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AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: School Nurse Certification, Safe Zones, and More

This week was a relatively slow week in Concord, and neither the Senate nor the House will convene again until March 6, 2018 (everyone is off for Winter vacation week). What this means, however, especially for the House, is that there is an oncoming avalanche of legislation heading to the floor. Between March 6 and March 22, hundreds of pieces of legislation will need to be considered and dispensed with by the House, so there are some long session days impending.

School Nurse Certification Yesterday, the House passed HB 1217, which reduces the certification requirements for school nurses. Proponents of the bill emphasized cost savings to school districts of fewer certification standards to be met by school nurses, while opponents of the bill pointed to the complexities facing school nurses. Dealing with injuries, chronic illnesses, serving as a resource for psychological issues, all these involve school nurses. But in NH, we reduce standards to prior levels, rather than render pay more commensurate with more rigorous standards. And all of our school employees know we do not employ enough school nurses in our schools. The bill now moves to the Senate, which is likely to pass the bill and send it to the governor.

Safe School Zones and Gun Violence Speaking of the Senate, AFT-NH was heartened to see Senator Hennessey offer an amendment to SB 357, empowering school boards to determine whether firearms should be permitted in their safe school zones. Federal law bars weaponry in such zones but under NH law only the Legislature can regulate guns. The amendment is in response to the event in Florida and follows NH’s hallowed tradition of local control, leaving it to local school boards to determine their community safety needs. This is a step in the right direction, but only a very small step in beginning to address the complexities of school safety. Meanwhile, in Washington DC, the AFT national Executive Council passed a strong resolution condemning school gun violence as well as the calls to arm teachers AFT Executive Council Condemns Gun Violence. AFT-NH fully endorses this resolution and we wholeheartedly agree with our national president, Randi Weingarten, who has committed our union to “doing everything we can to protect kids and educators and prevent gun violence in our schools. We support every action being organized. . . . We are coming together with those who learn in, teach in, send their kids to and care about public schools, to take a stand.”

While national actions are being planned, many districts in New Hampshire are also planning and expecting student actions protesting gun violence and demanding solutions of our political leaders. So the Hennessey amendment is a start, but there is a long road that lies ahead. Another step along the way occurs on March 1, when Division I of the House Finance Committee holds a work session on HB 1415, providing a death benefit to the families of school personnel killed in the line of duty. NH has been fortunate in not suffering incidents similar to the heart-wrenching tragedies of Sandy Hook or Stoneman Douglas, but our good fortune can end at any moment. We hate the fact that we need legislation such as HB 1415 but sadly it is needed, at least as a mark of respect for those who give their lives in defense of their students, our children. AFT-NH continues to fully endorse HB1415 and we will keep you fully apprised of the bill’s progress.

SB 193 still looms ahead In other news, the SB 193 saga continues, with no public actions taken by Finance-Division II this past week. It appears that a significant amendment, if not another entire rewrite of SB 193 is underway, involving Governor Sununu’s office along House proponents of this so-called “voucher bill” (it uses savings accounts rather than vouchers). Their goals are to somehow limit the pool of eligible students and try to reduce the obvious costs to the State and to local taxpayers, as public monies are re-routed to private schools, religious schools, and home-schoolers. This is all being done quietly and out of public view, meaning the bill could have a completely new look to it without there ever being adequate opportunity provided for public hearings and testimony. Stay tuned, this one will have many more twists and turns to it.

Labor Bills and Retirement In the Labor Committee, HB 1762 (to repeal child labor regulations and gut wage-payment protective legislation) was abandoned by its sponsors and will be put on “Interim Study,” or what is often informally called “death with dignity.” At nearly the same time, HB 1803, prohibiting payroll deductions for any non-governmental entity, was recommended “inexpedient to legislate” by the Executive Departments and Administration committee. Both bills will likely be dispensed with quickly by the House on March 6 or 7, receiving the fate they richly deserve. On the down side, however, the Finance Committee has recommended against passage of HB 1756 which would provide a long-overdue COLA increase to those receiving pensions from the NH Retirement System. There have been no COLA increases since 2010, and there is no doubt that the cost-of-living has increased over the past eight years. Please be sure to read this week’s NH Retirement Security Coalition Legislative Recap.

Police Details versus Flaggers   Last week there were also two further developments of interest in the House. HB 193, the “flagger” bill, passed the House and has been sent to the Senate. This bill would allow for replacing police details at road construction sites with private company flaggers, as a means of saving money. However, police and other emergency professionals are trained to, well, handle emergencies, and emergencies (accidents, etc.) often happen at these sites. So it makes eminent sense to have individuals present trained in emergency protocols. When this bill is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate, we urge that you contact your senator and urge her/him to vote against this bill as a short-sighted cost-saving that places public safety at risk.

