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Kuster introduces legislation aimed at increasing STEM learning in early education

Congresswoman Kuster introduces her new early education STEM legislation at the Child and Family Development Center at NHTI 

(Concord, NH) – This morning, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) introduced legislation aimed at increasing STEM learning in early education during a visit to the Child and Family Development Center at NHTI-Concord’s Community College. The legislation will establish a competitive grant program under the jurisdiction of the Department of Education to provide assistance for early childhood STEM programs and teacher training that meet certain requirements.

“There is an ever growing demand for jobs in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, yet data show we are not doing enough to train students in these skills,” Congresswoman Kuster said. “This legislation will help provide teachers and schools the tools they need to prepare the workforce of tomorrow.  When I return to Washington, I will get back to work urging my colleagues in the House of Representatives to immediately pass this legislation, so we can best ensure hands-on learning for our future workforce and economy.”

Joining Congresswoman Kuster at the event were representatives from NHTI, Early Learning NH, Every Child Matters and Moms Rising-New Hampshire, among others.

“Early Learning NH is grateful to Congresswoman Kuster for introducing an important bill to support early childhood education programs’ ability to promote essential learning in the early years,” said Jackie Cowell, Executive of Early Learning NH.   “STEM learning, along with its accompanying learning in the essential life skills of perseverance, problem solving, curiosity, and the ability to work well in teams, is critical for today’s youngest children to help them become the productive citizens of tomorrow.  The Kindergartners we met today will graduate from high school in 2030.  Since many of them will hold jobs that haven’t even been invented yet, how do we prepare them for the complex world they will inherit?  This bill addresses just that – the answer is promoting STEM learning in the earliest years.” 

“Moms Rising is very eager to support initiatives that help to increase the quality of early childhood education programs, such as this new focus on STEM in early learning,” said Christina D’Allesandro, state director of Moms Rising. “Increasing access to high quality affordable early learning is a high priority for MomsRising members both in New Hampshire and nationwide.”

“NHTI has been a leader in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education in the state of New Hampshire since we were founded in 1965,” said Susan B. Dunton, NHTI President. “As the demand for a workforce educated in the STEM fields promises only to grow in the future, introducing students to the STEM fields at the earliest possible opportunity is critical.  Rep. Kuster’s proposal is an important step in helping achieve this shared goal of making STEM an integral part of Early Childhood Education. “

End Child Abuse In The Name Of “Therapy”

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

This coming week the New Hampshire State Senate will debate and ultimately vote on a bill to prohibit “conversion therapy” to change a person’s gender presentation or identity for children under 18.

New Hampshire looks to join the five states and the District of Columbia that have already banned conversion therapy on minors.

“No child should be told that they are not equal, not worthy, or should somehow conform to be like everybody else. That is the antithesis of freedom and human dignity,” said Senator Fuller Clark, prime sponsor of SB 224.

“Conversion therapy is a dangerous and discredited practice that is aimed at young people in order to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. This harmful practice uses shame, rejection, and psychological abuse and can lead to depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, and even suicide,” the Senator added.

“It is not therapy but child abuse that can lead to suicide; and should be illegal,” said Mo Baxley, Former Executive Director of New Hampshire Freedom To Marry.

Conversion therapy is highly controversial due to the unproven tactics and the fact it has continually been deemed as ineffective.

“Research suggests the treatment can worsen feelings of self-hatred and anxiety, because it encourages people to fight or hate a sexual orientation that can’t be changed [5 Surprising Facts About Gay Conversion Therapy],” wrote Tia Ghose for LiveScience.

Ghose goes on to describe the practice of conversion therapy as “a method reminiscent of the one used in ‘A Clockwork Orange.’ In aversion therapy, gay people were exposed to a negative stimulus (such as being shocked, given nausea drugs or imagining such exposures) while viewing same-sex erotic material.”

Conversion Therapy has not been proven to “convert” people but is actually harmful to “patients.”

