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Enough is enough!

Smashed Piggy Bank Retirement

Smashed Piggy Bank RetirementToday the Nashua Telegraph posted the article, “Pension tension: New research dispels old notion that public employees make less than private sector peers,” which highlights supposedly “new” research focused on public employee pensions.

There are many things wrong with this article and I feel obligated to correct some of these inaccuracies.

Let’s start with the fact that the “new research” they cite was written in 2012, hardly making it breaking news. It was based on surveys taken in 2004 and 2006. The report basically says that while public employees do make less per hour than their private sector counterparts, when you include their retirement benefits public employees make more.

Here are the facts.

1) Research from the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) shows that public employees earn 11-12% less than their private sector counterparts. There is no denying that public workers have a better benefits package than private sector employees – however, even when you add in retirement benefits, public sector employees still fall behind private workers by 6-7% overall. Many people choose to work in the public sector for less pay because they want the better benefits and a real retirement plan.

Unfortunately the trend in the private sector is to take away defined benefit pension plans and force workers into 401(k) programs. This makes employees responsible for funding and managing their own retirement plans. Employers are able to reduce their contributions, reducing what they pay for the benefits they offer. This shifts the entire burden onto the employee. This is also why private sector worker are paid slightly better: because they are expected to save that extra pay for their retirement.

2) Public sector employees are better educated than private sector employees. NIRS found that only 23% of private sector employees have a college degree – compared to 48% of public sector employees with a college degree.

This is easy to understand when you think about some of the jobs in the public sector. You have thousands of literal rocket scientists at NASA and thousands of doctors and medical professionals at the Center for Disease Control. Every teacher is required have a college degree. The result is a highly educated public workforce.

3) It is an outright lie to blame public employees for underfunding of the NH Retirement System. The fact is that in 1999, the NHRS was 100% funded – until Wall Street shenanigans started cutting into its value.

As reported by Liz Iacobucci, “the Trust Fund lost 10% of its value in the recession of 2001.” The NHRS Trust Fund continued to decline and hit rock bottom during the 2008 economic meltdown. “It lost another 25% of its value in the 2008 recession,” said Iacobucci. In 2008, the NHRS had more than $5.9 Billion in investments – and when the stock market crashed, that created what many are calling an unfunded liability.

Think tanks often spin the numbers, calculating that if every employee retired today, the trust fund would be short by “X” amount of money. The fact is that new employees replace the retiring workers, and the new employees pay into the Trust Fund. Investment returns are hugely important to the Retirement System: about 75% of NHRS pension benefits are funded by investment returns. The employers’ contributions are – literally – just pennies of each dollar paid.

Wall Street has rebounded nicely from the 2007-08 crash. The stock market has been setting new records for almost 18 months now. The NHRS has recovered much of its lost ground – and as the market continues to grow, so will the NHRS Trust Fund.

I also can’t believe that Charles Arlinghaus, president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy Studies, is suddenly so concerned about municipal budgets. His conversion is almost laughable. In the article, he says “Your town budget is higher than it would be because the pension system is more expensive than it should be. That’s money that’s not going to hospitals, to universities.”

But the Bartlett Center was one of the biggest proponents of “pension reform” bills during the 2011-12 legislative session – and back then, Arlinghaus didn’t talk about the impact those bills would have on municipalities. Cities and towns are paying more now for employee pensions thanks to the hard work of Arlinghaus and the JBC.

Enough is enough!

We need our elected leaders and these Koch-funded “think tanks” to stop lying to the people. The media pits worker against worker when these think tanks are given unwarranted publicity.

Blaming workers for the consequences of two stock market crashes isn’t “new research” – it’s political spin.

Calling retirement benefits unaffordable – without mentioning the fact that the Legislature underfunded the NHRS for years – isn’t honest “research,” it’s political spin.

And we as workers need to change the conversation away from “look at what he gets” – and start asking, “why am I not getting that?”   We as workers, both public and private need to stop blaming each other, and start demanding better from our employers.

NH Sierra Club Endorses 84 Candidates for State Office

2014 NH Sierra Club Environmental Champions

Environmental Champions Praised

2014 NH Sierra Club Environmental ChampionsCONCORD, NH—The New Hampshire Chapter of the Sierra Club has released its list of carefully selected candidates running for Executive Council, State Senate and State House of Representatives. The Chapter endorsements include 70 NH State Representatives, 11 State Senators, and 3 Executive Councilors. Of the total 84 endorsed candidates, each has expressed concern for the New Hampshire environment, protecting our beautiful landscapes, and the impact of pollution on human health.

