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Coalition And Activists Call On Governor Sununu To Veto Voter Suppression Bill SB3

Legislators Fail to Stand Up for Voting Rights, Local Control of Elections

CONCORD – The New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights urges New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu to veto SB3 following its passage in the state House today. Passing narrowly on a 191-162 vote, SB3 will create an unfunded mandate for cities and towns and long lines for same-day registration.

Sununu’s veto would be a show of support for the constitutional right of all eligible residents in New Hampshire to participate in our elections.

SB3 severely tightens qualifications for voting in New Hampshire and potentially criminalizes legitimate same-day registration voters who know they cannot provide proof that they have performed a so-called “verifiable act,” such as buying a home or entering a formal lease — thereby effectively disenfranchising elderly, low income, and other vulnerable citizens, especially those who move in the months before an election and are unable to obtain sufficient proof. Under SB3, a voter who knowingly fails to provide evidence of domicile within 10 days faces a fine up to $5,000.

Hundreds of activists worked around the clock after a record number of 40 bills pertaining to voting rights, were filed this legislative session. Next Wave organizations such as Indivisible and Kent Street Coalition went to work and joined over 10 permanent advocacy organizations in an effort that powered a grassroots movement. The campaign included 22 nights of phone banks hosted across the state filling 274 volunteer shifts powered by 134 volunteers. Patch through phone calls generated 478 calls to state Senators and 855 calls to state House members. Meanwhile 246 postcards reached 22 Senators and 795 postcards reached 258 House members. Approximately 500 voters attended SB 3’s two marathon hearings, the House hearing becoming one of the longest voting rights hearings in recent history. Finally, volunteers called every Town Clerk, Moderator and Supervisors of the Checklist, over 600 across the state, to educate them on how SB 3 would unfairly impact towns and cities.

“Hundreds of ordinary people, not previously politically involved, worked to defeat SB3, as they saw the bill for what it was, a serious attempt to make voting in New Hampshire more difficult for many eligible voters,” said Linda Rhodes, Co-Chair of Indivisible New Hampshire. “It’s a sad day when the New Hampshire Legislature, instead of modernizing voting and making it more accessible and transparent, makes voting harder for citizens. Our volunteers will now turn our attention to making sure that our voter registration drives get into high gear, and you can be sure we will be trying to replace the New Hampshire Representatives who voted in favor of SB3.”

“SB 3 got many of us to the State House for the first time, said Louise Spencer, leader of Kent Street Coalition.” “Voting is the most fundamental of our democratic rights and we weren’t willing to see this right legislated away.  So we began showing up – attending hearings, talking to representatives in the hallways, testifying before committees. We are paying more attention than ever to what is happening here in Concord and we intend to hold our legislators accountable on voting rights.”

“The 2017 Legislative Session was a wakeup call for community members around the state,” said Paula Hodges, America Votes NH State Director. “SB3 is only the beginning of a resistance movement that is powering actions in living rooms and town halls across the Granite State. New Hampshire has a proud tradition of inclusive civic engagement and SB3 flies in the face of that tradition. We are sad to see that the New Hampshire Secretary of State did not listen to the concerns of our cities and towns and the election volunteers who do the real work on Election Day. We didn’t send politicians to Concord to mess with voting rights and they will be hearing from their constituents on this vote all Summer.”

“Senate Bill 3 accomplishes one thing: the disenfranchisement and intimidation of thousands of young voters across New Hampshire. Our state’s real problem isn’t voter fraud, it is attracting and retaining young people to live, study, work, and raise families here,” said University of New Hampshire student Eli Tyrrel-Walker. “Despite hours of powerful testimony from countless young voters who see this bill as an assault on their, and their peers, ability to vote and take part in the democratic process Republican leadership decided to ignore our voices. Any measure that works to disenfranchise young people from participating in our vibrant civic culture is counterproductive and will only hurt our state.”

No local election officials supported the bill after hours of testimony in both the House and Senate and were not engaged in the drafting of the legislation. SB3 will jam lines at the polls, as some voters will have to fill out pages of additional paperwork.

“The reforms proposed in SB3 are not reforms that local election officials were looking for.  I find it interesting that the majority party that is always touting local control, doesn’t trust locally elected and sworn election officials to carry out this sacred duty? Every election official from Town and City Clerks to Ballot Clerk take this duty very seriously,” said Jim Tetreault, Town Clerk/Tax Collector, Town of Winchester.

