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AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: Edelblut’s Croydon Bill, Voting Rights, And Kindergarten Funding

May 18, 2017  

The NH House met briefly yesterday, primarily to pass an emergency bridge appropriation to keep the Dept. of Health and Human Services functioning until the end of the budget year on June 30. While there was the usual vocal opposition from those who oppose virtually any governmental spending, the bill passed easily.

The most intriguing moments centered around the Robert Fisher case. As you may know, the committee investigating Robert Fisher (the apparent founder and contributor to the anti-feminist, misogynistic website “The Red Pill”) concluded on a strict party-line vote to recommend no action be taken against Representative Fisher, nor against Sherry Frost. Frost is the representative brought before the committee in a vain attempt by Republicans to muddy the waters charging her with uncivil conduct for tweets made months ago and for which she had already apologized. What is truly irksome is the claim that Fisher’s odious comments and postings, all posted anonymously or veiled behind user-names, are protected by free speech and therefore not subject to House action. Yes, his online rants on rape, women as intellectual inferiors and other such topics ARE protected by the First Amendment, BUT the House does have rules and limits on free speech that its members must follow. For example, a member speaking in the House may not refer to another representative by name, and there are other restrictions regarding references to the NH Senate and general rules regarding civil discourse. So for Republicans to suddenly hide behind the First Amendment is truly disingenuous, and to draw any comparison between Fisher and Frost is ludicrous, since none of her comments were anonymous but were openly acknowledged by her and she took full responsibility for her words.

In the end, Republicans continue to refuse to take any action in the Fisher case, and just hope it will all go away. Representative Fisher, unrepentant to the end, resigned his seat in the House after the investigative whitewash and in the face of a possible perjury investigation. The committee report, one-sided and written only by the Republican majority, will come before the House on June 1. As for yesterday, that self-same majority voted down a motion to print in the permanent journal the remarks of Representative Debra Altschiller, who gave an impassioned speech on May 4 regarding the Fisher case, misogyny and denigration of women as part of a dominant culture in the NH House. Republicans walked out on her speech two weeks ago and yesterday, refused the usual courtesy of allowing her remarks to be printed in the permanent journal. Apparently, the hope is that if no record is kept, all will be forgotten. Time will tell.

Voting Rights  Elsewhere in the State House, the House Election Law committee narrowly voted to amend and recommend passage of SB 3, the voter suppression bill aimed at curbing non-existent voter fraud (even Governor Sununu now admits he has no evidence of any voter fraud). To solve this non-existent problem, the bill will place new burdens on citizens seeking to register within 30 days of an election. The goal is to discourage such groups as college students from voting, and while same-day registration will continue, the paperwork and the threat of subsequent investigations will likely turn many from bothering to register while doing nothing to curb non-existent voter fraud. It is a solution in search of a problem, but the House is likely to pass the bill.

Edelblut’s Croydon Bill The House Education Committee was also active, approving an amendment to SB 8 (the so-called Croydon bill) which completely rewrites the proposed legislation. It is reported that Committee Chair Rick Ladd openly stated that this is Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut’s bill and that he and the Commissioner worked to design the replace-all amendment. The new version still permits districts to use public funds to send students to private schools when the district does not have schools for certain grades or any schools at all! In essence, it is another version of vouchers. The private school must be non-sectarian (a bow to the constitutional prohibition of public support of religious schools) but there is no provision preventing private schools from refusing to accept students who need special educational services. There is also pitifully little accountability in place, other than a requirement that the private school administer some sort of annual standardized assessment. In other words, the State would be delegating to the local district its responsibility to provide for adequate education by reneging on accountability requirements and by punting on how districts will provide for students with special needs.

SB 8 will now go to the House with the recommendation to pass the rewritten bill. If it does pass, it will be a victory for Commissioner Frank Edelblut, who has long supported Croydon in seeking to use public monies for private schooling and who is a longstanding proponent of charters, private schools, sectarian schools, and home schooling, everything but public education. Perhaps SB 8 should now be called the Edelblut bill, in honor of the commissioner who in his confirmation hearings claimed he would only be an administrator and not a policymaker. Looks like that stance changed rather quickly!