“We are very pleased to announce today that the New Hampshire Sierra Club officially endorses for election these Environmental Champions,” said Jim Allmendinger, the Political Committee Co-Chair for the New Hampshire Sierra Club.

“These candidates are our best hope for preserving clean air and clean water; protecting the wild places of New Hampshire; and all of the local businesses that benefit from our abundant environmental wealth,” continued Allmendinger. “The incumbents worked hard to un-do former House Speaker O’Brien’s radical conservative agenda that dismantled smart, popular energy programs and threatened other successful state programs. The new candidates showed their support for key environmental issues facing the state, using creative problem solving techniques, not business as usual political games.”

“New Hampshire Sierra Club endorsed these candidates based on responses to an in-depth questionnaire, voting record, and history of environmental involvement. The New Hampshire Sierra Club endorsement list will be distributed to the members in the state online and in the mail. Members will be encouraged to volunteer and support the various campaigns in a vigorous state-wide member to member outreach program.”

Executive Council Candidates

District 3: Robin McLane, New Castle

District 4: Chris Pappas, Manchester

District 5: Diane Sheehan, Nashua

State Senate Candidates

District 1: Jeff Woodburn, Dalton

District 2: Carolyn Mello, Holderness

District 3: John White, Wolfeboro Falls

District 4: David Watters, Dover

District 6: Richard Leonard, New Durham

District 8: Linda Tanner, Georges Mills

District 10: Molly Kelly, Keene

District 12: Peggy Gilmore, Hollis

District 15: Dan Feltes, Concord

District 17: Nancy Fraher, Chichester

District 21: Martha Fuller Clark, Portsmouth

State House Candidates

Belknap  District 3 — Thomas W. Dawson (Laconia)

Carroll District 7 — Edward A. Butler (Hart’s Location)

Cheshire District 1 — Paul Berch (Westmoreland)

Cheshire District 9 — Douglas Ley (Jaffrey)

Cheshire District 14 — Patricia Martin (Rindge)

Cheshire District 15 — Dick Thackston (Troy)

Coos District 5 — John E. Tholl, Jr. (Whitefield)

Grafton District 8 — Suzanne Smith (Hebron)

Grafton District 9 — Judy Wallick (Grafton)

Grafton District 11 — Chuck Townsend (Canaan)

Grafton District 13 — Richard Abel (Lebanon)

Grafton District 15 — Terri Mertz (Piermont)

Hillsborough District 4 — Carol R. Roberts (Wilton)

Hillsborough District 7 — Brendon S. Browne (Bedford)

Hillsborough District 16 — David McCloskey (Manchester)

Hillsborough District 17 — Timothy J. Smith (Manchester)

Hillsborough District 19 — Bob Backus (Manchester)

Hillsborough District 21 — Dick Bean (Merrimack)

Hillsborough District 21 — Brenda E. Grady (Merrimack)

Hillsborough District 21 — Jo Ann Rotast (Merrimack)

Hillsborough District 26 — Melanie Levesque (Brookline)

Hillsborough District 26 — Gale Taylor (Brookline)

Hillsborough District 28 — Sylvia E. Gale (Nashua)

Hillsborough District 28 — Jan Schmidt (Nashua)

Hillsborough District 28 — Thomas D. Woodward (Nashua)

Hillsborough District 29 — Suzanne Harvey (Nashua)

Hillsborough District 29 — Suzanne M. Vail (Nashua)

Hillsborough District 31 — David E. Cote (Nashua)

Hillsborough District 37 — Jeremy Muller (Hudson)

Hillsborough District 37 — Kevin P. Riley (Hudson)

Hillsborough District 37 — Eric P. Estevez (Pelham)

Hillsborough District 38 — Richard D. McNamara (Hillsborough)

Hillsborough District 45 — Sean M. Burns (Manchester)

Merrimack District 2 — Scott A. Burns (Franklin)

Merrimack District 3 — Leigh A. Webb (Franklin)

Merrimack District 3 — Deborah H. Wheeler (Northfield)