American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry wrote in their 2012 study, Practice Parameter on Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Orientation, Gender Nonconformity, and Gender Discordance in Children and Adolescents:

“Clinicians should be aware that there is no evidence that sexual orientation can be altered through therapy, and that attempts to do so may be harmful. There is no empirical evidence adult homosexuality can be prevented if gender nonconforming children are influenced to be more gender conforming. Indeed, there is no medically valid basis for attempting to prevent homosexuality, which is not an illness. On the contrary, such efforts may encourage family rejection and undermine self-esteem, connectedness and caring, important protective factors against suicidal ideation and attempts. Given that there is no evidence that efforts to alter sexual orientation are effective, beneficial or necessary, and the possibility that they carry the risk of significant harm, such interventions are contraindicated.”

“There is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of “reparative therapy” as a treatment to change one’s sexual orientation,” stated the American Psychiatric Association in a 1997 study. They go on to say, “The potential risks of “reparative therapy” are great and include depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.”

The Human Rights Coalition cites at least a dozen other organizations that show “conversion” or “reparative” therapy does not work and can cause more harm to young adults.

“People who have gone through conversion therapy face 8.9 times the rates of suicide ideation, face depression at 5.9 times the rate of their peers and are three times more likely to use illegal drugs and be at high risk for sexually transmitted infections,” wrote Zach Stafford in the Guardian.

It is time to end this inhumane practice, especially on children. This bill will be heard in the NH Senate this Thursday, Feb 23rd. Contact your State Senator and tell them you want them to support SB 224, a ban on conversion therapy in NH.

Senators Shaheen And Hassan Take To The Senate Floor To Oppose EPA Nominee Scott Pruitt

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) spoke on the Senate floor today in opposition of Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s nominee to serve as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Shaheen voiced her concerns about Pruitt’s record as Attorney General of Oklahoma, including his many lawsuits in favor of the oil and gas companies, and his outspoken position denying climate change, which puts him at odds with the mission of the EPA. “Mr. Pruitt has been nominated not to lead the EPA forward, but to prevent it from carrying out its mission,” said Shaheen. “Make no mistake, Mr. Pruitt and his extreme agenda are a threat to the environment, to the planet, and to public health.”

Shaheen spoke of climate change impacts in New Hampshire, where warmer temperatures are affecting tourism and outdoor recreation as well as maple syrup production and the moose population. “People in my State of New Hampshire have no doubt about the reality of climate change… we see it and experience it every day.” Shaheen also cited the significant progress New Hampshire has made reducing its power-sector carbon pollution through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, putting the state on track to meet the Clean Power Plan’s carbon-reduction goals 10 years early. “Across New England, we are demonstrating that smart energy choices can benefit the environment and strengthen job-creation and the economy overall,” Shaheen said. 

Shaheen went on to read letters that her office received from Granite Staters, both Democrats and Republicans, who “not only oppose Mr. Pruitt’s nomination, they genuinely fear the consequences of putting him in charge of the EPA.” Christopher Morgan of Amherst, NH wrote: “This is my first message I have ever sent to my senator in my 32 years as a voting American. . . . As a registered Republican . . . I am vehemently opposed to Mr. Pruitt leading the EPA. He has consistently shown he does not believe in the threat posed by climate change. Climate change affects every citizen in this country and has had a detrimental effect on the NH climate specifically.”

“Mr. Pruitt’s nomination is not about ‘shaking things up in Washington,’” said Shaheen. “It is about turning over control of the EPA to the fossil fuel industry – and turning back the clock on a half century of bipartisan efforts – in Democratic and Republican administrations alike – to protect clean air and clean water, and to pass on to our children a livable environment and habitable Earth.”

Shaheen urged her Senate colleagues to oppose Pruitt’s confirmation and “reject this effort to un-do nearly five decades of bipartisan efforts to protect our environment and planet.”

Watch Shaheen’s Video

Senator Maggie Hassan also delivered remarks on the Senate floor, opposing the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to serve as Administrator of the Environmental Protecting Agency.