Collective Bargaining and Right to Know Law  Finally, the Judiciary Committee in the House voted along party lines to recommend passage of HB 1344, which would open collective bargaining sessions to the public under right-to-know laws. Negotiation is not a spectator sport, and much is said in negotiations by both sides that should not and never does leave the room. Prior personnel cases are often brought up with details that should not be made public, and the fluidity of negotiation would only be hindered by public presence and comment. Rather than aiding in the process, opening negotiations to the public will only harden positions and increase the bitterness, length and expense of negotiations. This is a bad idea and we will be asking you to help defeat this legislation.

#NeverAgain  I end this week’s bulletin with a heartfelt request that you take a moment to honor the memories of the students, coaches and teachers who lost their lives in the senseless Florida school shooting last week. A community is devastated, and we are all left to ponder what is next. But let us take heart from the example of the students from Stoneman Douglas and the students across New Hampshire and the United States, who are speaking out, demanding answers and taking a stand. They are calling us to account, as they should, and it now our obligation to live up to their high standards and expectations.

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

 

Included is the PDF version of the bulletin to download and share

Mark Fernald: Politics vs. the Public Good

If you served in the legislature and had to choose between what is good for the State of New Hampshire and what is good for your party, what would you do?  Our legislators faced this test last year.  Most of them failed.

The issue was gerrymandering—the drawing of voting districts in a way that benefits one party over another.

The guiding principle of democracy is majority rule.  It is essential that we have rules that protect the right to vote, and ensure an accurate vote count that reflects the will of the people.

The goal of gerrymandering is to impede the will of the people by making it possible for the party with a minority of the votes to get a majority of the legislative seats.  It is a way to rig elections.

The technique is quite simple.  You identify towns and city wards that are most likely to vote against your party.  You group together as many of those places as possible, creating districts your party is sure to lose.  If you pack enough unfavorable voters into a few districts, it means the remaining districts are more likely to vote for your party.

Since the earliest days of our country, politicians have gerrymandered.  The term originated in 1812 in Massachusetts, when Governor Elbridge Gerry of the Democratic-Republican Party approved a legislative map that favored his party over the Federalist Party.  One district north of Boston was thought to resemble a mythological salamander, and the word “Gerrymander” became part of our political lexicon.

Today, computers make the process of gerrymandering more precise—and more dangerous to democracy.  It’s now routine for the party in power at the time of redistricting to hire a data-crunching firm to draw district lines for maximum advantage.

Here in New Hampshire, the Republicans were pleased with the results from their redistricting of the State Senate after the 2010 census.  It was traditional for Portsmouth and Durham to be in different State Senate districts, and both districts were usually held by Democrats.  The 2012 map put both Portsmouth and Durham in District 21.  It had the desired effect.  District 21 is overwhelming Democratic.  The neighboring districts (23 and 24) have elected Republican state senators.

Similarly, District 10 (Keene area) and District 5 (Upper Valley) were drawn to be sure-wins for Democrats—thus making the neighboring districts more likely to vote Republican.  In 2012, the Democratic candidates for State Senate received 51% of the vote statewide, but Republicans won 14 seats, while the Democrats won just 10.

It’s the same story in the Executive Council.  District 2 was drawn to combine the Democratic strongholds of Durham, Concord, and Keene.  One result is a district that is about 130 miles long—some feat in a state only 90 miles wide at the widest—with a disproportionate number of Democratic voters.  The other result is that Republicans will likely always have three seats on the Executive Council—at least until the next redistricting.

There are alternatives.  Last year, House Bill 320 was a proposal that districts be drawn using a mathematical optimization process.  Districts would be drawn with the shortest possible perimeter, to keep together communities of interest, and to avoid elongated districts that put together towns that are far from each other.  The bill would have forbidden the drawing of district lines using party affiliation of voters, addresses of incumbent legislators, previous election results, or demographic data (other than the actual census counts).  Predictably, the bill failed on a nearly party-line vote.  All but three Republicans voted to kill the bill, while all but four Democrats voted in support.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 107 called for the creation of a bi-partisan redistricting commission that would draw district boundaries using the same criteria at HB 320.  It ran into the same partisan buzz saw:  All 14 Republicans voted “no,” while all nine Democrats voted “yes.”

Our legislators take an oath to “support the constitution.”  That constitution is based on the democratic principle of majority rule.  When legislators vote for gerrymandered districts—and when they vote against bills that would prohibit gerrymandering—they are violating their oath of office.