Merrimack District 6 — Barbara C. French (Henniker)

Merrimack District 10 — Mel Myler (Hopkinton)

Merrimack District 20 — Richard W. DeBold (Chichester)

Merrimack District 25 — David Karrick (Warner)

Merrimack District 26 — Lorrie J. Carey (Boscawen)

Merrimack District 28 — Katherine D. Rogers (Concord)

Merrimack District 29 — Nancy L. Heath (Epsom)

Rockingham District 2 — Hal Rafter (Nottingham)

Rockingham District 6 — Mary L. Till (Derry)

Rockingham District 8 — Camron Iannalfo (Salem)

Rockingham District 8 — Dennis Iannalfo (Salem)

Rockingham District 9 — Barbara S. Helmstetter (Epping)

Rockingham District 14 — Harlan Cheney (Atkinson)

Rockingham District 14 — Jean Sanders (Atkinson)

Rockingham District 19 — C. David London (Stratham)

Rockingham District 21 — Robert R. Cushing (Hampton)

Rockingham District 30 — Jackie Cali-Pitts (Portsmouth)

Rockingham District 31 — Tamara Le (North Hampton)

Rockingham District 32 — Maureen R. Mann (Deerfield)

Rockingham District 33 — George Manos (Danville)

Rockingham District 33 — Steven J. Woitkun (Danville)

Strafford District 1 — Larry Brown (Milton)

Strafford District 1 — Candace Cole-McCrea (Milton)

Strafford District 2 — Martin G. Laferte (Farmington)

Strafford District 6 — Timothy Horrigan (Durham)

Strafford District 6 — Marjorie K. Smith( Durham)

Strafford District 6 — Janet G. Wall (Madbury)

Strafford District 14 — Bill Baber (Dover)

Strafford District 16 — Len DiSesa (Dover)

Strafford District 17 — Peter Bixby (Dover)

Sullivan District 1 — Lee W. Oxenham (Plainfield)

Sullivan District 4 — Larry Converse (Claremont)

Sullivan District 9 — Virginia O’Brien-Irwin (Newport)

Sullivan District 10 — John R. Cloutier (Claremont)

Sullivan District 11 — Linda Wooddell (Charlestown)

Nashua Legislators Honored For Their Work On “Paycheck Fairness Bill”

Nashua Paycheck Fairness Legislators

Nashua Area Legislators Honored for Their Work to Secure Equal Pay in New Hampshire with Passage of NH Paycheck Fairness Act; Advocates Call for Congress to Follow New Hampshire’s Lead

Nashua Paycheck Fairness Legislators & Supporters New law provides all employees with tools to combat wage discrimination; appreciation event highlighted Nashua legislators who led way and called on Congress to follow

NASHUA, NH – Nashua area State Senators and Representatives were honored for their work to advance the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act during a ceremony at the Nashua City Hall Plaza on Thursday, July 31st.

Senator Peggy Gilmour, Senator Bette Lasky, and State Representatives Melanie Levesque, Sylvia Gale, Jan Schmidt, Mariellen MacKay, Cindy Rosenwald, Pamela Brown, David Cote, Marty Jack, Mary Gorman, Suzanne Vail, and Mary Ann Knowles all received certificates of appreciation during an event celebrating the passage of SB 207 and HB 1188, which combined to form the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act. Governor Maggie Hassan signed the act into law earlier this month; the law officially takes effect starting January 1, 2015. All area State Senators and Representatives who supported the NH Paycheck Fairness Act were invited.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women who worked full time earned, on average, only 77 cents for every dollar men earned. The figures are even worse for women of color: African American women earned only approximately 64 cents and Latinas only 54 cents for each dollar earned by a white male.

Statements from Elected Official Speakers:

Nashua Paycheck Fairness Legislators“The Paycheck Fairness Act will eliminate loopholes, increase transparency in wages, and ensure that all workers have the appropriate tools and resources to help them earn a fair and equal paycheck, without fear of retaliation,” said State Senator Bette Lasky (D-Nashua), bill co-sponsor.

“This law builds on the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and provides stronger protections such as ensuring non-retaliation for employees who discuss their wages, and remedies to address pay inequity,” said State Senator Peggy Gilmour (D-Nashua), bill co-sponsor.