“People shouldn’t be fined for exercising their right to vote and doing nothing wrong other than not returning to a government agency with certain paperwork—paperwork that these legitimate voters may not have,” said Gilles Bissonnette, Legal Director of the ACLU of NH. “SB 3 is also a violation of voters’ privacy by sending government agents to voters’ homes to check their documents. Requiring people to accept this government intrusion as a condition of voting will chill the right to vote.”

Aside from the Coalition, many others spoke out against the passage of SB3.

University of New Hampshire student Eli Tyrrel-Walker:

“Senate Bill 3 will accomplish one thing: the disenfranchisement and intimidation of thousands of young voters across New Hampshire. Our state’s real problem isn’t voter fraud, it is attracting and retaining young people to live, study, work, and raise families here. Despite hours of powerful testimony from countless young voters who see this bill as an assault on their ability to vote and take part in the democratic process, Republican leadership decided to ignore our voices. Any measure that works to disenfranchise young people from participating in our vibrant civic culture is counterproductive and will only hurt our state.”

House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff (D-Penacook):

“Today’s vote in support of SB 3 was a partisan sabotage of the election process that will do nothing but confuse and intimidate new voters.  This legislation adds over 350 words to the registration form that new voters will be required to read, and swear to understand, with the pressure of a growing line behind them at the polls on Election Day.”

“Requiring voters to read and comprehend an entire essay at the polls is unnecessary, intimidating, and only complicates work of election officials who will be tasked with helping voters understand the registration requirements.”

“No local election officials testified in support of this bill because the current process works well.  SB 3 is an illogical solution in search of a problem that will increase bureaucracy and expenses on local taxpayers.”

“This legislation was clearly designed to placate those who buy into President Trump’s discredited assertion that fraud cost him the popular vote in New Hampshire.  Leaders from both parties denounced those assertions, and as we know from the reports released following every single New Hampshire election, voter fraud is not an issue in our state.”

“Our election officials deserve support for the hard work they do preserving the integrity of our elections.  Advancing the myth of ‘voter fraud’ is not only disrespectful to those who enforce our laws, it also threatens the confidence in our First in the Nation Presidential Primary.”

NHDP Chair Ray Buckley issued the following statement:

“Today, Governor Sununu and President Trump’s voter fraud lies definitively shaped New Hampshire law. Our voting system is already secure with no credible voter fraud, and Republican attempts to say otherwise are based in conspiracy theory. Voter suppression laws like SB3 are designed to drive down turnout and slow down lines. These voting roadblocks change the outcomes of our elections. Anytime we disenfranchise a single eligible voter, we are damaging the integrity of our elections. Governor Sununu and New Hampshire Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for propagating lies and legislation that undermine the integrity of our democratic process.”

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 2-24-17: Payroll Deduction And The Expansion Of School Vouchers

February 24, 2017  

This week and next week the House will not be in session, due to school winter vacations, though the Senate is holding sessions and many committee hearings continue to be held. So, business continues to be done, though we are in a bit of a pause in the House, before the deluge of bills hits the floor on March 8 & 9. Due to the pause, and trying to closely monitor committee actions, this bulletin is intended to provide a snapshot of where we are and what lies ahead the next few weeks.

Right to Work So-called ‘right to work was defeated soundly on February 16th and also was indefinitely postponed. However, it is “not quite dead yet:” Yes, you read that correctly. The House version of so-called right to work (HB 520), is a virtual carbon copy of the Senate version decisively rejected by the House last week. However, there does need to be one more vote on the House bill. On either March 8 or 9, there will be a procedural vote on whether to take up HB 520 in the House. A 2/3 margin is needed to take up the bill, so it is unlikely to rise from the dead, but opponents of anti-worker, so-called ‘right to work’ legislation will need to be vigilant and in their seats, ready to vote to defeat the motion. AFT-NH is actively engaged with our fellow labor unions and community allies to close out this ugly chapter.

It is not too late to thank those legislators who stood with us to defeat right to work. To view the list, please click here. If you click on the name of the representative, the contact information is provided.

