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NH Senate Republicans Are Once Again Blocking Rail Funding

(Image by Loco Steve FLIKR CC)

(Image by Loco Steve FLIKR CC)

Concord, NH – Sen. Bette Lasky (D-Nashua) and Ray Buckley the NH Democratic Party Chair offered the following comments after Senate Republicans blocked the restoration of funding for commuter rail in the 2016-17 Capital Budget:

“The business community and our citizens have been calling on us for years to take action on commuter rail and I’m disappointed that Senate Republicans have again blocked this funding,” said Sen. Lasky. “Commuter rail is not a partisan or ideological issue – it is something that is supported by both Republicans and Democrats; business leaders, and working families. The people of New Hampshire continue to be frustrated by the lack of effort by the Republicans in the legislature to find a consensus way forward on commuter rail when the economic benefits have been shown to be undeniable.”

Governor Hassan had originally included funding for a $4 million environmental and engineering assessment in her proposed budget that would have advanced the Capital Corridor Rail project forward, but it was removed during the House phase of the budget. Senate Democrats attempted to add the funding back in the Senate Capital Budget Committee phase, but was defeated along a party-line vote. Today, Sen. Lasky offered a floor amendment to the Capital Budget on the Senate floor to restore the $4 million, but it was again defeated along party lines.

“We talk a lot in the Senate about what our workers and businesses need to thrive and grow here in New Hampshire. And while our businesses have many needs, commuter rail addresses 2 of their most basic problems: a modern, safe, transportation infrastructure and the retention and getting of a highly educated workforce,” continued Sen. Lasky. “Today, Senate Democrats stood with the businesses and more than 68% of New Hampshire citizens who support investing in commuter rail as an economic engine. Unfortunately, our Republican colleagues continue their short-sighted opposition and once again decided to stand in the way of bringing this economic boost to New Hampshire.”

“The business community, including the Manchester and Nashua Chambers of Commerce, is calling on the legislature to act now on commuter rail in order to seize on our state’s economic potential and lay the foundation for a new generation of economic growth,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley. “Kevin Avard and David Boutin will find out in November 2016 that the people and businesses of Nashua and Manchester aren’t going to forget this vote against the economic interests of their communities.”

Senate Budget Writers Ignore State Employees Contract

An open letter from Richard Gulla,
President SEA/SEIU Local 1984

Rich Gulla (SEA/ SEIU 1984 President) On behalf of the thousands of state employees who daily give their best efforts to providing necessary services for the citizens and visitors of our state, I register our disappointment with the NH Senate Finance Committee for not including funds to provide a contracted cost of living adjustment for the employees in their budget.  Although included in Governor Hassan’s budget, the NH House of Representatives and the Senate did not include these funds in their respective versions of the state budget.

Several months ago, the state’s bargaining team and the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 team reached a mutual agreement that provides for a modest salary increase over the next two years.  This contract was negotiated in good faith by both parties.  In not including the funds necessary to meet this contract obligation in their budget, the NH House of Representatives and the Senate have revealed their disdain and lack of appreciation for the services these committed public servants provide.

Two years ago we heard loud and clear from Senator Morse that he was displeased with the state workers’ contract not being settled in time for consideration prior to the end of the budget process.  This time, we worked diligently to begin negotiations early so that the contract could be included sooner  in the budget timeline.  The state’s and the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 bargaining teams put in long hours of research, discussion, and negotiations to arrive at this mutually agreeable and  reasonable contract. And what is the result of that effort – first,  the funding is stripped from the Governor’s budget by the House of Representatives.  And, now the Senate has completely ignored the contract.  They did not even discuss the contract with the employees who help deliver many of the  services they restored funding to, such as Service Link, Meals on Wheels to name a few.

In not even discussing the merits or concerns they may have with the small cost of living raise for thousands of workers across the state, the Senate Finance Committee acted irresponsibly and state workers lose out. This is quite a message the Senate Finance Committee is sending to thousands of dedicated workers who have long been “doing more with less,” handling impossible caseloads, doing the jobs of two or three people, fueling the state’s economy, going the extra mile to serve the state’s citizens and visitors.

