and clean energy,” wrote the members. “Just as the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord cedes American global leadership, New Hampshire’s refusal to acknowledge the clear consensus on climate science will similarly damage our state’s reputation.”

The members continued, “New Hampshire can strengthen its commitment to combatting climate change by joining the United States Climate Alliance, which Republican and Democratic governors from 12 states – including Massachusetts and Vermont – have already joined.  We believe that Granite Staters would be best-served if New Hampshire joins this coalition and upholds the standards of the Paris Climate Accord for the benefit of our environment, our economy, and our future.”

The states that have joined the U.S. Climate Alliance include California, New York, Washington, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, Oregon, Hawaii, Virginia, Minnesota, and Delaware.

The full text of the letter is available here and below:

June 7, 2017

Dear Governor Sununu:

On June 1, 2017, President Donald Trump announced that the United States will begin the withdrawal process from the Paris Climate Accord, a historic agreement signed by 195 countries to undertake the important effort of combatting the dangerous effects of climate change. This reckless decision threatens America’s credibility abroad and puts us on the wrong side of history as the Granite State, the nation, and the world continue to experience the negative impact of a changing climate. Yesterday, we learned that you followed President Trump’s example when you declined to join the United States Climate Alliance – a new coalition of states that are committed to upholding the standards of the Paris agreement. Governor, we write in support of New Hampshire joining the U.S. Climate Alliance. It is vital that the Granite State continues to be a leader on climate change and clean energy.

Just as the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord cedes American global leadership, New Hampshire’s refusal to acknowledge the clear consensus on climate science will similarly damage our state’s reputation. In your statement on why you would not commit the Granite State to the principles of the Paris accord, you said that you did not know what the impact would be on our environment or economy and that it was not your job to know. We respectfully disagree and believe it is all of our responsibilities to safeguard New Hampshire’s natural resources and prepare our economy for the future. Furthermore, our state’s colleges and universities are blessed with some of the top scientists and economists in the country who agree that climate change is real and has a real economic impact on New Hampshire.

We are proud that New Hampshire is already a national leader in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas pollutants through participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).  By placing a regional cap on the amount of carbon pollution that power plants can emit through the issuance of tradeable allowances, RGGI’s market-based approach has improved energy efficiency efforts in the Granite State, invested in clean and renewable energy and reduced power sector carbon pollutants by more than 45 percent in all of the partnering states.

The negative impacts of climate change are already being experienced in New Hampshire. From last year’s extreme drought that hurt our agriculture sector to rising sea levels and heightened smog levels, climate change is a threat to our local communities, our families and our economy.  President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord puts America at a competitive disadvantage with foreign nations who are committed to transitioning to a clean energy economy and undermines our collective ability to mitigate the effects of climate change. 

New Hampshire can strengthen its commitment to combatting climate change by joining the United States Climate Alliance, which Republican and Democratic governors from 12 states – including Massachusetts and Vermont – have already joined.  We believe that Granite Staters would be best-served if New Hampshire joins this coalition and upholds the standards of the Paris Climate Accord for the benefit of our environment, our economy, and our future.

Sincerely,

 

NH Senate Battles Over State Budget, Slashes Funding For DCYF, Drug Treatment And Kindergarten

Last night, the New Hampshire State Senate was burning the midnight oil as Senators battled over the State’s budget.  After 11pm last night, the Republicans pushed through their budget along party lines (14-9).  Along with cuts to drug treatment programs, funding for full day kindergarten, and DCYF, the budget is a massive tax giveaway to the wealthiest in our state.  Republicans also rejected a budget amendment to ensure low-income families would still be able to access healthcare through low cost options like Planned Parenthood.

“This budget creates an artificial, trumped-up surplus to sell the biggest Republican ruse of all, that slashing taxes for the rich will grow revenues and improve the lives of poor, middle-class people,” said Democratic Minority Leader Sen. Jeff  Woodburn (D-Whitefield). “The reality is that this budget props up the wealthiest 1% in our state and kowtows to the most conservative 5% in the House.

