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NH Joins Brief Supporting Federal Protections for Transgender Students

 restroom-304986_1280WASHINGTON – NH’s Attorney General, Joe Foster, has joined the Attorneys General of eleven other states in a brief filed by the state of Washington voicing support for a Guidance from the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Education (ED) which affirms protections for transgender students under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. Other states that joined Washington State in its filling included: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Vermont. 

In May, DOJ and ED issued the guidance, following numerous anti-transgender bills and laws passed in statehouses across the country – like North Carolina’s HB2 – discriminating against transgender people.

The Guidance, which is rooted in legal precedent, was issued as a reminder to public schools and universities that transgender students should have access to bathrooms that align with their gender identity. It is not legally binding, but can impact whether states with contradictory laws on the books stand to lose federal funding. A number of states challenged the Guidance, filing two different lawsuits over the past two months.

Today the ACLU joined five other national organizations in another brief filed before the Fifth Circuit which argues that many of the states and political jurisdictions joining the lawsuit against the Administration are doing so improperly in order to avoid transgender-affirming rulings handed down by their Federal Circuits.

In a brief obtained by BuzzFeed News, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson states that the Administration’s directives are “strongly in the public interest,” and “Contrary to Plaintiffs’ claims, our shared experience demonstrates that protecting the civil rights of our transgender friends, relatives, classmates, and colleagues creates no public safety threat and imposes no meaningful financial burden.” 

Currently in New Hampshire, transgender youth, adults and families lack explicit statewide protections ensuring they can’t be fired from their job, evicted from their home, or refused service at a restaurant or any other public place – including public schools and universities – simply because of their identity. “The Granite State takes pride in our independence and believes everyone should be free from discrimination. It is a step in the right direction as New Hampshire joins the ranks of states voicing their support for equal protection under the law for transgender students,” said Devon Chaffee, Executive Director of the ACLU of NH. “Equal protection under the law is an investment in public welfare and ensures fair treatment for all, regardless of identity or gender expression.”

Dan Weeks lauds Durham solar array and urges Executive Council to support clean energy economy

Dan Weeks Durham SolarDURHAM, NH – Executive Council candidate and government reformer Dan Weeks attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the $2.1 million, 651-kilowatt Oyster River Forest Solar Array, the second-largest solar project in New Hampshire. Weeks praised the project developers, ReVision Energy, IGS Solar, and the Town of Durham, and urged his opponent to allow New Hampshire municipalities to follow Durham’s lead in building the state’s clean energy economy.

Weeks is challenging District 5 incumbent Councilor David Wheeler, who opposed the Durham array and has consistently voted to block municipal solar systems as recommended to the Executive Council by the Public Utilities Commission. Funding for such projects is provided, in part, by the NH Renewable Energy Fund, which receives payments from private utilities for non-compliance with the state’s clean energy requirements. No tax funds are included in the fund.

“New Hampshire is on the verge of a new clean energy economy, with the potential to generate thousands more middle-class jobs and put our environment on a more sustainable course for future generations,” Weeks said. “It is time for Executive Councilors to stop their senseless denial of climate science and allow the New Hampshire Renewable Energy Fund to do its job.”

The Oyster River Solar Array was made possible through a $500,000 grant from the Renewable Energy Fund after Republican Councilor Joe Kenney switched sides and joined the two Democratic Councilors in approving the project last June. Councilor David Wheeler, who is backed by the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity which rejects climate science, was one of two Republicans who voted to block the project. Republican Councilors have succeeded in blocking similar municipal clean energy projects in the past.

According to project developer Revision Energy, the Durham solar field will generate over 850,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year for an annual CO2 reduction of nearly 1.5 million pounds. With an estimated payback period of 5-10 years and minimal maintenance, the system is expected to generate free energy and considerable cost savings for the town of Durham for the next 30-50 years.