We call upon the full Senate to act responsibly when they meet next week to discuss and vote on the budget.  We are hopeful they will do the right thing – recognize the contract, talk about it and approve it.

Sincerely,

Richard Gulla
President, SEA/SEIU Local 1984

 UPDATE 2:45pm

Senator Lou D’Allesandro Comments on Failure to Include State Employee Contract in Budget

Concord, NH – As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Lou D’Allesandro made the following comments today following the completion of the committee’s work on the state operating budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017:

“I’m disappointed that in formulating the Senate budget, one item that was completely left out was the already negotiated pay raise for state employees,” said Sen. D’Allesandro. “The state’s collective bargaining team had come to an agreement with the State Employees Association on a modest 2% cost-of-living increase.  The House removed funding for the increase from its budget and the Senate failed to address the issue. This creates unfinished business.  What kind of a message does it send to our workforce that we take the time to develop tax cuts for big corporations but don’t fund a modest wage increase for our hard working NH employees?”

Governor Hassan And Senate Democrats Expresses Serious Concerns About Senate Finance Budget

Senate Finance Plan Would Hurt NH Businesses and Middle Class Families, Relies on Gimmicks That Will Leave Budget Unbalanced

Hassan: “Any budget that relies exclusively on the votes of one political party will fail to meet the expectations of our citizens and the needs of our economy.”

BudgetCONCORD – Governor Maggie Hassan said today that she has serious concerns that the Senate Finance Committee budget is unbalanced, contains misleading budget gimmicks and includes budget-busting tax cuts for big businesses that will hurt New Hampshire’s middle-class families, small businesses and economy.

“There are still several steps remaining in the budget process before a final bill makes its way to my desk, and I remain willing to roll up my sleeves and work toward a compromise, bipartisan budget that moves New Hampshire forward,” Governor Hassan said. “But I have serious concerns that the Senate Finance Committee’s partisan plan will hurt families, undermine business growth and take our economy backward while relying on gimmicks that will ultimately leave the budget unbalanced.”

“Senate Republican leadership says that New Hampshire can’t afford to lower tuition at the community colleges, provide a modest cost-of-living increase to employees, fix our roads, fund mental health or even adequately staff our correctional institutions or our juvenile justice system. They even say that in the midst of a heroin epidemic, New Hampshire can’t afford to adequately fund substance misuse prevention and treatment.

“But instead of funding those priorities, Senate Republican leadership included large tax cuts that will create a hole in this budget and budgets well into the future,” Governor Hassan continued.

“All session long, Senate Democrats have urged our Republican colleagues to put partisan politics aside and have a serious budget conversation about how we can work together under the Governor’s leadership to expand middle class opportunity, support small businesses, and keep our state’s economy moving in the right direction,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn. “Unfortunately, the budget approved by the Senate Republicans prioritizes special interests and tax giveaways for big, out-of-state businesses over the people of New Hampshire.”

“Instead of joining with us to invest in our shared priorities as we did in the last bipartisan budget, the Senate Republican budget undermines our economic future, sets the state on precarious financial footing, and is neither compassionate nor responsible. It uses fiscally irresponsible budget gimmicks that have been decried by members of both parties—which means that the Senate Republicans are once again promising more services than their budget can actually deliver,” Woodburn continued.

Governor Hassan also said she had serious concerns that the Senate Finance Committee did not reauthorize the New Hampshire Health Protection Program, leaving the 40,158 New Hampshire citizens who had enrolled in the bipartisan program through May 26 in jeopardy of losing their health insurance in the second year of this budget. The program will receive a 95 percent federal match in 2017, but the legislature also did not include the money necessary to continue it.

“It is wrong to leave 40,000 people on the edge of losing their health insurance. The uncertainty is also bad for our health insurance market and our economy, and it could lead to rising rates for all consumers or insurers deciding not to offer coverage in New Hampshire in 2017 – something that will hurt all of our citizens,” Governor Hassan said.