Kindergarten Funding Setback The Senate Finance committee by a 4-2 vote recommended against including full funding for full-day kindergarten and reverted back to the target formula originally proposed by Governor Sununu. Since the Governor’s original proposal he has now supported the position of the House to fully fund full-day kindergarten. However, the committee did support Edelblut’s proposal for a spokesperson to the tune of $83,500 per year. This is not over and we need to make certain members of the House and Senate are reminded of the broad support for funding full-day kindergarten.

Action Needed   So, many important votes lie ahead. Please contact your House Representative and ask her/him to oppose SB 3 (voter suppression), SB 8 (the Edelblut/Croydon bill) and to fully fund full-day kindergarten. And, while doing so, keep your eyes and ears open, as we await the Senate’s version of the 2017-2019 NH State budget.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

 

Attached is the bulletin in PDF format you can download and share.

AFT-NH LEGISLATIVE BULLETIN May 18, 2017

Senate Democrats, Underscore Dangers of Cuts to Medicaid Under Trumpcare

Trumpcare Would End Medicaid Expansion and Cut the Program by More Than $800 Billion

Democrats, Educators, Parents Outline the Harmful Impact Cutting Medicaid Would Have on Students and Their Potential in the Classroom

Children Make Up Almost 50% of Medicaid Beneficiaries, Highlighting the Disproportionate Effect Trumpcare Would Have on Children

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Bob Casey, Maggie Hassan, and Michael Bennet outlined the harmful effects of Trumpcare on children and students as a result of Republicans’ plan to make cuts to Medicaid.  Senate Democrats will fight to ensure every child is afforded the care they need. The senators were joined by Marbea Tammaro, longtime occupational therapist at Johns Hopkins and Virginia public schools, and Julie Gerhart Rothholz of Souderton, PA, whose son, Evan, is six years old and has Down Syndrome.

Watch video of the press conference here beginning with Senator Maggie Hassan.

“Decimating Medicaid, as Republicans are scheming to do, will have devastating consequences for children in schools,” Senator Bob Casey said. “School districts in Pennsylvania need Medicaid funding to provide services for vulnerable children, yet Republicans are cutting these funds to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.”

“As the mom of a son who experiences disabilities, my family has experienced firsthand the strengths and flaws of our health care system,” Senator Maggie Hassan said. “Children like my son are able to go to school and participate in their communities because of the Medicaid program now under threat by Trumpcare. Without the support from Medicaid, school districts would be faced with cutting services that help integrate students with disabilities. We cannot afford to go back to the days when we marginalize or don’t assist some of our most vulnerable students, and I will stand strong with the people of New Hampshire, my colleagues, and educators across the nation in fighting against this dangerous bill that would pull us backward.”

“The Republican health care plan will cut Medicaid by over $800 billion, threatening basic health care services for many children, including more than 400,000 kids in Colorado alone.” Senator Michael Bennet said. “Medicaid also supports critical services that kids receive in schools, including vision tests, screenings for mental health, and assistance for disabilities. Medicaid funding also allows schools to employ the nurses and therapists responsible for helping our kids. The extreme cut to Medicaid is one of the most harmful parts of the Republican bill, and I will continue to fight back against this assault on our children’s health.”

Marbea Tammaro said, “In our area it’s difficult to find the funding and staffing to cover the mandatory services for students with special needs. Medicaid funding in the schools provides reimbursement to school districts for these expenses…Not having access to Medicaid funding would mean fewer service for all students, both students with disabilities and students in a general education setting. We encourage continually funding of Medicaid in the schools.”

Julie Gerhart Rothholz said, “What I fear every day as a parent is that I’m going to wake up one day and we’re going to be faced with the reality of block grants, reduced funding, and health services are going to become a business decision. Every business decision doesn’t necessarily consider the student, the person that needs help as an adult. My thought is, if we’re going to talk about business, we should probably talk about investing early to save later; that we should talk about the law of unintended consequences, and that we should talk about how these are people and what we do now can promote their independence as an adult.”

Following the passage of the Affordable Care Act, 95% of students now have health coverage. Republicans’ plan to make devastating cuts to Medicaid under Trumpcare threatens the achievements made in children’s care. Care now jeopardized under Trumpcare includes vision tests in school, prescreening and treatment services for students, services for students with disabilities, and mental health services, as well as the ability for schools to employ nurses and therapists through Medicaid revenue.