“Throughout every step of this process, Senate Democrats have been clear that we are willing to work with our Republican colleagues toward a bipartisan, fiscally responsible budget that works for everyone, not just those at the top. But the right-wing budget passed this evening is purely a political document and fails to adequately address the challenges and needs of our state,” added Woodburn.

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley told the Concord Monitor, “We find ourselves doing as much as we can while protecting taxpayers and growing our economy.”  This is essentially the same argument the Trump administration is using to justify massive cuts to the Federal Budget and to justify cutting taxes on the people who pay the most in taxes.

The Governor’s budget undercuts the alcohol fund which is key in combatting the opioid crisis. Tym Rourke, Chair of the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol & Drug Abuse, said yesterday that the additional dollars directed toward the alcohol fund are deceptive, and could be diverted elsewhere, forcing treatment and prevention programs to scramble for resources. Sununu’s uprooting of opioid funds is similar to the Trump budget, which cuts money from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, slashes drug prevention funding by 11%, cuts Medicaid funding in half, and cuts $400 million in substance use disorder and mental health funding.

In addition to underfunding the fight against opioids, Sununu’s Senate budget does nothing to avoid tuition hikes at community colleges and state universities, dedicates no funding toward job training of Community Mental Health Centers, and stops short of providing adequate funding to the Department of Children, Youth & Families and the developmental disability program. Most surprisingly, the Senate Republicans refused to spend even a dollar in the budget on the popular full-day kindergarten program.

The underfunding of key programs for New Hampshire’s working families and most vulnerable citizens are designed to make room for $216 million in business tax cuts in the next 4 years. After 12 years of Democratic leadership in the corner office, New Hampshire has the third-lowest unemployment rate in the country and was rated the number one state in America for economic opportunity by US News.

“What it comes down to is that budgets are about priorities and the priorities laid out in the Senate Republican budget do not match those of hard working Granite Staters,” added Sen. Dan Feltes (D-Concord). “This budget fails to include job training programs that would boost our workforce and close our skills gap, breaks promises made to our retirees and increases health care costs for our seniors, and doesn’t invest in full-day kindergarten, something necessary to closing the opportunity gap and attracting and keeping young working families in New Hampshire. The budget fails to adequately address DCYF and child safety. It also fails to adequately address our mental health crisis in the short-term, nor does it make the cost-effective investments that will prevent the crisis from expanding; including in childhood mental health. Quite simply, this budget fails to meet the critical and time-sensitive challenges we face.”

“A budget based on incorrect, deflated revenue estimates is one that needlessly discards invaluable resources for New Hampshire’s most needy. The budget is the bill that impacts every person in New Hampshire and is the most important piece of legislation that we vote on. While the budget approved today makes steps in the right direction, it simply leaves too many needs unmet,” said Sen. Lou D’Allesandro (D-Manchester). “This budget fails to fully fund full-day kindergarten, fails to fully fund our efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, and fails to adequately meet the needs of those suffering from mental illness. The people of New Hampshire deserve better than what was passed in the Senate today.”

Among the highly contested sections of the budget was severe cut to Planned Parenthood funding. The Senate ultimately rejected an amendment to keep Planned Parenthood’s doors open in the event of a federal “defund.” A federal “defund” of Planned Parenthood, as proposed by the Trump Administration, would block Medicaid patients from receiving care. This move, if passed in Washington, would be immediate, giving no time for budget writers to come back to the table to find a New Hampshire solution to funding.

The amendment was proposed by Senator Feltes (D-Concord), and was an opportunity to ensure that there is continuity of care for patients if Planned Parenthood is “defunded” at the federal level. Currently,  New Hampshire consistently ranks one of the top healthy states in the nation, with one of the lowest teen pregnancy and STI rates in the country, and excellent maternal health outcomes. This contingency amendment aimed to keep that enviable status by using state Medicaid dollars to protect federal losses in the event of a federal “defund”.  Also speaking on behalf of this amendment were Senator Soucy and Senator Hennessey.