Payroll Deduction (HB 438) As you may already know, this proposal is a companion piece to so-called right to work, except it lacks even the flimsy veneer of ideological justification so often touted by advocates of so-called right-to-work. It is vindictive and an undisguised assault on the financial basis of labor organizations, their member dues. Under this legislation, no public employer will be allowed to deduct union dues from an employee’s wages, meaning the union must develop alternative means of collecting dues. Payroll deduction is a long-standing system that is negotiated in contracts, and must be authorized by individual union members. Yet unlike voluntary contributions to charities, apprenticeship funds, voluntary health insurance, or savings funds, all of which will continue to be allowed as voluntary deductions, union dues will be singled out and barred by law from payroll deduction. Why such a prohibition? To simply weaken the ability of unions to collect member dues, thereby weakening their financial foundations and ultimately, weakening the ability of labor unions to fight for their members, whether it be for better wages and benefits, workplace protections, or simply having a voice in the workplace. In essence, time for workers to return to the good old days, before labor unions, when the employer was unchallenged and the worker, to quote Frank Zappa, had to “do as you are told, until the rights to you are sold.”

The public hearing on this bill will be held on Wednesday, March 1, in front of the House Labor Committee, beginning at 10 am in LOB 305-307. If you are able to do so, please attend the hearing and register your opposition. You can also send an email to the entire House Labor Committee at

HouseLaborIndustrialandRehabilitativeServices@leg.state.nh.us

Education Legislation This week yielded up a mixed bag in regards to education-related legislation. A proposal (HB 505) to create a new, alternative body to authorize charter schools (thereby making it even easier to establish such schools) was retained by the Education Committee, meaning it will not come to the floor of the House in 2017 but could be addressed in 2018. That is a victory, at least in terms of delaying action. Another bill (HB 429), to strip the judiciary of any role in determining adequate education funding, was unanimously recommended to be killed by the House Legislative Administration Committee. Given the obvious and repeated failures of the Legislature in years past to adequately fund public education, this is a victory.

However, legislation to create a statewide education voucher system in NH continues to move forward. Last week, the House narrowly approved (along largely party lines) a bill (HB 647-FN) to establish a voucher system for use by parents of children with disabilities. While we all care deeply about such children, a voucher system that removes funding from the public schools and gives it to parents to use for private and/or religious education, is simply wrong for NH, weakening the public system and providing direct aid to schools that quite often do not need to meet the same stringent requirements and thresholds of traditional public schools. This bill now proceeds to House Finance (Division II) which will be conducting hearings on Feb. 28th and March 2nd. Stay tuned for specific actions on this bill as we determine the direction which will be taken from House Finance.

Meanwhile, in the Senate yesterday, SB 193-FN passed 13-10. This bill would establish a statewide voucher system for all students in NH, moving millions in taxpayer funds into private and religious schools. The impact on local communities is incalculable at this point, but these bills could easily be labeled as “Raise Your Local Property Tax” legislation. Traditional public school facilities would still need to be maintained, programs offered, and requirements met, but the funding would decrease while taxpayer dollars flow into private and religious schools. Needless to say, this is bad legislation, but is supported by Governor Chris Sununu as well as his new Commissioner of Education, Frank Edelblut. This bill is now referred to Senate Finance. Both SB 193 and HB 647 will reappear in late March.

There is also the so-called “Croydon” bill, SB 8-FN, which passed the Senate this week. This bill would allow a school board to contract with a private school if there is no public school in the student’s grade in its district. More diversion of tax dollars to private schools. This will proceed to Senate Finance. The topic of non-academic surveys was also addressed by the Senate in SB 43 which no student shall be required to participate in these surveys without written consent from the parent or guardian. The only exception to this would be the youth risk behavior survey developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, a parent could opt out on behalf of the student.

As a member of the NH Retirement Security Coalition, we continue to monitor any bills affecting the NH Retirement System and your benefits. HB 413, which would require the State to pay 15% of the retirement obligation to local communities, is now in House Finance (Division I) and will have a public hearing on February 28th. This bill would provide much needed relief to local communities.

There is much else going on in Concord as we approach the “cross-over” when are bills are due to be voted on by the respective chamber and sent to the other body. We will keep you posted in those bills where there is need for immediate action. Breaking news first appears on our AFT New Hampshire page, so please have your friends, family and colleagues take a moment to like our page!

For those of you starting your February vacation, enjoy your time off and the warmer weather. Spring is around the corner.

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

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.”