New Hampshire currently ranks near the bottom of northeastern states in adoption of renewable energy and second highest in per-capita carbon consumption, despite the fact that the state’s nascent renewable energy sector has already seen over 70 startup companies and thousands of jobs created to meet the burgeoning demand from residential and business consumers. Weeks and his family generate the bulk of their energy from a 17-panel rooftop solar array.

“As New Hampshire’s highest elected body charged with approving state spending and appointments, it is the Executive Council’s job to make smart investments for the good of future generations,” Weeks concluded. “I respectfully urge my opponent to rethink his ideological opposition to renewables and support the clean energy economy for the good of our citizens and the natural environment.”

Letter: Al Baldasaro Represents Londonderry, Not New Hampshire

Dear Journalist Friends,

Please don’t file any more stories about Al Baldasaro without describing him as “Londonderry representative Al Baldasaro,” or “Londonderry’s Al Baldasaro,” or “Rep. Al Baldasaro (R-Londonderry).”

Unless and until the people of Londonderry are publicly humiliated and shamed by their idiotic choices, he will continue to get re-elected and the rest of NH will appear responsible for his brain-dead ideas.

Keith McCrea

Nuns on the Bus Stop in Concord for Rally to “Mend the Gaps”

2016-07-22 Nuns on the Bus Sr Simone Campbell

Sr. Simone Campbell addresses the crowd, while some of the Nuns on the Bus take shelter from the heat under umbrellas.

About 125 Granite Staters braved today’s heat to meet Sister Simone Campbell and the Nuns on the Bus at a State House rally to “Mend the Gaps” between us that weaken society, including gaps in income, healthcare, housing and access to democracy.

Campbell and nearly 20 Catholic sisters from around the country are visiting 13 states and both major party conventions on a tour that began July 11.  The tour’s goal is “to bring a politics of inclusion to divided places, change the conversation to mending the vast economic and social divides in our country, and counter political incivility with our message of inclusion.  NETWORK’s 44 year-old faith-filled political message is an alternative to the anger, fear, and polarization of this election cycle.  We believe in faithful citizenship, which compels us to travel the country to listen to the lived experiences of people in their communities and hold elected officials accountable to the promises they have made to legislate for the common good.”

The sisters are caucusing with local advocates in Manchester tonight, and will hold a rally in Boston tomorrow starting at 10:00 am on the front lawn of Boston College High School, 150 Morrissey Boulevard, Boston, MA 02125.  The full tour schedule is available at www.nunsonthebus.org.

At today’s rally, the sisters distributed brochures comparing candidates’ positions on “Mending the Gaps.”  Download the brochure comparing Kelly Ayotte with Maggie Hassan here and the brochure comparing Hillary Clinton with Donald Trump here.

Granite Staters shared their stories about the growing gaps in our economy which are making the American dream unattainable for too many families.

  • Jazmine Langley and Olivia Zink of Open Democracy signed the Bus before it left Concord, on the way to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

    Jazmine Langley, a Democracy Fellow with Open Democracy/NH, spoke about the challenges facing her as a biracial woman. “I have seen oppression up close. I have witnessed the gaps woven into the fabric of our country that are very much racially and socioeconomically based. From drug addiction to poverty. From police brutality to mass imprisonment. From strict voter ID laws to felon disenfranchisement. Our elected representatives and ourselves need to be held accountable for mending this gap. Whether that is by trying to spark legal reform in getting big money out politics, registering more voters, or fighting voter suppression laws, doing non-profit work dedicated to some aspect of this issue, or just educating yourselves, families, friends, and children about the issue at hand – it all makes a difference. This is our democracy, so this is our fight!”  You can watch Jazmine’s speech here.