Shaheen, Hassan Join Senate Democrats to Introduce Student Loan Refinancing Legislation

Student loan debt has swelled to $1.4 trillion, surpassing total amount of credit card debt

Senator Jeanne Shaheen

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined 34 of their Democratic colleagues today to reintroduce the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act. The legislation would allow those with outstanding student loan debt to refinance at the interest rates offered to new federal borrowers in the 2016-2017 school year. A previous version of the bill was voted on in the 113th Congress, and every Senate Democrat and three Senate Republicans voted to move the bill forward.

“Throughout New Hampshire, Granite Staters are struggling with the increasing costs of higher education and it’s hurting students, their families and our economy,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “Students should be able to refinance their loans just like homeowners can refinance their mortgages. This legislation will help borrowers save thousands on their loans, continuing our effort to make college more affordable and help save students from a mountain of debt.”

Senator Maggie Hassan

“One of the biggest issues I hear about from students, families, and businesses across New Hampshire is the increasing burden of student loan debt,” said Senator Maggie Hassan. “This common-sense measure helps students struggling to make their loan payments by allowing students to refinance their loans at the current federal rate. We know that there is far more we must do to make higher education more affordable and to strengthen job training programs, and I will continue fighting to move this important legislation forward.”

Since the original bill was introduced in 2014, student loan debt has gone up more than $200 billion. In 2015, 70% of college seniors graduated with debt. And this year, more than one in four borrowers are in delinquency or in default on their student loans. One in seven borrowers defaults on federal student loans within three years of beginning repayment, and according to a recent analysis, a quarter of borrowers default over the life of their loans.

In addition to Shaheen and Hassan, original sponsors of the legislation in the Senate include Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Yesterday, Congresswoman Annie Kuster announced her support for this legislation in the House.

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter previously her support for this legislation.

VA Union Slams Pending Anti-Worker Legislation

AFGE says H.R. 1461 undermines public servants and hurts veterans’ care

WASHINGTON – In response to H.R. 1461, as amended by Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, passing through the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs today, American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. issued the following statement:

“We are sick and tired of the political witch hunt unfolding before our eyes in Congress. Federal public servants are under constant attack because of the narrow agendas of insiders on Capitol Hill, and the latest salvo makes a terrible idea even worse.

“We strongly opposed H.R. 1461 – introduced by Rep. Jodey Arrington of Texas – when it was first announced because its sole intention was to break the back of the union and undermine federal employees’ rights at work. Now, that horrendous bill has been amended to double down on Arrington’s cynical attacks and put the health care system millions of American veterans and their families rely on at risk.

“Official time allows for the very best way for federal employees to bring forward evidence of waste, fraud, and abuse.  AFGE uses official time to protect whistleblowers on issues large and small. And by denying the medical professionals who care for our nation’s heroes protections on the job, Congress is placing their misguided ideals far above the rights and needs of working people in our country’s most important health care system – many of whom are veterans themselves.

“There are more than 49,000 job vacancies in the VA right now. That means there are fewer doctors and nurses to care for veterans, fewer intake staff to handle incoming patients, and an inadequate number of support staff to keep these medical centers running. Instead of focusing on remedying the obvious problem, Congress seems content to make the hiring – and retention – of these necessary positions more difficult.

“Today we call on Congress to stop the political posturing with their extremely anti-union legislation and solve the real problem facing the VA. The men and women who served our country – and who now make up one-third of the VA’s workforce – deserve a world-class health care system. And that system is the VA. To ensure it can continue to deliver the high-level of care we know it’s capable of, Congress must vote ‘NO’ on H.R. 1461.”

Republicans Brings Shame On New Hampshire By Voting To Take ‘No Action’ On Rep Fisher Before He Resigns

How many Granite Staters feel right now

Once again the NH Republican Party has brought shame to our great state.  

Today, the NH Legislative Administrative Committee met to vote on whether any action would be taken against Rep Robert Fisher for his comments promoting rape and Rep Sherry Frost for her personal tweets that were deemed inappropriate due to her use of “foul” language.

“The actions by House Republicans on the Legislative Administration Committee today were an embarrassing abdication of our duties as Representatives,” said House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff.

Republican Dick Hinch (Merrimack), chair of the committee, wanted to have one vote covering both Representatives implying that the tweets made by Rep Frost were somehow equal to the years of rape promotion by Rep Fisher.