“On behalf of myself and my fellow legislators, I am honored to receive this token of appreciation for the long hours and hard work we put in to passing the Paycheck Fairness Act. No woman or her family should ever receive less than equal pay for equal work,” said State Rep. Mary Ann Knowles (D-Hudson), bill co-sponsor.

“This law will help protect all families. We know that when pay discrimination happens to anyone, that the individual, their spouse, and their children all suffer the ramifications of lower salaries, decreased benefits, and small retirements.  New Hampshire has taken an important step toward lessening that possibility,” said State Rep. Jan Schmidt (D-Nashua).

Statements from Event Host Organizations:

State Rep. Cindy Rosenwald Receives Certificate of Appreciation for Paycheck Fairness Work

State Rep. Cindy Rosenwald Receives Certificate of Appreciation for Paycheck Fairness Work (Left to right) Deidre Reynolds, Rep Rosenwald, Zandra Rice-Hawkins, Caitlin Rollo

“In America, we value hard work and initiative. The Paycheck Fairness Act honors that American tradition by taking steps to eliminate pay discrimination and inequality in the workplace. We appreciate the work of our local legislators to make this law a reality,” said OFA Volunteer State Coordinator Deidre Reynolds.

“Ensuring equal pay for equal work is integral to the economic security of individuals and families. On behalf of our coalition, we commend these legislators for passing the Paycheck Fairness Act and for their continued efforts to build a New Hampshire that works for all of us,” said Kary Jencks, executive director of NH Citizens Alliance for Action.

While the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act passed with bi-partisan support, efforts at the federal level have stalled.

“New Hampshire passed a bipartisan paycheck fairness bill that will protect women and their families, now it’s time for Congress to follow our lead,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress. “Everyone should support equal pay for equal work. We call on our entire Congressional delegation to take a strong stand in support of paycheck fairness.”

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, and Congresswoman Annie Kuster are all co-sponsors of the federal Paycheck Fairness Act. U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte voted against the Senate measure in April, blocking the bill from moving forward.

Beware Of The Free Staters Running For Office

NHLN Logo .jpg

In case you missed it, the Nashua Telegraph (http://bit.ly/1tJQE9j) and the Concord Monitor (http://bit.ly/1tJQPRU) both ran an Op-Ed written by me, about the Free State Project and Dan Hynes a “Free State Mover” who is running for the NH Senate in Merrimack, Amherst, and Milford.

Here is an excerpt from the Op-Ed. Please visit one of these two site to read the full editorial.

You see, New Hampshire is the focus of a unique political experiment, started in 2001 by then-Yale University doctoral student Jason Sorens. His idea was to get 20,000 activists to move to a single state with a small population and an easily-accessible government.

As he said in his introduction to The Free State Project: “Once we’ve taken over the state government, we can slash state and local budgets, which make up a sizeable proportion of the tax and regulatory burden we face every day. Furthermore, we can eliminate substantial federal interference by refusing to take highway funds and the strings attached to them. Once we’ve accomplished these things, we can bargain with the national government over reducing the role of the national government in our state. We can use the threat of secession as leverage to do this.”

Snowplowing? Bridge safety? An adequately-funded judicial system? Public colleges? These things are nowhere on the Free Staters’ priority list.

Free Staters – at least those in Keene – seem more interested in marijuana and videotaping the city’s parking enforcement officers.

6-16-14 AFT-NH Legislative Update: The Session Comes To A Close, A Look Back At What We Have Done

AFT NH Legislative Update

AFT NH Legislative Update

We succeeded in defeating, once again, the so called “’right to work—for less” bill. Over the past two years hundreds of NH citizens voiced opposition to this bill with only a handful of people speaking in support. This attack on working people like you is led by out of state interests such as the National Right to Work Committee and ALEC.

We succeeded in defeating a bill that would have permitted audio and video recording of a public official while in the course of performing his or her official duties. All employees, both public and private, should have a reasonable understanding that when they are performing their jobs that they are not intimidated or harassed and should have a safe working environment.

We succeeded in passing a bill relative to the filing with a registry of deeds of a fraudulent document purporting to create a lien or claim against real property. As public employees just wanting to do our jobs we should not have to worry that someone unhappy with us could go the county’s Register of Deeds and file a million dollar false claim against your property.

