Granite State Rumblings: Congress Takes Votes With Significant Impacts On Working Families

Obama Health Care Speech to Joint Session of Congress House of Representatives (wiki commons)
Obama Health Care Speech to Joint Session of Congress House of Representatives (wiki commons)

President Obama addresses a joint session of Congress 2009 (wiki commons)

The United States Congress took several votes last week on policies that will impact children and working families if passed.

Unemployment Insurance

After many weeks of debate and delay, the United States Senate passed a temporary extension of federal unemployment insurance. Retroactive to January 1st, the insurance would help the 2.3 million unemployed jobseekers who suffered the loss of this critical aid, which plunged families into even greater hardship. While an important first step, this measure now needs approval in the House of Representatives. The leadership of that body has no immediate plans to vote on it. They will act only if they hear from you. Click here to contact your Representative and tell him or her to vote to extend these crucial benefits. Type in your information and you will be patched through by phone to your Representative.

2015 Budget

The House of Representatives voted 219-205 in favor of the budget resolution drafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. This budget would dramatically cut programs that promote and protect the health, education, and safety of children, particularly those in low-income families. Fortunately, nothing further will happen with this budget. The Senate will not vote on it, and the spending levels for next year were set last December in a House-Senate agreement. The problem is that after this year, the mindless automatic budget cuts Congress calls “the sequester” will come back and attack Head Start, child care, K-12 education, and other vital programs again. Congress has big decisions coming up soon about whether to maintain or strengthen investments in children or cut them back dramatically. We will keep you informed on how you can help defend children.

Paycheck Fairness

The minority in the Senate blocked a vote on a measure to help address the reality that women are paid $10,784 less per year than men – enough to buy groceries for 92 weeks. Women are breadwinners in two-thirds of families and head more than 15 million U.S. households. When women and their families lose thousands of dollars in critical income each year, they have significantly less money to spend on food, gas, rent and other basic necessities. The consequences for America’s children and families are significant. We thank the 53 senators who voted for this. This issue will not go away.

Our Members of Congress are now on recess for two weeks. Please give them a call and ask them their positions on unemployment insurance, the budget, and equal pay.

GROWING UP GRANITE

There have been several pieces of legislation this session around EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) cards and cash assistance. I am not going to jump into the fray of what should or should not be allowable purchases with an EBT card. A House legislative subcommittee will soon be working on that issue.

I will, however give you some facts. In New Hampshire, needy individuals can receive both food stamps and cash assistance on an EBT card. In order to receive cash benefits through the State’s Financial Assistance to Needy Families program, you have to be either poor and blind; poor and old (over the age of 65); or poor and permanently and totally disabled.

The federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, program is available for those who only meet the poverty qualification. TANF can serve needy families for a maximum of 60 months, though the average duration in the Granite State is a little over 18 months. TANF is funded by both the federal and state governments. The maximum TANF grant for a parent with 2 children is $675.00 per month. According to the newest grant to rent report from the Division of Family Assistance, the average rent in NH for an apartment for a household of 3 is $726.00 per month.

So now imagine that you are a mom with two kids and you need to rely on TANF while searching for a new job because the company where you worked for the last 6 years just closed.

  • Your child wants to wear that favorite outfit tomorrow, but it requires a trip to the Laundromat and you don’t have enough quarters for both the washer and the dryer.
  • You spent all of your monthly assistance on rent and utilities and there is no money to buy your child a new outfit right now, so s/he will have to wear the pants and sneakers that are too small just a bit longer.
  • You have to tell your daughter that she isn’t going to play on the softball team with her best friends this year because you can’t afford the registration fee, let alone the glove and cleats.
  • You need to convince your child to join the chorus this year because a musical instrument rental is just not in the cards.
  • Your food stamps assistance won’t be on your EBT card for another 3 days, so brownies for the bake sale aren’t going to happen this time.

These are the realities of life on TANF and food stamps. There is no digging deeper to provide the extras for the kids. The Legislative Task Force to Study the Adequacy of the TANF Grant (HB1461) released these findings in November of 2007:

The Task Force determined that TANF grant levels do not provide adequate opportunities for many parents to get a fair shot at getting a job that enables them to support their children. The costs of housing, child care, food and transportation outstrip the ability of families forced to rely on TANF to pay for them. This makes it more difficult for parents to obtain jobs or to participate in training, education or other activities that would make it more likely they could leave TANF and to provide a safe, secure and healthy family life for their children while making this transition.