If the shoe were on the other foot—if Democrats were benefitting from partisan, gerrymandered districts—would Republicans suddenly become fans of the use of non-partisan redistricting criteria, and would Democrats suddenly favor the status quo?  If the Democrats regain the majority in the November, we may find out.

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

NH Looks To Raise The Minimum Wage To $15.00* By 2021

This week, the New Hampshire State Senate held a public hearing on SB 554, a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15.00* per hour by 2021.  This bill, is different than any of the previous bills to raise the minimum wage because the bill does give a generous reduction in the lowest allowable hourly wage to employers who provide healthcare to their employees.

“New Hampshire has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, but when it comes to paying decent wages, we are at the very bottom of the scale. All of the other New England states pay at least $10.00 per hour, putting New Hampshire at a competitive disadvantage. People working full-time in New Hampshire should be able to earn enough to support their families, not qualify for public assistance. This legislation is a creative solution to provide workers with a livable wage while giving employers an incentive to provide their employees with much needed health benefits. I call on my Senate colleagues to join me in passing this bill to address the long overdue need for a livable wage for our state’s workers,” said Senator Donna Soucy who sponsored the legislation.

Currently New Hampshire’s minimum wage is set the federal government minimum of $7.25 per hour.  Senator Soucy’s proposal would raise the minimum wage, effective July 1st, to $9.00 per hour, or $7.50 per hour if employers offer health insurance to their employees. By 2021, the minimum wage would rise to $15.00 per hour, or $12.00 per hour for those employees provided benefits.

Inside the proposed legislation is how the “employer provided benefits” would work.

“Employer-sponsored plan” means health benefits offered by the employer to the employee and his or her dependents at a total cost to the employee for premiums not to exceed 10 percent of the employee’s annual gross taxable income from the employer.”  

Here is an example of how this would work.  Bob makes $15 per hour, which equates to $31,200 annually for full time employment.  That means if his employer offers him healthcare benefits where the premium does not exceed $3,120 per year then they would be eligible to reduce their minimum hourly rate to $12 per hour. That works out to about $60 per week.

The National Conference of State Legislators reported that the annual employee contribution for employer provided healthcare in 2017 was $5,714. That means that there is a very small likelihood of an employer qualifying for this reduced hourly wage.

The question is will the New Hampshire Legislature finally do what all the other New England states have already done, increase the minimum wage?

Republicans In The New Hampshire Senate Pass “Poll Tax” On Voters

The Senate voted to change the residency requirements when registering to vote that could cost new voters hundreds of dollars. 

Today, the Republican-controlled New Hampshire Senate voted along party lines to pass HB372, the voter suppression legislation that would create a de facto poll tax by redefining residency in the state. Governor Sununu was pressured to oppose the bill after struggling to walk back his widely debunked voter fraud claims from the 2016 election. Sununu did, however, sign voter suppression legislation SB3 into law in July. The NHDP is currently suing the state to undo SB3.

“HB 372 is a political ploy to slow progress by making it harder for young people to participate in our democracy. This legislation creates a de facto poll tax and disenfranchises eligible New Hampshire voters. This bill clearly targets college students, who have every legal right to vote here. We should be encouraging students to stay here and remain a part of their communities after college, but HB 372 does the exact opposite,” said Senator Jeff  Woodburn, the Democratic Leader from Whitefield.

“It is disappointing to see Senate Republicans take another step toward voter suppression, building on the SB 3 voter suppression law, which was signed into law just six months ago and which is still being challenged in court. Governor Sununu has opposed HB 372 and he would be wise to veto it if the bill makes it to his desk. We urge the governor to keep that promise for the sake of protecting the right to vote in the Granite State,” Woodburn added.

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair, Ray Buckley blasted the Republicans in the Senate after they voted for this “Poll Tax”.

“Less than six months after Governor Sununu signed the last voter suppression bill into law, Republicans are at it again. Today, they voted for a bill that would create a de facto poll tax and redefine state residency. Once again, Republicans offered no evidence of voter fraud or rationale for disenfranchising eligible voters, instead relying on voter fraud lies propagated by President Trump and Governor Sununu.”

“This bill is only a priority for the elected politicians who stand to gain from disenfranchising voters who aren’t likely to vote for their reelection,” said Jason Kander, President of Let America Vote. “If every state passed a law like HB 372, college students may not be able to vote at all. Instead of including folks in their agenda who aren’t likely to vote Republican, the New Hampshire GOP has launched a sustained attack on the voting rights of groups who disagree with them. Governor Sununu already said he would never support anything that suppresses the student vote and that he opposes this bill. If HB 372 passes the House, Governor Sununu must make good on his promise. We’re opening a Let America Vote office in New Hampshire to make it clear to politicians like Senators Birdsell and Gray that if they make it harder to vote, we’re going to make it harder for them to get reelected.”