We succeeded in defeating retirement legislation that would hurt public employees even more that the bad legislation passed by the Republicans in the 2010-2011 sessions. AFT-NH believes that:

  • Security in retirement is something every worker deserves after a long, successful career in public service. These workers, after dedicating their working life to educating children, enforcing the law, fighting fires and helping our communities run every day, have earned a benefit that must allow them to retire with dignity.
  • The benefit should ensure a predictable cost for the employers and employees, and it should create, and sustain, a high-quality workforce that is attractive to younger workers to invest a lifetime in public service, in turn adding value to the state’s economy.
  • In exchange for a lifetime of service, workers need to rely on defined and predictable retirement security that is protected against inflationary pressures. Their benefit should ensure sound investment options and strategies that will result in post-retirement stability, even against the economic concerns of today.
  • Public sector workers need to be able to look forward to long productive service. Retirement security should be defined through investments and contributions made over a long-term investment horizon.
  • Instead of encouraging the idea that working for the public sector is less valuable than working for the private sector, New Hampshire’s retirement system benefit for public workers should set a standard, and be something larger employers in New Hampshire should emulate.
  • Public service should be viewed as a respectful vocation; a commitment by workers of service and dedication to their home state. It is service that adds value to the quality of life for NH citizens and visitors. Public service is an investment in New Hampshire and retirement security creates a financial cornerstone of the NH economy.

We were not totally successful with the following but will be advocating for comparable bills to pass in the upcoming session.

AFT-NH supported bills that would have increased transparency within charter schools. We need laws and regulations requiring full transparency in how charter schools operate and making them directly and openly accountable to the public for student performance and their admissions and enrollment policies.  We need stronger policies mandating respect and support for teacher and staff voices in school policies and programs, identification of potential conflicts of interest via disclosure requirements, and the use of public funds by charter schools in the same rigorous manner required in our public schools.

AFT-NH supported a bill that would make sure we have the necessary resources, staff development and support in moving forward with Common Core and Smarter Balance. If these Standards are to succeed, we need to ensure that in each district the following are in place when implementing the Standards:

  • There needs to be planning time for understanding the Standards and time to put them into practice,
  • We need opportunities to observe colleagues implementing Standards in class.
  • We need to provide teachers with model lesson plans aligned to Standards.
  • We must ensure textbooks/other curricula materials align with Standards.
  • We must communicate with parents on the Standards and the expectations of students.
  • We need to develop best practices and strategies along with providing coaching to help teachers teach content more deeply.
  • We need to ensure all districts have the equipment and bandwidth to administer computer-based assessments.
  • We must make sure we have fully developed curricula aligned to Standards and available to teachers.
  • We must be work to align Assessments to Standards indicating mastery of concepts.
  • We must insist that professional development and training in the Standards be offered.
  • We need to develop tools to track individual student progress on key Standards.

To read AFT-NH full statement click here.

AFT-NH supported the passage of SB 322: relative to the renomination of teachers. It is time we move back to supporting our teachers in New Hampshire. Three years is long enough to deny teachers their due process when non-renewed. When decisions with such high stakes are being made, all staff should be given reasons why, and should be given time to improve through an improvement plan.

AFT-NH supported bills that would have increased School Building Aid from the state for local districts. Keep in mind that 50% of our school buildings are over 60 years old and many need infrastructure upgrades necessary for a 21st century learning environment. We also supported a bill that would lift the current cap of 72% on catastrophic special education funds and fully fund it.

We were not successful in passing our real pension reform bill, SB 364: relative to group II service retirement allowances and relative to establishing a supplemental savings plan in the retirement system. If nothing is done, New Hampshire will be in a situation where 30 years down the road, we are going to have public employees – at the end of a career – eligible to apply for food stamps, and other social services. This puts a strain on working families by forcing our public employees into social services. This is financially irresponsible for New Hampshire and undignified for our public employees.

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

Thank you!

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey

Please visit AFT-NH.org and AFT-NH Facebook page and clicked “Like Us”?
Late breaking news appears on our web site and on Facebook!

To read the full listing of EDUCATION BILLS click here

To read the full listing of LABOR BILLS click here

To read the full listing of RETIREMENT BILLS click here

To read the full listing of MISCELLANY BILLS click here

Opposing Ideas On How We Can Fix The NH Retirement System: The NH Labor News Vs Fosters Daily Democrat

Smashed Piggy Bank Retirement

Fosters Daily Democrat is basically a right-wing talking machine. Between Fosters and the Union Leader, they cover a majority of the state pushing half-truths and dis-information to drive the right wing, Tea Party agenda in NH.