2016 Fiscal Revues Reveals $160 Million Surplus But What Will Happen Next Is Crucial

Today, the Department of Administrative Services released the 2016 NH Fiscal Report that show a whopping $160 million dollar surplus.

“Thanks to a strengthening economy, our work across party lines to develop a fiscally responsible budget and Senator Hassan’s strong leadership as Governor, we finished Fiscal Year 2016 with a surplus of almost $160 million. With this strong surplus, we were able to put an additional $70 million into our Rainy Day Fund- strengthening it to the highest level in recorded history. As our state’s fiscal outlook continues to strengthen, Senate Democrats remain committed to supporting the economic priorities that are critical to the success of our people, our businesses, and our state,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn.

“The strong surplus of nearly $160 million and historic level of the State’s Rainy Day Fund is yet another clear sign of Senator Hassan’s strong leadership and success as Governor. Regardless of what the Republican Party tries to say about the state’s fiscal health, Granite Staters know that Senator Hassan’s leadership led to real results for the State of New Hampshire. To build on that progress, Republicans in Concord should ditch failed policies like ‘right-to-work for less’ and join their Democratic colleagues on focusing on the real issues that matter to the people of New Hampshire and will keep our economy moving forward,” said Ray Buckley, Chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. 

For the people of New Hampshire this is good news.  It shows that programs like the NH Health Protection Program did not bankrupt the state as some claimed.  We have also filled up our rainy day fund.This will make this years budget fight even more interesting.

Will the legislature cut revenue sources or will they opt to invest in our future?

For example, today, Senator Bette Laskey (D-Nashua) introduced a new bill (SB 100) to appropriate $4 million to the Department of Transportation for the project development phase of the New Hampshire capital rail corridor project.

“The citizens and businesses of New Hampshire know that bringing commuter rail to this state will generate economic growth for decades to come and make New Hampshire a more accessible and attractive destination for families and investors,” said Senator Lasky, prime sponsor of SB 100. “With the support of businesses, workers and families, this project should be a priority investment of this legislature.”

“Commuter rail offers a modern, safe, transportation infrastructure that not only bridges the gap between employers and their need for an educated workforce, but also helps attract and keep young people in our state to drive future growth. This is not a partisan or ideological issue – it is a win-win that is supported by both Republicans and Democrats; business leaders, and working families. Given the significant economic benefits of bringing commuter rail to New Hampshire, I urge my colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee to support this legislation,” Laskey added.  

With a $90 million dollar surplus, after taking money out for the rainy day fund, can we finally agree that the funds are there to push for expanded rail service to New Hampshire.

What about our broken down roads and bridges?  Will the legislature finally put some serious money to repair the hundred red listed bridges in the state?

What about our schools? Will the legislature put some much needed funds to update any of the state public schools?  Will they put more money towards the state’s university system and the community college system of NH?  The State of NH is dead last in state spending on our state universities which is also why we have the highest in-state tuition in the country.

Hopefully they will choose to make some serious investments in our state’s infrastructure and spend more on education funding.

Human Rights Campaign Highlights NH LGBTQ Protections, Laws and Legislative Proposals in New National Report

HRC’s State Equality Index finds that, despite historic federal progress, anti-LGBTQ state bills seek to undermine rights and target vulnerable populations, such as transgender youth 

WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, in partnership with the Equality Federation, today released its third annual national report assessing the status of state legislation affecting LGBTQ equality across America, including in New Hampshire.

HRC’s State Equality Index reveals that in many states opponents of equality are ramping up efforts to sanction discrimination against LGBTQ people by proposing state-level laws that would undermine existing protections, erode marital rights of legally-joined same-sex couples, target transgender people — including youth — and limit the ability of cities and towns to pass their own inclusive laws.

New Hampshire falls into the category, “Building Equality.” New Hampshire is one of 30 states in the country that lack explicit state-level workplace protections for all LGBTQ employees.

“State governments have a clear choice between sowing the seeds of division and discrimination or building an economy that works for everyone by fostering fairness and inclusion,” said HRC President Chad Griffin, “Unfortunately, too many lawmakers have decided to target LGBTQ people for state-sanctioned discrimination and to interfere with local protections for workers, customers, and residents. Now more than ever, it is crucial that legislators across the country stand on the right side of history and ensure full equality for all their citizens – nothing more and nothing less.”