“It is clear from Mr. Pruitt’s history of opposition to the agency he will be tasked to lead, his record of working to weaken critical environmental protections that our citizens need to thrive, and his unwillingness to fight climate change that he is unfit to serve in this position,” Senator Hassan said on the Senate floor today. 

In her remarks, Senator Hassan highlighted the work done in New Hampshire to protect the state’s beautiful natural resources, environment, and citizens. The Senator also noted how Mr. Pruitt has been a consistent opponent of the EPA, taking legal action against the agency over 20 times and fighting against the EPA’s efforts to combat climate change and protect our land, air, and water. 

“The foundation of a future where all Americans have an opportunity to thrive starts with a healthy environment and healthy families. And the EPA serves an important role in protecting the health of our people. We must do better than having an administrator who has fought so tirelessly to undermine the work this agency does,” said Senator Hassan. 

Additionally, Senator Hassan explained that it is unacceptable that Mr. Pruitt is a climate change skeptic, putting him at odds with the world’s leading climate scientists.

“Mr. Pruitt, however, has been a consistent skeptic on the role of climate change has on our environment. Mr. Pruitt has stated that we do not know the extent of human impact on climate change, and has called it a natural occurrence… The EPA is a science-based organization, and it is unacceptable for the EPA Administrator to be at odds with the well-established views of leading scientists,” the Senator said.

Senator Hassan concluded her remarks by noting the critical role a cleaner environment plays in New Hampshire’s economy and that we should be building on the EPA’s efforts on climate change and protecting public health, not rolling them back. 

“We know that a cleaner environment plays a key role in the economy of New Hampshire and our entire nation. And we should be building on the critical efforts the EPA has taken to combat change and protect public health – not rolling them back.  Mr. Pruitt’s hostility to the basic functions of the Environmental Protection Agency, and his work to undermine protections for our air, land, and water make clear that he should not serve in this role,” added Senator Hassan.

Watch Senator Hassan’s Video 

Right To Work Goes Down In The NH House, New Hampshire Labor Rejoices

To the great “disappointment” of Governor Sununu, SB 11, the so-called “Right to Work” for less bill, goes down in flames.  By a bi-partisan vote of 200 to 177 the members of the NH House voted to kill the bill.  “I am deeply disappointed today by the House’s failure to pass Right to Work,” stated Governor Chris Sununu.

“Today’s vote was a confirmation of what we determined in the House Labor Committee, where Democrats and Republicans worked together to recommend defeat of so-called ‘right to work,’” said Representative Doug Ley (D-Jaffrey), the Ranking Democrat on the House Labor Committee. “With a strong economy and the lowest unemployment rate in America, legislation that reduces wages and interferes with the employer/employee relationship is the last thing our state needs.  I am very pleased that the full House agreed with the bipartisan Labor Committee recommendation, and that we can finally put this issue behind us.”

“Today a bi-partisan majority confirmed that ‘Right to Work’ is still wrong for New Hampshire, and this vote should be the final nail in the coffin,” said NH AFL-CIO President Glenn Brackett. “Across the Granite State, working people stood together against this corporate-backed legislation that would cripple our ability to speak up on job. We thank the legislators who let workers’ voices rise above special interests’.” 

AFT-NH, that represents 4,000 teachers, school support staff, city and town employees, police officers, library employees, and higher education faculty, was “extremely pleased” with Right to Work’s defeat.

“We are extremely pleased that the NH House defeated Right to Work by a 200-177 vote today,” said Doug Ley, President of AFT-NH. “The defeat of this bill was the result of cooperation across party lines and hard work by our members, fellow union brothers and sisters in the labor movement and community allies. The actions by the NH House today puts to bed this divisive legislation for at least another 2 years. We thank legislators who stood with working families.”

NEA-NH, the state’s largest public employee union, representing over 17,000 members, praised the vote.

