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NH Passes Full Day Kindergarten, Sort Of

Yesterday, the Senate passed SB 191 also known as “Keno-garten” to partially fund full-day kindergarten in New Hampshire.

The bill would pay a portion of the costs ($1,100 of the $1,800 per pupil) to expand half-day kindergarten to full day with revenue generated through the state’s new Keno lottery.  There are no guarantees that Keno revenue will be enough to fund the program in the coming years and the bill still does not require all NH schools to expand kindergarten to a full day program.

The National Education Association of NH, representing thousands of educators across the state, explained the dilemma over SB 191 in their open letter urging legislators to support SB191.

“To be clear, SB 191 as amended by the Committee of Conference, is not perfect. NEA-New Hampshire has always, and will always continue, to advocate that full day kindergarten be funded in full in the same manner as all other grades. However, NEA-NH also recognizes sometimes you have to compromise in the process of getting to your ultimate goal.

SB 191 is just such a compromise. Yes, it does not guarantee full funding of kindergarten, and yes, the funding mechanism is not necessarily the one I would have chosen. But it is also the largest step New Hampshire has ever taken toward fully funding full day kindergarten that has occurred since I began teaching 18 years ago.

…New Hampshire’s current method of kindergarten funding puts an enormous burden on the 70% of New Hampshire municipalities (covering 80% of New Hampshire’s students) that have voluntarily elected to offer full day kindergarten. SB 191 will provide significant tax relief to those towns, and hopefully, encourage the remaining cities and towns to adopt full day kindergarten as well.

NEA-New Hampshire believes that all school districts should offer full day kindergarten. While passage of SB 191 does not accomplish that goal, it certainly puts New Hampshire much, much closer to reaching it than we ever have before.”

Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn is disappointed that Republicans refused to adopt a fully funded, full day kindergarten program and vows to continue to push for a fully funded, mandatory full day kindergarten program.

“Senate Democrats have been leading advocates for Kindergarten, and for fully funding full-day Kindergarten, for many years — we know this issue well and we know what this means for our communities. Passing full funding for full-day Kindergarten should have been an easy task. Governor Sununu promised to support it during his campaign and full funding for full-day Kindergarten passed with overwhelming, bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate.”

“It’s disappointing that in the final hour, Governor Sununu and Republicans snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by removing full-day Kindergarten from the budget, abandoning full funding, and choosing to push a half-measure tied to Keno. Make no mistake, SB 191 does not fully fund full-day Kindergarten. But, Democrats will continue to lead the fight for full funding for full-day Kindergarten with no strings attached.”

NH Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley highlighted that newly elected Governor Chris Sununu campaigned heavily on expanding kindergarten and has “broken a key campaign promise.”

“The governor broke a key campaign promise today. Instead of the fully-funded full day kindergarten he pledged on the campaign trail, he offered a half-measure and turned a blind eye while Republicans gutted even that. Because of Sununu’s abject failure to lead, Democrats were forced to pick up the pieces and salvage what was left for the sake of our kids. Governor Sununu and the Republicans always seem to make common sense a complicated calculus. While Democratic leaders would simply pass fully-funded full day kindergarten, Republicans need to cut it in half, tie it to gambling measures, and beg their members to vote yes. Real reform requires real champions, and Republicans are anything but.”

After the bill passed NEA-New Hampshire praised its passage.

“NEA-New Hampshire applauds the passage of SB 191, and thanks Governor Sununu and the bi-partisan coalition of legislators for finally putting New Hampshire on the path to full day kindergarten,” said Megan Tuttle, President of NEA-NH. “The benefits of full-day kindergarten are clear. Those students that attend full-day kindergarten are better prepared to enter first grade, have a higher high school graduation rate and are more likely to go to college. Full day kindergarten is a sound educational investment and I am thrilled that the legislators in Concord have recognized that.”

Now that the bill has passed questions still remain about the constitutionality of the legislation.  Andru Volinsky, Executive Councilor, and the lead lawyer in the Claremont education funding case of 1997, told WMUR last week that the bill is unconstitutional.

… Senate Bill 191 fails to meet the standard set out in the landmark 1997 New Hampshire Supreme Court decision in the Claremont school funding case requiring the state to provide and fund a constitutionally adequate education to all students.