The bill now heads to Governor Sununu, who when asked about the bill last month said he “hates it” and “hoped the legislature would kill it.” Since the video was made public, Sununu’s opposition has wavered and has failed to confirm that he will veto the bill.

“At a time when our state needs to be attracting and retaining young people, It’s incredibly disheartening to see Republican leadership push Millennials away with bills like HB 372,” said New Hampshire Young Democrats Executive Director Amelia Keane. “Even Governor Sununu agrees that HB 372 ‘could result in the suppression of the vote‘ and ‘would never survive in court.’ Rather than focusing on these restrictive measures, we should be working towards modernizing and securing our elections.”

“We urge Governor Sununu to stay true to his word and veto HB 372,” Keane added.

Attack On Voting Rights To Come Up For Vote In NH Senate Next Week

For months now we have talked about the Republican attack on voting rights as they pushed HB 372 through the New Hampshire House. The bill would redefine “domicile” status for voting purposes, effectively forcing registrants to declare residency upon registering to vote, chilling the right to vote for college students in New Hampshire. The bill would also require that anyone who votes in New Hampshire legally change their residency to New Hampshire and would be required to pay all the fees associated with changing their residency.

On January 3rd, the New Hampshire State Senate is expected to discuss and vote on HB 372.  Voting rights advocates are encouraging everyone to attend the Senate session.

HB 372 Legislative Vote
Wednesday January 3rd, 9:15am
State House, Concord
RSVP via Facebook 

College students and voting rights groups have been outspoken in their opposition to this bill from the beginning.

“HB 372 serves one purpose: to drastically decrease student turnout on campuses across New Hampshire,” said University of New Hampshire sophomore Isabella Arms. “Thousands of students, like me, move to New Hampshire every year to learn and contribute to our communities, with the hope of staying here to start our careers. However every year, Republicans in Concord make it their priority to disenfranchise the exact group of people they need to attract and retain in order for our state to grow and thrive. The state benefits from students like us when it means getting more federal money or electoral clout, but they don’t think we count when it comes to voting for local issues that affect us, including preventing tuition hikes or investing in workforce training.”

“Senator Sanborn’s amendment to House Bill 372 is the New Hampshire GOP’s latest attempt to stop college students from voting,” said Let America Vote President Jason Kander. “Last session’s Senate Bill 3 is still in court, but that isn’t keeping Republicans from trying to further stop eligible New Hampshire voters from voting. When a college student registers to vote, they shouldn’t be threatened with possible legal penalties for how their car is registered. Voter registration should be a simple, straightforward process for all eligible Granite Staters. This is classic voter suppression, and it’s clearly a Republican priority to stop college students in New Hampshire from being able to vote in the state where they spend the most time.

When confronted by a young activist, Governor Chris Sununu said he “hated the bill” and “hopes the legislature kills it.” (The interaction was caught in the short video below.)

However after making the bold statement he would veto the legislation for its attack on the voting rights of college students, his resolve seems to be wavering.

Sununu told reporters, “There are some aspects that I’m supportive of, but there’s also some potential unintended consequences, and that’s what makes myself and some other folks across the state nervous. And that’s why we’ve asked them to go back and really take a look at not just what they’re trying to achieve but what the unintended consequences might be.”

With a Republican majority in the Senate there is a reasonable probability this bill will pass the Senate. This is why we need to reach out to our Senators and tell them to oppose this bill and kill it once and for all.

Make your voice heard and call your State Senator today!


America Votes will be holding phone banking sessions on:

  • Friday, December 29th from 5 pm to 7 pm
  • Tuesday, January 2nd from 5 pm to 7 pm

If you would like to help us with phonebanks please sign up here and America Votes will contact you directly. 

NH State Senators Birdsell and Gray Named To ‘Voter Suppression Hall of Shame’

Kansas City, MO – Let America Vote today named New Hampshire State Senators Regina Birdsell and James Gray to its Voter Suppression Hall of Shame, a list of the country’s most active vote-suppressing politicians that Let America Vote will track in 2018 to fight back against any future efforts to make voting less accessible.

Senator Birdsell was the prime sponsor of SB 3 a bill that severely tightens qualifications for voting in New Hampshire and potentially criminalizes legitimate same-day registration voters who know they cannot provide proof that they have performed a so-called “verifiable act,” such as buying a home or entering a formal lease — thereby effectively disenfranchising elderly, low income, and other vulnerable citizens, especially those who move in the months before an election and are unable to obtain sufficient proof. Under SB3, a voter who knowingly fails to provide evidence of domicile within 10 days faces a fine up to $5,000.

