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Granite State Rumblings: Combating Homelessness

Image by Pedro Ribeiro Simões on FLICKR CC
Image by Pedro Ribeiro Simões on FLICKR CC

Image by Pedro Ribeiro Simões on FLICKR CC

“If they don’t get sheltered, some of them will die.”

These were the words spoken by my doctor yesterday at my annual check-up. We were talking about the impending blizzard and some of his patients who are homeless. The pain on his face as he said that sentence was hard to see.

As I write, the wind driven snow is piling up outside of my kitchen window. I am warm, dry, and comfy and I have the generator ready to go should the need arise. But my doctor’s words are running through my mind.  “If they don’t get sheltered, some of them will die.”

And so I begin this newsletter and I wonder. How many homeless families and individuals are there in the state? Have they found shelter? Where will they go? Many of the businesses that could provide shelter are closed because of the storm – even the Dunkin Donuts is closed. The schools are locked up tight and the library’s shuttered. With all of the media reporting on the storm I have heard nothing about the homeless. Have you?

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires communities to conduct sheltered counts of people living in emergency shelter or transitional housing and unsheltered counts of people living in a place unfit for human habitation (such as in an abandoned building or in a park) biennially. This is known as the Point-in-Time Count.

Tomorrow (Wednesday, January 28th) the count to identify homeless people in New Hampshire will be conducted. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services’ Bureau of Homeless and Housing Services (BHHS), together with service providers who serve homeless individuals and families, will identify the number of sheltered and unsheltered persons within a 24-hour period.

These counts are critical for homelessness providers, researchers, funders, and advocates, as they are the only source of national data on the homeless population. But, counting unsheltered homeless people is a daunting task.

Not only are many unsheltered homeless people hard to find, but members of some homeless subpopulations, like homeless youth and LGBTQ individuals, congregate in different areas than larger populations and may try to avoid being identified as homeless, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

Locating them requires different strategies. And in New Hampshire that task falls on the combined efforts of the three local homeless Continuums of Care (Nashua, Manchester and the “Balance of State”) along with the NH Coalition to End Homelessness.

The most recently available state data on homelessness comes from the January 2014 State of New Hampshire Official Point-In-Time Count. Data from the 2014 count show that 1,635 people experienced homelessness in New Hampshire on a given night.

Significant findings from the 2014 count include:

  • Families with children comprise 43 percent of the overall homeless population (a total of 704 people, composing 258 households).
  • Slightly more than a third of the single adult homeless population is considered chronically homeless (341 people).
  • Veterans comprise 11 percent of New Hampshire’s homeless population (183 people).

Source: The State of Homelessness in New Hampshire 2014, NHCEH

Although many people still perceive homelessness to be a problem primarily among single men, and to a lesser extent single women, homelessness among families is a growing concern in many communities. Family homelessness in New Hampshire increased sharply in the years following the most recent economic recession. In recent years, however, the state has seen gradual decreases in the number of families living in shelters or on the streets on the day of the Point-in-Time Count.

The state’s population of homeless people in families decreased by 10 percent from 779 persons in 2012 to 704 persons in 2014. Seven counties saw decreases in family homelessness. However, Strafford County, where I live and my doctor has his practice, saw a 47 percent increase in family homelessness according to the NHCEH report, a 13,5 percent increase in student homelessness, and a nearly 67 percent increase in unsheltered homeless people between 2012 and 2014.

My doctor should not be the only one worried.

GROWING UP GRANITE

What is homelessness?

The NH Coalition to End Homelessness states the following:

Homelessness is a highly complex issue that may assume a range of scenarios and have varying effects on each person that experiences it. Social service providers, policy makers and researchers continue to have ongoing dialogue about what it means to be homeless; yet, the responses remain inconsistent.

Health centers funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) use the following:

A homeless individual is defined as “an individual who lacks housing (without regard to whether the individual is a member of a family), including an individual whose primary residence during the night is a supervised public or private facility (e.g., shelters) that provides temporary living accommodations, and an individual who is a resident in transitional housing.” A homeless person is an individual without permanent housing who may live on the streets; stay in a shelter, mission, single room occupancy facilities, abandoned building or vehicle; or in any other unstable or non-permanent situation.
[Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C., 254b)]

An individual may be considered to be homeless if that person is “doubled up,” a term that refers to a situation where individuals are unable to maintain their housing situation and are forced to stay with a series of friends and/or extended family members. In addition, previously homeless individuals who are to be released from a prison or a hospital may be considered homeless if they do not have a stable housing situation to which they can return. A recognition of the instability of an individual’s living arrangements is critical to the definition of homelessness.
(HRSA/Bureau of Primary Health Care, Program Assistance Letter 99-12, Health Care for the Homeless Principles of Practice)

Programs funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) use a different, more limited definition of homelessness.
[found in the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-22, Section 1003)]