Children who live in poverty are often influenced by family stressors that others do not have. It should not be their problem to worry about where money is coming from for their next school trip or groceries next week and yet they do. This can humiliate them further if they are called out for wearing clothes that don’t fit them or are not the current “fad”, or made to feel different when they don’t have the money for school or sports activities.

While the support of friends is beneficial to children, the humiliation of peers pointing out what they are lacking can be devastating.

The effects of a child’s poor self-esteem can influence the quality of their education as well. If they are not feeling confident in their own abilities, it then can influence the outcome of their schoolwork and possibly their future employment prospects. This is one reason why the cycle of poverty in a family from generation to generation can be hard to break.

Before our legislators contemplate any changes to how needy families receive their benefits, it is my hope that they keep in mind that children are involved in the process. While they rightfully believe that they have a responsibility to use taxpayer dollars wisely, they also have a responsibility to act in the best interest of the children.

Congresswoman Kuster Calls For Increased Infrastructure Funding

Annie Kuster Highway

Congresswoman Annie Kuster Tours I-93 Construction Project and Calls for Increased Federal Funding for Infrastructure Projects

Annie Kuster Highway

Kuster recently called on House Leadership to provide additional funding for the Highway Trust Fund in order to ensure projects like I-93 expansion can continue

NASHUA, N.H. – During a tour of the I-93 expansion project in New Hampshire’s southern tier, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) called for increased federal investment in our roads and bridges. New Hampshire Department of Transportation Commissioner Chris Clement and New Hampshire State Senate and House Transportation Committee Chairs State Senator Jim Rausch and State Representative Candace Bouchard, among others, led the Congresswoman on the tour and stressed the importance of continued funding for infrastructure projects like this one.

Last month, Congresswoman Kuster wrote a letter to House Leadership urging that funding for the Highway Trust Fund, which funds projects like the I-93 expansion, not be allowed to run out. As it stands today, the Highway Trust Fund is scheduled to drop below a critical funding threshold by June of this year, which could delay payments to states for vital infrastructure repair projects.

“We must make repairing our roads and bridges a top priority,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “Projects like the I-93 expansion not only help protect the safety of Granite State residents, they also provide better transportation options for our state’s workers, spur the economy, and create jobs. I call on House Leadership to work to quickly find a solution to fund the Highway Trust fund, which is so critical to projects like the one I toured today.”

Kuster went on to call on her colleagues in Congress to support general infrastructure investment in order to protect public safety and promote economic development in the Granite State and across the country.

The widening of a 20-mile segment of I-93 is one of the largest infrastructure improvement projects in New Hampshire history. Not only will the expansion project make the corridor safer for New Hampshire drivers, it is also creating many needed construction jobs for Granite State workers. Congresswoman Kuster believes that a robust, safe, and efficient transportation network is critical to protecting public safety, growing our economy, and creating jobs in New Hampshire, and she has been a staunch supporter of this project.

4-14-14 AFT-NH Legislative Update: NH Supreme Court On School Vouchers, NHRS, and more

AFT NH Legislative Update

EDUCATION TAX CREDITS –VOUCHER PROGRAM

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on April 16th in the voucher tax credit case. AFT-New Hampshire is asking the New Hampshire Supreme Court to uphold a lower-court decision overturning the Education Tax Credit Program that provides money to students attending religious schools:

“The New Hampshire Constitution prohibits public funds to religious institutions. The tax-credit law was really a subterfuge, a voucher-like effort in which public dollars eventually would find their way to private schools, most of which,in New Hampshire,are religious schools. Further, there is evidence from all over the country that these voucher-like programs don’t actually help children. If the Legislature genuinely is interested in helping, it should work with teachers on ensuring that public schools have the programs and services needed to help all students succeed, not just some.”

