Granite State Progress Renews Call For Senator Ayotte To Host Town Hall On Gun Violence Prevention

Senator Kelly Ayotte Official Portrait

477 Days and Counting: Advocates Renew Call for Sen. Ayotte to Host Town Hall Specifically on Gun Violence Prevention

It’s been 16 months since Sen. Ayotte voted against criminal background checks and 477 days since she first refused to meet with New Hampshire gun violence prevention advocates

CONCORD, NH – Gun violence prevention advocates are renewing the call for U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte to host a town hall or forum specifically dedicated to the pressing issue of reducing gun violence. It’s been 477 days since the request was first issued and Senator Ayotte’s office has still refused to sit down and meet.

“Constituents have made phone calls, sent letters, signed petitions, and invited the Senator to coffee, but Senator Ayotte has repeatedly denied meeting requests from gun violence prevention advocates ever since she voted against background checks and the 89 percent of her constituents who support them,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director, Granite State Progress. “We renew our call for Senator Ayotte to host a town hall solely focused on gun violence prevention. In the sixteen months since Senator Ayotte voted against common sense background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, domestic abusers, and the seriously mentally ill, more shootings and more national tragedies have occurred. Senator Ayotte needs to stop hiding behind NRA lobby talking points and meet directly with her constituents. She has a responsibility as a U.S. Senator to participate in open town halls on these important topics instead of cherry-picking the issues she wants to discuss.”

In a letter to Senator Ayotte, Granite State Progress renewed the call for a town hall on gun violence prevention that would include participation from survivors of gun violence and the family members of victims, in addition to gun violence prevention advocates, faith leaders, law enforcement officials, mental health advocates, and responsible gun owners.  Members of the organization are being asked to contact the Senator and call on her to engage in a community conversation about how we can work together to protect more children and families.

Background: In April 2013, Senator Ayotte voted against the Manchin-Toomey background check bill – the only bill that would have required background checks for commercial gun sales and improved the background check system. Instead, Senator Ayotte voted for an amendment created by the gun lobby and sponsored by Senators Chuck Grassley and Ted Cruz that would actually weaken the system and put more guns in the hands of the seriously mentally ill. Ayotte’s public approval ratings plummeted after her vote.

Granite State Progress first issued the call for a town hall specifically on gun violence prevention on April 30, 2013 after Ayotte hosted three poorly publicized town halls where moderators such as former Congressman and current State Senator Jeb Bradley publicly admitted to screening out questions regarding Sen. Ayotte’s vote against background checks and the 89% of her constituents who support them. Granite State Progress, OFA-NH, and Project for Safer Communities re-issued the call during the August 2013 Congressional recess, and Granite State Progress members additionally held coffee sit-ins in the Senator’s district offices to highlight her absence. Sen. Ayotte responded with a generic form letter stating she would hold general town halls later in the year – but for 16 months has ignored constituent requests for a conversation on gun violence prevention.

In contrast, during the national health reform debate in the Summer of ‘09, the New Hampshire Congressional Delegation held town halls specifically focused on the pending health reform legislation – also an issue of national debate and interest.

LBGT Advocates Praise Bill to Strengthen Marriage Equality, Make Family Court Laws Gender Neutral

Image from Bette Lasky on Twitter

 New law recognizes all civil unions and same-sex marriages from date of solemnization, retroactively affirms that out-of-state same-sex couples can marry in New Hampshire, and makes family court laws gender neutral

Concord, NH – Governor Maggie Hassan ceremoniously signed into law today SB 394, a bipartisan measure relative to the recognition of out of state marriages, uniform marriage recognition law, civil union recognition, and gender neutral references. SB 394 clarifies New Hampshire’s marriage equality law to ensure that all married couples in New Hampshire receive the fair and equal treatment under the law that they deserve.

Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins:

“We know that New Hampshire is on the right side of history when it comes to marriage equality, and this law clarifies that we are a welcoming state whether you live here, visit here, or marry here. We praise Governor Hassan, Senator Lasky, and the entire New Hampshire legislature for their bipartisan commitment to continuing to secure equal rights for LGBT families. SB 394 establishes that all civil unions and same-sex marriages, whether conducted in New Hampshire or elsewhere, will be recognized from the date of solemnization. It retroactively affirms that same-sex couples who marry in New Hampshire from out of state are legally allowed to do so, by changing an old law which stated that you could not marry here if your home state did not recognize your marriage. Doing so extends recognition of the marriage by the federal government for some purposes, even if the couple’s home state does not yet recognize marriage equality. SB 394 also directs family courts to read statutes in a gender neutral manner, a clarification which will provide same-sex couples and their families with the same protections other families already enjoy. Granite State Progress is proud to have worked with Senator Lasky to bring this bill forward, and we are thankful for the support of the legislature for its passage.”

In attendance at the signing were Beverly Youree and Carol Nepton of Manchester. The grandparents of five entered into a VT civil union in 2002, yet were shocked that even after New Hampshire passed marriage equality, they could not get married in their home state without dissolving their civil union first. Instead of face that legal uncertainty, they instead chose to marry in VT in 2010. Under this new law, same-sex couples will no longer have to face that choice. Also in attendance was Tracy Barbour of Salem. Tracy entered into a VT civil union with her ex-partner in 2002. They then had a son together in 2003 and married in Massachusetts in 2004. However, despite being a parent in every meaning of that word, the family court refused to see her as such after she filed for divorce in 2013. Tracy has not seen her son in almost two years. This law establishes that parents like Tracy should be treated as an equal parent and gives Tracy hope that she might see her son again.

Other Statements from the Ceremonial Signing

Janson Wu, Legal Attorney, GLAD: “GLAD thanks Sen. Lasky and her co-sponsors for their continued work to advance equal rights for all Granite State families, and for the support of the New Hampshire state legislature to ensure gay and lesbian couples and their families receive full rights under the law. New Hampshire is a strong supporter of marriage equality and equal rights, and we are proud to stand with these legislative champions and Governor Maggie Hassan – someone who has continually fought for LGBT rights throughout her years of public service – as the Governor signs this landmark bill into law.”

Senator Bette Lasky, Prime Sponsor: “I was proud to be an early and constant supporter for marriage equality in our state, and I am honored to sponsor bills that seek to provide LGBT couples and their families the same protections under the law as other families. SB 394 is a bipartisan measure that ensures full recognition of civil unions and marriages for same-sex couples. It clarifies lingering questions and old laws that have jeopardized the full implementation of marriage equality in our state. This law makes these rights clear, and by doing so we are ensuring same-sex families have the same rights and protections that other families in our state already receive.”

Governor Maggie Hassan (previously released statement on SB 394 signing): “As the number of states with marriage equality continues to rise and courts across the country issue rulings that advance the cause of equality, it is critical that the law in New Hampshire works for all legally married couples who have moved or are seeking to move here. By clarifying our marriage equality law to recognize an out-of-state marriage or civil union as of the date it was legally contracted, SB 394 helps ensure that all married couples in New Hampshire receive the fair and equal treatment under the law that they deserve. Marriage equality in New Hampshire signals to everyone that we are a welcoming state. Granite Staters understand that encouraging and supporting strong marriages for all loving couples strengthens our families and our communities. I thank the bipartisan group of legislators, including all 24 members of the Senate, for passing this common-sense measure, and I am proud to reinforce New Hampshire’s status as a leader in the march toward full marriage equality and inclusion by signing SB 394 into law.”

SB 394 was co-sponsored by Sen. Bette Lasky (Nashua), Sen. Jeff Woodburn (Dalton), Sen. David Watters (Dover), Sen. Martha Fuller Clark (Portsmouth), Sen. John Reagan (Deerfield), Rep. Lucy Weber (Walpole), Rep. Paul Hackel (Nashua), and Rep. Marjorie Smith (Durham). It took effect starting on July 10, 2014.