“The Senate Republican budget includes cuts to mental health, substance abuse treatment, public safety and higher education—all of which undermines our efforts to build a stronger economic future,” Sen. Woodburn continued. “Their budget also ends the state’s business-backed, bipartisan Medicaid expansion program, which means that 40,000 people will lose coverage and businesses will be forced to pay the ‘hidden tax’ that results from cost-shifting of uncompensated care. And instead of fixing these devastating cuts, Senate Republicans decided to give tax cuts to large, out-of-state corporations.”

Governor Hassan also raised concerns about the Senate Finance Committee’s use of budget gimmicks and back-of-the budget cuts, misleading people about what is actually funded.

“The Senate Finance Committee claims to have ‘restored’ $6.5 million in mental health funding, but then they turned around and told the Department of Health and Human Services to cut $6.5 million from mental health services,” Governor Hassan said. “The committee’s continued reliance on irresponsible budget gimmicks will put our state on perilous financial footing and undermine the legislature’s constitutional duty to balance the budget.”

Some of the budget gimmicks and the back of the budget cuts in the Senate Finance Budget include:

  • Assuming $34 million from Fiscal Year 2015 will be left over to carry forward into Fiscal Year 2016.  In making that calculation, the Senate Finance Committee is double counting $15 million in lapses; not counting $3 million in additional appropriations for Fiscal Year 2015 authorized by the Fiscal Committee or by state law; and counting the $7 million in savings from Health and Human Services 2015 back-of-the-budget cut even as they directed Health and Human Services to spend that $7 million.
  • Not accounting for the impact their business tax cuts will have on estimated payments and business tax revenues in Fiscal Year 2016.
  • Saying they are restoring $6.25 million in mental health funding, while at the same time directing the Department of Health and Human Services to cut $6.25 million in mental health funding.
  • Assuming $3.5 million reduction at the Sununu Youth Services Center in 2015 with no plan for how to achieve the savings.
  • Assuming unrealistic savings estimates in Health and Human Services, include a caseload drop of 2 percent; and $12.5 million in “savings” from additional managed care programs.
  • Increasing lapse estimates by $9 million.
  • Diverting funds from last year’s bipartisan transportation funding plan from road work to operations and assuming the Department of Transportation can balance its budget through a federal financing vehicle that has not yet been approved by the federal Department of Transportation.
  • Failing to fully fund winter maintenance for the Department of Transportation.
  • Directing the Department of Transportation to pay for the widening of Route 106 with operational funds, without identifying where they should cut to make those payments.

“Any budget that relies exclusively on the votes of one political party will fail to meet the expectations of our citizens and the needs of our economy. I urge the legislature to work across party lines to pass a bipartisan budget that is honest about what it chooses to fund and invests in the priorities that are critical to the success of our people, our businesses and our economy,” Governor Hassan said.

“This budget proposal is unacceptable and Senate Democrats will continue to fight for an honest and balanced budget that expands opportunity for all, supports businesses throughout our state, and lays the foundation for a new generation of economic growth. Senate Republicans must put aside their partisan ambitions and work across party lines with Senate Democrats and the Governor to finalize a budget that’s truly responsible for New Hampshire’s people, businesses, and economy,” Woodburn concluded.

NH Senate Republicans Cut Business Taxes At The Expense of Working Families

Image by Marc Nozell (CC Flickr)

NH Senate Chamber Image by Marc Nozell (CC Flickr)

Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee voted today to give big businesses more tax giveaways while making small businesses and middle class families pay the price.

“Our budget is a statement of priorities and with the actions taken by the Senate Finance Committee over the last week have clearly demonstrated they side with large corporations rather than the working people of New Hampshire,” said Senator Woodburn. “The cost of these tax giveaways is clear and the price is dear. Rather than fund Medicaid Expansion, which is helping tens of thousands of Granite Staters and strengthening our economy, Senate Republicans have decided to give tax cuts to large, out-of-state corporations instead.”