Click here to read brief: http://nh.aft.org/files/voucherbrief.pdf

THE FOLLOWING BILLS WILL BE VOTED ON BY THE FULL SENATE THIS COMING WEEK

HB 1398-FN, allowing the retirement system to make payments in lieu of payments to estates in certain circumstances.  AFT-NH has no position on this bill but is monitoring. Senator Watters states:

“This legislation allows the retirement system to make payments of $15,000 or less to the next of kin of deceased member of a beneficiary when no probate proceedings are pending. This legislation was requested by the NH Retirement System.”

HB 1392-FN-L, removing the restriction on the number of pupils eligible to transfer to a chartered public school. The committee recommended Ought to Pass, Vote 5-0.  AFT-NH is asking that Senators not support the Senate Health, Education & Human Services committee recommended Ought To Pass but instead, support a recommendation of Inexpedient To Legislate. There has been no past problem for any student wishing to attend a charter school. Furthermore, the unintended consequence could negatively impact the public school by depleting a grade level of attendance or curriculum options.

HB 1587-FN-L, relative to the collection and disclosure of student data.The committee made the recommendation of Ought to Pass. AFT-NH supports the committee’s recommendation. We believe that this bill will help protect the privacy of students in New Hampshire.

THE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE HELD A HEARING ON THE FOLLOWING

HB 1624-FN, modernizing the juvenile justice system to ensure rehabilitation of juveniles and preservation of juvenile rights. AFT-NH is in support of this bill. This bill updates our current juvenile justice system by:

  • Raising the age at which youth are treated as adults in the justice system from 17 years to 18 years,
  • Improving procedures to determine competency of youth,
  • Clarifying a youth’s right to and waiver of legal counsel,
  • Determining the qualifications for legal counsel to defend youth,
  • Defining data to assess the effectiveness of current interventions and proposed changes.

To read more on this bill click here.

If you have any questions or concerns please email me at lhainey@aft-nh.org.

Thank you!

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey

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Late breaking news appears on our web site and on Facebook

UPCOMING COMMITTEE HEARINGS

TUESDAY, APRIL 15

9:30 a.m. NH Supreme Court Oral Argument –voucher case

CHILDREN AND FAMILY LAW, Room 206, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 396, relative to child restraint practices.

EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 355, relative to access to social media by educational institutions.

10:30 a.m. Rescheduled SB 414-FN, relative to Medicaid-funded services provided as a part of a
child’s individualized education program.
1:15 p.m. Presentation by the Department of Education: Perspectives on Accountability and
Assessment.

EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION, Room 306, LOB
10:00 a.m.  Regular meeting of Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Retirement.

HEALTH, HUMAN SERVICES AND ELDERLY AFFAIRS, Room 205, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 193-FN, (New Title) establishing a commission to study pathways to oral health
care in New Hampshire.

MUNICIPAL AND COUNTY GOVERNMENT, Room 301, LOB
10:00 a.m. Executive session on SB 236, relative to delivery of the final budget and
recommendation of the municipal budget committee to the governing body.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16

10:00 a.m. House in session

EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION, Room 306, LOB
1:00 p.m. or 1 hour following House session:  Executive session on SB 395-FN, relative to the
retirement classification of the director of the division of forests and lands.

HEALTH, HUMAN SERVICES AND ELDERLY AFFAIRS, Room 205, LOB
1:00 p.m. Executive session on SB 193-FN, (New Title) establishing a commission to study
pathways to oral health care in New Hampshire.

LABOR, INDUSTRIAL AND REHABILITATIVE SERVICES, Room 307, LOB
1:30 p.m. Executive session on SB 207-FN, relative to paycheck equity.

WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
1:15 p.m. Full committee work session on SB 366-FN-A-L, relative to video lottery and table
gaming.

12:30 p.m. Big Money and Politics – New Hampshire is the highest per-capita recipient of outside special-interest money. Learn about the efforts to address this issue at the state level, understand the federal landscape and what you can do about it. This presentation, including a panel discussion led by the Coalition for Open Democracy and Americans for Campaign Reform, is part of New England College’s education series to take place at the college’s new Concord facility, 62 North Main Street. Walk south on North Main. Located on the clock tower side, near the Norway Bank, three minutes from the steps of the State House.