“Decisions made by the majority today were clearly designed to provide cover for Representative Fisher and deny the ability to take any action against him. Dictating that the committee consider the actions of both Representatives Fisher and Frost in a single motion violates both legislative process and common sense, and violates the legislature’s right to discipline its members as it sees fit,” Shurtleff added.

“The NH GOP is sending a loud message that it will work to provide political cover for individuals like Rep. Fisher who promote rape culture and misogyny. There should have been no hesitation in calling out Fisher’s action and no hiding behind false equivalences.  The NH GOP didn’t want to hold Fisher accountable, so they chose instead to target a female legislator who speaks her mind. This is the same playbook that encourages rape culture in the first place – blame the woman,” said Zandra Rice-Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress in a May 4th statement.

Just prior to the committee vote, Rep Tim Smith (D- Manchester) highlighted how Rep Fisher is still moderates the Red Pill Reddit under another alias.  Rep Fisher, under oath, denied having any continued involvement with the Red Pill Reddit, however the evidence provided indicates that he was lying under oath, a fact the Republican leadership did not seem to care about.

In his statement today, Rep Shurtleff announced the he personally would “ask the Attorney General to investigate the allegations that he still runs the Red Pill forum.”

Rep Smith also noted that the committee had received over 40,000 petitions to have Rep Fisher removed from office.

“Robert Fisher is a rape promoter who has no place serving in government,” explained Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of UltraViolet one of the advocacy groups behind the petition drive.“Comments like Fisher’s contribute directly to America’s rape epidemic by normalizing and excusing violence against women. Fisher’s promotion of this repulsive ideology puts women’s lives at risk and undermines trust in the New Hampshire state legislature to protect all citizens.”

The vote came out as expected, straight down party lines 8-6 to take no action on Rep Fisher or Rep Frosts.  The crowd was outraged, yelling “Shame, Shame.”

Democrats on the committee wanted to submit a minority report to all members of the House before the entire House votes as early as next week. Rep Hinch, rejected their request and ruled that no minority report would be accepted.

“The most egregious action by the Republican majority today was the denial of the minority to submit a report. How ironic that the majority recommendation of ‘no action’ was made under the guise of supporting free speech, while simultaneously denying the minority the long established tradition to formally oppose majority action by including a minority report,” Shurtleff added.

After the vote today, Rice-Hawkins said, “The NH GOP sent a loud message that it will work to provide political cover for individuals like Fisher who promote rape culture and misogyny. House Speaker Shawn Jasper, Republican Majority Leader Dick Hinch, and the entire Republican caucus of the Legislative Administration committee undermined the trust placed in them by constituents by putting party politics ahead of the women and children of our state and voting for no action to be taken on then-Rep. Fisher. There is absolutely no question this was about politics, since the Republicans required the motion on Fisher to be combined with a motion regarding actions of another elected official, leaving the committee with only the option to approve or condemn them both. It is hard to imagine a jury being ordered to issue a joint ruling on two different individuals charged with two very different offenses, but that is exactly the partisan game the NH House GOP played today. Furthermore, they refused to even allow a minority report.”

After the despicable action by the GOP voting to take no action, effectively justifying his rape comments, Rep Fisher officially resigned his position effective at noon today.

Prior to the committee session, members of UltraViolet, Granite State Progress and Action Together spoke out against Rep Fisher’s rape comments and once again called for his resignation.

“Action Together New Hampshire is pleased to learn Robert Fisher tendered his resignation following the executive session on his actions. While seeing Fisher out of a position of power was the outcome we were seeking, we are deeply disturbed by the extreme partisanship and blatant misogyny that this process exposed in the House,” said Action Together New Hampshire Executive Director Emily Morgan.  “Action Together New Hampshire remains committed to holding elected officials accountable regardless of party affiliation, and we expect honorable public servants to also hold their colleagues to a higher standard of behavior than Mr. Fisher demonstrated.”

“We are pleased that Rep. Fisher finally resigned, though we note his resignation only came after House Democrats threatened to take his statements under oath to the Attorney General for investigation. From start to finish, Robert Fisher has not been honest and transparent regarding his viewpoints that women are of a lesser class than their male counterparts,” Rice-Hawkins added.