….The Claremont ruling did not specifically refer to kindergarten, but it did say that the state’s system of funding “elementary and secondary public education” at the time, almost entirely through property taxes, was unconstitutional.

“Full-day kindergarten is part of a constitutionally adequate education,” Volinsky said Friday. “And once you understand that concept, you understand that the state must pay for constitutional adequacy.”

Volinsky also said, by failing to fully fund, full day kindergarten local school districts who choose to expand kindergarten will be putting even more “burden on local taxpayers”.

For those that have already chosen to expand kindergarten programs, this bill is a step in the right direction but it does not go as far as it should. This bill will help the 70% of school districts that already offer full day kindergarten.

Republicans Force Through Substantive Changes To “Fetal Homicide” Bill

Legislators and Civil Rights Group Call on Governor Sununu to Veto the Bill.

Yesterday morning the New Hampshire House and Senate voted to adopt an Enrolled Bills Committee Amendment to SB 66 – a fetal personhood measure recognizing a fetus as an independent victim of a crime for the first time in New Hampshire law. The amended bill now makes its way to Governor Chris Sununu’s desk.

During yesterday’s floor debate, House Speaker Shawn Jasper confirmed the enrolled bill amendment was put forth because SB 66, as passed by both chambers, would have allowed pregnant women to commit murder with impunity. Enrolled bill amendments are rarely voted on by the full House and Senate because they are normally restricted to typographical or technical errors.

Yesterday, the House and Senate voted to adopt a substantive enrolled bill amendment significantly changing the structure of the exceptions to SB 66’s expansion of New Hampshire’s homicide laws.

“This bill, which makes major changes to New Hampshire’s homicide laws, deserved a full vetting by the legislature.  It is our duty to write the state’s laws through an open, transparent process, and making substantive changes to our state’s murder laws in the way that we did today is a disservice to New Hampshire,” said Representative Renny Cushing (D-Hampton).  “What the House did today was legislative malpractice, and I am concerned about the long term implications this will have on our democracy.”

“We urge Governor Sununu to veto this legislation,” said Devon Chaffee, Executive Director of the ACLU of New Hampshire. “The fact that this last minute amendment was needed to avoid some of SB 66’s outrageous unintended consequences demonstrates that the bill was not fully vetted. The amendment adopted today is also extremely confusing, jeopardizing critical exemptions intended to protect pregnant women and their physicians from unjust murder and other homicide charges.”

Additional unintended consequences of SB 66 not addressed in the enrolled bills amendment includes the bill’s medically inaccurate definition of a fetus, which would be the only definition of a fetus in New Hampshire law. Judges could reasonably look to this medically inaccurate definition when interpreting the term “fetus” as it appears in other statutes including: the assault statute; the vital records statute; or the statute governing organ donation.

“This Republican bill has been plagued with issues from the outset. If as much effort was invested into writing the bill as was invested into eroding women’s reproductive rights, perhaps our Republican colleagues wouldn’t need to break Senate procedure to fix their mistakes,” said Senator Donna Soucy (D-Manchester), Deputy Democratic Leader in the Senate.

“Not only were medical experts never consulted during the construction of this bill, but Republicans were so careless as to include language that provides immunity for pregnant women in homicide cases. Now, they’re scrambling after-the-fact to use a legislative process normally used to correct spelling errors to make major policy changes about women’s reproductive health. And to demonstrate how desperate Republicans are, when a Senate colleague stepped forward in standard Senate procedure to voice her opposition to this process, she was interrupted and shut down by her Republican colleagues. This legislation is an exercise in poor craftsmanship on top of bad policy, and I’m concerned with the precedent this creates,” added Soucy.

“It is extraordinarily disheartening to me that the body would choose to make substantive changes to the entire homicide statute at a point in the process designed to ‘correct any error or omission in the references to statutes, or other technical or clerical errors.’  Today’s actions set an extremely disturbing precedent,” stated Representative Shannon Chandley (D-Amherst).

Senate Bill 66 establishes a basis for discrimination against pregnant women by codifying a medically unsound definition of a fetus as a separate person capable of being a victim of a crime. While the law is said to be an attempt to win justice for parents who lose a child during pregnancy due to criminal action, laws like SB 66 are used in other states to punish pregnant women for “risky” behaviors that are not criminal for others and has created legal argument to attack women’s reproductive health services.