Take for example this week’s Sunday editorial “Sharing the burden of reform,” talking about the NH Retirement System’s fiscal problems.

Fosters is arguing against a recent op-ed penned by John Broderick Jr., NH State Supreme Court Justice and the current Dean of the UNH Law School, entitled “State employee pensions are a promise, not a gift.” Both editorials agree that the NH Retirement System is not fully funded and that changes need to be made to protect the taxpayers, and the workers.

Broderick argues that the William (“Bully”) O’Brien legislature forced through pension reforms that were unjust, unfair, and unconstitutional. Since the NH Supreme Court has already ruled in Broderick’s favor, it is simple to see that he is correct.

Fosters, on the other hand, argues that fixing the “broken pension system” means gutting the defined pension system, and forcing all employees to pay more of their money to the pension fund. Forcing employees to pay more for retirement, Fosters argues, would relieve the overpaying, taxed enough already, taxpayers from having to pay more to fix the NH Retirement System. The part that Fosters ignores is that over 75% of retirees’ pension benefits are paid out from investment returns. Increasing employees’ contributions is NOT going to fix Wall Street.

Long gone are the days when companies, and municipalities cared about ensuring that their workers could live happily in retirement after years of dedication to their employer. As Pulitzer Prize winning author Hedrick Smith explains in his book, “Who stole the American Dream”: just three decades ago, 84% of large companies offered a full pension. In 2010, only 30% did. Companies and municipalities have been pushing workers away from pensions and into defined contribution (401K) plans – which makes employees responsible for funding their own retirement. Yet workers’ wages haven’t been raised to compensate for the benefit cuts.

This pro-business mentality of reducing benefit expenses while refusing to raise wages has made corporations billions in additional profits. Workers are getting screwed out of their retirements, while the corporate giants and Wall Street hedge fund managers add more zeros to their already inflated paychecks.

Fosters is arguing the same for the NH public workers: “make the workers pay more, to save the taxpayers money.” There are a few problems with this idea. The NH Retirement System is underfunded due to the Legislature over-estimating the investment returns (not putting enough in to cover their share of the cost) and the 2008 recession.

“As recently as 1999, the New Hampshire Retirement System was more than 100% funded.  But then the Trust Fund lost 10% of its value in the recession of 2001.  It lost another 25% of its value in the 2008 recession,” wrote Liz Iacobucci in her blog post entitled, “Going Behind the Rhetoric on Public Employee Pensions.”

During the O’Brien reign of terror, they created legislation to absolve the state from have to uphold their end of the retirement bargain. O’Brien and his Tea Party buddies re-wrote the pension laws to make employees pay more to cover the money. Thankfully, the NH Supreme Court has ruled those changes unconstitutional.

No matter what Fosters tries to tell you, the taxpayer already has an obligation to their public employees. They made an agreement when they hired the employee and that includes paying the costs associated with hiring these workers. Taxpayers and the Legislature have been avoiding paying their portion of the bill.

Avoiding a problem does not make it go away, it only makes the problem worse. I believe it was the GOP who really coined the phrase “kicking the can down the road.” Well, now that can is kicking back.

New Hampshire House Responds to People’s Call for a Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United

NHhouse

Written on May 15, 2014

Note: Today, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted with bipartisan support to pass by a 2-to-1 margin an amended version of SB 307 that calls for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and related cases.

Statement of Jonah Minkoff-Zern, Co-Director, Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign

Lawmakers in the New Hampshire House of Representatives are finally responding to the people’s call to rein in the torrent of money that is flowing into our political system. We applaud them for it, and we urge Senate lawmakers to follow suit.

In March, the state Senate moved forward SB 307 as a hollow bill that created a committee to examine the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling and make recommendations to the New Hampshire congressional delegation. But it did not explicitly recognize the need for a constitutional amendment. Citizens United gave corporations the green light to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections.

Today, the House voted to pass a version of SB 307 that includes language specifically calling for a constitutional amendment. This is in line with what the people of New Hampshire have been calling on their elected officials to do.

