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Kuster introduces legislation aimed at increasing STEM learning in early education

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End Child Abuse In The Name Of “Therapy”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

This is unacceptable!

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

NH Labor Leaders Speak Out About Today’s Hearing on So-Called “Right-to-Work” Legislation

Concord – Hundreds gathered to oppose the so-called “Right to Work” legislation in front of the New Hampshire House Labor Committee.  The testimony lasted for more than four hours.  

Unlike the Senate committee, the House committee actually listened to the people and voted the bills “inexpedient to legislate” (ITL) 14-7.  Five Republicans joined the nine Democrats on the committee to oppose both “right to work” bills.

The bill and the committee’s recommendation of “ITL” will be in front of the entire NH House next week.  If the NH House concurs with the committee recommendation, the bills will be killed.

Following today’s public hearing in the New Hampshire House of Representatives’ Labor Committee, New Hampshire labor leaders spoke out on the ant-worker legislation:

Glenn Brackett, President of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO: “The New Hampshire AFL-CIO was proud to stand with hundreds of working people across the state who are fighting to protect their rights at work. This legislation is an attack on working families by out-of-state special interests seeking to lower wages for everyone and undermine worker protections. The proponents of this legislation are playing politics with the future of our workforce, and New Hampshire working families deserve better.”

Richard Gulla, President of SEA/SEIU Local Union 1984: “So-called right to work has no place in the Granite State, and I’m proud we were able to pack this hall today with those who agree. Both of these bills are tired, recycled legislation that does nothing for the real problems facing our state. We need the House to reject these bills so we can get down to working together on legislation that helps – not hurts – New Hampshire families.”

Sarah Hirsch, President of the University of New Hampshire Lecturers Union: “The families of New Hampshire want the college students to be solidly prepared and ready to enter good careers. To do this, the faculty who teach and mentor them need to be protected, have job stability and security, good benefits, and a say in their working conditions!  Weakening unions ultimately weakens higher education, undercutting the development of a skilled workforce for New Hampshire at a time when we need more competitive workers in the state.”  

Frank Moroney, Executive Director AFSCME Council 93: “It’s a powerful statement that a majority of legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, voted against so-called “Right to Work” today. They stood together because they know protecting our right to speak up together on the job shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Right to Work would hurt working families across the Granite State, and we’ll continue to fight against this legislation as it moves to the House floor.”

Dennis Caza, President of Teamsters Local Union 633: “Today, hundreds of our brothers and sisters stood in Solidarity to defend the rights of New Hampshire’s workers. We hope that we have sent a message to the legislature that so-called “Right-to-Work” is not the solution that New Hampshire working families need. In the coming days, we urge workers in every industry across the state to contact their legislators and let them know that this so-called “Right-to-Work” legislation is wrong for New Hampshire.”

Reps Shea-Porter And Kuster Join 112 Colleagues To Reintroduce Paid Family Leave Bill

Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act Would Strengthen New Hampshire Workers’ Economic Security

WASHINGTON, DC — Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) and Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) joined 112 of their colleagues today to reintroduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, a bill to create a national paid family and medical leave insurance program and ensure that American workers no longer have to choose between a paycheck and caring for a family member.

“The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world that still doesn’t guarantee working parents paid time off to care for their newborns,” said Shea-Porter. “I call on Speaker Ryan to allow a vote on the FAMILY Act, because New Hampshire workers shouldn’t have to choose between their family’s health and economic security.”

“No new parent should have to choose between providing for their family and spending important time caring for and fostering the development of a newborn,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “Similarly, no one should lose their livelihood because they need to care for an ill family member. It’s just not right. We must enact policies that support hardworking families in New Hampshire and around the country with commonsense paid family leave policies. It’s good for families and businesses that will benefit from higher worker retention and less turnover.”

A recent University of New Hampshire study found that, “About one-third of New Hampshire workers have jobs without extended paid leave to tend to their own illness; about half lack access to parental leave; and two-thirds lack access to paid leave to care for an ill family member.”

Last week, Shea-Porter introduced another bill to support New Hampshire’s working families, the Child Tax Credit Improvement Act, which would boost the tax break’s value and ensure it keeps up with the costs working parents face, including the quickly-rising cost of childcare.