Now the voter suppression team of Senators Birdsell and Gray are pushing HB372 a bill that forces people to officially change their residency to NH in order to vote, creating a poll tax.  The bill is directly targeted at college students who, under state law, are allowed to register and vote in New Hampshire.

“The New Hampshire GOP passed a law last year that severely limits the voting rights of college students, but Senators Birdsell and Gray don’t think it went far enough,” said Jason Kander, President of Let America Vote. “HB 372, which is championed by Senators Birdsell and Gray, would create harsh restrictions for college students that would keep a huge number of them from voting altogether. They’re pioneers of this kind of voter suppression, which is why they belong in the Voter Suppression Hall of Shame. When Let America Vote expands to New Hampshire in 2018, we’ll make sure that these senators answer for stripping voting rights from their constituents.”

The list contains ten politicians from nine different states whom either introduced or supported politically-motivated legislation that would prevent targeted groups of the electorate from voting. The goals of the Hall of Shame are to expose the politicians for suppressing votes, call attention to their next elections, and educate voters on how to hold them accountable.

Birdsell and Gray join these other vote suppressors on the Voter Suppression Hall of Shame:

Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State
Brian Kemp, Georgia Secretary of State
John Merrill, Alabama Secretary of State
Paul Pate, Iowa Secretary of State
Connie Lawson, Indiana Secretary of State
Bob Thorpe,  Arizona State Representative
Juan Murante, Nebraska State Senator
Tim Moore,  North Carolina State Representative

 


Let America Vote launched in February 2017 to fight back against proposals across the country that make it harder for eligible voters to exercise their constitutional right to cast a ballot. Whether it’s extreme identification requirements, questionable purges of voter rolls, voter intimidation, new and extreme voter registration processes, or anything that makes voting harder, Let America Vote will be there to lead the way against it. Its president is Jason Kander, the former Missouri Secretary of State.

Emily’s List Puts Gov. Sununu And NH Legislature ‘On Notice’ For Attacks On Women’s Rights

Since Governor Chris Sununu took office the New Hampshire State Legislature has been pushing their ideological right wing agenda.  With the help of Governor Sununu, some of their crazy bills have actually become law.

The legislature attempted to ram through a number of bills attacking women’s reproductive rights.  Most notably was SB66, the “fetal personhood” bill, that passed along party lines. Before Sununu signed the bill it was determined that the bill was fundamentally flawed giving pregnant women “impunity to commit murder.”

“SB 66 would include the term ‘fetus’ in the definition of ‘another’ for the purpose of first and second degree murder, manslaughter, negligent homicide, and causing or aiding suicide.  This would not apply to women seeking medical procedures or abortions.” (Rewire, 3/21/17)

Anti-women Republicans in the Legislature also pushed a repeal of the state’s “buffer zone law,” a bill to publicly report women who sought an abortion, and an outright ban on abortions after 21 weeks with no exceptions.

These actions have prompted EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest resource for women in politics, put Republicans in New Hampshire’s General Court “On Notice” for the upcoming 2018 election. “On Notice” is a list of incumbent Republicans and legislative chambers at all levels of government being called out by EMILY’s List for their anti-woman and anti-family records. EMILY’s List is targeting these seats and chambers in its 2018 electoral efforts.

“Republicans in the New Hampshire Legislature have amassed a shameful record of voting to turn back the clock on women’s rights,” said EMILY’s List Executive Director Emily Cain. “These legislators have recklessly passed legislation that limits the reproductive rights of women, have attempted to repeal the existing law that provides buffer zones to protect women, and have attempted to put in place an abortion ban after just over 21 weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest. That is why EMILY’s List is recruiting an historic number of strong, pro-choice Democratic women leaders  in 2018 to hold these Republican legislators accountable for their out-of-touch agenda.”

Aside from the “fetal personhood” legislation that Governor Sununu signed, he also campaigned on his support of anti-abortion legislation and a “pro-life” agenda.

Sununu also failed to condemn, then candidate Donald Trump, after the Access Hollywood tapes became public.

“Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Sununu is not revoking his endorsement of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump and says party members need to stand behind the nominee, despite the release of a videotape in which Trump is heard bragging about groping and otherwise sexually assaulting women.” [Union Leader, 10/10/16]

For these reasons Emily’s List has also put Governor Chis Sununu “On Notice.”