“Last year our community faced a barrage of attacks on our freedoms, but we are more united and better prepared than ever to continue our momentum toward equality for all,” said Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of Equality Federation Institute. “This report serves as an important tool for advocates to keep pushing forward. We’re not going to stop until all LGBTQ people and their families are able to reach their full potential, free from discrimination, no matter what state they live in.”

While more than 111 million people live in states where LGBTQ people lack clear state-level protections against discrimination in the workplace, the SEI points to a few encouraging signs — particularly in areas related to LGBTQ youth, health and safety and protections for the transgender community. States like Vermont and New York took steps to protect LGBTQ youth by banning conversion therapy. Massachusetts expanded the state’s non-discrimination law to include gender identity in public accommodations.  Hawaii passed a law to make it easier for transgender residents to update their name and gender marker on a birth certificate or driver’s license. Five states, including Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Michigan and Pennsylvania banned transgender exclusions in health care insurance, a sizable increase from 2015.

The SEI assesses statewide LGBTQ-related legislation and policies, good and bad, in five areas: parenting laws and policies; non-discrimination laws and policies; hate crimes laws; youth-related laws and policies; and health and safety laws and policies. Based on that review, the SEI assigns states to one of four distinct categories.

Nine states and the District of Columbia are in the highest-rated category, “Working Toward Innovative Equality

California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington

These states and the nation’s capital have robust LGBTQ non-discrimination laws covering employment, housing and public accommodations, as well as protections in the areas of credit, insurance and jury selection. Most allow transgender people to change official documents to reflect their gender identity, and almost all bar private insurers from banning transition-related healthcare. LGBTQ youth are protected by anti-bullying laws, as well as innovative measures in some states that address conversion therapy, inclusive juvenile justice policies, homelessness and sexual health education.

Seven states are in the category “Solidifying Equality

Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey and Rhode Island

These states have non-discrimination protections and are considered high-performing, but have not yet adopted innovative equality measures. Many of these states allow transgender individuals to change gender markers on official documents and more than half do not allow second-parent adoption. These states have relatively robust anti-bullying laws, but bad laws begin to crop up in this category.

Six states are in the category “Building Equality

Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Utah and Wisconsin

These states have taken steps toward more robust LGBTQ equality, including passing basic non-discrimination and hate crimes laws. They allow gender markers to be changed on official documents, but have few protections guaranteeing access to transgender health care. Some lack explicit gender identity protections and several lack comprehensive anti-bullying laws. Bad laws are more common, so advocates are working to stop bills that could undermine LGBTQ equality and pass more comprehensive non-discrimination laws.

Twenty-eight states are in the lowest-rated category “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming

Most of these states, including Arizona, North Carolina, South Dakota and Florida, have many laws that undermine LGBTQ equality, from those that criminalize HIV and sodomy, to measures allowing religious-based discrimination against LGBTQ people. None have non-discrimination laws that explicitly include sexual orientation or gender identity protections; few have hate crime laws with those protections. LGBTQ advocates largely work to defeat bad bills and pass municipal protections for LGBTQ people.

The full report, including detailed scorecards for every state, as well as a comprehensive review of 2016 state legislation, is available online at www.hrc.org/sei

Rough Road Ahead: Republicans Take Governor, House And Senate In NH

All the votes have been counted and we are looking at a very rough road ahead.

With the election of Donald Trump we will see a revived national effort to cut taxes for business, cut regulations on environmental protections, and repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Here in New Hampshire we about to enter a new era of Republican control.  The NH Senate stayed the same with 14 Republicans and 10 Democrats. In the House, Democrats picked up a few seats but are still in the minority (235-165). With Governor-elect Chris Sununu’s win, we can expect a fast and furious legislative attack on many of the programs working people fought for.

From Dan Touhy’s Granite Status on the election results:

WHAT DOES IT all mean for New Hampshire? Watch for some Republican policy initiatives to be pitched with gusto. In Concord, that includes a return of right-to-work legislation, the “constitutional carry” firearms bill, and proposed business tax reform.

State Rep. Fred Doucette, R-Salem, said veterans issues and tackling the state’s opioid and heroin epidemic are two of his priorities in the coming legislative session.

The combination of a Republican President and Republican controlled Congress could mean the end of the ACA which could mean the end of the New Hampshire Health Partnership Program that protects more than 50,000 Granite Staters.  Even without the repeal of the ACA, Sununu and many of his cohorts in the Legislature have already suggested ending the program in New Hampshire.