“We welcome Robert Fisher’s resignation from the New Hampshire state legislature. Fisher’s repulsive ideology and cultivation of a pro-rape forum put women’s lives at risk–he directly contributed to America’s rape epidemic by normalizing and excusing violence against women.  It is deeply concerning that New Hampshire’s Legislative Administration Committee did not recognize what the rest of us did – that brand of dangerous misogyny simply has no place our government,” said Karin Roland, Chief Campaigns Officer of UltraViolet.

Ultimately the goal of removing Rep Fisher from the House was accomplished but not until after the committee brought shame our state by justifying his comments and actions by voting to take “no action.”

Activists Rally And Hold Press Conference Addressing Rep Robert Fisher’s Comments Promoting Rape

Rep. Debra Altschiller, members of UltraViolet, Action Together New Hampshire, and Granite State Progress take on rape promoter with joint rally and press conference

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE — Prior to the committee voting  to take “no action” on Rep Robert Fisher, members of UltraViolet, a national women’s advocacy organization, joined Action Together New Hampshire, Granite State Progress, and Rep. Debra Altschiller for a small rally, where participants appeared in costumes from the popular book and TV show A Handmaid’s Tale to address Rep. Robert Fisher’s online comments promoting rape. The group also held a press conference urging a New Hampshire State legislature committee to make an official recommendation that would expel Rep. Fisher from office. The full State House of Representatives will then vote on Fisher’s potential expulsion from the legislative body on June 1st.

The move to expel state representative Robert Fisher from the New Hampshire legislature came after a report last month from The Daily Beast, discovered that the two-term Republican was the creator of an online community dedicated to promoting violence against women. Fisher’s actions on the online forum included comments deriding women’s intelligence, and recommending ways for men to dodge rape accusations, as well as statements arguing that rape had specific benefits – especially for the rapist. Since the comments were discovered, Fisher has doubled down and publicly defended the idea that most women lie about rape and that men should put cameras in their bedrooms to protect themselves.

More than 42,000 members of UltraViolet have signed onto the petition calling on the New Hampshire State Legislature to discipline Fisher and expel him from office. State lawmakers and New Hampshire’s Governor have also called for Fisher to resign.

VIEW THE PETITION HERE: https://act.weareultraviolet.org/sign/pro-rape_nh_legislator/

“Robert Fisher is a rape promoter who has no place serving in government,” explained Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of UltraViolet.“Comments like Fisher’s contribute directly to America’s rape epidemic by normalizing and excusing violence against women. Fisher’s promotion of this repulsive ideology puts women’s lives at risk and undermines trust in the New Hampshire state legislature to protect all citizens. We urge the Legislative Administration Committee to recommend that the House expel Fisher from their ranks – and demonstrate to all New Hampshire residents that misogyny will not be tolerated.”

“Trivializing this horrific crime or minimizing it through pseudo intellectual arguments does not deserve respect or celebration,” said Rep. Debra Altschiller. “Representative Fisher’s actions deserve condemnation, and we should not try to make them go away by patting ourselves on the back for having a hearing. We need to take clear and concise action that speaks to our state and to the nation whose eyes are upon us because of the shameful behavior of Representative Fisher.”

Zandra Rice-Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress said, “The actions of Rep. Fisher rise to an unprecedented situation in the House. There should be no statute of limitations in considering how his rape culture comments and the misogynistic forum he created are detrimental to women. There should be no looking the other way when a politician promotes the false narrative that rape victims are liars. And we know from new information that Rep. Fisher has not reformed, and that he has continued to participate in the Red Pill despite his claims otherwise.

Emily Morgan, Action Together New Hampshire said, “The women of New Hampshire are not safe with men like Representative Fisher making laws and it’s a disservice to all of New Hampshire that the leaders of his party are going out of their way to protect him”

After the press conference, the Legislation Administration Committee led by Republican Dick Hinch argued over whether or not any action should be taken against Rep Fisher.  Rep Hinch recommended “no action” and straight down party lines, in a vote of 8-6, the committee agreed that the committee would take no action against Rep Fisher.

After the vote, female members of the audience began to shout “shame” to those members who voted to condone Rep Fisher’s actions.

Video caught by David Meuse on Twitter.

UPDATE 2PM: Rep Fisher has resigned his position in the NH House. 