Ayotte, Brown, Guinta, Garcia Call for Massive 74% Health Care Tax Hike on Granite State Working Families

Senator Kelly Ayotte Official Portrait

GOP Politicians Vow to Push a Massive 74% Tax Hike for Tens of Thousands of Granite Staters Already Using Affordable Care Act Tax Credit

Concord, NH – In light of one of yesterday’s court rulings, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown, and Congressional candidates Frank Guinta (CD1) and Marilinda Garcia (CD2) vowed to push for a massive 74% health care tax hike on the 31,000 Granite Staters already using Affordable Care Act tax credits. Up to 48,000 Granite Staters overall are eligible for the subsidy.

“Senator Ayotte, Scott Brown, Frank Guinta, and Marilinda Garcia want to repeal the health care tax credit for working families and raise health care premium costs by a whopping 74 percent,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress. “If these politicians had their way, more than 30,000 Granite Staters would see their premiums rise by an average of $3,480 annually. That’s even before addressing the fact that these same politicians would take away free preventative care check-ups and young adult coverage up to age 26 as part of their extreme ideological opposition to health care reform.”

The ruling trumpeted by Ayotte, Brown, Guinta, and Garcia – all Republicans – would raise costs on average $3,480 for Granite Staters who use the Affordable Care Act subsidy to afford quality health care coverage. Already, 31,000 Granite Staters use the health care tax credit; overall 48,000 are eligible to do so.

“This wouldn’t even be an issue if New Hampshire Republicans hadn’t blocked a state-based exchange out of political spite. New Hampshire would have been able to craft its own exchange, manage the enrollment process, and conduct public education to inform residents about their health care options. We wouldn’t be facing any concerns over the tax credit now,” Rice Hawkins said.

Conservatives are celebrating a federal district court ruling in Washington, D.C. yesterday that would take away health care tax credits from families and small businesses that live in states where conservative Republicans blocked a state-based exchange. It is questionable whether the district court ruling will be upheld though; the ruling was made by a majority conservative 3-judge panel and may be overturned by the full DC Circuit en banc panel, especially in light of a separate, unanimous ruling yesterday by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals that upholds the subsidies. The Obama Administration has indicated tax credits will continue until a final determination is made.

###

Sources:

Kaiser Family Foundation. A State-by-State Look at How the Uninsured Fare Under ACA. Accessed 7.22.14 http://kff.org/interactive/uninsured-gap/

Department of Health and Human Services, ASPE Research Brief: Profile of Affordable Care Act Coverage Expansion Enrollment for Medicaid/CHIP and the Health Insurance Marketplace, 10-2-2013 to 3-31-2014. April 2014. http://aspe.hhs.gov/health/reports/2014/MarketPlaceEnrollment/Apr2014/pdf/nh.pdf

Department of Health and Human Services, ASPE Research Brief: Premium Affordability, Competition, and Choice in the Health Insurance Marketplace, 2014. June 2014. http://aspe.hhs.gov/health/reports/2014/Premiums/2014MktPlacePremBrf.pdf

 

GOP Candidates in New Hampshire Celebrate Potential Tax Hike on Granite State Working Families

Frank Guinta (Image by Mark Nassal)

 Frank Guinta 1 (Image by Mark Nassal)

Scott Brown, Frank Guinta, Andrew Hemingway, Bill O’Brien celebrate court ruling that would raise taxes for 48,000 NH working families while sending their money to other states; Potential tax hike only possible because NH Republicans refused to create a New Hampshire-run health care exchange

Concord, NH – GOP candidates up and down the ballot in New Hampshire are celebrating a potential tax hike on Granite State working families. A federal district court in Washington, D.C. today issued a ruling in the Halbig v. Burwell case that would take away health care tax credits from families and small businesses that live in states where conservative Republicans blocked a state-based exchange.

The ruling trumpeted by U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown, Congressional candidate Frank Guinta, Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Hemingway, and Speaker of the House candidate Bill O’Brien – all Republicans – would raise costs on average $3,480 for the 48,000 Granite Staters who currently use the Affordable Care Act subsidy to afford quality health care coverage or who are eligible to do so.

“On average, these Granite Staters stand to lose an annual $3,480 tax credit and yet politicians like Scott Brown and Frank Guinta are cheering,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress. “Scott Brown voted to continue $24 billion in tax breaks for the five largest oil companies in the United States, but he supports taking away a $3,480 tax credit from tens of thousands of New Hampshire working families. Worse, New Hampshire taxpayers would continue to pay for health care coverage for residents of other states.”