Existing New Hampshire law currently provides for severe enhanced penalties for violent crimes resulting in the loss of pregnancy, without the outrageous unintended consequences that exist within SB 66. Under that existing New Hampshire law, a person may be prosecuted for First Degree Assault if they purposely or knowingly cause injury to another resulting in miscarriage or stillbirth—a class A Felony carrying a sentence of up to 15 years.

Republicans Force Through The NH Budget With Tax Giveaways To The Wealthy

Today, the New Hampshire House and New Hampshire Senate voted to approve the state’s two-year budget.  The vote 198-69 in the House and 14-9 in the Senate, were mostly along party lines.

The Governor and the rest of the NH Republican Party are praising the budget because it contains “no new taxes” and additionally cuts taxes for businesses saying that will somehow magically create jobs.  What they conveniently avoided talking about are the cuts to job training programs that businesses say are necessary to train workers for the vacant jobs available right now.

There are also cuts to the state’s nursing home budget, decreased funding to the NH University system that will lead to higher tuition rates, less money for drug treatment rehabilitation services, less money to fight the growing opioid epidemic,  and so much more.

The House Democrats were angry that the Republicans forced these massive cuts through to give big business more tax breaks.

House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff:

“This budget is a major disappointment for New Hampshire.  Democrats repeatedly expressed our desire to work with the majority on a bipartisan budget that upholds New Hampshire values, and at every turn we were ignored as House leadership turned to the far right of their party to craft their plan.”

“Democratic proposals to adequately fund mental health and developmental disability services, and to provide sufficient funds to take on the opioid epidemic, were moderate and reasonable.”

“The decision by House budget writers to ignore Democratic proposals, and instead include poison pills like the Hyde amendment, a Medicaid waiver requirement that will likely end the state’s successful Medicaid Expansion program, and the inclusion of further tax cuts for big business, solidified Democratic opposition to what could have been a bipartisan proposal.”

“This budget isn’t even honest or transparent with taxpayers.  Hundreds of millions of dollars in spending, which was purposely left out of the budget to achieve an artificially deflated bottom line, will now be determined through the ten member Fiscal committee.”

“The gimmicks, harmful policy choices, and lack of a serious long-term investment in our state all make this budget unacceptable to House Democrats.”

Representative Mary Jane Wallner:

“This budget represents a missed opportunity to make the investments our state needs to stay competitive and grow our economy.  At a time when our business community is begging for an educated workforce as their top priority, this budget fails to invest in education and cuts state revenues for years into the future.”

“At a time when the opioid crisis continues to grow, with more deaths and more deadly drugs hitting our streets, we have failed to make the investments needed to effectively combat this harmful epidemic.”

“New Hampshire’s successful Medicaid Expansion program currently provides health care for over 53,000 Granite Staters.  This budget puts that program at risk of being ended based on the decisions of bureaucrats in Washington.”

“The Republican majority could have worked with Democrats to pass a bipartisan budget that works for all New Hampshire citizens.  The fact that they chose an ultra-conservative tact at every opportunity sets our state back and is a disappointment to all who support responsible, bipartisan government.

In the Senate, the vote was strictly down party lines.  The Republicans steamrolled Democrats to force this draconian budget through.

Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn (D-Whitefield) released the following after the vote:

“Today, Democrats stood united with working families and their priorities by voting against the Republican budget. Even though we approached our Republican colleagues many times in the spirit of compromise and offered countless amendments to make the budget reflective of the needs of real people in our communities, our efforts were rejected at every turn. The Republican budget agreement caves to the wealthy elite and short-changes those who are most in need.”

“It’s a grave mistake to force the people of New Hampshire to line the pockets of corporations while the critical investments our state so desperately needs go unmet. In good conscience and good faith, Democrats are not able to sign off on a budget that diverts funds away from our state’s critical substance misuse and mental health crises for the sake of more reckless business tax cuts. This budget continues a troubling pattern of forcing the working people in our state to pick up the bill.”

NHDP Chair Ray Buckley released the following after the budget votes:

“Governor Sununu’s reckless and dangerous budget will take New Hampshire’s progress and turn it into disrepair. The governor wants to give corporations a tax cut they never asked for. By doing so, he’s denying businesses the workforce training they did ask for.