The question now is; What other attacks will working people face in the coming year?

Besides Right to Work will Republicans try to repeal our collective bargaining rights like they did in the O’Brien era of 2011-12? Will they attempt to reduce benefits for retiree’s and force workers to contribute more to the pension system?  Will they force through their so-called “school choice” legislation that takes public funds and gives it to private and religious institutions? Will they continue to attack a woman’s right to choose and to attack women’s healthcare providers like Planned Parenthood?

It is time to start organizing so we will be ready when Sununu and his fellow Republicans begin their assault on workers.

The Nashua Labor Coalition Releases List Of Endorsed Candidates In The 2016 Election

Nashua Labor Coalition LogosToday, the Nashua Labor Coalition, a group of union members and community activists who live or work in the Nashua area, announced their list of endorsed candidates for the 2016 elections.  

Deb Howes, a public school teacher and chair of the Nashua Labor Coalition released the following statement:

“The upcoming election is vitally important to the working people of New Hampshire and will have a significant impact on the City of Nashua. We are proud to announce our list of endorsed candidates that will keep Nashua moving in the right direction.”

“In the race for Governor, the choice could not be clearer.  When FairPoint Communications workers were on strike, Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern took a stand for workers by blocking a proposed state contract with FairPoint until the strike was resolved.  His efforts helped get FairPoint to reopen negotiations which resulted in a fair contract, ending the strike and getting striking workers back to work.”   

“As a teacher, I am particularly impressed by Van Ostern’s plan to expand full-day Kindergarten state-wide so that every child can get the same great start to their education, regardless of which city or town they live in.” 

“Throughout Nashua hard working people are struggling to make ends meet in low wage jobs.  Colin Van Ostern is committed to increasing the minimum wage and making the New Hampshire Health Partnership Program that provides healthcare to 50,000 Granite Staters, permanent.” 

“The Nashua Labor Coalition also endorsed Dan Weeks for Executive Council.  Weeks is a tireless advocate for working people and is committed to bringing rail service to Southern New Hampshire. Expanding rail service to Nashua would boost our local economy and lead to hundreds of new jobs.”   

“In order to move Nashua forward we need to elect State Senators who are putting the needs of working people first.  We recommend reelecting  Senator Bette Lasky and  returning Peggy Gilmour to her rightful seat in the Senate.  Both have a long history of fighting for working people by opposing attacks on collective bargaining, protecting our public employee pension system, and voting against so-called right to work legislation.”

“In the legislative assault against working people our State Representatives are our first line of defense.  We have compiled a list of State Rep candidates who will stand up for working people in the New Hampshire House.” 

“Your right to vote is a cherished gift, not to be taken lightly.  It is important that everyone exercises their right to vote and make your voice heard.”

The Nashua Labor Coalition is a chapter of NH AFL-CIO. It includes Nashua Area Affiliated and Non-Affiliated Unions, as well as community organizations.

Full list of endorsements available here. nashua-candidates-election-2016a

Democrats Praise NH’s Medicaid Expansion While Republicans Scream “Repeal”

Governor Hassan signs the New Hampshire Health Protection Program

Governor Hassan signs the New Hampshire Health Protection Program

Governor Hassan and NHDP Chairman praise the two-year anniversary of theNew Hampshire Health Protection Program while Republican candidates all agree on repealing the program.  

Today is the two-year anniversary of the New Hampshire Health Protection Program, New Hampshire’s version of the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. The program provides health coverage to an additional 50,000 Granite Staters who previously were ineligible for Medicaid but could not afford to purchase private insurance. 

“Two years since health coverage began, the bipartisan New Hampshire Health Protection Program is boosting our economy, strengthening the health and financial security of our people and businesses and helping combat the heroin and opioid crisis. Today, nearly 50,000 hard-working Granite Staters have the security and peace of mind that comes with quality, affordable health insurance, and thousands have accessed substance misuse and behavioral health services. I am proud that we worked together across party lines earlier this year to reauthorize this critical program, and I look forward to continuing to work with members from both parties, health care providers and other stakeholders to maximize the benefits of health care expansion for all of our people and businesses,” said Governor Hassan.  

“For the health of our families and our economy, we need to make sure the Medicaid expansion is renewed next session,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn. “Senate Democrats remain fully committed to making sure New Hampshire families are as healthy as they can be and our economy is as strong as it can be.”