“Some of the same politicians celebrating this ruling are the very ones who got us in this predicament to start. Bill O’Brien and Andrew Hemingway worked to block New Hampshire from creating and running its own health care exchange; doing so would have allowed us to have our own uniquely New Hampshire approach and would have guarded us against this court decision,” Rice Hawkins said.

Despite the celebratory campaign statements, it is questionable whether the district court ruling will be upheld. Today’s ruling was made by a majority conservative 3-judge panel and may be overturned by the full DC Circuit en banc panel, especially in light of a separate unanimous ruling today by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals that upholds the subsidies.

New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act Heading to Governor’s Desk (Statement by Granite State Progress)

Equal Pay for Equal Work (lilly ledbetter act)

Also, notice to House Republicans: Granite State Progress pays attention to every vote

CONCORD, NH – The New Hampshire House passed SB 207, New Hampshire’s Paycheck Fairness Act, by a vote of 233-103 today. The Senate previously passed the bill; it now heads to Governor Maggie Hassan (D) who has indicated she will sign it. Statement from Granite State Progress:

“The New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act will ensure women have the tools they need to challenge pay discrimination. These safeguards are good for women and good for families. Unfair pay practices harm everyone and New Hampshire was right to take steps to eliminate it,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress.

Today’s vote was the third in the House; state representatives previously voted on HB 1188, another version of a pay equity bill, and once before on SB 207. During the previous debate, Republican State Rep. Will Infantine (Manchester) made disparaging remarks about women’s motivation being a factor in pay discrimination. Those remarks sparked backlash and made local and national news. This time around, House Republicans instead attempted to weaken the bill. After that failed – and facing inevitable passage – many switched their roll call votes at the last minute to appear in support of equal pay.

“We recently praised the handful of House Republicans who stepped over party lines to join their Democratic colleagues in support of equal pay for an equal day’s work, despite the fact that over one hundred House Republicans still voted against women and their families,” Rice Hawkins said. “Let it be known that we watched each of those votes and aren’t fooled by politicians who stand with women only when there are no other options left. We always hope that politicians will see the light on critical issues, but we also recognize when they are only taking a vote for political expediency. We are not soon to forget where they really stand, or to be shy in advertising it.”

 

References

(GSP Video) NH State Rep: Women Earn Less Because Lack Men’s Motivation, Drive
Excerpt: “Men by and large make more because of some of the things they do. Their jobs are, by and large, more riskier. They don’t mind working nights and weekends. They don’t mind working overtime, or outdoors in the elements … Men are more motivated by money than women are.”

SB 207, the NH Paycheck Fairness Act will strengthen the law to define the conditions in which employers may legitimately pay different wages to men and women who perform equal work; prohibit policies that bar employees from disclosing information about their own wages, salary, and paid benefits as a condition of employment; and prohibit retaliation against an employee who discloses the amount of his or her wages. Sponsors include all Senate Democrats along with House Speaker Terie Norelli, Rep. Shannon Chandley (D-Amherst), Rep. MaryAnn Knowles (D-Hudson), and Rep. Marjorie Porter (D-Hillsboro).

NH Senate Republicans Block Minimum Wage Increase (Statement by Granite State Progress)

Image from @OFA_NH pic.twitter.com/ZG7B0GfERQ

Politician making $185,000 a year first to object to raising the wage for state’s lowest income earners

CONCORD, NH – The NH Senate voted 13-11 on party lines today to kill HB 1403, raising the state minimum wage. Statement from Granite State Progress:

“A Senate Republican making $185,000 a year called the minimum wage bill ‘feel good legislation’ but refused to spend even one day living in the shoes of his constituents who makes less than ten percent of his salary, even when they are working full-time,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress, in reference to Senator Peter Bragdon’s opening remarks. “Senator Bradley chose to use industry talking points instead of rely on economic data, and Senator Sanborn voted against the bill without disclosing the conflict of interest that he pays some of his workers minimum wage.”