“Educators’ working conditions are our child’s learning conditions,” said Megan Tuttle acting NEA-NH President. “By weakening the ability of educators to advocate for students, kids across New Hampshire stood to lose things like smaller class sizes, safe classrooms and drinking water, up-to-date resources, and expanded curriculum choices. Our ability to advocate for every public-school student was preserved today.”

“When out-of-state interests with pre-written legislation and lots of money try to set legislative priorities in New Hampshire, kids lose. Today’s vote prevented that from happening.”

“The 17,000 members of NEA-New Hampshire extend our thanks to those voting against SB11 today, especially those members who stood strong against the pressure applied by the majority leadership on this issue. Their resolve helped ensure that kids and educators across the state will continue to have a strong voice,” concluded Tuttle. 

Richard Gulla, President of the NH State Employees Association was “proud” of the legislators who stood with working families.

“Today, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted SB 11 Inexpedient to Legislate. We are proud of the legislators for standing with Granite State workers today and putting the so-called Right to Work bill behind us, where it belongs. The New Hampshire House recognized that there was no constituency supporting this legislation and proved out-of-state special interests have no place in our politics. It took courage to stand against the constant stream of pressure from outside funding – and Granite State families can now celebrate this accomplishment.”

“We are incredibly grateful to our elected officials for continuing to stand up for what is important. We look forward to working with Governor Sununu and the legislature to continue helping New Hampshire families,” Gulla added. 

Democrats also rejoiced as Sununu’s highest priority piece of legislation was defeated.

“New Hampshire proved once again that it’s a friend to workers’ rights. Despite Governor Sununu and NHGOP Chair Forrester’s brazen attempts, Republicans and Democrats in the State House stood together and made clear that this issue is above partisan politics,” said NHDP Chairman Ray Buckey. 

“Today’s defeat of the so-called Right to Work for Less legislation is a great victory for New Hampshire’s working families,” said Jeff Woodburn, NH Senate Minority Leader.  “Right to Work for Less makes it harder for people to earn a living, harder for people to make ends meet, and harder for people to support a family. I congratulate the bipartisan coalition in the House that recognized the damage it would have caused and came together to defeat this harmful legislation.”

Democracy Fails As Executive Councilors Vote To Confirm Edelblut, Against Constituents Overwhelming Objections

Today our elected representatives have failed us and took another step toward the destruction of our democracy.

With a party line vote of 3-2, the NH Executive Council voted to confirm, the completely unqualified Frank Edelblut, as Commissioner of Education against the wishes of their own constituents.

“Republicans on the Executive Council let down Granite State students and young families today by confirming Frank Edelblut, despite overwhelming grassroots opposition, a vote of no confidence by the State Board of Education, and a remarkably unqualified resume for this important position,” said Granite State teacher Matthew Gerding.

“As a school teacher and a young LGBT Granite Stater hoping to raise my family here, I find it incredibly disheartening to see Republican leaders chose to confirm someone who opposes full-day kindergarten, refuses to oppose the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy, and calls education a ‘product’ not a public good.”

“Governor Sununu has taken every opportunity in his short time in office to turn young people away from our state. From nominating Mr. Edelblut, to raising tuitions at our state and community colleges in his budget, Governor Sununu is sending a clear message that he values politics over people,” concluded Gerding.

“Like DeVos, Edelblut has no experience or inter­action with the public education system of New Hampshire. Overseeing a state department of education requires an in-depth knowl­edge of how public schools are governed, how they are man­aged, and the challenges employees in public schools face. Mr. Edelblut possesses no such knowledge or experience. Other than overseeing the management functions of the employees under his direct supervision, the business skills Mr. Edelblut possess are not transferable to ensuring our children’s educational experi­ence is exceptional. Our chil­dren’s futures are too important to rely on someone who cannot hit the ground running on day one,” stated NEA-New Hampshire.