Shea-Porter previously co-introduced the FAMILY Act in 2013, but despite broad support for paid family leave, House Republicans never called a vote on the bill.

New Hampshire Campaign on Voting Rights Condemns Rollbacks of Citizen’s Voting Rights

Modernization, not rollbacks, key for engaging voters, ensuring security 

Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Campaign on Voting Rights condemns attempts by New Hampshire politicians to rollback the voting rights of New Hampshire voters.

New Hampshire politicians have proposed an unprecedented number of bills this legislative session stripping voters of rights, making voter registration more difficult, and changing same-day registration. Bill sponsors point to voter fraud as a justification for these rollbacks, however modernization not rollbacks are needed to improve the security and integrity of our voting system. Republicans in Washington, D.C. and New Hampshire’s Secretary of State Bill Gardner are confident and agree that voter fraud is not a widespread problem.

These rollbacks are another ploy to disengage voters from the political system, stripping them of their right to vote, a right provided to them as citizens of this country. 

The New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights urges state legislators to consider common sense reforms that will save taxpayer dollars and make the system more secure, if  they wish to examine New Hampshire’s election system:

1.      Implement a closed, secure online voter registration system connected to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicle database;

2.      Implement a closed, secure digital poll book system that saves taxpayer dollars and saves communities time;

3.      Support SB 197 to fund the attorney general’s Department of Justice to complete outstanding voter investigations rather than expand police power to the New Hampshire secretary of state.

“When politicians push bills that put limits on voter registration, they are infringing on the constitutional right of all eligible residents in New Hampshire to participate in our elections,” said New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights spokesperson Huck Montgomery. “It is in all of our interest to have the most secure and efficient voter registration system.” 

Thirty-nine states have adopted online voter registration while six others have automatic voter registration. Thirty-one states use digital poll books. In a national survey of dozens of election officials in 29 states “there was unanimity that electronic and online registration reduces costs.”

TEA Party Rep, Steve King Pushes A National Right To Work Bill And Repeal Of Davis Bacon

Labor unions respond to Rep King’s introduction of a National Right to Work (for less) law and a full repeal of the Davis Bacon Act that ensures a prevailing wage on all federal projects.

Once again TEA Party Representative, Steve King (R-IOWA) introduced a national Right to Work bill in Congress.

“So-called right-to-work has done enough harm to working people in the states where it is law. Forcing it upon every state in the country would be a national disaster,” said Robert Martinez, Jr., International President of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).

“Right to work is a lie dressed up in a feel-good slogan. It doesn’t give workers freedom—instead, it weakens our right to join together and bargain for better wages and working conditions. Its end goal is to destroy unions,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “Numbers don’t lie. Workers in states with right to work laws have wages that are 12% lower. That’s because unions raise wages for all workers, not just our members. Its end goal is to destroy unions.”

“Right to work isn’t the will of the people, it’s legislation pushed on working people by out-of-touch corporations that want to ship jobs overseas, cut health and safety protections, and pay lower wages,” added Trumka.

“In introducing so-called “right to work” legislation, Republicans in Congress didn’t waste any time doing the bidding of corporate interests who have plotted for years to weaken the collective bargaining rights of working people,” wrote the Communication Workers of America. “Right to work doesn’t create jobs. It doesn’t improve economic development. It does result in lower wages – 3.1 percent lower, according to the Economic Policy Institute –and fewer benefits for working people. It weakens workers’ ability to join together and bargain collectively with their employer.”

To add further insult to working people, Rep King, and fellow TEA Partier, Senator Mike Lee, re-introduced a repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act.

The Davis-Bacon Act set a prevailing wage that must be met on all federal projects. Prevailing wages are set by regions to ensure that workers in the local area of the project are paid a wage comparable to other workers in their area.

“The introduction of national so-called “right to work” and anti-Davis Bacon legislation is a bid to further shrink opportunities for working class Americans and their families,” said Terry O’Sullivan, General President of the Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA). “These pieces of legislation are a deceptive politically-motivated trick to deny millions of American workers the freedom to join together in a union for mutual benefit and to earn a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.”