“In contrast, several Senate Democrats took the Minimum Wage Challenge to live on minimum wage before voting on this bill. That experience illustrated for them the lack of affordable housing options, the slim budgets, and the constant anxiety that a minimum wage earner lives with every day. Questions about how to put gas in your tank and food on the table become very real when you don’t have a $185,000 golden salary to live on. Minimum wage earners work hard and play by the rules, but Senate Republicans sent a message loud and clear that they don’t care,” Rice Hawkins said.

In an online poll yesterday Granite State Progress asked whether Senate Republicans would table the bill, vote it down immediately, or vote it down after making misleading arguments. Option C won online and in reality. Below is a round-up of key political statements from today’s floor debate:

Sen. Peter Bragdon, R-Milford called the bill “feel good legislation”. Bragdon signed a contract this week for an $185,000 per year job.

Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro said that raising the wage would harm teenagers and entry level workers. In New Hampshire, 72 percent of minimum wage workers are over the age of 20 years old and have real breadwinner responsibilities. Bradley has previously refused to answer whether he believes in a minimum wage at all.

Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford claimed that raising the minimum wage would harm small businesses, particularly restaurants. Sanborn did not mention that he pays minimum wage to some of his workers at The Draft – nor did he declare a conflict of interest before voting against the bill.

Previously … Sen. John Reagan, R-Deerfield told the Laconia Citizen he “thinks it’s ‘silly’ to say that someone couldn’t be supported on minimum wage as they can take on multiple jobs.”

In contrast, Senate Democrats spent an hour urging their colleagues to support the bill: 

Sen. Sylvia Larsen, D-Concord called the legislation “one of the most important issues this session.”

Sen. David Pierce, D-Hanover took the Minimum Wage Challenge this week to try to live on a minimum wage budget.  He told fellow legislators you must “walk a mile in another man’s shoes before you make you decision.” Of the experience he said: “The minimum wage challenge produced such anxiety for me … I was shaken by the experience.”

Sen. David Watters, D-Dover also took the Minimum Wage Challenge this week to try to live on a minimum wage budget.  He told fellow legislators:

“Taking the Minimum Wage Challenge this week, it quickly became obvious to me that I couldn’t live and work in Dover without public support for food and housing.  The usual amount provided for food is $37.75 a week, so I went to Janetos, a local downtown market where people without transportation can shop at good prices, and, given the kind of community Dover is, everyone feels welcome and accepted.  $5.45 a day meant careful meal planning. A loaf of bread, peanut butter, eggs, lots of potatoes and pasta, a can of tomatoes, some cheese, two pieces of chicken, a head of broccoli, carrots, milk, and toiletries.  As the funds dwindled, I felt that anxiety of not having enough, putting things back on the shelf, buying by lowest price for a smaller quantity, and seeing that any staple, such as flour, oil, coffee, would mean not enough food for meals.  In planning for one peanut butter sandwich a day for lunch, I recalled when I was working in a factory or in construction filling my lunch box with four to six sandwiches, fruit, cookies, milk, and eating every crumb to keep up strength for hard work.  There’s just not enough to keep body and soul together …

Everyday experiences become a crisis on minimum wage.  I had some surgery this week—would Medicaid have covered the procedure and the $25.00 copay, or would I have had to put it off, try to ignore the problem, and hope for the best?  Or when to fill the tank, looking for a gas station with prices a few pennies less, and seeing the $40.13 it cost just to get to work for a week meant 5-1/2 hours of pay. My old car’s due for an oil change, too. Every day becomes an emergency when the tank runs low.

Video of Sen. Watters participating in the Minimum Wage Challenge grocery shopping trip is below.