  • An individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence;
  • An individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, including a car, park, abandoned building, bus or train station, airport, or camping ground;
  • An individual or family living in a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designated to provide temporary living arrangements (including hotels and motels paid for by Federal, State or local government programs for low-income individuals or by charitable organizations, congregate shelters, and transitional housing);
  • An individual who resided in a shelter or place not meant for human habitation and who is exiting an institution where he or she temporarily resided;
  • An individual or family who will imminently lose their housing [as evidenced by a court order resulting from an eviction action that notifies the individual or family that they must leave within 14 days, having a primary nighttime residence that is a room in a hotel or motel and where they lack the resources necessary to reside there for more than 14 days, or credible evidence indicating that the owner or renter of the housing will not allow the individual or family to stay for more than 14 days, and any oral statement from an individual or family seeking homeless assistance that is found to be credible shall be considered credible evidence for purposes of this clause]; has no subsequent residence identified; and lacks the resources or support networks needed to obtain other permanent housing; and
  • Unaccompanied youth and homeless families with children and youth defined as homeless under other Federal statutes who have experienced a long-term period without living independently in permanent housing, have experienced persistent instability as measured by frequent moves over such period, and can be expected to continue in such status for an extended period of time because of chronic disabilities, chronic physical health or mental health conditions, substance addiction, histories of domestic violence or childhood abuse, the presence of a child or youth with a disability, or multiple barriers to employment.

Hence different agencies use different definitions of homelessness, which affect how various programs determine eligibility and services for individuals and families at the state and local level.

This point is made again in The NH Coalition to End Homelessness’ December 2014 report, The State of Homelessness in New Hampshire 2014, which states, “it is clear that inconsistencies about the definition of homelessness do have serious implications for the state’s ability to adequately respond to the problem and to serve those who are in need.”

Progressive NH State Rep To Propose Minimum Wage Increase To $14.25 And Eliminating The “Tipped Minimum Wage”

Minimum Wage 101

Minimum Wage 101

Representative Jackie Cilley to introduce far-reaching minimum wage legislation

Fmr. State Senator and Gubernatorial candidate returns to Concord to pursue middle-class agenda

JackiePortrait(Barrington, NH) After a four-year absence from the New Hampshire General Court, newly-returned Barrington representative Jackie Cilley announced that her first piece of legislation – and her chief priority in the coming session – is to give New Hampshire’s struggling workers a raise with an increased minimum wage paired with the elimination of the so-called “tipped minimum wage.” This legislation would mark a return to a state-based minimum wage and move tipped workers into the economic mainstream with a raise from the current rate of $2.90.

Cilley, whose legislation would raise the minimum wage to $14.25 per hour over a three year-period and eventually tie the tipped minimum wage to the same figure, argues the move from both a matter of fairness and economic common sense.

“Most of use want to get paid what we are worth, what we contribute to the companies and organizations for whom we work,” notes Cilley.  “If the minimum wage had actually kept pace with worker productivity, it would be $21.72 today.  Instead, workers’ wages peaked decades ago because of partisan divide.”

“Conservatives and progressives should both want to see the creation of livable wages.  Set aside for a moment the argument of fairness to workers and just consider what each of us is paying to help an employer keep a worker at sub-livable wages.  These workers can’t actually live on those wages. They often need such support services as food stamps, fuel assistance, housing assistance and so on.   If the minimum wage were raised to just $10.10 per hour that would mean 1.7 million people across this country would no longer need public assistance, saving us $7.6 billion.  I don’t yet have the exact figures for this for New Hampshire, but simply pro-rating it per capita suggests a savings of more than $30 million.”

“This is long overdue: They were one vote away from making a substantial start in the last session and I want to keep that momentum moving, regardless of the partisan makeup of the new legislature,” Cilley said. “This doesn’t have to be a partisan issue – Mitt Romney supports an increased minimum wage, for example – but we have to make the case on economic, not just fairness grounds.”

“Bill O’Brien’s decision to put what New Hampshire businesses pay their workers in the hands of bureaucrats in Washington, DC was terrible choice. We need to have a minimum wage that reflects the economy and values of New Hampshire, not DC – This legislation puts the decision back where it belongs, in New Hampshire.”

Legislation pushed by then-Speaker Bill O’Brien repealed the state’s minimum wage law in 2011 and handed jurisdiction to the federal government. Gov. Lynch vetoed the legislation, but O’Brien’s allies in the House overrode the veto. The National Employment Law Project’s Christine Owens said at the time that “given the fact that minimum wage workers spend every penny they earn in their local businesses, a strong wage floor is also vital to stimulating the consumer spending necessary for real and lasting economic recovery.”

These economic facts of life haven’t changed. A study released in March of 2014 by the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute echoes Owens words.

“Most notably, raising the minimum wage will increase demand for the goods and services sold by businesses operating in the Granite State. Low-wage workers, out of necessity, typically spend every dollar that they earn. As a result, the increased wages they will earn from a higher minimum wage will almost certainly be spent – and most likely be spent quickly – in the communities in which they live and work.”