“The Congressional Budget Office estimated that most of the federal savings from eliminating Planned Parenthood would be offset by the high-risk, high-cost of unintended pregnancies which would result in additional Medicaid births. Because many of those patients won’t be able to find another provider, taking away cancer screenings and preventive care will only drive the costs up in other parts of our health care spending. Furthermore, since our state currently uses Medicaid funds to purchase coverage through Medicaid managed care and premium assistance – there wouldn’t be any additional cost for these capitated rates, while there would be the very important benefit of maintaining continuity of care for thousands of Planned Parenthood patients,” said Senator Dan Feltes.

In addition to providing quality care for many Granite Staters, Planned Parenthood’s services are also extremely cost effective, as every dollar spent on publicly-funded contraception saves more than $7 in other costs. Ensuring that Planned Parenthood stays part of New Hampshire’s health care system helps prevent unintended pregnancies and STI occurrences.

The amendment was rejected by a partisan vote of 14-9.

“We’re grateful for the efforts of State Senators to protect the health of people who rely on Planned Parenthood for lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control and other needed health care in New Hampshire. However we’re deeply disappointed that Senate Republicans took a partisan approach which could result in disruption of access to reproductive care. We will continue to strive for a bipartisan approach to protecting women’s health and rights,” said Jennifer Frizzell, Vice President for Public Policy for Planned Parenthood of New England.

“Last night’s vote comes as politicians in Congress are threatening the health and lives of millions of people across the country who rely on Planned Parenthood. We applaud the efforts of our state legislators to help shield  our patients in New Hampshire, yet the health and well-being of millions of people across the country still hangs in the balance. If members of Congress do not abandon this attack, it will be nothing short of a health care disaster,” Frizzell added.

Senate Democrats added their distain for this attack on women’s health providers.

“It’s a disturbing reality that in 2017, women in the United States, and now in New Hampshire, continue to play defense against constant efforts to restrict access to the healthcare services that women need to lead safe, healthy and independent lives,” said Senator Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth). “As Republicans in Washington explicitly target major women’s healthcare providers like Planned Parenthood for elimination, there is significant, substantiated anxiety that women are in imminent danger of losing access to the affordable, high quality and preventative health services that clinics like Planned Parenthood provide.”

“When Republican members of the all-male, Senate Finance Committee introduced an amendment on the final day of deliberation in executive committee, without first holding a public hearing, to codify a state-level version of the Hyde amendment to prohibit the use of state funds for diversion to reproductive healthcare clinics, they made clear their intent to promote their personal and political ideology at the expense of women’s health,” said Senator Martha Hennessey (D-Hanover). “This is especially clear given that it is already established in practice that no federal or state funds in New Hampshire are used to cover abortion services. The ulterior intent of the amendment is clear: it is to send a message that Senate Republicans do not value or intend to preserve the lifesaving services that Planned Parenthood provides to the women of New Hampshire.”

“These efforts to defund and restrict access to Planned Parenthood are not only unconstitutional, they also disproportionately impact low income women, women of color, young people and immigrants who rely on Medicaid for their healthcare coverage,” added Senator Donna Soucy (D-Manchester). “In Manchester alone, upwards of 5,000 women utilize Planned Parenthood’s services, including physical exams, cancer screenings, family planning resources and STI testing and treatment. These clinics are invaluable to New Hampshire families and our communities. Given the uncertainty in Washington, we should be doing all that we can to assure the thousands of women who rely on these services that their care will not falter.”

“We find it disturbing that our Republican colleagues not only doubled down on their efforts to deny women’s healthcare coverage, they triple and quadrupled down on it with every subsequent amendment to restrict access,” said Senator Bette Lasky (D-Nashua). “While I respect that this is a contentious issue open to debate and disagreement, these amendments should have gone through the proper, public process, not introduced in the late hours of the night as we take our final votes on the budget.”