The Senate voted to approve an amendment that reduced the Business Profits Tax by 0.2% and the Business Enterprise Tax by 0.025% in Fiscal Year 2017. Based on the fiscal notes in SB 1 and SB 2, the original vehicles for the tax giveaways, these tax cuts would reduce state revenues by $15.6 million in Fiscal Year 2017. Senate Democrats have fought to include the extension of Medicaid Expansion in the budget, which would cost about $12 million in Fiscal Year 2017, far less than the cost of the business tax cuts.

“New Hampshire’s business community has called on us to continue the state’s successful expansion program because it’s reducing heath care cost-shifting onto our families and businesses, strengthening the health of our workforce, and boosting our economy,” said Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, ranking Democratic member of the Senate Finance Committee. “Our businesses need healthy workers and reductions in energy rates before they need a 30th tax reduction in 8 years. New Hampshire is a great place to do business now and these tax cuts do nothing to address the real problems facing our growing economy.”

Senate Republicans’ big business tax giveaways would cost $15 million in the next biennium, which is more than the cost of continuing the state’s successful Medicaid expansion program for 40,000 Granite Staters.

“We’ve heard throughout the budget process that New Hampshire needs to ‘live within its means.’ If we cut business taxes today only to put off their full consequences for later years, this action violates that notion entirely,” said  New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute (NHFPI) Executive Director Jeff McLynch.

“The Finance Committee has approved a cut of $14 million from the FY 2017 budget while the state struggles to find necessary funding for higher education, health care, and other services to support vital human needs,” said McLynch.

“These proposed reductions in business tax rates will reduce revenue by more than $80 million per biennium when fully phased in, with no plan to replace the lost revenue,” said McLynch.

“Phasing business tax reductions in overtime simply puts off – for another day and onto future legislatures — the difficult choices and tough tradeoffs that would have to be made to accommodate the revenue losses certain to result from business tax cuts,” said McLynch.

Not to mention that Senate Republicans have also proposed cutting more than $3 million from the Governor’s proposal for substance misuse treatment and defunding the state’s landmark mental health settlement.

“Senate Republicans are putting their majority at risk as they vote for more big business tax giveaways while cutting critical economic priorities and threatening health coverage for 40,000 Granite Staters,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley. “From cutting funding for substance misuse treatment to refusing to continue New Hampshire’s successful Medicaid expansion program, Senate Republicans’ budget proposal would hurt the health and economic wellbeing of our communities and undermine the state’s ability to lay the foundation of a new generation of economic growth.”

Senator Andrew Hosmer Comments on Senate Raid of Dedicated Funds

Senate Finance Republicans Vote to Take $2.22 million from Renewable Energy Fund

CONCORD – Today, Sen. Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia), member of the Senate Finance Committee, released the following comments regarding the Senate Finance Committee’s vote to take $2.22 million out of the Renewable Energy Fund and use it to fund the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management:

“Just last week the Senate Finance Committee voted to restore the Renewable Energy Fund after the House Republicans raided it to fund their reckless budget,” said Senator Hosmer. “Today, without the benefit of a public hearing, Senate Republicans voted to reverse course and raid $2.22 million from the same fund for the next budget and then permanently raid $1.5 million in each future year.”

Along a party-line 4-2 vote, the Senate Finance Committee voted to take $2.22 million from the Renewable Energy Fund and use it to fund the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Both the House-passed version and the Governor’s proposed budget addressed a decrease in funding for Homeland Security and Emergency Management through assessments on utilities and on property, life and casualty insurance policies.

“Today’s vote shows that the Senate Republicans’ rhetoric doesn’t match their actions.  All session long, Senate Republicans have been claiming responsibility for protecting dedicated funds, including a press release just last week where Senators Forrester and Little patted themselves on the back for protecting the integrity of dedicated funds,” continued Sen. Hosmer. “While funding the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is very worthy and a high priority for us all, the Governor and House had a much more responsible way to do so. I sincerely urge my Senate colleagues to protect the Renewable Energy Fund, which is vital to the ability of NH’s small businesses to be successful.”