Thousands Join Women’s Group in Demanding NH Legislature Expel Rape Apologist Rep Robert Fisher

UltraViolet Says Fisher’s Promotion of Violence and Misogyny Online Puts Women at Risk, Undermines the Credibility of NH’s Government

NEW HAMPSHIRE — A new petition from UltraViolet, a leading women’s advocacy organization, is demanding that the New Hampshire State Legislature immediately move to expel state representative Robert Fisher, after a report last month from The Daily Beast discovered that the two-term Republican was the creator of an online community dedicated to promoting violence against women.

Fisher’s actions on the online forum included comments deriding women’s intelligence, and recommending ways for men to dodge rape accusations, as well as statements arguing that rape had specific benefits – especially for the rapist. Since the comments were discovered, Fisher has doubled down and publicly defended the idea that most women lie about rape and that men should put cameras in their bedrooms to protect themselves.

More than 36,000 members of UltraViolet have signed onto the petition calling on the New Hampshire State Legislature to discipline Fisher and expel him from office. With state lawmakers and New Hampshire’s Governor calling for Fisher to resign, the New Hampshire State Legislature is set to vote on Fisher’s expulsion on June 1st.

VIEW THE PETITION HERE: https://act.weareultraviolet.org/sign/pro-rape_nh_legislator/

“Rape apologists have no place in our government,” explained Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of UltraViolet. “Extreme anti-woman comments like Fisher’s directly contribute to our national rape culture epidemic – one where our society normalizes and excuses violence against women. Fisher’s promotion of this repulsive ideology puts women’s lives at risks and undermines trust in the New Hampshire state legislature to protect all citizens. The New Hampshire State legislature must immediately move to expel Fisher from their ranks – and demonstrate to all New Hampshire residents that this kind of dangerous anti-women ideology has no place in our society.”


UltraViolet is an online community of over 1,000,000 women and men who want to take collective action to expose and fight sexism in the public sector, private sector and the media. Find out more at WeAreUltraViolet.org.

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: NH Budget, Kindergarten Funding, And Voter Suppression

May 11, 2017  

The wheels turn slowly in Concord, as we grind towards the inevitable mid-June end of the 2017 legislative session The House did not meet in session this week due to a lack of bills coming to the floor for action, so everything will be condensed into sessions at the end of May. The House meets in session on May 18th to vote on an emergency supplemental appropriation to fund the Department of Health and Human Services until the end of the fiscal year. There will be no consideration of committee reports at this session.

Senate Action   The Senate did meet in session this week. The Senate’s proposed budget is yet to be unveiled. Committees did meet, however, and legislation continues to be refined and revenues continue to be sought for funding of various proposals. HB 356-FN, the bill with the attempted power grab by Education Commissioner Edelblut, was voted on by the Senate and for now, the power grab has been held at bay. The final amended bill as passed by the Senate creates a committee to study education funding and the cost of an opportunity for an adequate education, the original intent of the bill, and “establishes a committee to study the organizational structure of the department of education and the duties and responsibilities of the commissioner of the department of education”.  The report of this committee is due out on November 1, 2017. The bill as amended also “authorizes the commissioner of the department of education, with the advice of the state board of education and after consultation with the deputy director and affected division directors, to transfer or assign functions, programs, or services within or between any division. Vigilance will be necessary to monitor the work of this committee and recommendations for the session in January.

Voter Suppression The House Election Law committee met earlier this week to once again consider SB 3, the voter suppression bill. A lengthy amendment was presented to the committee by Republican members, but while it redrafted many sections of the bill, most of the changes were technical and related to issues raised by groups such as the NH Municipal Association. One interesting proposal was to change who might come to your door to follow up and check on your domicile. Rather than election officials or local law enforcement, the proposed change had county officials doing this work, that is until it was pointed out that county sheriffs and their employees would likely be tasked with this duty. So, back to the drawing board. Given that there are virtually no reported instances of voter fraud in New Hampshire, the idea of having law enforcement confirm the domicile you listed when registering seems just a bit sinister. But to hear some House members and Senators speak, bringing law enforcement into the voter registration process and creating lengthy and confusing forms for new voters to fill out is all just normal, not an attempt to dissuade people from voting. According to the docket, the House Election Law Committee has this scheduled for Executive Session on May 16th at 10:20am at the Legislative Office Building, Room 308.