THURSDAY, APRIL 17

10:00 a.m. Senate in Session

ELECTION LAW, Room 308, LOB
10:00 a.m. Subcommittee work session on SB 120-FN, relative to political contributions and
expenditures and relative to reporting by political committees.

WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
9:30 a.m. Executive session on SB 366-FN-A-L, relative to video lottery and table gaming.

MONDAY, APRIL 21

CHARTER SCHOOLS AND OPEN ENROLLMENT LEGISLATIVE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE (RSA 194-B:21), Room 100, State House:
11:30 a.m. Regular meeting. Presentation by Paul Leather, Deputy Commission Department of
Education on HB 435

THURSDAY, APRIL 24

STATE FEDERAL RELATIONS AND VETERANS AFFAIRS, Rooms 201-203, LOB
1:00 p.m. SB 307, establishing a committee to review Citizens United amendments to the United
States Constitution.

THURSDAY , MAY 1

STATE FEDERAL RELATIONS AND VETERANS AFFAIRS, Room 203, LOB
11:00 a.m. Executive session on SB 307, establishing a committee to review Citizens United
amendments to the United States Constitution.

The First In The Nation (#FITN) Campaign Is Underway (InZane Times)

Image by Arnie Alpert
Image by Arnie Alpert

Image by Arnie Alpert

Senators from opposite ends of the political spectrum took to lecterns on opposite ends of Manchester yesterday to test the waters for potential presidential runs.  At the NH Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders engaged in spirited  back-and-forth with 200 progressive activists on topics including campaign finance, excessive military spending, and the need for a “political revolution.”  Meanwhile, the Americans for the Prosperous Foundation and Citizens United hosted a parade of right-wing Senators and others trying out their stuff before an audience of several hundred conservatives at the Executive Court. 2014 04 12 freedom summit 005

Outside the conservative event, progressive activists – mistakenly identified with the Democratic Party by the Concord Monitor – held signs lambasting proposals to weaken retirement security.

It was perhaps the first in what will soon be a typical day on the trail to the 2016 New Hampshire Presidential Primary.

The conservative event was tickets-only, but I got my request in early enough to get a seat and hear speeches from leaders of Citizens United and Americans for the Prosperous, followed by NH Senator Kelly Ayotte, Senator Mike Lee, Do2014 04 12 freedom summit 008cropnald Trump, and a couple of local pols.  While Trump was entertaining, audience response to Senatorial speeches about low taxes and the evils of Obamacare drew tepid responses.  The speakers were ushered to the stage from behind a curtain, gave their prepared speeches, and disappeared again behind the curtain without taking any audience questions or comments.

Senator Kelly Ayotte, who seems to be on lots of lists of potential VPs, quoted former Governor Meldrim Thomson, equated freedom with low taxes, and equated the Affordable Care Act with freedom’s opposite.  Applause were somewhere south of excited. Senator Lee was teacherly and likewise failed to excite the crowd.

Trump was different.  Speaking without notes – and criticizing politicians who  depend on speech-writers and tele-prompters – Trump wandered from point to2014 04 12 freedom summit 028point, some of which departed from standard AFP scripts.  For example, he defended Social Security and Medicare in an apparent dig at proposals coming from Congressman Paul Ryan.  He said we need “to come up with a humane solution” to the country’s immigration system, but then drew applause for ridiculing Jeb Bush’s recent “act of love” statement and said he could build a physical barrier that would keep immigrants out.  Trump said we had spent $2 trillion on the Iraq war, “for what?,” but then implied maybe it would have been worth it if we had taken2014 04 12 freedom summit 020 over the country’s oil.

With no candidate Q&A, the event was rather boring.  My colleague Addy and I left during the introduction of Congressman Louie Gohmert and headed across town.

Senator Sanders had already finished his speech and was talking about Harry Truman when we arrived at the Institute of Politics.  The mood felt different, and it wasn’t just that we were in politically comfortable surroundings.  The seats were all filled, except for ones emptied by people standing in line to get their turns at microphones on the left and right sides of the stage.  Sanders handled questions comfortably, clearly at home in a town hall meeting environment.  Decrying “a Congress largely dependent on corporate2014 04 12 bernie sanders nhiop 011money,” Sanders called for development of a grassroots movement to demand change and then hold politicians accountable.