5-20-15 AFT-NH Legislative Update: Restoring Budget Cuts In The Senate

AFT NH Legislative Update

The Senate has had several hearings and meetings regarding their work on the state budget. When they held a public hearing several hundred citizens of New Hampshire showed up and spoke. Many expressed concern over the lack of funding in the House budget and its many cuts to programs needed by our most vulnerable citizens.

The Senate seems to have worked through much of what they want to do even before convening the Finance Committee meetings.  They have started with many noncontroversial items.

Again, I must repeat that we know that in New Hampshire we have few revenue sources and we have a regressive tax system, meaning that citizens who have the least to spare pay the most. To read more on this click here. AFT-NH supports incremental, common-sense reforms designed to make NH’s existing tax system fairer and to produce the revenue needed to preserve the public services essential to NH’s residents, businesses, and visitors.  All of this is vital to our shared economic success.

Once I know more on what the Senate is recommending I will send out an update.

This past Thursday the full Senate passed HB 507: relative to teacher personally identifiable data. This bill adds provisions relating to the protection of teacher personally identifiable data and adds in language that no school shall record in any way a school classroom for any purpose without school board approval after a public hearing, and without written consent of the teacher and the parent or legal guardian of each affected student. AFT-NH is very pleased that both chambers have passed this bill and we ask that the governor signs this bill into law.

The full Senate will be voting on HB 323: relative to the administration of the statewide assessment program. AFT-NH believes that this will allow for some district flexibility with regards to state wide assessment. We have seen an over-emphasis on high stake testing across the country and think New Hampshire is moving in the right direction.

AFT-NH believes that assessments should support teaching and learning, and that they should be aligned with curriculum rather than narrow it.  Assessments should be focused on measuring growth and continuous development of students instead of arbitrary targets unconnected to how students learn. Assessments should be diverse, authentic, test for multiple indicators of student performance and provide information leading to appropriate interventions that help students, teachers and schools improve, not sanctions that undermine them.  Development and implementation of such tests must be age appropriate for the students, and teachers need to have appropriate computers to administer such assessments.

Further, AFT-NH believes that assessments should support teaching and learning. They must contribute to school and classroom environments that nurture growth, collaboration, curiosity and invention—essential elements of a 21st-century education that have too often been sacrificed in favor of test prep and testing. We know that collaboration with educators is necessary to ensure that high-quality instruction and content are given their proper emphasis.

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

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey
AFT-NH President

Have you visited the AFT-NH Facebook page and clicked “Like Us”? Please do so today!
You can also follow us on Twitter at @8027aftnh.
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UPCOMING HEARINGS

Wednesday, May 20

Senate FINANCE, Room 103, SH
Sen. Forrester (C), Sen. Little (VC), Sen. Morse, Sen. Reagan, Sen. D’Allesandro, Sen. Hosmer
9:00 a.m. EXECUTIVE SESSION ON PENDING LEGISLATION

Thursday, May 21

10 am Senate in Session

JUDICIARY, Room 208, LOB
10:00 a.m. Continued public hearing on CACR 5, relating to legal actions. Providing that taxpayers have standing to bring actions against the government.

Friday, May 22

In recognition of your support, the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Association cordially invites you to the 23rd Annual New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Ceremony. The ceremony will be held on Friday, May 22, 2015, beginning promptly at 10:00 a.m., on the Memorial Site in front of the Legislative Office Building. The ceremony will proceed rain or shine. Refreshments will be served immediately the ceremony. Please do not hesitate to contact Major Kevin Jordan of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department at 602-271-3128 if you have any questions.

Thursday, May 23

Senate FINANCE, Room 103, SH
Sen. Forrester (C), Sen. Little (VC), Sen. Morse, Sen. Reagan, Sen. D’Allesandro, Sen. Hosmer
3:00 p.m. EXECUTIVE SESSION ON PENDING LEGISLATION

Tuesday, May 26

EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
10:00 a.m. Subcommittee work session on retained bills
HB 527, establishing guidelines for school districts relative to the use of school resource officers,
HB 538-FN-L, relative to the implementation of new statewide education annual assessments,
HB 581-FN, requiring schools to continue the education of a child during the child’s suspension or expulsion, and
HB 243, changing the definitions of “focus school” and “priority school” in the school performance and accountability law.
1:00 p.m. Continued subcommittee work session on retained bills
HB 218-FN, relative to additional funding for third grade proficiency in mathematics,
HB 549-FN-A-L, allowing school building aid grants for certain authorized projects,
HB 242, relative to the statewide improvement and assessment program, and
HB 231, relative to applications for school building aid.