“Governor Chris Sununu has amassed a shameful record of turning his back on women’s rights and shortchanging New Hampshire  families,” said EMILY’s List Executive Director Emily Cain. “Sununu approved a reckless bill that could put New Hampshire on the path to recognizing ‘personhood,’ refused to disavow Donald Trump time after time, and stood up for anti-choice legislation. That is why EMILY’s List is putting Sununu ‘On Notice’ and targeting this seat, because New Hampshire women deserve far better than failed leadership from this governor.”

With nearly 18,000 women reaching out to EMILY’s List interested in running for office, the organization has tripled the size of its state and local campaign staff in order to provide candidates with the resources they need to run and win.

The 2018 launch of this state-level “On Notice” program includes three governors, legislative bodies in ten states, three secretaries of state and a state attorney general, and is the largest ever in the organization’s 32-year history. It follows the announcement of EMILY’s List’s top congressional and Senate targets in July. A full list of state-level Republican targets can be found here.

NH Superior Court Blocks Penalties Within SB 3 (Voter Suppression Bill)

NH Superior Court put penalties for voter suppression law SB 3 on hold, siding with NH Democratic Party 

Nashua, N.H. – This morning, Hillsborough County Superior Court South put penalties for violating SB 3 on hold and granted both parties standing, siding with the New Hampshire Democratic Party on both key issues. The decision was a response to NHDP filing a preliminary injunction against the law. The case will now be heard in full, with both plaintiffs granted standing.

SB 3 would impose immense burdens on eligible New Hampshire voters, and is designed to have a disproportionate effect on young people, low-income, elderly and disabled voters who overwhelmingly vote for Democrats.

“This order is a victory for voting rights in New Hampshire. The court’s decision to strip the law of its penalties shows exactly how burdensome and intimidating they are. It proves the state cannot threaten people with criminal prosecution for merely registering to vote,” said NHDP Chair Ray Buckley. “This order offers no good news for the state, who will now have to argue the entirety of this law on the merits. We know the state’s fight is a losing one, and one we will keep fighting, as NHDP has been has granted our day in court.”

“Most importantly, today’s order means voters are protected from the law’s intimidating penalties, continued Buckley. “This victory means that voters can exercise their most fundamental right to have a voice in our democracy without fear or intimidation. If even one voter is disenfranchised, we will stand up and fight it. We don’t intend to disappoint the long list of American heroes and martyrs who have risked so much for the right to have a voice at the ballot box. We are confident the full law will be declared unconstitutional.”

“This is a victory for voting rights.  As the Court held, the punishment portion of SB 3 imposed a severe restriction on the right to vote.  This portion was particularly problematic because it would have criminalized certain voters who simply do not have the required documentation,” stated Gilles Bissonnette, Legal Director, ACLU of New Hampshire.

“Today’s ruling is a rebuke of the Republican effort to intimidate and disenfranchise New Hampshire voters and a win for voting rights,” said NH Senate Democratic Leader, Jeff Woodburn. “The court’s determination to strip the penalties in SB 3 because they are a serious deterrent to voting is vindication for those fighting to protect the fundamental right to vote. This is a strong first step in what will be a long fight for justice. Senate Democrats remain firm in our commitment to defend the right to vote and will continue to push back against the ongoing attack on New Hampshire voters.”

“Men and women from New Hampshire have fought in foreign lands to protect our rights at home, most importantly our right to vote,” said House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff. “The House Democratic Caucus is doing everything we can to protect that right, and we were in full support of the lawsuit brought by the League of Women Voters.  Today’s court ruling affirms everything House Democrats have said about SB 3 throughout the process.”

“As the court ruling stated, SB 3 places ‘severe’ restrictions on voters that act as ‘a very serious deterrent on the right to vote.’  The ruling also noted that no ‘compelling’ need for SB 3 was presented to the Court.”

“Laws that deter voters through severe restrictions have no place in New Hampshire, especially when lawmakers cannot present any compelling reason for enacting it.  House Democrats will continue to do all we can to protect voters from unnecessary attempts to restrict voter rights,” Shurtleff concluded.

“The right to vote shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but Republicans in Concord are trying to change the way we hold elections so that it’s easier for them to win re-election. Now the New Hampshire Democratic Party is standing up for the thousands of Granite Staters who risk disenfranchisement under SB3, and they should be applauded for that,” said Jason Kander, President of Let America Vote.

“Instead of making an honest effort to earn the votes of New Hampshire college students, Republicans have decided to simply exclude them from the election process. Governor Sununu lost all credibility when he echoed President Trump’s lie that voters were being bussed in from other states to vote for Democrats in 2016. Governor Sununu has made it clear that he doesn’t value the free and fair elections that make up the cornerstone of our democracy, and he should pay for it during his next election.