“Educators throughout New Hampshire strive to reach every child in their classroom, develop effective and engaging lesson plans, spend hours correcting papers and encouraging students to keep persevering. Every day for educators the theory and practice of pedagogy becomes real in the lives of the young people entrusted to their care. To have the highest ranking education official in the state bring only system level management and communication skills to the job threatens the future of every public school student in New Hampshire,” continued NEA-NH.

“The fundamental promise of a great public education for all students is under attack here, and across the country,” said Megan Tuttle, NEA-NH Vice-president. “We’re not just arguing over budget questions any longer; we’re in a full-on ideolog­ical battle with people who do not believe that every child deserves the same opportunity to succeed.”

“We are disappointed that a majority of the Executive Council did not listen to voices of thousands of parents and educators across the state or to the concerns expressed by the NH Board of Education about the appointment of Frank Edelblut as our next Commissioner of Education,” stated Doug Ley, President of AFT-NH. “We remain gravely concerned about a Commissioner of Education who, when running for governor, supported further diverting much needed funding and resources from our public schools.   There still has been presented no evidence, after a lengthy public hearing, to suggest Mr. Edelblut either has the experience or qualifications in education to lead NH schools and serve more than 180,000 students, our State’s most precious resource.”

“Our teachers and school district employees pour their hearts into the education of NH’s students, are highly trained and have dedicated a lifetime to serving NH students. They deserve a Commissioner who cares deeply about public education.”

“AFT-NH will remain vigilant in protecting our public schools and our cherished public education system in NH. We will always extend a hand to anyone, including Mr. Edelblut, willing to strengthen and support public schools but we will speak up and act in fierce opposition to any extreme agenda or attack on our schools. We sincerely hope that Mr. Edelblut will retreat from his past positions and start anew by listening to NH parents, educators and stakeholders in our schools,” concluded Ley.

“During the confirmation process, Frank Edelblut demonstrated he lacks both experience with and support for our state’s public schools,” wrote Executive Councilor Chris Pappas just after the vote. “It is clear that Mr. Edelblut is unable to be the type of non-partisan, consensus-building commissioner that our education system deserves. He holds political views on a range of issues that place him outside the mainstream, from his opposition to full-day kindergarten to support for gay conversion therapy. We do not need a commissioner who will interject ideology into the role, and I didn’t receive assurances that he would abandon past positions or steer clear of political activities after he is confirmed.”

It is plainly clear that the confirmation vote for Edelblut was purely partisan politics as usual. Two of the Executive Councilors openly admitted that they would vote to confirm despite overwhelming opposition to Edelblut’s nomination.

“Executive Councilors Joseph Kenney and Russell Prescott told us all about the concerns they heard from parents and educators about Frank Edelblut. Instead of listening to their constituents, they decided to put in earplugs and vote to confirm him in a blindly political move,” said NHDP Chairman Ray Buckley. “It’s shameful that Governor Sununu didn’t consult the Board of Education before he made the pick. Instead, he followed the Trump model by appointing an unqualified businessman rather than looking out for the future of New Hampshire.”

“We are disappointed that Executive Councilors Russ Prescott, Joe Kenney, and David Wheeler decided to rubber stamp Governor Sununu’s blatantly unqualified nominee despite widespread opposition from the State Board of Education and their constituents,” stated Zandra Rice-Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress. “Councilors Kenney and Prescott specifically mentioned that their constituents were overwhelming in opposition to Frank Edelblut before going on to say that they would vote for him anyway.

“Community members should be on notice that Prescott and Kenney fully acknowledged that they were voting against their constituents on this nomination,” Rice-Hawkins added.

It is obscene that our elected representatives are completely ignoring the will of the people in a partisan political vote. It takes a lot to get people to engage in politics, especially when it comes to political appointments like this. Yet hundreds if not thousands of Granite Staters took the time to write letters, emails, and call their Executive Councilors asking them to oppose Edelblut’s nomination.

To Councilors Prescott and Kenney, those constituents do not matter.

This is where democracy dies. When our elected leaders only do what is good for their political careers and reject the will of the people we can no longer say we live in a democracy. The people spoke out and overwhelmingly opposed Frank Edelblut’s nomination, yet they confirmed him anyway.