These tax cuts are paid for by underfunding programs like the alcohol fund, DCYF, and the developmental disability waitlist. The governor may think these tax cuts are no big deal, but they’re a big deal to the people in the state who are seeking refuge from abuse and addiction or who need help with a disability.

This budget will deny them the resources they desperately need to stay afloat.

Corporate tax cuts will make students and their parents dig deeper for a tuition check. This governor, for lack of attention to detail, is blindly leaning on his ideology to solve problems that require the kind of serious attention he is too apathetic to give.”

So once again the New Hampshire Republican Party, led by their Trump loving Governor, Chris Sununu, have shown the people of New Hampshire that they only care about giving more money to big business and the rest of us can suck it.


After the initial publication of this post the NH Fiscal Policy Institute released their statement on the NH Budget.  The statement highlights just a few of the programs that will be directly effected by the cuts in the NH Budget.

“The state budget passed today by the New Hampshire House and Senate makes important strides in funding for critical health needs in the state, increasing capacity in the mental health system, boosting funding for child protection, and providing compensation rate increases for direct health service providers,” said John Shea, executive director of the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute.

“Importantly, the budget increases the thresholds for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits to 60 percent of federal poverty guidelines and provides annual adjustments to ensure benefits will keep up with inflation. This change will make a real difference for families who struggle to afford basic needs.”

“Policymakers also increased the state’s Rainy Day Fund to $100 million, which will provide a solid foundation in the event of an economic downturn or fiscal crisis,” noted Shea.

“At the same time, the tax changes in this budget reduced available revenue by $23.7 million and left policymakers with fewer resources to address needs that would have provided benefits to all New Hampshire residents and businesses, such as increasing funding for schools, roads, and other public infrastructure, and making higher education and workforce training more accessible.”

“The tax rate reductions passed in this budget increase the risk of reduced revenue for future years, and may limit the state’s ability to address future needs,” added Shea. “While this budget makes some important strides, the state may continue to fall behind in areas that are essential to ensuring a strong economy.”

Boutin Attacks Cavanaugh In New Mailer, Mistakenly Shows Support For Voting By Mail

The election in Senate District 16, formerly held by the late Sen Scott McGilvray, is heating up and former Senator David Boutin is already slinging mud with his new mailer.  The most ironic part of Boutin’s mailers is that he is now pushing to have people “vote by mail.”

Last week Sen. Boutin sent out this mailer attacking Alderman Kevin Cavanaugh highlighting a variety of different issues that Cavanaugh has voted for in the last year. My favorite is the one where he highlights that Cavanaugh has “40%” of his campaign funding from “Special Interests.”

Because campaign finances are public record, it is easy to see who has supported Sen. Boutin in previous elections.  According to FollowTheMoney.Org,  Boutin’s 2014 campaign received 712 total donations from totaling $223,377.  Boutin had 312 donations totaling $70,876 from individuals and 387 donations totaling $151,908 from corporations and PACs.

If my math is correct that means that 55% of his campaign funding came from “special interests,” funding more than two-thirds of his entire campaign. So it seems funny that Boutin would attempt to attack Cavanaugh for campaign donations, when the overwhelming majority of his campaign cash came from special interests.

The irony comes as Boutin is encouraging people to “vote by mail,” as the Republicans have continually voted down measures to allow more people to vote by mail.  New Hampshire does not officially have “vote by mail” like Oregon but voters can always vote by absentee ballot, provided they provide an viable excuse for not being able to vote in person, which would allow them to mail in their ballot.

The absentee ballot process is somewhat restrictive as there are only certain “excuses” that can be offered to obtain an absentee ballot. NHPR explains:

Under the state’s current absentee voting law, those reasons include being out of town on the day of the election, or being prevented from getting to the polls because of a disability, a religious commitment or work.

Over the last few years there has been an effort to eliminate the excuses for absentee ballots and try to move New Hampshire to a vote by mail state.  All of those efforts have failed.

However as NHPR reports this new push by Boutin to encourage absentee ballots may indicate that the NH GOP is ready to support expanding voting by mail.

The NHGOP, New Hampshire Democratic Party and the Cavanaugh campaign all said they support a move toward “no-excuse” absentee voting, which is an option in more than two dozen other states.