“New Hampshire voters will make their argument in court for why this unconstitutional voter suppression law has no place in their state, but we also have to take this fight into the court of public opinion. Let America Vote exists to make politicians think twice before excluding eligible voters from elections to create a political advantage. Republican vote suppressors in New Hampshire will feel the legal and political heat of their missteps through the next election cycle,” Kander concluded.

SB 3’s provisions:

  • Create two different forms for those registering more than 30 days out from an election and those registering within the 30-day period
  • Deny those without paperwork the right to register more than 30 days out from an election
  • Force registrants to read & sign a long & confusing document comprehension experts say is written at a graduate-student reading level
  • Lengthen lines and dissuade voters from turning out due to the longer and more complicated same-day registration requirements
  • Mandate that voters who signed an affidavit bring evidence to verify their intent to remain in the state within 10 days after an election
  • Subject those who failed to deliver that evidence within 10 days to investigation and possible civil and criminal penalty of and a $5,000 fine
  • Appoint investigators, who could be anyone from police to the town conspiracist, to come to your door in their completion of a voter fraud investigation against you

SB 3 is the first voter suppression law passed in the Trump era. It was based on the “belief” of voter fraud rather than any evidence. President Trump and Governor Sununu’s lies about Democrats busing voters across the state border to vote illegally created a pretext for this suppressive law. Sununu signed it into law in July.

NH Senate Republicans Vote Down Proposal To Lower Insurance Premiums Statewide

The Reinsurance Program would allow the NH Department of Insurance to seek additional federal funds to stabilize the insurance marketplace.

Today, Governor Sununu and New Hampshire Republicans failed to fund the NH Insurance Department’s reinsurance proposal that would protect the benefits of tens of thousands of Granite Staters. The Joint Health Care Reform Oversight Committee moved forward with a proposal from the NH Insurance Department to create a reinsurance program, but failed to authorize any way to pay for it.

“Governor Sununu is shamefully choosing politics over people and New Hampshire will suffer as a result. President Trump’s unpopular decision to sabotage insurance markets in order to implement his even-less-popular plan appears to be spilling over to states with friendly governors like Chris Sununu,” said NHDP Chair Ray Buckley.

“Sununu’s blind cooperation with Trump ignores the fact that reinsurance plans have been successful in lowering premiums, keeping carriers in the market, and creating stability and certainty. By refusing to fund the proposal, the reinsurance program is set up for failure and shows Governor Sununu’s cooperation with Trump in undermining our healthcare system for political gain.”

After the vote, Sen. Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth), member of the Joint Health Care Reform Oversight Committee, released the following statement:

“Given President Trump’s attempts to undermine our healthcare system and the failure of Republicans in Congress to act, states like New Hampshire need to be doing all we can do to stabilize our healthcare market, increase competition, and drive down costs for Granite Staters.”

“While the Joint Health Care Reform Oversight Committee authorized the NH Insurance and HHS Commissioners to seek federal waivers to create a reinsurance program and to seek all federal funds available to help pay for the program, the Committee rejected, along party lines, the NH Insurance Commissioner’s proposal to help fund the program through an added assessment on our insurance carriers.”

“Without the certainty of funding and the refusal to add an assessment on our state carriers, there’s no way for insurance carriers to reduce premiums, despite the fact that insurance assessments in the past have been used to address failures in our healthcare marketplace. Governor Sununu and his Republican allies are playing dangerous political games with our healthcare system, risking insurance carriers leaving our state, risking higher premiums for our hard-working families, and creating more destabilization in NH’s healthcare system.”

“Healthcare is an issue that affects all Granite Staters and impacts us at all levels of state government. New Hampshire policymakers should not just throw up their hands and give up working on solutions to these problems just because they are hard. It’s disheartening that Governor Sununu and Republicans in the legislature are again defaulting to the dysfunction of Washington and standing alongside President Trump’s attempts to undermine our healthcare system rather than standing with the people of New Hampshire. Real leadership is needed to bring people together to find meaningful healthcare solutions, both here and in Washington. Unfortunately, today’s vote doesn’t solve any of our problems or find any meaningful solutions.”

In light of today’s votes the New Hampshire Insurance Department (NHID) is “cancelling the public hearings scheduled for August 2nd and August 3rd relative to its market stabilization plan and proposed 1332 waiver application.”

“Consistent with today’s vote of the Joint Health Reform Oversight Committee, the NHID will continue to explore options for the 1332 waiver, and will reschedule the hearings once there is more clarity about the specifics of the state’s approach,” wrote the NHID.