Monday, June 1

TASK FORCE ON WORK AND FAMILY (RSA 276-B:2, I), Room 207, LOB
1:15 p.m. Regular meeting.

Wednesday, June 3

10 am House in Session

Thursday, June 4

10 am House in Session

Senate Democrats Denounce Cuts to Substance Abuse Prevention

Senate Finance Republicans Cut Funding for Office of Substance Use Disorders and Behavioral Health

 

CONCORD – Today, Senators Lou D’Allesandro andAndrew Hosmer, Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee, condemned the cuts to substance abuse prevention made by Senate Republicans in the budget: 

“We are in the middle of a substance abuse and heroin epidemic and it is completely irresponsible to eliminate this funding,” said Senator D’Allesandro.“All session long, we have seen the outcry from our communities for help dealing with this epidemic and funding in this area should be a priority for all Senators, not one that is open to cuts that go beyond the House’s draconian budget.”

 

Along a party-line vote of 4-2, the Senate Finance Committee voted to remove the Office of Substance Use Disorders and Behavioral Health along with funding for a senior director position that would coordinate the state’s response to the substance abuse crisis. This position was proposed by Governor Hassan and included in the House version of the budget. Funding for this office and position was established by a grant from the NH Charitable Foundation last year and the Charitable Foundation will continue to ease the state’s burden by helping fund the position until the end of this calendar year, at which point state general funds would be required to continue this effort.

 

“This is an economic issue and a public safety issue. It requires a leader to cross-collaborate among all state agencies to find solutions to this crisis,” said Sen. Hosmer. “This office funds a key position that ensures that we are strengthening our treatment and prevention efforts is a common-sense way to ensure that the state is responding effectively to the substance misuse epidemic. The Senate Republicans move to strip this essential position shows they are out of touch with the needs of NH communities and I urge them to reconsider their actions that are putting the health and wellbeing of Granite Staters at risk.”

 

Republicans Are Not The Only One Who Want To Protect Their Freedoms

Screen shot CSPAN

Former NH Speaker Bill O’Brien is taking his extreme agenda on the road to South Carolina this week. Speaking at the South Carolina Freedom Summit, O’Brien openly mocked his own party and their choice for a Presidential nominee.

VIDEO

The fun began as O’Brien told the crowd that he is the “Republican Leader” in the NH House of Representatives. I am sure that the Republican leadership in the NH House would beg to differ. (For those who may not know, O’Brien and his fellow “TEA Party Patriots” formed their own Republican caucus and named O’Brien as their leader.)

O’Brien was there to push for a Conservative candidate (unnamed in this event, but locally reported that O’Brien is supporting Sen. Ted Cruz) who will hold true to their Conservative principles. As O’Brien laid it out: limited government, free markets, “stopping the governments war on religion,” unalienable right of self protection, “the rights of children born and unborn,” and personal sovereignty.

“Over the years I have heard the establishment party and the liberal media tell us who we should be voting for,” said O’Brien. “The establishment and the liberal media telling us to nominate a moderate so he can win and ends up with that moderate loosing because he cannot draw any significant distinction between himself and the liberal parties candidate.”
Obviously O’Brien was not happy with Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee for President.

O’Brien went on to say, “We win when we directly and unapologetically present our philosophy of liberty unimpeded by big government and founded on individual sovereignty, and we loose when we nominate RINOs (Republicans in name only).”

First of all I think it should be known that Republicans are not the only ones who want “personal sovereignty.”

Democrats are also pushing for more “personal sovereignty“ and less government involvement in their personal lives.