  • Amy Shaw, a mother of two living in Rochester spoke about the challenge of finding affordable childcare. “Even with both my husband and I working, we couldn’t afford to send our kids to daycare. I had to quit my job because my monthly income wasn’t going to cover my childcare costs.” Watch Amy’s remarks here.
  • Jen Cole, of Pittsfield, said “Low wages make it challenging to pay the bills week to week but nearly impossible when life throws you a curveball. My husband was diagnosed with cancer four years ago and could not work for several months. We had to survive off of my income and rely on family and friends to help us through what was already a difficult time. If someone is working full time they should be able to make ends meet and not have to fear they’ll lose everything if they get sick.”
  • Sister Eileen Brady, of Nashua, is a Social Worker and Advocate at the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter. As a Sister of Mercy, she has been a staunch advocate for peace and justice for decades.  “The Sisters of Mercy have been trying to ‘Mend the Gaps’ since 1858,” Sister Eileen said.  She shared stories of people she has met through the Nashua Soup Kitchen, “My friends who have no place to live tonight.”  You can watch her remarks here.

“Pope Francis challenges all people to come together to work for the common good,” said Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, executive director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, which launched the first Nuns on the Bus tour during the 2012 presidential campaign. “On our journey as Nuns on the Bus we will talk to those Pope Francis voters and, hopefully, inspire them to make mending the gaps the defining issue of the 2016 election.”

2016-07-22 Nuns on the Bus crowd2

Part of today’s crowd on the State House lawn.

“Every New Hampshire family deserves a fair shot at the American dream but rising costs, stagnant wages and unfair workplace policies are putting that dream out of reach for too many working people,” said Amanda Sears, director of the Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy, a co-sponsor of the Concord rally.  “The visit from the Nuns on the Bus today highlights the need for family friendly policy solutions that lift workers and make our communities stronger.”

Today’s program was emceed by Gail Kenney of the United Church of Christ Economic Justice Mission Group.  Jack Bopp and Arnie Alpert led everyone in a rousing rendition of “We’re All Riding with the Nuns on The Bus.”  Opening prayers were offered by Rev. Gary M. Schulte, the Conference Minister of the New Hampshire Conference of the United Church of Christ, and Woullard Lett, president of the Manchester, NH branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Today’s rally was cosponsored by organizations including AFSC’s NH Program, NH Voices of Faith, Granite State Organizing Project, United Church of Christ Economic Justice Ministry, NH Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy, NH Sisters of Mercy, and Stamp Stampede.

 

 

 

ICYMI: Granite Staters Protest the Trump-Ayotte Agenda

Concord, N.H. — As Kelly Ayotte continues to hide from Donald Trump and her party’s convention in Cleveland, Granite Staters came together at her Manchester office yesterday to protest the Trump-Ayotte agenda and show that she can’t escape their shared policy priorities, no matter how many “rhetorical contortions” she attempts.

Please see below or click HERE to see WMUR’s coverage of the protest, and click HERE to see photos from NH1’s coverage.

 

ICYMI: Forrester Joins Edelblut in Pledging to Pass “Right to Work”

Concord, N.H.—State Senator and candidate for governor Jeanie Forrester made her fealty to the ultra-conservative Koch brothers official Monday, signing the 2016 Americans for Prosperity Pledge.

By signing, candidates pledge to “work tirelessly to… Pass a Right to Work Law in New Hampshire.” The Pledge also includes commitments to pursue right-wing economics and oppose all forms of the Affordable Care Act in New Hampshire, including Medicaid expansion, a program that has extended health benefits to nearly 50,000 Granite Staters.

In signing the pledge, Forrester joins state Representative Frank Edelblut as the first two candidates for governor to have signed the 2016 Pledge. Chris Sununu has signed the Pledge in the past, while Ted Gatsas has stayed silent on whether he’ll pledge allegiance to the Koch brothers.

“Jeanie Forrester’s pledge to support the Koch brothers extreme far-right agenda should put to rest any questions about whose interests she’d serve as governor,” said NHDP Press Secretary Evan Lukaske. “She now has officially declared that her priority will be to do the bidding of out-of-state billionaires and to strip health care from nearly 50,000 Granite Staters. Any notion that she’d fight for middle-class families just went out the window.”