The Boutin campaign didn’t immediately respond to a follow-up question about his stance on the issue.

On his campaign website, Cavanaugh lists as one of his priorities, “ensuring access to the ballot box.”

“Kevin believes that all eligible voters should have full access to the ballot box and that New Hampshire must pass modern, common-sense voting laws that have been implemented and successful in a majority of other states.”

Cavanaugh wants to implement “no-excuse” absentee ballots, in-person early voting, and online voter registration.

Since winning the Democratic Primary, Cavanaugh has garnered some strong support from the local community, labor organizations, and elected officials. (Click here for a full list of endorsements.)

“We need leaders like Kevin Cavanaugh with fresh, new ideas who are focused on fighting the opioid crisis, supporting our schools, growing our small businesses and being a champion for working families,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who helped Cavanaugh kick off his campaign over the weekend.

“I’m excited to announce my support for Kevin Cavanaugh for state Senate,” said Senator Maggie Hassan in her endorsement yesterday. “As a former state Senator and Governor, I know how crucial Kevin’s voice will be to standing up for Granite Staters and fighting for equal opportunity for families, workers, and students.”

“Throughout his career as a union worker, Kevin has shown that he understands the importance of protecting workers’ rights across the state. And as a Little League coach and father of three, he knows how critical it is that we support educational opportunities for all of our people. When Kevin sees a problem, he dives right in, and that’s exactly the kind of hands-on leadership we need in Concord,” added Hassan.

“Kevin Cavanaugh is clear in his commitment to advocate for the interests of New Hampshire’s working families. Whether it be providing affordable health care, ensuring equal pay for equal work, or maintaining NH’s commitment to providing and funding quality public education available to all, Kevin Cavanaugh will always prioritize the interests of ordinary New Hampshire citizens. AFT-NH shares that commitment with Kevin Cavanaugh, and we are proud to add our name to those who endorse and support his election to the NH Senate,” said AFT-NH President Doug Ley in their endorsement last week.

Tax Giveaways For The Wealthy, While Kids Get Funding For Education Through KENO

This is why we cannot have nice things.  

Our screwed up system of state and local taxes creates many problems for state legislators when crafting our bi-annual state budget.  Our current system means we have to rely on the “sin taxes” aka booze and smokes.  Now they are basing funding for kindergarten on Keno sales.

Thats right. Instead of funding full day kindergarten as both Governor Sununu and Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern campaigned on, Republicans have agreed to partially fund full day kindergarten with revenue from a new Keno lottery game.  We are basing funding for the education of our children on Keno.

The Concord Monitor reports:

The amendment approved by a committee of conference would provide an additional $1,100 per full-day kindergarten student and would legalize the online lottery game keno to help pay for it. The plan also guarantees the funding even if keno revenues aren’t enough to cover the grants.”

The $1,100 additional adequacy grant does not cover the costs of full day kindergarten as the Union Leader explains.

The state currently offers school districts a grant of $1,800 per student for kindergarten enrollment. That’s half the so-called “adequacy grant” of $3,600 for students in grades 1-12, assuming half-day kindergarten programs.

Throughout the budget process Republicans have been saying we cannot afford to cover our proposed expenses and pay for full day kindergarten, but there is plenty of money to drop the Business Profits Tax.

Jeff Woodburn the Democratic Minority Leader in the NH Senate said:

Senate Democrats have been leading on Kindergarten for years, and we are glad Governor Sununu has at least attempted to follow our example. But, today’s failure to support full-day kindergarten like any other grade while giving even more tax cuts for the wealthy elite is a major disappointment and once again demonstrates Governor Sununu’s failure to lead. The fact that Governor Sununu could not get the Republican House to compromise raises real questions about the Governor’s commitment to full-day kindergarten and shows, once again, his commitment to partisan politics.”

“Just like his broken campaign promises to lead on reducing tuition at our colleges and universities and on family and medical leave insurance, this kindergarten shell game demonstrates Governor Sununu’s desire to put partisan politics ahead of meaningful progress for everyday Granite Staters.”

It is very clear that Republicans in the Legislature do not care about working people and children as they refuse to make full day kindergarten mandatory and fail to fully fund full day kindergarten.  They are more than willing to slash taxes on “business owners” at the expense of the needs and priorities of the state.