Governor Sununu Praises New Healthcare Bill That ‘Defunds’ Planned Parenthood

Amid Federal Uncertainties, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England Marks National Women’s Health Week by Emphasizing Importance of Wellness Visits and Preventive Care

“May 15-21 is National Women’s Health Week, Our Doors Remain Open”

Concord, NH — During National Women’s Health Week (May 15-21), Planned Parenthood of Northern New England is highlighting the need for regular wellness visits and preventive health care as a critical part of staying healthy for women of all ages. Regular checkups and screenings are essential to good health; and early detection and treatment of illnesses could save your life. A survey released last year, however found that the vast majority of women do not know when or how frequently they should be screened for breast and cervical cancer, and many — especially women of color — aren’t getting screened often enough.

However, Women’s Health Week comes two weeks after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the worst bill for women’s health in a generation. This legislation “defunds” Planned Parenthood, which will block Medicaid patients in New Hampshire from accessing birth control, cancer screenings, and STI testing at Planned Parenthood. This disastrous legislation will make it harder for women in New Hampshire to prevent unintended pregnancy, harder to have a healthy pregnancy, and harder to raise a family.

Yesterday, during an interview on NHPR’s The Exchange, Governor Sununu proposed that states should be able to opt out of covering women’s health care, substance abuse treatment and mental health treatment. Referring to the opt out as “flexibilities” for the states, Sununu rationalized his stance on substance abuse treatment and women’s health by saying flexibility is needed because those issues may not be as important in other states as they are in New Hampshire.

“As the nation’s leading provider and advocate of women’s health care, Planned Parenthood encourages all women to make their health a top priority by scheduling a checkup and getting regular screenings,” said Molly Cowan, Planned Parenthood of Norther New England’s Communications Manager. “Annual well-woman visits help providers learn more about your health and family history to help you stay healthy, and are an opportunity to make sure that you’re getting the screenings you need, as well as using the birth control method that best fits your needs.”

“In New Hampshire, Planned Parenthood is calling on our leaders: Governor Sununu, and budget writers in the House and the Senate to fund reproductive health programs and ensure New Hampshire’s quality public health outcomes, such as low teen pregnancy rates and strong maternal health outcomes, remain enviable.These results are no accident, and we urge our leaders stand with women, and put their votes where results clearly are. Planned Parenthood is an expert and cost-effective source of preventive care for women, and our doors remain open to answer any questions that women and young people may have about their health,” Cowan added.

Sununu’s support for allowing New Hampshire and other states to opt out of women’s health coverage would undermine coverage for those with preexisting conditions, maternity care, and reproductive rights. This continues Sununu’s tenuous relationship with women’s health, as he voted to defund Planned Parenthood as an Executive Councilor in 2015 before being pressured to vote for it in the midst of his run for Governor.

“It’s outrageous that Governor Sununu would support allowing New Hampshire and other states to deny coverage for women’s health care, substance abuse treatment and mental health treatment,” said NH Democratic Party Chair, Raymond Buckley. “His excuse is pathetic, saying that different states have different needs, but no one should be denied coverage because of their gender. Just because a lower volume of people suffer from substance use disorder in other states doesn’t mean those who are suffering don’t deserve care. And just because Governor Sununu is a man doesn’t mean he doesn’t have to worry about women gaining the coverage they need. New Hampshire needs a governor who stands up against Trumpcare, not one who supports outlandish proposals that would undermine a promise to provide affordable health insurance to those with preexisting conditions.”

For those who may be uncomfortable or unfamiliar with a well-woman visit, Planned Parenthood’s online resources walk through the process and provide a clear sense of what to expect.