Headquartered in Virginia and funded by the ultra-conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, Americans For Prosperity is an out-of-state special interest group that supports right-wing candidates and far-right ideology. AFP is known for spreading misinformation about climate science and promoting failed and debunked trickle-down economic policies. Former Trump Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski previously served as their executive director.

Governor Hassan’s Statement on June Unemployment Rate

Maggie-Hassan-Headshot-WebCONCORD – Governor Maggie Hassan today issued the following statement on the announcement of the June unemployment data, which showed that the number of employed Granite Staters and the labor force continued to grow in June:

“As the number of employed residents and the labor force continued to grow in June, our unemployment rate still remains among the lowest in the nation. Despite these encouraging signs that indicate that our economy is moving in the right direction, we know that we still have more work to do to help all of our citizens access high-quality jobs and to support our innovative businesses who are looking for more skilled workers now.

“We must continue working together to build a stronger workforce with the skills and innovative thinking needed for success in the 21st century economy. This is why it’s more important now than ever to get Gateway to Work up and running as soon as possible. Gateway to Work will help us to develop and expand our workforce as our economy continues to strengthen, while at the same time closing the opportunity gap for our families. By strengthening job training, creating new partnerships between community colleges and businesses for apprenticeships and helping to remove the barriers that cause too many citizens to fail in the workplace, Gateway to Work will help us provide more of the workers our businesses need to thrive while helping our young people in the Granite State get a leg up on their futures.

“I remain committed to working with members from both parties to continue working together to support job-creating businesses, expand middle class opportunity and build a stronger, more innovative New Hampshire where all of our people who work hard have the opportunity to get ahead and stay ahead.”

NH Democratic Party Launches New Web Video: Dysfunction v. Results

New Video Contrasts Kelly Ayotte’s Ineffectual Senate With Governor Maggie Hassan’s Record of Delivering Results

Concord, N.H. — As Kelly Ayotte starts her two month paid vacation from the Senate, leaving critical work undone, the New Hampshire Democratic Party has released a new web video entitled “Dysfunction Versus Results” to highlight the contrasts between Kelly Ayotte’s ineffectual Senate and Governor Maggie Hassan’s record of working across the aisle to deliver results for hard working Granite State families.

While Kelly Ayotte’s Republican Senate, which is on pace this year to work the fewest days of any Senate in 60 years, is taking a seven week paid vacation without addressing Zika, passing appropriations measures to keep the government open, or filling the vacancy on the Supreme Court, Maggie Hassan has a record of working across party lines and delivering results for the people of New Hampshire. Some of the items included in this new video are the Governor’s work to: establish drug courts statewide, reauthorize the state’s Medicaid expansion, sign a ten-year transportation plan to improve New Hampshire’s infrastructure, help launch an initiative to curb veterans’ homelessness, strengthen penalties for human trafficking, and cut small business taxes.

“When it comes to Kelly Ayotte and Maggie Hassan, the choice facing New Hampshire voters is clear: dysfunction versus results, special interests versus hard working families, and gridlock versus progress,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley. “This web video is the next step in our efforts to hold Kelly Ayotte accountable for her record of failing to do her job get results for New Hampshire while highlighting the great work that Maggie Hassan has done as Governor and will continue in the U.S. Senate.”

Van Ostern says Sununu’s Pledge to “Gut the Board of Education” is “The Sort of Insult and Threat You’d Expect from Donald Trump”

At Debate last week, Sununu said, “I’m Going To Gut The Board Of Education”

Teacher calls threat “offensive” and School Board member says it’s “totally irresponsible”

Colin Van Ostern

Colin Van Ostern announces his run for Governor of New Hampshire in Manchester, New Hampshire on Thursday, October 8, 2015.
Copyright 2015 Rob Strong

MANCHESTER, N.H. – Yesterday, educators and education advocates joined Democratic candidate for Governor, Colin Van Ostern in a conference call, where they condemned Chris Sununu for pledging to “Gut the Board of Education” at last week’s Republican gubernatorial debate.