“The bill to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act is a severe attack on the wages and living standards of millions of blue-collar workers and on taxpayers who expect quality construction work on public projects. For generations the Davis-Bacon Act has helped to prevent government projects from driving down wages and help to attract skilled, trained workers, and has given taxpayers the best deal for their money,” added O’Sullivan.

As the Koch Brothers and their political organization, the Americans For Prosperity, push Right to Work at the state level, this new federal bill is just another ideological partisan attack on working people.

“The political motives for right-to-work laws are clear: transfer even more money and power to corporate elites who don’t give a damn about the middle class,” said IAM President Martinez. “November’s election should have made this clear to the political class—American workers are sick and tired of having their wages slashed, and all too often, their jobs shipped overseas. Taking away their right to a strong voice at the bargaining table will hurt the same people Congress is supposed to represent.

“Working people were loud and clear in this past election. We want an economy that works for all, not just corporations. We know we need to rewrite the rules of the economy so that policies like bad trade deals and right to work aren’t the new norm. President Trump has said he supports unions and the people who are our members. He has stood up to corporate Republicans on trade. We call on him to do the same on right to work, and to stand up for every worker’s right to join a union,” Trumka added.

AFL-CIO, LiUNA, CWA and IAM all agree that Congress should once again reject the passage of so-called Right to Work legislation and oppose the repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act.

1-27-17 AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: Right To Work, Minimum Wage, And Frank Edelblut

January 27, 2017

Yesterday was a warm, almost Spring-like day, always welcome in January. The gold of the State House dome shone brightly in the sunshine, and I even took the time to sit for a short while on a bench on the State House grounds. Inside, however, the legislative session is just beginning to warm up, with a short session of the House to deal with a few legislative items, following an intensive week of public hearings on proposed bills, as committees work hard to push legislation to the floor for debates and votes.

The most important news of the week was the scheduling of hearings on so-called ‘right to work’ legislation by the House Labor Committee. The hearings on both the Senate (SB 11) and House (HB 520) versions of ‘right to work’ (virtually identical and almost entirely plagiarized from sample legislation created by the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC), will be held in Reps Hall on Wednesday, February 8, beginning at 10 am. The hearings are expected to draw hundreds to the Hall, and it is likely the testimony will last for hours. More information on attending and testifying will be forthcoming, but if you can, start planning to join the fun! Battle-lines are being drawn now on this issue, between those who advocate for the working people of New Hampshire and their workplace voice versus those who seek to eradicate any vestiges of worker rights. Our focus will turn to reaching out to the members of the NH House and asking them to oppose so-called Right to Work in any and all forms. Please be sure to visit the AFT-NH website at www.aft-nh.org and utilize the resources on the Defeat Right to Work page.

Interestingly, the House Labor Committee also conducted hearings this week on proposed legislation HB 115 to increase the minimum wage in NH, from its current $7.25/hour up to an eventual $12.00/hour. Any increase would be welcome and long overdue, but those who clamor for so-called ‘right to work’ are also those who oppose any increase in the minimum wage, preferring to redesign the New Hampshire Advantage as one built on low wages and severe limitations on working people’s voice and rights.

In the background, there is also the dangerous proposed bill (HB 438) to ban payroll deduction of union dues by public employers, a strategy employed in Wisconsin to eviscerate public sector unions by making it very difficult for them to collect any member dues. This is actually the most severe threat facing organized labor and all working people in NH. Once unions are gone, can we expect employers to suddenly shower us with generous raises, expanded benefits, and kindly treatment? Remember, when employers exercise unilateral control over the workplace, it is not a recipe for happiness and harmony. Power seeks more power is the old axiom, and absolute power seeks more power absolutely.

Amongst the hundreds of bills now before the various committees of the House and Senate, a few stand out. There are over a half-dozen bills aiming to further reduce pensions or even nearly destroy the NHRS system, breaking every promise made to state, county, municipal, educational, and public safety employees. In a bright note, a bill to require the State to pay 15% of the annual cost of the NHRS survived its first committee test, but faces rough waters in the House. The State used to pay 35% of the costs of the NHRS, but now contributes nothing, a classic example of “downshifting” costs onto local taxpayers, so this bill would at least begin to right that wrong. AFT-NH remains an active partner and participant in the NH Retirement Security Coalition. It will take the combined effort of employee groups, stakeholders and members to protect the NH Retirement System as we know it.