Alaska and Minnesota have successfully implemented and funded similar reinsurance programs that will net-lower premiums in their states.

In response to reports of significant projected increases in individual market health care premiums, and a party-line vote by the Joint Health Care Reform Oversight Committee to block an Insurance Department proposal, Representative Ed Butler (D-Hart’s Location), a member of the Oversight Committee, released the following statement:

“President Trump has said repeatedly that he intends to ‘let Obamacare implode.’  In a belligerent act of sabotage, the President is threatening to withhold billions in cost sharing subsidies to insurance companies that are required under federal law.  The uncertainty that President Trump has created in the insurance market is a driving force in projected rate increases nationwide.”

“Instead of working with the Insurance Department to submit their full waiver request – including a 1% rate increase assessment on group markets – to achieve the greatest possible reduction in rates in the individual market, New Hampshire Republicans on this Oversight Committee have chosen the path of least resistance.”

“Republicans on the Oversight Committee voted on August 1st to prevent New Hampshire’s Insurance Department from submitting their full waiver request.  Instead the Committee authorized the Insurance and Health and Human Services Departments to request financial assistance from the federal government – without any seed money or contribution from NH insurance carriers.”

“Over 35,000 Granite Staters will be subject to spikes in rates of as much as 30 to 40% in the individual market.  By opposing commonsense efforts to bring stability to the market, Governor Sununu and Committee Republicans appear willing to use our citizens as scapegoats to achieve President Trump’s desired ‘implosion’ of our health care system.”

For more information on the waivers read the detailed reporting from Manchester Ink Link

Will Gov Sununu Save The NH Health Protection Program?

In Wake of Republican Healthcare Repeal Failure, Democratic Leaders Renew Call for Governor Sununu and Republicans to Work Across Party Lines on Healthcare

State Senator Jeff Woodburn and Rep Steve Shurtleff Push for Reauthorization of NH Health Protection Program

As millions of Americans are waiting with baited breath to see whether or not the Republicans in Washington D.C. are going to strip away their healthcare, the 50,000 Granite Staters who rely on the ACA’s expanded Medicaid program are waiting to see what Governor Chris Sununu will do.

From early on in his campaign, he has opposed the Affordable Care Act and has called for a repeal and then after he was elected, and the GOP took control in Washington, he began calling for a full repeal & replacement.

“To be clear, reform without an adequate replacement is not an acceptable option. Any repeal of the ACA must be simultaneous with a replacement,Sununu wrote in a letter to US Senate Majority Leaders.

“Reforming our nation’s health care system is imperative and our leaders must take swift, but thoughtful bipartisan action that is transparent and welcomes all sides to the table,” he added.

Now the Democratic Leaders in the NH Legislature are calling on Governor Sununu to put his words into action. Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn and House Democratic Leader Stephen Shurtleff urged Governor Sununu and legislative Republicans to finally get to work on reauthorizing the NH Health Protection Program:

“We are relieved that Republican attempts to undermine healthcare have failed and given that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, we urge Governor Sununu and his Republican leaders to begin negotiations with us to improve our healthcare system and bring down healthcare costs.”

“The most critical thing we need to do is reauthorize the NH Health Protection Program (NHHPP), which is scheduled to end next year, as soon as possible. The NHHPP is a uniquely New Hampshire solution that more than 52,000 Granite Staters rely on for their health care, drives down costs for our businesses, hospitals, working families and our state, stabilizes our insurance market, and plays a vital role in combating the opioid crisis.”

“Democrats have attempted to work with Governor Sununu and the Republican majorities in the legislature to reauthorize and improve this successful program all year, but have been brushed aside as they waited on their Republicans allies in Washington to act. Its time to do what’s right for the people of New Hampshire and we call on Governor Sununu and his Republican legislative majorities to stop putting partisan politics above the health and well-being of hard-working Granite Staters, stop dragging their feet, and begin working with us to renew this successful program as soon as possible.”

As the US Senate voted to give tax breaks to billionaires while slashing Medicaid and Medicare on their Healthcare plan, Governor Sununu remained completely silent.  In a letter to Senator Mitch McConnell on June 27th, he voiced concern over the cuts to Medicaid and NH’s ability to keep the 50,000 Granite Staters currently relying on the program insured.  Ensuring that the current recipients of insurance through the Medicaid Expansion would not be kicked off their healthcare was a cornerstone of Sununu’s campaign.

However Governor, it is time to put up or shut up.

Governor Sununu must work with both sides of the aisle and find a way to ensure that the NH Health Protection Program becomes permanent until such time that all Americans are fully covered.

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