One in five women has turned to Planned Parenthood at some point in her life for affordable, high-quality health care and compassionate, confidential information and advice. Additionally, the Affordable Care Act strengthened women’s preventive health  coverage; the ACA requires 100 percent coverage of cancer screening costs, with no copay for insured women.

Last year, Planned Parenthood saw 11,000 patients in New Hampshire alone.

Planned Parenthood health centers provide high-quality, confidential, affordable health care and our doors are open to everyone. Visit plannedparenthood.org to find a health center and make an appointment.

Yesterday Was Big Day In Concord For The Future Of Education In NH

Senate Stops Edelblut’s Power Grab, House Kills Voucher Bill And Funds Full Day Kindergarten

Governor Sununu’s Education Commissioner Edelblut requested broad new authority to make unilateral decisions impacting the future of education in New Hampshire 

Concord, NH – The NH State Senate Education Committee voted 3-2 yesterday to reject an amendment requested by Governor Sununu’s Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut. The amendment to otherwise non-controversial bill HB 356 would have given the new Commissioner broad authority to make unilateral decisions impacting education in the Granite State.

Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins applauded the Senate’s actions:

“We applaud the Senate Education committee for rejecting the attempted power grab by Governor Sununu’s Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut. Much of the public opposition to Frank Edelblut’s nomination and confirmation highlighted concerns over how he would operate within the Department of Education, and actions like this confirm Governor Sununu and the Executive Council should have listened to their constituents. This amendment was not the routine organizational realignment Commissioner Edelblut tried to characterize it as but a naked power grab for political purposes. Since taking office Edelblut has consistently used his Commissioner status to act in a unilateral manner to try to implement the strongly held beliefs he downplayed during the confirmation process.”

Just two months into his position as Education Commissioner, Edelblut has already made waves for trying to re-open the Next Generation Science Standards that were just approved last year; he initially refused to come clean about making a donation to a school privatization lawsuit against the Department he now leads; he forwarded an internal job posting to one of his Free State Project friends and then sent that individual’s resume to the HR director (that individual is also on the Board of an off-shoot group organizing for New Hampshire to secede from the rest of the country); he is using his position to lobby for SB 193, school vouchers/privatization; and he tried to usurp the State Board of Education’s rule-making responsibilities by injecting himself between the State Board and JLCAR – all without informing the State Board.

The NH Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said the Senate made the right move:

“After promising to be ‘an implementation guy’ who wouldn’t create policy, Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut went back on his word in an attempted agency power grab. Edelblut would have taken this massive increase in power to radically transform the education system in his distorted image and seriously damaged education for children in the Granite State.

Edelblut is anti-transgender rights, supports conversion therapy, and opposes full-day kindergarten on the basis of a crackpot theory that it would increase misdiagnoses of ADHD.  Most recently, Edelblut broadcast his views that climate change is mentioned too often in science classes, openly disagreeing with the state Board of Education, in an interview with NHPR. The Senate Education Committee’s vote rightly prevents Edelblut from implementing these destructive policies.”

On the other side of the Capitol, the House was making some big decisions as well.

Yesterday, the House Education Committee voted to retain SB 193, a bill that sought to establish taxpayer-funded vouchers for religious schools, private schools, and home school parents. The bill was defeated amidst backlash from concerned Superintendents, School Boards, teachers, and parents throughout New Hampshire.

Governor Sununu and former Governor Jeb Bush both penned op-eds in favor of exactly the type of legislation House Republicans retained today, supporting public money for private schools and home schoolers. The bill also appears to violate the New Hampshire Constitution. The Committee’s vote to retain SB 193 effectively kills its prospects for another year.

“No matter how quietly Governor Sununu tries to back away from this bill, the defeat of SB 193 is a big blow to his education agenda. Sununu’s own party effectively killed legislation that he campaigned on, and that he and former Governor Jeb Bush penned op-eds in favor of. Governor Sununu and his unqualified Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut are trying to reshape the education system in their image and Edelblut, a homeschool parent, would have been eligible to receive taxpayer dollars had this bill passed,” said NHDP Chair Ray Buckley.