We want the government, and the Republican Party, to keep their laws out of a women’s uterus. A woman should be able to choose if she wants to terminate her pregnancy for the reasons her and her doctor have discussed.  Republicans across the country have been hard at work to strip women of their reproductive rights and force them to have unnecessary medical procedures and in some extreme cases be forced to listen to lies about abortions and the effects of having an abortion.

The freedom to choose has been upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States since Roe v Wade over forty years ago. Yet every year, Republican led legislatures, like New Hampshire push some type of fetal personhood law to take away a women’s freedom to choose. They pass laws that force health clinics to close, and force women to drive for hundreds of miles to have a safe and legal medical procedure.

What about the freedom to marry? Shouldn’t people have the personal freedom to marry whoever they choose? The Supreme Court will soon issue a ruling as to whether it is constitutional or not that a state can pass laws discriminating gay and lesbian couples from getting married.

What about “Freedom of Religion.” O’Brien says there is a “war on religion,” and to some extent he is right. There is a war by the religious evangelical right to force their religious beliefs on the rest of the country.

What about those who do not believe in any religion, should they be forced to abide by the religious beliefs of the evangelical right wingers?

What about those who already have a strong foundation in their own faith, like Muslim, Jewish, and Wiccan? Do they not have the same person freedoms guaranteed to them by the Constitution to practice whatever religion they choose?

There is a separation between Church and State for a reason, yet these same O’Brien led Republicans are trying to force their religion on us through the government. Way to uphold our Constitution.

They hypocrisy is astounding. Screaming personal freedom yet actively stripping away the freedoms and rights of millions of Americans. The Republican Party is tearing itself apart — which is fine by me – because the radical right wing of the party is attacking the more reasonable and moderate Republicans.

It is fun to watch the O’Brien bad-mouth his own party for nominating moderates. If the “moderate” Republican candidate like Romney was still too extreme for main-stream Americans, then what real chance does a fringe candidate like Sen. Ted Cruz, or Dr. Ben Carson really have in general election?

Get the popcorn, because this show is only beginning!

Senate Democrats Slam Passage of Anti-Education Legislation

CONCORD – Senators Molly Kelly and David Watters released the following comments after Senate Republicans passed a rash of anti-education legislation earlier today: 


“I am disappointed that the Senate Republican majority decided to push through multiple bills that damage our education system,” said Senator Kelly.”We need an educational system that expands opportunity for all our children, but unfortunately, the legislation passed today is a step backward in state policy and is contrary to what parents want their children to learn.” 

 

On largely party-line votes, the Senate passed HB 206, which bans surveys and questionnaires that help make our educational system stronger, HB 332, which makes it more difficult for NH schools to equip young people with the knowledge they need to make healthy decisions, and HB 603, which allows students to opt-out of testing without ramifications.

 

“Senate Democrats stand with educators who work so diligently to provide our children every opportunity to succeed,” said Sen. Watters. “The legislation that Senate Republicans supported today put up unnecessary barriers to the success of our children, who deserve better than to be subject to ideological legislation designed to hinder our educational system.”

News Outlets Highlight Need for NHGOP Senate to Restore Budget Cuts to Critical Economic Priorities

Reckless Budget Cuts

Concord Monitor Editorial on Importance of Moving Forward with Commuter Rail 

Concord, N.H. – News outlets continue to highlight the need for the NHGOP Senate to address House budget cuts to critical economic priorities including substance misuse treatment, the 10-bed crisis unit at New Hampshire hospital, ServiceLink, and House Republicans’ failure to responsibly fund the Department of Transportation.

A Concord Monitor editorial also called for the legislature to move forward with commuter rail from Boston to Nashua and Manchester, highlighting the “potentially transformative nature of a rail link to the region’s largest city.”

See below for coverage roundup:

NHPR: Drug Epidemic Front And Center In N.H. Politics

Money is tight, and there are plenty of competing priorities. The House trimmed $6 million from what the governor proposed to boost treatment. The House also declined to extend Medicaid expansion, which includes substance abuse coverage for participants. These moves were criticized by plenty from the moment they were made, but the push is really on now. And the statistics are pretty rough. According to the head of the governor’s commission on prevention, treatment and recovery, right now New Hampshire has the country’s highest per-capita rate of addiction and the second-lowest treatment capacity. Only Texas is worse, apparently. [Full story]

Concord Monitor’s Capital Beat: Will there be money for beds, but not for staff?