This is a sad day for the future of our public schools and our democracy.


I would like to join Granite State Progress in saying:

“We thank Councilors Andru Volinsky and Chris Pappas for standing with the majority of constituents and experts who voiced concern over Governor Sununu’s unqualified nominee.”

(Featured image of Russ Prescott by Granite State Progress on Twitter)

NH Board Of Education Sends Letter Of No Confidence In Edelblut As Commissioner Of Education

Letter cites gaps in qualifications and overwhelming concern from “a broad and extensive cross-section of the public” that “virtually all have expressed concerns about the appointment”

Concord, NH – The NH State Board of Education released a letter of no confidence in Governor Sununu’s Education Commissioner nominee. The letter was sent to the Governor and Executive Council yesterday afternoon after the Governor’s late consultation with the Board; the Executive Council is scheduled to vote on the nomination this morning.

“The State Board of Education has a statutory responsibility to ensure the Department of Education is staffed with qualified individuals and that all children in our state receive an adequate education. We applaud the members for doing their due diligence on the nominee,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, Executive Director ofGranite State Progress. “We strongly urge the Executive Council to vote down this nomination and urge the Governor to find a candidate better suited to the position.”

“After discussions with the public and among board members, we have to say, Governor, that we share the public’s concern about Mr. Edelblut’s qualifications for the role of New Hampshire Education Commissioner. The high level of concern parents have voiced about this nomination that is so important to them puts the State Board of Education on notice. We owe parents the Board’s full commitment to our statutory responsibility as the board of directors of New Hampshire public education.  We are prepared for that role and will exercise it with full transparency,”  stated Tom Raffio, Chairman of the State Board of Education.

Along with the letter from the Board, Raffio included 57 pages of individual messages, emails, and communications “from concerned citizens, mostly parents in opposition to this nomination.”

Full Letter here and below.

State Board of Education Consultation Letter to Governor Sununu

Video on Governor Sununu’s Consultation with the NH State Board of Education

Concord, NH – Governor Chris Sununu held a consultation with the NH State Board of Education this morning on his nominee for Education Commissioner, Frank Edelblut.

Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins:

“Governor Sununu was unprepared and delivered a standing, rushed overview of his education commissioner nominee, which is in keeping with how he has handled the entire nomination process to date. Governor Sununu could not answer simple questions regarding Frank Edelblut’s education policy stances, and he blankly rejected that the Education Commissioner, like all Department of Education staff, should be highly trained and qualified. When pressed, the Governor repeatedly retreated to campaign rhetoric, further demonstrating he is not taking the real work of governing seriously. Governor Sununu nominated an unqualified and unfit individual to serve as the state’s top education chief. He should withdraw the nomination and start anew.”

Granite State Progress filmed the State Board of Education meeting this morning. Granite State Progress as well as several community members also spoke in opposition to Frank Edelblut for Education Commissioner during the open comment period of the meeting. 

Mark Dobbins: “Dear Becky”

Singer and Songwriter Beyonce

Dear Becky:

I’ll wait while you put down your yoga mat.

You voted for Trump. After these past few weeks, I really have to ask, “What the hell were you thinking?” Seriously, Trump? The shouting guy on the TV?

I know, you were so concerned about those email servers. Do you even know what an email server looks like? And Benghazi! Find Benghazi on a map unassisted and I’ll eat a bug.

You overlooked the fact that he broke two marriage vows but somehow think he’ll keep his oath of office.

You overlooked his addiction to tweeting – and tweeting – and tweeting.

You overlooked a lot that would have set your hair on fire had President Obama done the same.

And because of you, every thinking person in this country is freaking out. But not you.

Because you are safe behind your yoga mat of white privilege.

You didn’t join the millions of people who crammed our streets to protest. Because you were busy. Because Emma had a lesson. Because Noah had a game. Because you had to get the oil changed on your SUV. Because you were busy being white. Because it doesn’t affect you – and it never has.