Paycheck Fairness Advocates Applaud House Vote to Approve the NH Paycheck Fairness Act

Equal Pay for Equal Work (lilly ledbetter act)

 

Equal Pay for Equal Work (lilly ledbetter act)Paycheck Fairness Act has one last stop at House Criminal Justice Committee before being sent to Governor’s desk 

CONCORD, NH – The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 187 to 134 today to pass SB 207, the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act. The entire Democratic caucus present* and eleven House Republicans joined the unanimous and bi-partisan vote from the Senate in support of the legislation that will eliminate loopholes, increase transparency in wages, and ensure that all workers have the appropriate tools and resources to help them earn a fair and equal paycheck, without fear of retaliation. The legislation has one last stop at the House Criminal Justice Committee and another floor vote before being sent to the Governor’s desk; Governor Maggie Hassan has previously indicated her support for the bill.

The NH AFL–CIO, NH Citizens Alliance for Action, Granite State Progress, NH Civil Liberties Union, the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the New Hampshire Women’s Initiative, Women’s Fund of New Hampshire, and the National Women’s Law Center applaud the New Hampshire House’s bi-partisan adoption of SB 207, the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act. The organizations released the following statements on today’s House vote:

Mark MacKenzie, President, New Hampshire AFL-CIO: “We applaud the 187 members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives who today stood with working families by voting to pass the New Hampshire Paycheck Equity Act. Senate Bill 207 will help close the gender wage gap in the Granite State by giving women access to the tools and information they need to make sure they are being paid fairly. New Hampshire AFL-CIO is proud to be a leader in the diverse coalition of women’s organizations, labor unions, and grassroots action groups that led the fight to win this important and timely progress for New Hampshire’s working women.”

Kary Jencks, Executive Director, NH Citizens Alliance for Action: “Today the NH House voted for a New Hampshire and an America that works for all of us, with liberty and justice for all.  Ensuring equal pay for equal work regardless of gender, heritage, or marital status is a critical component in protecting and expanding our state’s middle class and driving a successful economy.”

Zandra Rice Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress: “We commend the House bipartisan adoption of the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act. This law will give employees the tools they need to challenge wage gaps and help create a climate where wage discrimination is no longer tolerated. We are eager to see the legislation move through the final steps in the House and then to the desk of paycheck fairness supporter Governor Maggie Hassan.”

Devon Chaffee, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union: “Today the House took New Hampshire one step closer toward eliminating unfair gender paycheck inequities in our state. The New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act will help provide women with the tools they need to get fair pay in the workplace, and the NHCLU welcomes its passage by both chambers of the New Hampshire legislature.”

Dawn Andonellis, Public Policy Chair for the American Association of University Women (AAUW) of New Hampshire: “Closing the wage gap in New Hampshire is an economic return on investment that will help to keep our college graduates, particularly women, in the state. We applaud the New Hampshire House for passing the Paycheck Fairness Act and for taking this important step toward ending gender discrimination in the workplace.”

Mary Jo Brown, Chair of the New Hampshire Women’s Initiative: “Today we have moved one giant step closer to eliminating the gender wage gap in New Hampshire. We would like to thank our stakeholder partners, the Senate and the legislative champions of SB 207 in the House for all of their hard work to make New Hampshire an even better place to retain employees and for all families across the state. We look forward to Governor Hassan signing this important piece of legislation.”

Marianne Jones, Executive Director, Women’s Fund of NH: “The paycheck transparency that is addressed in SB 207 is one more tool that can help minimize the persistent wage gap in New Hampshire. We know that this will ensure that women and girls prosper in the future, and that entire communities will have the potential to thrive.”

Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment at the National Women’s Law Center: “Pay discrimination is alive and well across America.  Millions of working women suspect they’re being paid less than their male counterparts but have no way of confirming it. And some don’t realize they’re being shortchanged because company policies prevent them from discussing their wages. We applaud the New Hampshire House for moving swiftly to improve their pay discrimination laws and call on Congress to follow its lead.”

SB 207 sponsors include all Senate Democrats along with House Speaker Terie Norelli, Rep. Shannon Chandley (D-Amherst), Rep. MaryAnn Knowles (D-Hudson), and Rep. Marjorie Porter (D-Hillsboro).

 

* The sole House Democrat in opposition was Free State Project member Tim O’Flaherty.