“We need to invest in education, not ‘gut’ education in our state,” said Colin Van Ostern, Democratic candidate for Governor. “Chris Sununu’s rhetoric is as bad as Ted Gatsas’s record. We’ve seen what happens when that sort of a threat gets put into practice, that’s the attitude Ted Gatsas had as Mayor in Manchester. We’ve seen budgets slashed, class sizes ‘swollen’ and surrounding towns going out of the school district. Now, unfortunately Chris Sununu is trying to out-Gatsas Ted Gatsas.  […] This is the sort of insult and threat that you’d expect from Donald Trump.  A Governor needs to bring people together to solve problems, not tear them apart and insult them. As Governor, I will work with teachers, parents and education leaders to make sure every kid has the chance at a world-class education.”

New Hampshire educators also offered a stern rebuke of Chris Sununu’s remark, including Karen Ladd who has worked very closely with New Hampshire’s Board of Education to deliver innovative and award-winning curriculum to her students at Sanborn High School.

“Chris Sununu’s words are offensive and they treat educators and education leaders like enemies. I was deeply offended – as a teacher and as a taxpayer,” said Karen Ladd, an art teacher at Sanborn High School in Kingston. “New Hampshire has some of the best schools in the country and by cooperating with education leaders at the state school board, we’re decreasing reliance on standardized tests and other states look to NH as a model for what we are doing.”

She added that the Board “has had a profound impact on my ability to provide the best educational opportunities for my own students. Having the Board of Education available to help monitor and coordinate our efforts, to provide this education regardless of zip codes and where students are in the state, really ensures that I can spend more time working with my students and design an engaging curriculum. Frankly, we need a Governor that will support this joint effort, not undermine it.”

“The very thought that somebody could say that we should gut the Board of Ed is just totally irresponsible,” added Leslie Want, a Manchester School Board member who represents Ward 4.

The AFL-CIO Pushes Back Against Pro-Business Democrats Trying To Change The New Overtime Threshold

Pay Check Everyone agrees that the current overtime threshold needs to be updated. The issue is, how quickly should this update take effect?

In May, the Department of Labor announced that they would be lifting the salary threshold for overtime from just over $23,660 a year to $47,476. This means that if you are a salaried employee who makes less than $47,476 dollars you will now be entitle to overtime (time and 1/2) for every hour worked in a week above 40.

“New overtime protections mark a major victory for working people that will improve the lives of millions of families across America,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO in a May press release. “We applaud the Obama Administration heeding the call for action to ensure working people get paid for all the hours we work. Taking this step to restore overtime is one of the many ways we are beginning to change the rules of our economy that are rigged in favor of Wall Street.”

“The fight for even stronger overtime protections and to raise wages for all working people continues. But today, millions of workers will receive a long overdue raise, healthier and more productive jobs, and more time to spend with our community and loved ones,” added Trumka. 

Congressman Kurt Schrader

Congressman Kurt Schrader

This week, Congressman Kurt Schrader (OR-5), Congressman Jim Cooper (TN-5), Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) and Congressman Collin Peterson (MN-7) introduced legislation that will “initiate a reasonable three-year phase-in of the Department of Labor’s new overtime rule.”

“The current overtime threshold is horribly outdated and needs to be raised as both employees and employers navigate our changing economy. This bill will do exactly that without disrupting the way businesses operate and employees are paid,” said Congressman Schrader. “Since the DOL’s immediate phase-in date was announced, we’ve heard from business owners and their employees who are worried about implementing this increase overnight. Without sufficient time to plan for the increase, cuts and demotions will become inevitable, and workers will actually end up making less than they made before. It’s long past time we strengthen overtime pay protections for American workers in a meaningful and effective way.”