By now you’re sputtering, “But I have black friends,” “I’m not racist,” and my personal favorite, “I’m not privileged.”

Yes, you are. You’re privileged, and probably racist too. Most white people are and don’t even know it – or do, and don’t care.

Here’s a simple way I use to test white privilege. Can you go an entire day without interacting with a person of color if you tried? I’m betting the answer is yes. That’s the bubble of white privilege that you think will protect you. But it won’t. Not by a long shot.

So you want to keep those “nasty hombres” out of our country by building a wall? When the price of your food skyrockets because white folks won’t pick crops, you’ll care then. Because it affects you.

So you think by insulting foreign leaders our nation looks stronger? You equate shouting with strength – because you have always had the microphone and always think you will. How many times have you shouted “I want to see your manager,” when you didn’t get what you wanted, then, at that moment?Now Trump is the manager and there’s no one else to call.

So you think defunding Planned Parenthood will make abortions go away? When Emma comes home someday with bad news, you’ll always have a way to fix that problem. A poor woman’s abortion is Emma’s D&C. Most people won’t have those choices. But you will. That’s why it’s called “pro-choice.” Because we want the choices you have always had – and always will.

By now you’re probably angry and about to write something nasty in the comments section. I hope you do. I want you to be angry. As I promised in my first column, I’ll probably make you mad from time to time. This is one of those times.

But stop for a moment and think.

Could I be just a little bit right?

And could you be just a little bit white – and privileged?

Regards,

Mark

PS: We’ll talk more about this in the upcoming months. I’m just laying the groundwork for that conversation. I hope you’ll stick around.

(Featured Image: Katrina In Yoga Pose, by Earl McGee on Flikr CC)

Mark Fernald: How Do We Keep Guns Away From “Bad Guys”

“The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” So said NRA President Wayne LaPierre just after the Sandy Hook massacre. If a ‘bad guy’ pulls out a gun and starts shooting, the only answer, according to Mr. LaPierre, is for someone to pull out another gun and take the ‘bad guy’ out.

The NRA and the Republican Party advocate what they call “Constitutional carry”—allowing anyone to carry a gun, openly or concealed, at any time and anywhere (excluding, one presumes, people with felony convictions). Republicans all over the country are attacking background checks, gun-free zones, and laws that require a permit to carry a loaded, concealed weapon.

The Democratic Party approach is different; it focuses on preventing people likely to misuse guns from getting them in the first place. The background check law has stopped over 1.5 million ‘bad guys’ from buying guns since 1994. That law passed after a Republican filibuster failed.

Unfortunately, our background check system has a couple of glaring loopholes. It does not cover sales of guns by unlicensed sellers at gun shows or sales between private parties, so any ‘bad guy’ who wants to buy a gun has an easy workaround.

Republicans have repeatedly blocked efforts by Democrats to require a background check for all gun sales. Republicans seem to value easy access to guns over a system that would keep guns out of the hands of felons and people with severe mental disabilities.

This is not about Constitutional rights. Background checks and concealed carry permits are Constitutional. In the case of District of Columbia v. Heller, the US Supreme Court ruled that citizens have a Constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, explained that the right to bear arms is limited: It is not “a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” Justice Scalia specifically referenced prior court decisions that upheld restrictions or bans on carrying concealed, loaded weapons.

For 94 years, New Hampshire has required a permit to carry a loaded, concealed weapon in a car or on your person. The permits are issued by the chiefs of police in each city and town. The law states that permits can be issued to “a suitable person to be licensed.”

Our chiefs of police have taken their responsibility seriously, seeking out the record and the reputation of those applying for a concealed carry permit. Sometimes an applicant is an irresponsible citizen who is not suitable for a permit: a person who has a history of getting drunk in bars and picking fights; a person who has threatened someone with a gun in the past, though never convicted of a felony; a person who has been involved in road rage incidents; a person who has been the subject of multiple domestic violence calls to 911.