In July, New Hampshire Hospital administrators expect to complete construction on a new 10-bed crisis unit, meant to help ease pressure at emergency rooms where oftentimes the mentally ill are forced to wait in line until a bed becomes available at the Concord facility.

But, whether the crisis unit will actually open its doors to patients this year is still up in the air.

The unit needs funding to launch, primarily to hire staff. And that comes from the state budget, which at this point doesn’t plan to offer up the cash until 2017, a full year after the unit construction is complete.

… Hundreds of New Hampshire residents took their frustrations with the budget process to the State House last week during a marathon public hearing lasting from 3 p.m. to midnight, where they asked for the state to fully fund services ranging from mental health services to tourism promotion.

… The House-approved budget plan suspends the ServiceLink program altogether, an information referral program that fielded 83,000 calls last year and helps residents find nursing home placements and enroll in Medicare and the Healthcare marketplace, among other things.

… Educators are also carefully watching the budget progress. School district budgets rely on state dollars distributed in the state budget.

The Concord School District would stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars under the House budget plan. To fill a hole in expected state dollars, the district would have to convene this summer and consider cuts in other areas of its budget or potentially raise taxes. [Full story]

Union Leader’s State House Dome: Fish & Game, highway a funding conundrum

Nearly 700 people attended the public hearing on the new $11.2 billion biennial budget last week, urging Senate budget writers to add money to social service programs for the disabled, stay-at-home seniors and substance abusers, for higher education, for tourism promotion, and to reduce retired public workers’ health care premiums.

However, Senate budget writers have two other major issues to address that received little attention at the public hearing: declining revenues in the highway, and Fish and Game Department funds.

The Highway Fund, which receives money from the gas tax and vehicle registrations, pays most of the operating costs of the Department of Transportation, for state police to patrol highways and for state and local road and bridge projects.

… Lawmakers over the years have used some one-time fixes to prop up the fund, but they are exhausted and now there is at least a $100 million shortfall over the next two years.

The House used money from the rainy day fund, the renewable energy fund, state adequacy money and millions earmarked for higher education to pay for the agency.

The Senate is expected to return money to the rainy day fund and at least some of the money to the renewable energy fund, but that means less money for the DOT.

… Like the Highway Fund, lawmakers have known for some time diminishing revenues in the Fish and Game fund would sooner or later have to be addressed. [Full story]

Concord Monitor Editorial: Commuter rail is a gamble worth taking

After nearly two years of study, the consultants have spoken. Train service between cities along the Interstate 93 spine of New Hampshire would lead to new jobs, higher property values and an increase in the percentage of young people who call the state home.

… The potentially transformative nature of a rail link to the region’s largest city led Gov. Hassan to make re-establishing passenger rail service from Concord to Boston the apple of her eye. But now, after brief study, comes the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy to explain how like an orange an apple really is.

… The center, which admitted that its comparisons were less than perfect matches with the capital rail corridor, failed to include any success stories – and they’re out there.

Ridership on commuter rail has increased in almost every major city. Extended systems in northern California, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Connecticut have spurred economic growth, led to higher property values and development in areas near stations, and an increase in jobs. The days of whole towns springing up around stops on the railroad may be long gone, but for many of the millennials who are becoming the heart of the nation’s workforce, so are the days of suburban ranch homes and three or four cars in the driveway. They want to take trains.

… Planners have long known that congestion can’t be widened away. The expansion of I-93 only as far as Manchester cost $800 million. Compared to that, the investment in rail is small money.

… Trains pollute far less, allow people to be as productive or relaxed en route as they choose, avoid parking costs and facilitate commerce. Establish regular rail service and, for a time, even more New Hampshire residents will commute south to work, but also in time, we’re betting that more and more of those Massachusetts employers will decide that a northern move makes economic and lifestyle sense.

Build it and they will come. [Full editorial]

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