Sanders, a socialist who ran as an Independent and caucuses with the Democrats, is giving active consideration to a presidential run without saying whether he would run as an Independent or take the fight inside the Democratic Party.  “Somebody has got to be talking about these issues,” he told a group of labor activists who met with him in a small conference room after the main event.

We could have returned to the Freedom Summit and perhaps would have been able to hear Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, but I had had enough for one day.  I would have liked to hear Senator Paul criticize corporate welfare at a Koch-fueled forum.  But I’m pretty sure all these wannabe Presidents will be back, as will the progressive protests, grassroots activists, and the reporters who love to take it all in.

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Expand STEM Education

First Robotics Competition  2010 (Image Wiki Commons)

Legislation could benefit NH’s FIRST Robotics Competition

Supported by Rocket Scientist Rep. Rush Holt and GOP Rep. Thomas Massie

First Robotics Competition  2010 (Image Wiki Commons)

First Robotics Competition 2010 (Image Wiki Commons)

WASHINGTON, DC –With economic projections indicating that the U.S. will need 1 million more workers in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) within the next decade, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) today introduced the STEM Mentoring and Inspiration Act, legislation that would expand the number of programs eligible to compete for federal STEM funding.

Currently, the National Science Foundation (NSF) offers grants to help schools improve STEM education. Shea-Porter’s STEM Mentoring and Inspiration Act expands grant eligibility to after-school programs that incorporate self-directed student learning, inquiry-based learning, cooperative learning in small groups, collaboration with mentors, and participation in STEM competitions. This bill does not cost anything; it simply makes additional programs eligible for already-existing NSF funding.

“STEM education is vital to building a high-tech workforce and preparing students for jobs in the global economy,” Shea-Porter said. “Today, some of the most promising STEM programs incorporate mentoring and self-directed learning to inspire and engage students. Those programs should be on an equal playing field when it comes to accessing federal grant funding.”

Original cosponsors of the legislation include (Rocket Scientist) Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12); Rep. Thomas Massie, a Republican from Kentucky who holds an engineering degree from MIT along with 24 patents; and Rep. Annie Kuster, from New Hampshire, a member of the STEM Education Caucus.

Shea-Porter is a member of the STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art and Mathematics) Caucus. In March, she spoke at the opening ceremonies of the FIRST Robotics competition at UNH. Earlier in the year, she wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor expressing her support for Manchester School District’s STEAM Ahead initiative.

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

Expanded Gambling Is About Creating Jobs (Testimony by NH AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie)

NH AFL-CIO Logo

NH AFL-CIO LogoAs president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO, the largest labor organization in the state, I speak to workers and community leaders every day about the difficulties facing our state’s working families as we continue to struggle in the aftermath of the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Now is the time for our elected leaders to step up to the plate and take real, immediate and concrete steps to create good new jobs for thousands of workers in our state.

This Committee and the entire New Hampshire House now have the opportunity to do just that. In fact, legislators have been presented with a bill, SB 366, that will guarantee the creation of a half-billion-dollar construction project, every penny of which would come from private investment.

SB 366 would create more than 2,000 jobs for New Hampshire construction workers and more than 1,000 good, permanent jobs. Furthermore, this bill will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in non-tax revenue for the state and our municipalities, allowing us to keep critical programs like education, public safety and infrastructure off the budgetary chopping block. Plus, polls show that a big majority – nearly 60 percent – of Granite Staters favor the approach SB 366 takes.

SB 366 would bring expanded casino gaming to New Hampshire. Now, I know some members of this committee personally don’t approve of gambling, and that’s certainly your prerogative. But we must come to terms with the fact that we are stuck in a situation where job growth continues to be sluggish and the state budget continually presents our elected officials with extremely difficult choices between cutting programs and finding needed revenue.

The fact is, New Hampshire will be experiencing the downside of casino gaming whether or not we build a new casino within our borders. Our state already has a $75 million-per-year casino industry under the guise of “charitable gaming,” and there will soon be several casinos just over the border in Massachusetts. Without SB 366, we’ll leave thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars on the table.