“Especially with the opioid crisis still raging in our state, we can’t afford to play games with people’s health,” added Woodburn. “It’s been shown that next to Granite Hammer legislation, the single most important thing we in government can do to fight addiction is to continue the Medicaid expansion for our most vulnerable fellow citizens.”

Though the Senate has compromised in the past and expanded Medicaid with both Democratic and Republican votes, the retirements of several moderate Republicans this year puts the future of the program in jeopardy. 

“With our moderate colleagues like David Boutin and Nancy Stiles leaving us, we fear the Republican caucus will be even more extreme when we convene again in December,” continued Woodburn. “Fortunately, we have strong candidates and campaigns in every district in the state this year. With victories in key districts, Democrats will become the majority in the State Senate and will act quickly to ensure the future of this program. We’re confident that Granite State voters will back common sense in November and vote for continued Medicaid.” 

The  New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley issued the following statement on the second anniversary of coverage beginning under New Hampshire’s successful bipartisan Medicaid expansion program that now provides coverage to nearly 50,000 Granite Staters and needed resources to providers on the frontlines of the opioid crisis:

“Today, we celebrate New Hampshire taking an important step forward two years ago to ensure quality, affordable healthcare for the people of our state. We thank Governor Maggie Hassan and the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate for their tireless work to expand insurance coverage to almost 50,000 of our neighbors, improving not only our community’s health but boosting our economy as well.

“Unfortunately, some Republican leaders including Kelly Ayotte and the Republican gubernatorial candidates remain committed to putting their special interest backers ahead of the people of New Hampshire. While each of the Republicans running for Governor has made their opposition to the New Hampshire Health Protection Program clear, Kelly Ayotte has actually voted repeatedly to repeal the Affordable Care Act and end this successful program that has already helped so many in our state. 

“New Hampshire cannot afford to end this bipartisan, innovative program that is saving lives across the Granite State. That is why we must–and will–defeat Kelly Ayotte in November and maintain Democratic control of the Governor’s office.”

Every GOP candidate – Chris Sununu, Ted Gatsas, Jeanie Forrester & Frank Edelblut – has either voted to prevent or repeal Medicaid expansion or actively opposes New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion.

“That every Republican candidate for governor opposes or wants to repeal New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion reveals just how far to the right these candidates are running. Medicaid expansion has extended health care to nearly 50,000 Granite Staters, and has provided substance abuse benefits to another 6,000 people. The Republicans’ opposition to this successful program is just one more instance of their putting political ideology before the well-being of New Hampshire families,” added Buckley. 

Polls show Granite Staters favor Medicaid expansion, with a massive 66% of voters backing its original authorization. But the Republican candidates are unanimous in their opposition to New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion. 

Executive Councilor Chris Sununu told NH1 he’s “all for repealing Medicaid,” and he has the record to prove it. He voted against endorsing a special session to consider Medicaid expansion and voted against the original contract allow Medicaid expansion to begin.

In April 2016, Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas told the Union Leader that “he does not believe Medicaid expansion is the long-term solution” for low-income Granite Staters. When criticized by a Forrester advisor for not being sufficiently extreme on the issue, “the Gatsas campaign repeated his opposition per the candidate’s point above, that the program is not the solution and New Hampshire needs to pursue alternatives.”

State Senator Jeanie Forrester voted against reauthorizing Medicaid expansion earlier this year and her campaign criticized Sununu and Gatsas for suggesting they support Medicaid expansion. Sadly, their response doubled down on their opposition, making it clear they’re just as out-of-touch with low-income Granite Staters as she is. Her health care plan, released last week, doubled down on her opposition to Medicaid expansion.

State Representative Frank Edelblut voted against Medicaid expansion reauthorization and told the Concord Monitor he would not reauthorize the program were he to be elected governor.

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.

Connolly And Van Ostern Trade Jabs Over A 24 Year Old Report That Goes After State Workers

NH Progressive Summit Gubernatorial Forum

Kary Jencks asks questions to Steve Marchand, Mark Connolly, and Colin Van Ostern at the NH Progressive Summit Gubernatorial Forum.

Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern and Mark Connolly recently traded jabs at the New Hampshire Progressive Summit Gubernatorial Forum and the NH State Employees Association (SEIU 1984) Gubernatorial Forum. Both Van Ostern and Connolly are vying for the Democratic nomination in the race to be the next Governor of New Hampshire.