There are also a number of bills to increase funding for charter schools, free them from property taxes, and further siphon off monies for public schools. Once again, there is a bright spot—the proposal to fund full-day kindergarten. The bill has had its public hearing in front of the House Education Committee, which is expected to act on it on February 8. Governor Chris Sununu loudly proclaimed his support for full-day kindergarten during his gubernatorial campaign, so it will be interesting to see if his support translates into Republican votes for it in the House.

In closing, I have two requests of you. First, I hope some of you can attend the January 31 public hearing on the nomination of businessman Frank Edelblut as Commissioner of Education. AFT-NH has already posted a “lesson plan” on Mr. Edelblut, and your testimony, whether in person or in writing, may help sway the Executive Council, which must approve his nomination. You can email the Executive Council members directly at gcweb@nh.gov. Second, please “Wear Red for Public Ed” on January 31. Let’s show our pride in public education! Dress in red, have your colleagues dress in red, take photos and send them to us for posting on-line. Be proud and say it loud, to paraphrase James Brown, and let’s celebrate one of America’s greatest accomplishments and contributions to the world—the idea of free, broad-based public education.

Your outreach to the legislators does make a difference and we are hearing back that you are contacting them. It matters. Please keep contacting them! We know when we act in unity, we can make a real difference.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

New Statewide Poll Shows Overwhelming Opposition to Changes in NH’s Smoke-free Law

Image by D-15 Photography on FLICKR CC

NH voters are inexorably opposed to changing the state’s current smoke-free law; opposition is deep and wide, crossing party, geographic, gender, age, and ideological lines.

CONCORD – State Representative Robert Hull has proposed legislation (HB 279) to make “changes to the indoor smoking act,” would allow smoking in “private residences”.  If passed this bill would allow smoking in grocery stores, restaurants, bars and lounges across the state.  

The health and well being of the workers inside these establishments must be considered when legislators debate this repeal.  Workers should not be force to breathe air that is dangerous to their health.  

Poll results released today by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) showed that the voters of New Hampshire are overwhelmingly supportive of the state’s current smoke-free law and oppose attempts to once again allow smoking in certain public places. This information was released on the heels of ACS CAN’s annual legislative breakfast, where over 50 cancer survivors and advocates converged in Concord to urge lawmakers to protect their right to breather clean indoor air and oppose HB279. 

According to the poll, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, fully 88 percent of New Hampshire voters oppose the proposed bill that would allow smoking in grocery stores, restaurants, cocktail lounges, and bars. Majority support for the current law is bi-partisan and spreads across every demographic sub-group and geographic region of New Hampshire.  Even smokers themselves are opposed to a change. Other findings of the poll include:

  • 84 percent of voters favor the current law – which prohibits smoking in bars, restaurants, and other public places – and only 14 percent oppose it.  An incredibly high 74 percent of voters strongly favor the current law.
  • A smoke-free environment is important to voters, and by seven-to-one, they say the right of employees and customers to breathe smoke-free air is more important than the right of smokers and business owners to allow smoking in restaurants and bars.
  • 70 percent of voters say they are less likely to vote for their state legislator if they back this bill.

“The results of this poll are unprecedented and should send a loud and clear message to lawmakers: voters overwhelmingly value their right to breath clean indoor air, and wholeheartedly oppose any changes to the state’s current smoke-free law,” said Mike Rollo, director of government relations for ACS CAN in New Hampshire. “There is simply no political upside to supporting this bill, nor is there any upside for the health of Granite Staters.”

“Along with voters statewide, ACS CAN strongly opposes any legislation that would weaken New Hampshire’s clean indoor air laws,” said Rollo. “We hope lawmakers will take in account the overwhelmingly high opposition to changing the law as they debate HB 279. Voters have made their opinion clear: now is the time to be looking forward to continued progress in the fight against cancer – not the time for stepping back to undo a decade long protection of clean indoor air in the Granite State.” 

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