I do not want to hear any Republican say that we cannot afford  to fix our crumbling roads and bridges, fully fund full day kindergarten, invest in repairs for local schools, or that we cannot afford to expand rail service into NH until they replace the tax giveaways in this budget.

NH Building and Construction Trades Council Endorses Kevin Cavanaugh

Concord, NH – Today, the New Hampshire Building and Construction Trades Council endorsed Kevin Cavanaugh in the Democratic primary for the upcoming District 16 special election. District 16 includes Bow, Candia, Dunbarton, Hooksett, and Manchester Wards 1, 2, and 12.

“We’re excited to support Kevin Cavanaugh in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. He knows how to get things done and has always looked out for every day people who are working to earn a living and raise their family here in New Hampshire. He has a proven record of common sense solutions that would be an asset in the Senate,” said Steve Burke, President of the NH Building and Construction Trades Council.

“It’s an honor to have the support of the Building and Construction Trades Council. I’ve spent years advocating for families who are one injury or sickness away from financial devastation and I want to make sure we have protections in place that support hard working Granite Staters,” said Kevin Cavanaugh.

The New Hampshire Building and Construction Trades Council Represents more than 2,500 New Hampshire workers.

Kevin Cavanaugh has also been endorsed by six other organizations representing local educators, fire fighters, and law enforcement, as well 34 area leaders (full list). The primary election will be held on Tuesday, June 6th.

About Kevin Cavanaugh

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

NH Senate Battles Over State Budget, Slashes Funding For DCYF, Drug Treatment And Kindergarten

Last night, the New Hampshire State Senate was burning the midnight oil as Senators battled over the State’s budget.  After 11pm last night, the Republicans pushed through their budget along party lines (14-9).  Along with cuts to drug treatment programs, funding for full day kindergarten, and DCYF, the budget is a massive tax giveaway to the wealthiest in our state.  Republicans also rejected a budget amendment to ensure low-income families would still be able to access healthcare through low cost options like Planned Parenthood.

“This budget creates an artificial, trumped-up surplus to sell the biggest Republican ruse of all, that slashing taxes for the rich will grow revenues and improve the lives of poor, middle-class people,” said Democratic Minority Leader Sen. Jeff  Woodburn (D-Whitefield). “The reality is that this budget props up the wealthiest 1% in our state and kowtows to the most conservative 5% in the House.

“Throughout every step of this process, Senate Democrats have been clear that we are willing to work with our Republican colleagues toward a bipartisan, fiscally responsible budget that works for everyone, not just those at the top. But the right-wing budget passed this evening is purely a political document and fails to adequately address the challenges and needs of our state,” added Woodburn.

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley told the Concord Monitor, “We find ourselves doing as much as we can while protecting taxpayers and growing our economy.”  This is essentially the same argument the Trump administration is using to justify massive cuts to the Federal Budget and to justify cutting taxes on the people who pay the most in taxes.

The Governor’s budget undercuts the alcohol fund which is key in combatting the opioid crisis. Tym Rourke, Chair of the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol & Drug Abuse, said yesterday that the additional dollars directed toward the alcohol fund are deceptive, and could be diverted elsewhere, forcing treatment and prevention programs to scramble for resources. Sununu’s uprooting of opioid funds is similar to the Trump budget, which cuts money from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, slashes drug prevention funding by 11%, cuts Medicaid funding in half, and cuts $400 million in substance use disorder and mental health funding.

In addition to underfunding the fight against opioids, Sununu’s Senate budget does nothing to avoid tuition hikes at community colleges and state universities, dedicates no funding toward job training of Community Mental Health Centers, and stops short of providing adequate funding to the Department of Children, Youth & Families and the developmental disability program. Most surprisingly, the Senate Republicans refused to spend even a dollar in the budget on the popular full-day kindergarten program.

The underfunding of key programs for New Hampshire’s working families and most vulnerable citizens are designed to make room for $216 million in business tax cuts in the next 4 years. After 12 years of Democratic leadership in the corner office, New Hampshire has the third-lowest unemployment rate in the country and was rated the number one state in America for economic opportunity by US News.