In March, residents made it crystal clear that they want to free elections from corporate influence and mega-donors when they overwhelmingly passed warrants at 48 town meetings calling for the state Legislature to support a constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 Citizens United ruling. And the momentum is still building. On Tuesday, both Hanover and Peterborough passed town resolutions calling for the Citizens United ruling to be overturned. On Wednesday, New London and Sanbornton passed similar resolutions. This brings to 52 the number of New Hampshire towns calling for a resolution this year.

The bill will head to conference committee where the Senate now has a chance to follow the will of their constituents and pass the amended language. If passed, New Hampshire would become the 17th state to call for an amendment to stop the flood of money from corporations and the ultra-wealthy into our elections.

View more information about the efforts to pass a constitutional amendment in New Hampshire.

Our State Senators Are Not Listening To Us On Campaign Finance Reform

We the corporations

Written by Ellen Read

Ellen Read

Ellen Read, Newmarket, NH

For the jaded among us this isn’t a surprise.  We’re cynical because we know our government is bought and paid for by the highest bidders.  Our legislators no longer have constituents, they have investors—groups not even from legislators’ districts with whom legislators spend 70% of their time fundraising, and who donate in order to obtain favorable policy.  A recent Princeton study showed definitively we no longer have a democracy, but an oligarchy—rule by the wealthy few.  It showed that public policy is dictated by the 0.000042% of Americans who give substantial contributions, not by the People, as we all believe.  But we don’t have to resign to apathy.

New Hampshirites, true to our independent spirit, are trying to restore government to the People.  Building on work of years past, this March resolutions were on 61 Town Warrants calling for a constitutional amendment that would:  1) guarantee the right of the people to regulate political spending, and 2) clarify that artificial entities such as labor unions, SuperPACs, and corporations are not entitled to the same constitutional rights as actual human beings.  Out of the 61 towns, 48 passed the resolution —and most by an overwhelming majority. The people of New Hampshire have spoken.

Yet when this same resolution, SB307, came before our State Senate, twelve Senators rejected the original language, gutting it—although 32 of the 48 towns that passed warrant articles were in these Senators’ districts.  For example, Senator Forrester voted against the purpose of the bill, but seven of the nine towns in her district passed similar resolutions.  And although all five towns in Senator Bragdon’s district and all four in Senator Bradley’s district also passed these resolutions, both of them also voted no.  Why aren’t they listening to us?

A UNH Poll revealed 75% of New Hampshirites, across all political lines, want a constitutional amendment to return control of government to the People.  New Hampshire cares about this.  A lot.  There is a movement building in response to government corruption, and it stems from our collective innate sense of what democracy is–from the wisdom of leaders from James Madison and Teddy Roosevelt to Warren Rudman and John McCain.

It’s tempting to be apathetic, thinking the system is rigged.  It is rigged; that is why we have to fix it.  SB307 is now passing the State House, so it will go back to conference with the Senate, where our senators may try to weaken it again.  We have to make our State Senators hear us, on this more than anything else, because this is the one issue that decides whether we have a say in any other.  No matter your politics or cause, if you want to have a say in it then we have to get big money out of politics.  No one should have to have money to have a voice–not in a democracy.

 

Ellen Read, Newmarket

Bob Martens, Bridgewater

George Blaisdell, Bridgewater

Max Stamp, Bristol

Nancy Dowey, Bristol

Maria Weick, Dorchester

Herb Moyer, Groton and Exeter

Pam Martin, Plymouth

Kenneth McKenzie, Eaton

Richard Devens, Sandwich

Penny Voyles, Wakefield

Michelle Russell, Hancock

Gerald Debonis, Sharon

Lucy Edwards, Northwood

Peter White, Nottingham

Scott Abercrombie, Salem

George Manos, Danville

Carol Croteau, Kingston

Evert Lamm, Stratham

Joseph Bagshaw, Conway (passed previously)

State Senator Martha Fuller Clark, District 21, Sponsor of SB307

Governor Hassan and Senator Larsen’s Statements On Paycheck Fairness Vote In NH House

Maggie Hassan

Statement from Governor Hassan on House’s Final Passage of Paycheck Fairness Act

CONCORD – Following the House’s final passage today of the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act, Governor Maggie Hassan released the following statement:

“With the final passage of the most significant piece of legislation for women in New Hampshire’s workforce in over a decade, Republican and Democratic members of the House have reaffirmed the basic principle that an equal day’s work deserves an equal day’s pay.