“While I believe the time has come to increase the overtime threshold, the DOL rule would put businesses in a bind and potentially lead to job loss,” said Congressman Peterson. “Both businesses and constituents in my district have expressed concern about the impact of an immediate threshold increase. A three-year phase in will provide adequate time for business to adapt to the new standard while also ensuring workers are fairly compensated.”

Surprise, businesses do not want to have to pay workers more money.  How are businesses going to win the race to the bottom if President Obama and the DOL keep raising the floor?

The Schrader plan is to phase the overtime threshold  in slowly to decrease the impact on businesses. Schrader’s office explained this proposed legislation would work in their most recent press release.

“On December 1, 2016, the Overtime Reform and Enhancement Act will immediately increase the threshold more than 50% to $35,984. Each year following, the salary threshold will be raised by $74 per week until December 1, 2019, when we reach the DOL’s proposed $47,476 threshold.”

The one thing that Schrader’s office neglected to mention is that the newly proposed legislation would also eliminate the automatic increases to the overtime threshold every three years.

The AFL-CIO quickly spoke out against this newly proposed legislation in a stern letter to all Representatives in the U.S. House.

July 14, 2016

Dear Representative:

            I am writing on behalf of the AFL-CIO to urge you to oppose legislation, introduced by Rep. Kurt Schrader, that would rob millions of workers of the overtime pay protection they have earned. The misnamed “Overtime Reform and Enhancement Act” would delay by three years the full implementation of the Labor Department’s new overtime regulations, originally scheduled to take effect in December, 2016.

            The Schrader bill would also eliminate the final rule’s mechanism that would automatically update the salary threshold every three years after implementation. As you know, workers have waited decades for an update to the salary threshold—it has only been updated once since the 1970s—in 2004 (when it was set too low). Having experienced decades of wage stagnation and uncompensated overtime, workers should not have to wait three more years for the protection the new regulations will provide.

            The current salary threshold for overtime pay would be over $57,000 if it had kept pace with inflation since 1975. Instead, effective December 1, 2016, the salary threshold below which salaried employees are automatically eligible for overtime pay will rise from $23,660 ($455 per week) to $47,476 ($913 per week). The Labor Department based this new threshold level on the 40th-percentile salary for workers in the lowest-wage Census region (currently the South). Because history demonstrates that it can take years for the regulatory process to adapt to changing labor markets, the rule also indexes the threshold to inflation. Once implemented, the threshold level will increase every three years, beginning in 2020.

            For approximately 12.5 million workers, this new regulation is the most effective way to raise wages, create jobs, and restore the 40-hour work week. The AFL-CIO urges you to oppose the Overtime Reform and Enhancement Act and any legislation that would delay or weaken implementation of this important rule.

Sincerely,

William Samuel, Director
Government Affairs

Phasing in the new overtime rule by $74 dollars a week may be good for some businesses but it is definitely not good for workers. This proposed legislation would create confusion as to when workers would qualify for overtime leaving workers wide open for wage theft.

Aside from ensuring that workers are paid fairly for the hard work they are doing, this new overtime rule is intended to stimulate job growth. Rep. Schrader is worried about potential job losses from the new rule taking effect, yet the only businesses who would be effected by this rule have workers making less than $47,000 a year salary, who work more than 40 hours a week.  This means that businesses will have to choose:

  • Do they want to continue to pay their employee a low salary and pay them overtime for every hour above 40?
  • Do they want to raise the employee’s salary to $47,476, allowing the employee to work unlimited hours without having to pay them overtime?
  • Do they want to continue to pay their employee a low salary and then hire an additional employee to complete the extra work that needs to be done?

Either way workers are going to get a benefit. Either workers will get more money in their paycheck or more workers will receive paychecks.

This proposed legislation is bad for workers and will only continue the stagnation of our economy while leaving workers vulnerable to wage theft by their employers.  This legislation will do more harm than good and should be rejected.


For more information on who will benefit from the new overtime rule read our previous post from May 2016 or check out this handy info-graphic on the DOL overtime changes

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