SB 366 was amended in the Senate to include provisions drafted by the bipartisan, multi-agency Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority as part of last year’s state budget process. In consultation with independent experts, the authority reviewed best practices in the gaming industry across the country to develop a true New Hampshire solution for expanded gaming.

This bill was crafted specifically to address concerns lawmakers had with previous gaming proposals, concerns we shared in many cases. We believe that SB 366 includes a comprehensive regulatory structure and robust provisions to ensure that the jobs will go to New Hampshire workers.

Although we have always supported creating good jobs for Granite State workers, the New Hampshire AFL-CIO has never officially endorsed a casino proposal before. Our executive committee recently voted unanimously to fully endorse gaming legislation this year because we are convinced the current proposal represents what’s best for New Hampshire’s working families and for our state

Creating jobs shouldn’t just be a talking point or a political slogan. Growing our economy and putting people to work should be real, tangible goals for our elected leaders. SB 366 is legislation that would accomplish these goals, and I urge the committee to support it. Together we can help rebuild New Hampshire’s middle class by focusing on creating good jobs for workers in our state. Passing this bill will contribute to that cause.

Thank you for your consideration.

Mark MacKenzie
President of the NH AFL-CIO

Expanded Gaming Helps All Of NH Cities And Towns (SB 366 Testimony by Laura Hainey, President of AFT-NH)

roulette wheel casino

aft sqaureI am here today in support of SB 366. AFT-NH is affiliated with NH AFL-CIO and we stand in support of our union brothers and sisters for whom this bill will create thousands of badly needed New Hampshire jobs.

We know that expanded gaming will:

  • create thousands of construction jobs,
  • create even more good jobs to  operate the facilities,
  • bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in non-tax state revenue,
  • boost economic development by hundreds of millions of dollars as well.

We also know that this bill:

  • Is a responsible NH solution for expanded gaming, and includes robust regulations crafted by the bipartisan Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority..
  • Protects the New Hampshire charities who depend on charitable gaming.
  • Provides that the gaming commission may not delegate its rulemaking authority to any other person.
  • Prohibits the use of credit, debit or ATM cards at a slot machine or table game.
  • The gaming commission must enforce the prohibition on the use of EBT cards for gambling.

But the same could be said about previous casino bills that failed to pass the House. SB 366 is different because it includes a new provision to guarantee revenue, and to make sure every community in New Hampshire sees the benefits. SB366 uses casino revenue to reinstate revenue sharing for cities and towns, to the tune of $50 million per biennium.  Revenue sharing means much needed funding for cities and towns across the state. City and town officials who struggle to adequately fund schools, roads, public safety, and other basic services will be pleased to know this bill will directly help their communities.

For example, in my hometown of Rochester, the Rochester School Department has to cut $2.8 million from their budget, with significant cuts will be made to personnel. With SB 366 revenue sharing the city of Rochester would receive $530,950 to help stop layoffs.

In the city of Nashua over the past several years the school department has eliminated 83 positions and has only been able to restore a few of these positions. They are planning to cut another 12 positions in the coming year. These cuts in services will be very difficult decisions, but there is no doubt they will directly impact students in the Nashua school system.. With SB 366 revenue sharing the city of Nashua would receive a little over $2.4 million. Just imagine the benefit the citizens of Nashua would realize with that revenue.

In fact, every single city and town in our state would receive substantial revenue sharing under SB 366. Just imagine the cuts in services and layoffs your community could avoid if we pass this bill..

In Closing, I ask that you support SB 366 and recommend Ought To Pass.

Laura Hainey,
President of AFT-NH

Morgan-Stanley And The NH GOP Spread Lies About “Premium Increases Of 90%” Due To ACA

Doctor Medical Healthcare

Doctor Medical HealthcareRecently the NH Union Leader posted an article — Surveys: NH health premiums up 90%; more people insured under Obamacare — about the Affordable Care Act and your insurance premiums that was so full of holes I could strain pasta with it.

The article explains Morgan-Stanley surveyed NH insurance brokers and they claim that insurance premiums have increased by 90% on average.

The NH GOP and Senator Scott Brown were quick to jump on the news in an attempt to gain support for repealing the ACA.