New Hampshire Raise the Wage Coalition Calls on State Senators to Live on Minimum Wage for a Week

NH Senate Committee Hearing 
(Image from Arnie Alpert -- NH AFSC)

State Senators asked to walk a mile in shoes of constituents before casting vote on minimum wage bill

NH Senate Committee Hearing  (Image from Arnie Alpert -- NH AFSC)

NH Senate Committee Hearing
(Image from Arnie Alpert — NH AFSC)

CONCORD, NH – Several members of the New Hampshire Raise the Wage Coalition are calling for State Senators to live on minimum wage for one week before voting on whether to raise the state’s minimum wage. The request was made during the Senate Finance committee public hearing on HB 1403 today, and echoed in an email sent to all State Senators shortly after the public hearing ended.

HB 1403 would raise New Hampshire’s minimum wage in two stages and provide for annual cost of living increases in the future.  It would increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 per hour on January 1, 2015 and to $9.00 per hour on January 1, 2016.  Beginning January 1, 2017, it would automatically increase New Hampshire’s minimum wage to account for inflation, based on the Consumer Price Index. Raising the wage would directly impact 48,000 workers and another 28,000 would experience an indirect increase, ultimately benefiting 76,000 New Hampshire workers and the overall economy in the state.

Organizations calling on the State Senate to live a week on minimum wage include Granite State Progress, NEA-New Hampshire, NH Citizens Alliance, Every Child Matters, and the New Hampshire Conference of the United Church of Christ – Economic Justice Ministry Team. All of the groups are members of the New Hampshire Raise the Wage coalition.

“The average minimum wage earner in New Hampshire is an adult earning less than $300 a week,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress. “These are people with real breadwinner responsibilities trying to put food on the table and keep a roof over their head. We are calling on our State Senators to better understand the plight of these Granite State families by spending a week living in their shoes. They will find out what it’s really like to plan a budget, buy groceries, find a place to live and manage transportation in New Hampshire on under $300 a week.”

“There are lots of facts and figures tossed around when politicians debate an issue. The Minimum Wage Challenge will make sure this discussion is grounded in the real-life choices confronted by tens of thousands of Granite State workers who are trying to get by on just $7.25 an hour,” Rice Hawkins said.

Organizations issuing the call have offered State Senators who participate an opportunity to meet with local advocates to review housing options and visit the grocery store together, among other things. Press interested in these activities can contact Granite State Progress.

Scott Brown’s Die Young and Broke Campaign Launch (A Statement By Granite State Progress)

Scott Brown in 2010
Image by Wiki Commons
Scott Brown in 2010 Image by Wiki Commons

Scott Brown in 2010
Image by Wiki Commons


Brown wants New Hampshire families to forgo benefits he used himself

CONCORD, NH – Scott Brown will formally announce his campaign bid for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire tonight with a hypocritical ‘Die Young and Broke’ campaign theme – otherwise advertised as Live Free or Log On. Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins:

“Scott Brown had no problem logging on when he was collecting health care from the federal government for his own family. Brown even told his hometown paper the Boston Globe that he was keeping his younger daughter on his health plan through age 26, a popular provision available to all families thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Yet, Brown is encouraging Granite State families to forgo health care coverage with a misleading campaign slogan. He might as well be saying die young and broke from lack of health care coverage or medical bankruptcy because that’s what he’s endorsing.”

“Scott Brown’s failed Massachusetts talking points don’t jive with the real benefits tens of thousands of Granite Staters are experiencing thanks to Obamacare. Like Scott Brown’s daughter, 10,000 New Hampshire young adults have remained on their parent’s health insurance plan thanks to the Affordable Care Act. In the last month New Hampshire exceeded expectations for marketplace enrollment and passed Medicaid expansion with a bi-partisan coalition because true Granite Staters know that access to quality, affordable health care coverage means living free from a lifetime of health care problems or escalating medical debt.”

Scott Brown’s campaign also released a press release earlier this week that stated that health care premiums in New Hampshire have risen 90%. WMUR debunked the number, reporting that the flawed figure was based on the opinion of a single New Hampshire broker and that New Hampshire premiums will actually decrease by 8% this year.