Funding for Full Day Kindergarten   In other news, the House Finance Committee held hearings this week on funding of full-day kindergarten across New Hampshire. No one can accuse New Hampshire of rushing into new and innovative ideas, since 76% of kindergarten students in 2012 were already in full-day sessions. Whether the Finance Committee will recommend financing this initiative or ask the House to reject it, it will be a difficult vote to defeat this initiative, given that it passed as a policy measure by nearly a 2 to 1 margin in the House just a couple of weeks ago. The public hearing was held last week and the Finance Committee (Division II) has scheduled an executive session for SB 191-FN, funding for full day kindergarten on Tuesday, May 16th at 11:00am at the Legislative Office Building, Room 209. The Finance Committee is also investigating the financing of SB 247, which will mandate early childhood testing for lead poisoning and require it as a prerequisite for public school enrollment. Everyone concedes that lead poisoning has very serious developmental consequences for young children, consequences that last a lifetime. Where the battle-lines are being drawn in the House is over the proposal to establish a fund to aid landlords in remediating for lead in properties they own. So there are costs associated with this initiative, costs that must then be counter-balanced by the public health benefits, especially in regards to young children who are not responsible for the environment in which they live. It is a public health issue, but also one with serious educational and social welfare ramifications, so it will prove interesting to see how this plays out at the end of the session.

New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Ceremony   On Friday, May 19th at 9:45 am in front of the Legislative Office Building at the memorial site, the annual service to honor our fallen NH law enforcement heroes will be held. If you can attend, please do make the effort. Next week is National Policer Officers Week to honor the work of law enforcement. We gather on May 19th to honor and remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice keeping us all safe and every day we should appreciate and support the work of our law enforcement officers.

Finally, the House Committee on Legislative Administration held its public hearings on Republican Robert Fisher, accused of misogynistic commentary and running/contributing to a web platform with postings favorable to rape as well as claiming women lose value once past the age of thirty. Fisher defended himself in his hearing, admitting to some comments, denying others, but showing little in the way of remorse or contrition. As for Democrat Sherry Frost, the committee is investigating uncivil language used by her in a series of tweets a number of months ago, for which she already apologized. As noted last week, the political balancing act here is quite clear even if the allegations are not remotely equivalent, but this is life under the golden dome of the State House. The committee will issue its report and recommendations next week, and it will be interesting to see if the committee goes beyond a reprimand. That leaves it to the voters in Laconia (Fisher) and Dover (Frost). However, when the front page of NH’s leading newspaper features headlines on Fisher’s hearing and then the sentencing of former Republican representative Kyle Tasker on drug charges and using the Internet to solicit sex with a minor, well it just wasn’t a good day. Of course, if Tasker were proposing marriage to the 14-year old, that would be fine—remember, the House refused to raise the age for marriage for girls from 13 to 18 years old. It has been that kind of year. 

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

Below is a PDF copy of the Bulletin you can print and share.

AFT-NH LEGISLATIVE BULLETIN May 11, 2017

NH Senate Passes Marijuana Decriminalization Potentially Saving Law Enforcement Agencies $6.5 Million

Image by Global Panorama FLIKR CC

Yesterday, the Senate passed HB 640, legislation to decriminalize marijuana in the state of New Hampshire, with a bipartisan vote of 9 Democrats and 8 Republicans. The bill reduces the penalty for possession of up to ¾ of an ounce of marijuana from a criminal penalty to a violation. Legislators and advocates anticipate that this language will address inequalities in the criminal justice system and allow law enforcement to focus resources on combatting the state’s heroin, opioid and fentanyl epidemic.

Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn (D-Whitefield) offered the following comments after passage:

“The decriminalization of marijuana happened today because Democrats pushed marijuana decriminalization through the legislature – it is a proud progressive achievement that moves New Hampshire forward by creating a serious, sensible pathway to marijuana legalization.”

“Given the severity of our state’s opioid, heroin and fentanyl public health crisis, it’s prudent to relieve law enforcement from the burden of processing small marijuana possessions as criminal cases and free up resources to address our most urgent substance misuse cases. I’m very pleased with the outcome of today’s vote; I only wish more of our Republican colleagues could have joined us.”