(Note: I was not at the SEIU 1984 Forum so I can only report about what I saw at the NH Progressive Summit Forum, though I heard that similar comments were made at both forum’s.)

During the NH Progressive Summit forum, Van Ostern brought a couple of things to light. He mentioned that up until the mid 2000’s Connolly was a prominent Republican.

Connolly did not deny that he was, for many years, a Republican. He stated that when he was a Republican State Representative the Republicans were the real “progressives in the NH House.” He continued by saying that the Republican Party essentially moved away from him and he could no longer support them.

Another thing that surprised people at the Progressive Summit forum was that Connolly helped Governor Judd Gregg with a report on reforming New Hampshire government.   The report, The 1991-1992 Task Force on New Hampshire State Government Operations, was produced by a group of prominent businessmen in New Hampshire.

Much of the report is full of grand ideas of streamlining government operations and eliminating duplication within the state agencies. However some of the report specifically targeted state employees and retirees.

“The state should, at minimum, revise its policy regarding full payment of health and selected other insurance benefits for future retired employees and, further, consider eliminating the state’s contribution entirely,” the Task Force recommended.

The Task Force also recommended an independent third party to be involved in the collective bargaining process to show that the “extensive benefits” offered to state employees for “non-competitive wages no longer applies.”

The reported states:

“For purposes of collective bargaining, the state should retain an independent body to identify the full cost of personnel, including payroll, insurance, retirement, insurance for retired employees, vacations, holidays, and sick leave. This comprehensive package of payroll and benefits must be weighed against the economic and competitive realities of the state. In doing so, the Task Force believes the state will recognize that the justification for the philosophy that state employees are entitled to extensive benefits to compensate for non-competitive wages no longer applies.”

NH Progressive Summit Gubernatorial Forum 2In a 2011 report by USA Today, New Hampshire’s state employees were ranked 27th overall in pay when compared to state employees in other states. On the surface this is good but when compared to private sector compensation, New Hampshire state employees were over $1,800 below their private sector counterparts.

When asked for comment on the report and the specific recommendations listed above, Connolly’s campaign sent a copy of a letter, addressed to the members of the State Employees Association, where Connolly referred to his “opponent’s” comments as a “baseless attack.”

In the letter Connolly states:

“In 1991, I was asked by by my then-employer, Chubb Life in Concord, to serve on a thirteen-member panel assembled by the Governor, Speaker of the House, and Senate President to study state government and how it operates. This group met throughout 1991 and 1992 and ultimately the Task Force on New Hampshire Government Operations published its report on how to make government more efficient. It included important suggestions that I believe would strengthen our state and its employees, such as a four-year term for Governor and the implementation of a stronger sexual harassment policy for state employees.

One of the many additional recommendations made by this group in the fifty-page report held that the state should “revise its policy regarding full payment of health and selected other insurance benefits for future retired employees and, further, consider eliminating the state’s contribution entirely.” As a former state employee, I did not agree with this recommendation then and I do not agree with it now. Contrary to the attack made on me that evening, I did not recommend this, nor did I support it. Any contention that I did specifically support this recommendation is simply false.”

When asked why Connolly would sign on to a report that included sections he did not agree with, Colin Pio, Connolly’s Campaign Manager, explained that task force members broke up into different teams and specifically tackled different sections of the report. The separate sections were then compiled by the Chairman of the Committee and submitted to the Governor, the Senate President, and the Speaker of the House.

Pio explained that Connolly specifically worked on the section of the report that “focused on the Executive Branch and how it was structured.” Pio also stated that to the best of Connolly’s recollection, “there was no sign-off process for individual members.”

In the letter Connolly added:

“Public employees are the backbone of our state government, and I am proud to have served as one for fourteen years. I have always believed we must honor our contract with you and your fellow members. Your retirement benefits, your pension, and your healthcare were promised to you when you started your service and, as Governor, I will stand up for your collectively bargained rights and your secure retirement each and every day.”

Only time will tell whether state employees believe Connolly’s explanation on his involvement on the 1992 Task Force or whether a 24-year-old report has any significance today.

 


Attached is a copy of the 1992 Task Force recommendations and Connolly’s letter to the members of the State Employees’ Association.

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