“New Hampshire parents are breathing a sigh of relief with SB 193’s bipartisan retention. This ill-conceived bill would have cost taxpayers an additional $25 million dollars to remove students from our public schools. SB 193 would have violated the New Hampshire Constitution in the name of benefits for private and religious schools with no mandate to comply with education standards, decreased funding towards public schools, and limited options for families in rural towns,” added Buckley.

Lastly, The House Education Committee also moved forward on SB191 a bill to fund full day kindergarten for all New Hampshire children.

Governor Sununu who campaigned on Full Day Kindergarten surprised many when his budget only funded the program for a select few areas in the state.

SB191 would set aside $14 million to fund full day kindergarten for all students in New Hampshire.

Governor Sununu is said to be in support of SB191, but did not advocate for the to provide all children in NH access to full day kindergarten. The bill will move to the full house soon.

Environment New Hampshire Says Trump’s New EPA Policy Is “Reckless,” Calls On Governor To Take Action

“Calling climate change a ‘hoax’ won’t stop temperatures or sea level from rising. We can tackle the climate crisis by investing in science and clean, renewable energy, but only if we move boldly and quickly. Defunding science, undercutting clean energy, and doubling down on fossil fuels is sheer reckless folly.”
Madeline Page, outreach director, Environment New Hampshire.

President Trump speaks before signing Executive Order undoing climate change regulations. Video here.

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Trump signed an executive order rolling back climate progress. The executive order instructs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to rewrite the Clean Power Plan, the single largest step the U.S. has taken to limit climate change. The order also lifts the moratorium on federal coal leasing and limits on methane from fracking operations. The administration also initiated a process to reconsider the Social Cost of Carbon and the National Environmental Policy Act guidance on climate pollution. Madeline Page, outreach director, Environment New Hampshire issued the following statement:

“Calling climate change a ‘hoax’ won’t stop temperatures or sea level from rising. We can tackle the climate crisis by investing in science and clean, renewable energy, but only if we move boldly and quickly. Defunding science, undercutting clean energy, and doubling down on fossil fuels is sheer reckless folly.

“2016 was the hottest year on record, beating 2015 which was the hottest year before that.  The climate and clean air safeguards that President Trump is proposing to block would increase pollution and threaten our health and the planet. If fully implemented, the Clean Power Plan alone would have reduced our power plant emissions 32% by 2030 with huge health and environmental benefits for granite staters. 

“Instead of accelerating this progress, the administration is proposing to endanger our health and threaten our children’s future. Blocking the Clean Power plan will lead to 3,600 additional premature deaths, 90,000 more asthma attacks in children, and 300,000 more missed work and school days by 2030.

“Millions of Americans have called for strong climate action, submitting more than 8 million comments asking the EPA to take action to cut carbon pollution from power plants. More than 600,000 of these comments came from Environment America’s members and supporters.

“More than 1100 health professionals sent a letter urging the President to support the Clean Power Plan, to limit carbon pollution, phase out drilling and mining on public lands, increase electric vehicles and set higher fuel economy standards for cars. 

“We need to stop President Trump’s rollbacks of our environmental protections that will make us more dependent on dirty fossil fuels. Today’s actions by the administration threaten our health, our environment, and our treasured places. 

“Despite the President’s dangerous and backwards energy agenda, the fact is the clean energy revolution can’t be stopped. Clean energy solutions like solar, wind and efficiency will reduce carbon pollution and clean up our air, protect our health including reducing asthma attacks, and promote energy independence. 

“At a time when the federal government is stalling progress, we are calling on Governor Sununu to keep leading the charge on and double the strength of America’s most successful regional climate and clean energy program. New Hampshire is one of nine in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative which has helped cut power plant pollution in half and invested more than $2.5 billion in clean energy over the last decade. We need Governor Sununu to act swiftly and boldly to double the strength of this successful climate program.”  

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