Under HB 640, as amended by the Senate, an adult 18 years or older in possession of three quarters of an ounce or less of marijuana would be guilty of a violation for their first three offenses and not subject to arrest. Their fourth offense committed within a three year period would constitute a class B misdemeanor. The bill now goes back to the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

“It is past time for New Hampshire to join the rest of New England in adopting more sensible marijuana possession laws,” stated Devon Chaffee, the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire. “We applaud the New Hampshire Senate and urge the House to concur with the Senate version of the bill and send it to the Governor’s desk without delay.”

Governor Chris Sununu has indicated his support for the marijuana decriminalization effort.

“I want to thank the legislature for passing common sense marijuana reform. I look forward to signing House Bill 640 into law,” stated Governor Sununu.

According to an ACLU 2013 study, New Hampshire spent over $6.5 million in a single year enforcing marijuana possession laws. In New Hampshire blacks are 2.6 times more likely to be arrested for a marijuana possession offense than whites.

Every other state in New England has had laws decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana for many years. Moreover, last November voters in Maine and Massachusetts passed ballot measures to legalize and regulate the possession and sale of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use.  Just yesterday the Vermont Legislature sent a legalization bill to Governor Phil Scott’s desk.  A poll released on Tuesday by the University of New Hampshire shows that 68% of Granite Staters support New Hampshire following its neighbors and adopting marijuana legalization.

State Senator Lou D’Allesandro Endorses Cavanaugh in Special Election

Manchester, NH – Today, Kevin Cavanaugh’s campaign announced the endorsements of State Senator Lou D’Allesandro and other local leaders. Cavanaugh is running in the NH Senate District 16 special election.

“It’s an honor to have the support of Senator D’Allesandro. I’m running for the Senate so that together, we can fight for working families, support our schools, and stand up for all Granite Staters,” said Kevin Cavanaugh.

“I’m proud to be supporting Kevin’s campaign – he will bring an important voice and a fresh perspective to the Senate,” said Lou D’Allesandro. “I’m impressed by his commitment and dedication to serving the people of his district – the people of New Hampshire will benefit greatly by having a person with his background in Concord.”

Kevin was born and raised in Manchester and has spent the past 32 years as a union employee. He has coached High School Football at Memorial and West as well as multiple youth hockey, soccer, baseball, and softball teams. Kevin was first elected to the Board of Alderman in 2015. He lives in Manchester Ward 1 with his wife and three teenage children who have all gone through the public school system.

Newly announced endorsements also include State Representative Linda DiSilvestro, Bow Board of Selectmen Chair Harold Judd, former Manchester Alderman Garth Corriveau, and progressive activist Kate Corriveau.

Area leaders who have endorsed Kevin Cavanaugh:

 

  • Patti McGilvray, wife of the late Senator Scott McGilvray
  • Lou  D’Allesandro, State Senator*
  • Glenn Brackett, labor leader
  • Bob Backus, State Representative (Manchester)
  • Linda DiSilvestro, State Representative (Manchester)*
  • Mary Heath, State Representative (Manchester)
  • Christopher Herbert, State Representative & Manchester Alderman
  • Pat Long, State Representative & Manchester Alderman
  • Mark MacKenzie, State Representative (Manchester) & Former AFL-CIO President
  • Bill O’Neil, State Representative (Manchester)
  • Dan Sullivan, State Representative (Manchester)
  • Bill Barry, Manchester Alderman
  • Garth Corriveau, Former Manchester Alderman*
  • Harold Judd, Bow Board of Selectmen Chair*
  • Mike Kaminski, Dunbarton Board of Selectmen Chair
  • Bob Martel, Dunbarton Board of Selectmen Co-Chair
  • Dan O’Neil, Manchester Alderman & Former State Senator
  • Tony Sapienza, Manchester Alderman
  • Timothy Tsantoulis, Hooksett Councilor
  • Sarah Ambrogi, Manchester School Board Member
  • Erika Connors, Manchester School Board Member
  • Mary Ngwanda Georges, Manchester School Board Member
  • Maura Ouellette, Former Hooksett School Board Chair
  • Kim Royer, Candia School Board Member
  • Leslie Want, Manchester School Board Member
  • Kate Corriveau, progressive activist*
*previously unannounced endorsements
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