“What it comes down to is that budgets are about priorities and the priorities laid out in the Senate Republican budget do not match those of hard working Granite Staters,” added Sen. Dan Feltes (D-Concord). “This budget fails to include job training programs that would boost our workforce and close our skills gap, breaks promises made to our retirees and increases health care costs for our seniors, and doesn’t invest in full-day kindergarten, something necessary to closing the opportunity gap and attracting and keeping young working families in New Hampshire. The budget fails to adequately address DCYF and child safety. It also fails to adequately address our mental health crisis in the short-term, nor does it make the cost-effective investments that will prevent the crisis from expanding; including in childhood mental health. Quite simply, this budget fails to meet the critical and time-sensitive challenges we face.”

“A budget based on incorrect, deflated revenue estimates is one that needlessly discards invaluable resources for New Hampshire’s most needy. The budget is the bill that impacts every person in New Hampshire and is the most important piece of legislation that we vote on. While the budget approved today makes steps in the right direction, it simply leaves too many needs unmet,” said Sen. Lou D’Allesandro (D-Manchester). “This budget fails to fully fund full-day kindergarten, fails to fully fund our efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, and fails to adequately meet the needs of those suffering from mental illness. The people of New Hampshire deserve better than what was passed in the Senate today.”

Among the highly contested sections of the budget was severe cut to Planned Parenthood funding. The Senate ultimately rejected an amendment to keep Planned Parenthood’s doors open in the event of a federal “defund.” A federal “defund” of Planned Parenthood, as proposed by the Trump Administration, would block Medicaid patients from receiving care. This move, if passed in Washington, would be immediate, giving no time for budget writers to come back to the table to find a New Hampshire solution to funding.

The amendment was proposed by Senator Feltes (D-Concord), and was an opportunity to ensure that there is continuity of care for patients if Planned Parenthood is “defunded” at the federal level. Currently,  New Hampshire consistently ranks one of the top healthy states in the nation, with one of the lowest teen pregnancy and STI rates in the country, and excellent maternal health outcomes. This contingency amendment aimed to keep that enviable status by using state Medicaid dollars to protect federal losses in the event of a federal “defund”.  Also speaking on behalf of this amendment were Senator Soucy and Senator Hennessey.

“The Congressional Budget Office estimated that most of the federal savings from eliminating Planned Parenthood would be offset by the high-risk, high-cost of unintended pregnancies which would result in additional Medicaid births. Because many of those patients won’t be able to find another provider, taking away cancer screenings and preventive care will only drive the costs up in other parts of our health care spending. Furthermore, since our state currently uses Medicaid funds to purchase coverage through Medicaid managed care and premium assistance – there wouldn’t be any additional cost for these capitated rates, while there would be the very important benefit of maintaining continuity of care for thousands of Planned Parenthood patients,” said Senator Dan Feltes.

In addition to providing quality care for many Granite Staters, Planned Parenthood’s services are also extremely cost effective, as every dollar spent on publicly-funded contraception saves more than $7 in other costs. Ensuring that Planned Parenthood stays part of New Hampshire’s health care system helps prevent unintended pregnancies and STI occurrences.

The amendment was rejected by a partisan vote of 14-9.

“We’re grateful for the efforts of State Senators to protect the health of people who rely on Planned Parenthood for lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control and other needed health care in New Hampshire. However we’re deeply disappointed that Senate Republicans took a partisan approach which could result in disruption of access to reproductive care. We will continue to strive for a bipartisan approach to protecting women’s health and rights,” said Jennifer Frizzell, Vice President for Public Policy for Planned Parenthood of New England.

“Last night’s vote comes as politicians in Congress are threatening the health and lives of millions of people across the country who rely on Planned Parenthood. We applaud the efforts of our state legislators to help shield  our patients in New Hampshire, yet the health and well-being of millions of people across the country still hangs in the balance. If members of Congress do not abandon this attack, it will be nothing short of a health care disaster,” Frizzell added.

Senate Democrats added their distain for this attack on women’s health providers.

“It’s a disturbing reality that in 2017, women in the United States, and now in New Hampshire, continue to play defense against constant efforts to restrict access to the healthcare services that women need to lead safe, healthy and independent lives,” said Senator Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth). “As Republicans in Washington explicitly target major women’s healthcare providers like Planned Parenthood for elimination, there is significant, substantiated anxiety that women are in imminent danger of losing access to the affordable, high quality and preventative health services that clinics like Planned Parenthood provide.”