“Perhaps Scott Brown’s formal campaign launch will mean that he’ll finally invest in a campaign researcher instead of just the staff he hired to pick out popular New Hampshire venues for his staged photo ops,” Rice Hawkins said.

 

Sources:

Boston Globe: Brown says daughter, 23, insured under health law, May 1, 2012

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, How the Health Care Law is Making a Difference for the People of New Hampshire, Updated August 1, 2013

Scott Brown: Study Showing Rising Insurance Premiums a Sad Reminder of Obamacare’s Consequences

WMUR: Hear the one about NH health insurance rates going up 90 percent? April 9, 2014

NH Senate Vote On Mentally Ill And Guns Could Put Public Safety At Risk

Gun

NH Senate Votes to Loosen Public Safety Laws, Advance Dangerous Annulment Process to Restore Gun Rights to Mentally Ill

CONCORD, NH – The entire Senate Republican caucus and four Senate Democrats voted today to erode the quality of SB 244’s original relief from disabilities (RFD) program to restore gun rights for people whose mental health treatment has ended—the appropriate formula—and replace the bill with a dangerous and untested “annulment” process that doesn’t take into account mental health history. The 17-7 vote means the bill moves to the House.

Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins:

“SB 244’s original goal was to report the names of those who are prohibited purchasers of firearms due to mental health to be reported to the NICS background check system, and to establish a relief from disabilities program for people whose mental health treatment has ended so that they can restore their gun rights. Granite State Progress supported these original goals, but the gun lobby amended version of SB 244 jeopardizes public safety.”

“The annulment process that passed the Senate diminishes the state’s ability to determine when a person should get relief, and does not provide judges with appropriate evidence to consider when making these determinations. Unlike the original bill, the amendment does not require any consideration of the person’s mental health history, the person’s reputation as developed through character evidence or character witnesses, and changes in the person’s condition. No documentation is required regarding documentation of the commitment or treatment resolution, nor does it require releases allowing mental health providers to provide opinions about the person’s dangerousness and suitability to possess firearms.”

“SB 244 will likely not meet federal standards for a relief from disabilities program, meaning the State of New Hampshire cannot apply for federal funding to help implement a process to submit mental health records. The striking irony is that SB 244 originally set out to make sure New Hampshire was submitting mental health records to the background checks system, and instead this gun lobby amendment narrowed the bill to only how to remove records we aren’t even adequately reporting. We are beyond disappointed that Senate Republicans, aided by four Senate Democrats, chose to undermine public safety and establish an untested and unstable annulment process that could put guns back in the hands of those who should not have them. Following tragedies such as Newtown and Virginia Tech, we expect more.”

“On a better note, the Senate rejected a skewed study commission that focused solely on how to keep records out of the background checks system. That commission membership was heavily tilted towards gun groups and sought to undermine the current background checks system.”

More background:

SB 244’s annulment process doesn’t meet best practices and jeopardizes federal funding opportunities should New Hampshire start to report mental health records in the future.

The ATF form, wherein states apply for their Relief from Disability programs to be certified in order to receive federal funding, makes it clear that the state program must “receive evidence concerning and [must] consider…the circumstances regarding the [prohibition]; applicant’s record, which must include, at a minimum, the applicant’s mental health and criminal history records; and applicant’s reputation, developed, at a minimum, through character witness statements, testimony, or other character evidence.” The amendment’s process doesn’t require mental health records be submitted, doesn’t require any character evidence, and doesn’t require consideration of the circumstances surrounding prohibition.

Even red states that pass these laws require that mental health professionals weigh in: South Carolina passed a law last year that requires: 1) examination of the circumstances surrounding the prohibition, 2) the petitioner’s mental health and criminal history records, 3) character evidence, and 4) a current evaluation by either the state Department of Health or a licensed physician addressing whether the petitioner poses a threat to self or others.

The amended version also lowers the judicial standard for restoring rights, making it more likely that people who are still dangerous will have their rights restored and be able to buy guns. Under the original bill, the petitioner had to show “by a preponderance” that he is not dangerous. Under the amendment, the other side has to show “by clear and convincing evidence” (a higher standard) that he is dangerous, and that the “danger” would have to be “potentially serious.”