Morgan Stanley’s healthcare analysts conducted the proprietary survey of 148 brokers.” (Forbes)

After reading the report, I found that Morgan-Stanley only questioned one broker in New Hampshire.  This means the claim that premiums increased by 90%, was only one persons assessment.  Would you believe that a report is representative of NH with an interview from one person?  That is like taking your crazy uncle Larry as a representative of the entire State of New Hampshire.

At least Dave Solomon was fair in sharing some of the opposition to the Morgan-Stanley report.

Lisa Kaplan Howe, policy director at New Hampshire Voices for Health in Concord, said the Morgan-Stanley report is not necessarily an accurate reflection of the reality on the ground, since it surveyed only insurance brokers.

‘Many of the people who enroll in individual market coverage enroll on their own, through the website or through assisters,” she said. “So just talking to brokers isn’t getting the full picture.’”

There is no denying that insurance rates go up every year. This is no different from the price of milk, eggs, or Big Mac’s. This was just one of the reasons that Congress passed the Affordable Care Act in an effort to slow the rapidly rising costs of healthcare.

There is one place that does more than survey insurance brokers’, they calculate insurance premium costs for all Granite Staters.  Danielle Kronk Barrick, Director of Communications for the NH Department of Insurance, also investigated these claims by Morgan-Stanley, and this is what the DOI found.

Premium rates in New Hampshire, in the aggregate, did not go up 90%. An independent actuarial analysis modeling the Affordable Care Act impact on New Hampshire policyholders found that, on average, NH policyholders will realize an 8% rate decrease after subsidies. 

Individual experiences may vary significantly. The Department stands ready to review and consider any consumer’s experience. People who have received a rate increase they are concerned about should contact the Department. 

We would like to see the survey, but we were told it was proprietary and confidential. We don’t understand how Morgan Stanley is able to generalize what’s going on in the New Hampshire market based on talking to 158 brokers nationally. 

We do data-driven analysis based on what’s happened in the past and have actuarial projections. We also review rate increases and do not approve any increases that cannot be justified with data. 

The truth is that not everyone saw savings after the Affordable Care Act was passed, but overall more Granite Staters saw a decrease in their premiums than those who saw an increase.

*******

 

More information from the NH DOI on Healthcare Premiums

Here is a link to our projections, which were done by Gorman Actuarial in 2012 — we reviewed and approved the 2014 rates, and they were in line with Gorman’s projections: http://www.nh.gov/insurance/reports/documents/gorman_nh_mktstdy_kf.pdf

 

For more context, here is a link to our 2013 annual report: http://www.nh.gov/insurance/reports/documents/nhid_ann_rrhrng_2013rpt.pdf

 

Consumers may reach the New Hampshire Insurance Department by emailing consumerservices@ins.nh.gov or calling (603)271-2261.

 

 

Kuster Rejects Extreme Ryan Budget

Ann kuster head shot LG

Calls for Both Parties to Work Together to Pass Common Sense Budget 

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – This afternoon, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) released the following statement on her vote to reject Chairman Paul Ryan’s proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 budget, and calls on Democrats and Republicans to come together to pass a common sense budget that protects the interests of New Hampshire’s middle class:

“Since taking office, I have called on both Democrats and Republicans to work together to pass a common sense budget plan that will cut wasteful spending while also protecting our seniors and middle class families. We must work together to create a smart budget proposal that will help grow our economy and support job creation throughout the nation. This is in the best interest of all our constituents, regardless of their party or where they’re from.

“That’s why I was extremely disappointed by Chairman Paul Ryan’s unflinchingly extreme budget, which would only protect the interests of millionaires and special interests. Among other things, his irresponsible proposal would slash funding for Pell grants, forcing our children to go deeper into debt just to attend college;  it proposes recklessly turning Medicare into a voucher program, which would prove devastating for our nation’s seniors; and it would cut nutrition assistance for low-income families by an astounding $125 billion dollars. This budget proposal lets down the hardworking American families who rely on us to develop a responsible plan for Congressional spending, and I was proud to vote against it this afternoon.

“Moving forward, I call on Democrats and Republicans to come together to develop a  budget proposal that makes sense for our constituents, so we can move our nation forward, protect our middle class, and support the job creation our country needs to revitalize the economy. I look forward to working with members of both parties to realize that goal.”