Under current law, if a person has committed an act of violence below the felony level, it is legal for that person to have a gun at home. But if that person wants to carry a loaded concealed weapon in public, New Hampshire has a higher standard implemented by our chiefs of police.

The State Senate and the House have now passed SB12, which eliminates the requirement for a permit to carry a concealed loaded weapon. In the Senate, the ten Democrats were the only no votes. Thirteen Republicans voted yes. The vote in the House was nearly as lopsided. Only two Republicans voted no, and only ten Democrats voted yes.

The effect of SB12 is to remove the discretion of chiefs of police to deny permits. Republicans talk about law and order; they should trust the chiefs of police to exercise good judgment in determining who should be allowed to carry a loaded, concealed weapon. This is what Republicans and the NRA have now abolished.

The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police spoke out against SB12. Their arguments fell on deaf ears. The Governor has indicated he will sign SB12.

If you have a chance to speak to your Representative or Senator or the Governor, ask these questions: Should an alcoholic with multiple DWI convictions be allowed to carry a loaded concealed weapon? How about the man who punched his neighbor during an argument? Or the woman who has been diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic, and sometimes fails to take her meds?

Once Republicans have succeeded in passing SB12, almost anybody could be carrying a loaded, concealed weapon—even people with violent histories. And our only defense, in this Republican world, will be to avoid the first shot, and try to return fire.

 

Mark Fernald is a former State Senator and was the 2002 Democratic nominee for Governor. He can be reached at mark@markfernald.com.

Join The Fight Against Transgender Discrimination, Tell Your Reps To Support HB478

We all know that it is illegal to discriminate against someone because of their race or the color of their skin, but did you know that because of weak discrimination laws there are no real protections for those who are transgendered.

This means that a transgendered person can be fired from their job, denied an apartment or denied service in a restaurant, and otherwise discriminate against them simply because of who they are.

“Findings from a 2011 study by NCTE and the Task Force show that 63% of transgender participants had experienced a “serious act of discrimination”—events like a lost job, eviction, homelessness, and assault that drastically impede one’s ability to sustain themselves financially or emotionally” stated Freedom New Hampshire.

This is unacceptable!

“Everyone should be treated fairly and equally under the law,” State Rep. Ed Butler, D-Harts Location, said. “By updating our civil rights laws to protect transgender individuals from discrimination, we will be saying that New Hampshire is an open and welcoming place for everyone.”

“There are thousands of transgender individuals in New Hampshire whose lives will be positively impacted by this bill,” said Gerri Cannon, a transgender community leader and Granite Stater. “No one should be turned away from a public business, kicked out of their home or be fired from a job simply because of who they are.”

The NH Labor News, the ACLU of NH, New Hampshire Freedom to Marry, and Freedom New Hampshire are encouraging everyone to contact your State Legislators and ask them to support HB 478, “An Act to Prohibit Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity.”

This bill will update and strengthen New Hampshire’s nondiscrimination laws —which currently protect people from discrimination at work, in housing, and in places open to the public— to include people who are transgendered. Law enforcement and public safety officials agree that protecting transgender individuals from discrimination is critical to ensuring everyone can live their lives safely.

“As Chief of the Dover Police Department and a member of law enforcement for over 31 years, I know our communities are safer when everyone is treated fairly and equally under the law and that includes transgender people,” said Chief Anthony Colarusso. “This group is actually disproportionately targeted for harassment and assault. However, in places where legal protections are in place, rates of violence against transgender individuals go down with no uptick in public safety incidents. Transgender equality and equal treatment for all is ultimately about building stronger communities for everyone.”

“We are united in our belief that fairness and equality are important to all of us,” JeanMarie Gossard, Freedom New Hampshire’s campaign manager, added. “Freedom New Hampshire is thrilled to be working with a broad coalition of business, faith and civic leaders, and people across the political spectrum, to support this important measure.”


Please visit www.freedomnewhampshire.org for information on how you can help secure these important protections for transgender Granite Staters.

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