About Jackie Cilley: Born in Berlin, New Hampshire, Jackie Cilley was raised with four siblings in a third-floor walk-up tenement before graduating from Berlin High School. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UNH and has served as an adjunct professor at the Whittemore School of Business and Economics since matriculating from there in 1985. In 2004 she ran for a seat in the New Hampshire House of Representatives and won, serving one term in the House before being elected twice to the  New Hampshire Senate, representing the 6th District from 2006 – 2010. In 2012, she ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic nomination for Governor, losing to Gov. Hassan. She was re-elected to the New Hampshire House in 2014 where she serves on the Committee on Executive Departments and Administration. Rep. Cilley was recently named by veteran NH political reporter John DiStaso as one of the “‘Most wanted’ NH Democrats for the 2016 presidential campaign.”

Newspapers Across NH Scold O’Brien for Destructive Antics, When Will Kelly Ayotte & GOP Leaders End Their Silence?

Bill O'Brien (Seth Koenig | Bangor Daily News) CC

Concord, N.H. – Newspapers across the state have repeatedly blasted Bill O’Brien for his childish and harmful behavior, begging the question, when will Kelly Ayotte, Chuck Morse, and Republican Party leaders end their silence and stop endorsing O’Brien as he fights to destroy the New Hampshire House from within.

“Bill O’Brien’s increasingly desperate attempts to grab power for himself and further his own radical anti-middle class agenda are no longer just hurting the Republican Party, they’re threatening the well-being of our middle class families and our economy,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley. “Kelly Ayotte, Chuck Morse, and Republican Party leaders need to act responsibly and finally call on O’Brien to quit his destructive tactics and radical anti-middle class agenda before he’s able to take our economy backwards again.”

See below for a roundup of editorials from across the state blasting O’Brien’s destructive antics.

Nashua Telegraph: Politics: Dignity is not too much to ask

“The state faces too many important issues over the next two years to have Concord turned into a clown show. Politicians on both sides of the aisle need to work together – as they have done the past two years – to solve problems. That means O’Brien and his minions need to demonstrate a little dignity in defeat.”

Click here for full Nashua Telegraph Editorial.

Nashua Telegraph: They can cry if they want to

“Jasper isn’t the real culprit here. The larger problem is a party mind-set that thinks Bill O’Brien could possibly be an answer to any question New Hampshire voters might be asking. […] voters don’t much care about petty party considerations. They expect the jilted to grow up, get over the heartbreak and put the good of the state first.”

Click here for full Nashua Telegraph Editorial.

Concord Monitor: Tantrum is hurting GOP and the state

“Children see the world in black and white. The O’Brien faction and their leader are acting like spoiled children. Their tantrum is hurting their party, and if it continues, it will embarrass a state that is moving closer to the center of the national spotlight.”

Click here for full Concord Monitor Editorial.

Portsmouth Herald: O’Brien will do anything to gain power

“At first, former House Speaker Bill O’Brien and his rabid supporters, including the outspoken Pam Tucker of Greenland and Fred Rice of Hampton, just looked like a bunch of sore losers throwing a temper tantrum. But their efforts on Thursday to change House rules in order to anoint O’Brien as Republican majority leader fly in the face of the New Hampshire Constitution and show the desperate lengths O’Brien and his cronies will go to grab power from legally elected House Speaker Shawn Jasper and his leadership team. […] These latest actions show O’Brien is not simply a former Massachusetts Democrat who has become a far right-wing ideologue, he is a dangerous demagogue who will stop at nothing to get the power he seems to so desperately crave.”

Click here for full Concord Monitor Editorial.

Keene Sentinel: Republican House members need a time out

“At no point have we heard the put-out GOP leaders indicate anything they’re doing is for the good of the state. Rather, nearly every rebuke of the elected speaker has noted his actions as being detrimental to “the party.” Well, that would be a reasonable stance if only the Republican Party mattered — or governed — in New Hampshire. But those days have long since passed. What needs to happen now is to put aside these very petty squabbles in favor of serving the best interests of the state. […]The next two years will be hard enough to navigate. The GOP-led Legislature will need to find common ground with Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. That seems unlikely if its House members can’t even work and play amongst themselves without needing to be sent to the corner.”

Click here for full Keene Sentinel Editorial.

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript: O’Brien denial a coup for voters

“It’s time for O’Brien to let go of the reins of the N.H. House. There is a reason, perhaps many, why he wasn’t elected again to serve as speaker. […] given how our Legislature was run when O’Brien was in charge, Granite Staters should be happy to have someone — anyone — else leading the way for the majority party.”

Click here for full Monadnock Ledger-Transcript Editorial.

Valley News: The O’Brien Rebellion

“In the course of the proceedings, O’Brien demonstrated that this particular leopard had not changed spots, as his backers sought a rule change requiring a roll call vote instead of the traditional secret ballot. […] End of story? No, beginning of GOP civil war.”

Click here for full Valley News Editorial.

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.

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