“When Republican members of the all-male, Senate Finance Committee introduced an amendment on the final day of deliberation in executive committee, without first holding a public hearing, to codify a state-level version of the Hyde amendment to prohibit the use of state funds for diversion to reproductive healthcare clinics, they made clear their intent to promote their personal and political ideology at the expense of women’s health,” said Senator Martha Hennessey (D-Hanover). “This is especially clear given that it is already established in practice that no federal or state funds in New Hampshire are used to cover abortion services. The ulterior intent of the amendment is clear: it is to send a message that Senate Republicans do not value or intend to preserve the lifesaving services that Planned Parenthood provides to the women of New Hampshire.”

“These efforts to defund and restrict access to Planned Parenthood are not only unconstitutional, they also disproportionately impact low income women, women of color, young people and immigrants who rely on Medicaid for their healthcare coverage,” added Senator Donna Soucy (D-Manchester). “In Manchester alone, upwards of 5,000 women utilize Planned Parenthood’s services, including physical exams, cancer screenings, family planning resources and STI testing and treatment. These clinics are invaluable to New Hampshire families and our communities. Given the uncertainty in Washington, we should be doing all that we can to assure the thousands of women who rely on these services that their care will not falter.”

“We find it disturbing that our Republican colleagues not only doubled down on their efforts to deny women’s healthcare coverage, they triple and quadrupled down on it with every subsequent amendment to restrict access,” said Senator Bette Lasky (D-Nashua). “While I respect that this is a contentious issue open to debate and disagreement, these amendments should have gone through the proper, public process, not introduced in the late hours of the night as we take our final votes on the budget.”

Senate Republicans Push Through Budget That Democrats Say “Fails Granite State Families”

CONCORD – Today, the Senate Finance Committee approved their version of the budget on a party line 4-2 vote. After the vote, Senate Democrats released the following comments:

“Senate Democrats have been clear that we are willing to work with our Republican colleagues toward a bipartisan, fiscally responsible budget. But the budget passed this afternoon does not address the challenges of everyday Granite Staters and fails to make critical investments in priorities that expand opportunity for all, not just those at the top,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn. “Unfortunately, our Republican colleagues have chosen to pass a partisan budget that rewards the wealthiest among us at the expense of working families and our state’s most vulnerable.”

“Despite many attempts by Senate Democrats to amend the budget to allocate dollars where they are most needed, the Senate Republican budget pushes the same out-of-touch, tone-deaf agenda that failed miserably in the House,” Sen. Woodburn continued. “This budget fails to reduce tuition at our colleges and universities, fails to preserve the benefits of our successful, bipartisan NH Health Protection Program, and prioritizes more tax cuts for the wealthy over hard working families. Senate Democrats will continue to fight for a budget that makes a difference in the lives of everyday people, bolsters our businesses, and fuels our economy.”

“The budget is the bill that affects every person in New Hampshire and is the most important piece of legislation that we vote on. And while the budget approved today makes steps in the right direction, it simply leaves too many needs unmet,” said Sen. Lou D’Allesandro. “This budget fails to fully fund full-day kindergarten, fails to fully fund our efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, and fails to adequately meet the needs of those suffering from mental illness. Make no mistake, this is not the budget I wanted and I will continue to work to ensure that the critical needs of the people of New Hampshire are met.”

“What it comes down to is that budgets are about priorities and the priorities laid out in the Senate Republican budget do not match those of hard working Granite Staters. This budget fails to include job training programs that would boost our workforce and close our skills gap, breaks promises made to our retirees and increases health care costs for our seniors,” added Sen. Dan Feltes. “It fails to live up to our obligations to Granite Staters living with disabilities by failing to fund our developmental disability waitlist and does not adequately deal with childhood mental health. And it fails to provide resources to reform DCYF and protect our most vulnerable children. Quite simply, this budget fails to adequately address the critical and time-sensitive challenges facing our state. ”

 

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

Image by Global Panorama FLIKR CC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State Senator Lou D’Allesandro Endorses Cavanaugh in Special Election

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

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

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

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

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

Area leaders who have endorsed Kevin Cavanaugh:

 

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