“Eliminating the pay gap between women and men will strengthen our economy and the financial security of working families across the state, and I thank Senator Larsen, Speaker Norelli and legislators from both parties for passing this common-sense legislation. I look forward to signing the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act into law and helping ensure that all of our workers earn a fair and equal paycheck.”

Senator Larsen Applauds the House Passage of the NH Paycheck Fairness Act

CONCORD – Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen released the following statement after the House passed Senate Bill 207, the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act.

“Thank you to Speaker Terie Norelli and House Labor Chairman Andy White for their work in guiding this bill through the House. This definitive  action by the House affirms that we must act to close the wage gap in New Hampshire.”

Senate Bill 207 has been cited by Senate and House Democrats as a top priority for the 2014 legislative session. All Senate Democrats have sponsored the legislation with House Speaker Terie Norelli serving as the leading House sponsor along with co-sponsors Rep. Shannon Chandley (D-Amherst), Rep. MaryAnn Knowles (D-Hudson), and Rep. Marjorie Porter (D-Hillsboro).

“The New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act will give the more than 60% of women working in today’s economy, as the primary or co-breadwinners for their families, the much-needed tools they need to combat the wage gap.”

“It’s distressing that, in the year 2014, women in New Hampshire, who are working full-time jobs, still earn only 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. National studies have found that a pay gap exists between men and women in nearly every occupation. With this action today, we are sending a crystal clear message that the Legislature is on the side of all workers guaranteeing a fair and equal paycheck, without fear of retaliation.”

“I look forward to this bill becoming law, so New Hampshire can renew our commitment to the fundamental principle of “an equal day’s work deserves an equal day’s pay.””

 

New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act Heading to Governor’s Desk (Statement by Granite State Progress)

Equal Pay for Equal Work (lilly ledbetter act)

Also, notice to House Republicans: Granite State Progress pays attention to every vote

CONCORD, NH – The New Hampshire House passed SB 207, New Hampshire’s Paycheck Fairness Act, by a vote of 233-103 today. The Senate previously passed the bill; it now heads to Governor Maggie Hassan (D) who has indicated she will sign it. Statement from Granite State Progress:

“The New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act will ensure women have the tools they need to challenge pay discrimination. These safeguards are good for women and good for families. Unfair pay practices harm everyone and New Hampshire was right to take steps to eliminate it,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress.

Today’s vote was the third in the House; state representatives previously voted on HB 1188, another version of a pay equity bill, and once before on SB 207. During the previous debate, Republican State Rep. Will Infantine (Manchester) made disparaging remarks about women’s motivation being a factor in pay discrimination. Those remarks sparked backlash and made local and national news. This time around, House Republicans instead attempted to weaken the bill. After that failed – and facing inevitable passage – many switched their roll call votes at the last minute to appear in support of equal pay.

“We recently praised the handful of House Republicans who stepped over party lines to join their Democratic colleagues in support of equal pay for an equal day’s work, despite the fact that over one hundred House Republicans still voted against women and their families,” Rice Hawkins said. “Let it be known that we watched each of those votes and aren’t fooled by politicians who stand with women only when there are no other options left. We always hope that politicians will see the light on critical issues, but we also recognize when they are only taking a vote for political expediency. We are not soon to forget where they really stand, or to be shy in advertising it.”

 

References

(GSP Video) NH State Rep: Women Earn Less Because Lack Men’s Motivation, Drive
Excerpt: “Men by and large make more because of some of the things they do. Their jobs are, by and large, more riskier. They don’t mind working nights and weekends. They don’t mind working overtime, or outdoors in the elements … Men are more motivated by money than women are.”

SB 207, the NH Paycheck Fairness Act will strengthen the law to define the conditions in which employers may legitimately pay different wages to men and women who perform equal work; prohibit policies that bar employees from disclosing information about their own wages, salary, and paid benefits as a condition of employment; and prohibit retaliation against an employee who discloses the amount of his or her wages. Sponsors include all Senate Democrats along with House Speaker Terie Norelli, Rep. Shannon Chandley (D-Amherst), Rep. MaryAnn Knowles (D-Hudson), and Rep. Marjorie Porter (D-Hillsboro).

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