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Money, Politics and Overturning Citizens United

For as long as I can remember, the amount of money involved in politics has been an issue.  Even before the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, there was ‘soft money’ for campaigns from the political parties.

However, the landmark decision in Citizens United didn’t just change the rules of the game – it fundamentally changed the game.

Citizens United gave individuals the ability to donate unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns.  The ruling also gave corporations the same rights as people, therefor allowing corporations to donate unlimited funds.  The worst part of the Citizens United ruling is how it allowed donors to remain essentially anonymous.  Billionaires like the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson could literally donate a billion dollars without anyone knowing.  This would be true if they did not tell everyone they did it.

We all agree that money is power in politics.  In political campaigns, money is everything – that is why the day after each election, they start begging for money for the next election. Money allows you to buy airtime on TV and radio.  Money allows candidates to send out post cards to every person in their district (my friends at the USPS thank you for that, by the way).  Without money, candidates cannot even get their names out there to the people. Money is everything in a campaign.

Once again, we are at the point where we need to reform our political contribution system.  The money in politics is giving more weight to the corporations and lobbying groups than the actual people that candidates are elected to represent.  Take the recent Senate vote on common sense gun reforms and universal background checks.  Many of the Senators who opposed background checks are also in tight with the NRA, who is a massive lobbying group for the gun manufacturers.  Even though between 80-90% of Americans believe that we should have universal background checks on all gun sales, 46 US Senators voted it down.  Why? Because they do not want to lose the financial backing, or face the wrath of the uber-rich NRA.

We must fix this system, or our democracy will completely fall apart.  This is why New Hampshire Legislators have introduced HCR2. HCR2 is a resolution urging US Congress to amend the US Constitution to overturn Citizens United.  Simple, right?

In a recent UNH poll, 72% of Granite Staters believed this we should overturn Citizens United.  This is 72% of all Granite Staters – Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike.

“These numbers make it clear that the political will exists to reclaim democracy from corporate and special interest spending – in New Hampshire and around the country,” said Marge Baker, executive vice president of People For the American Way. “Voters across the state are speaking out to insist that our democracy is truly of, by and for the people.”

UNH Poll supporting overturning citizens united

So why haven’t you heard about this resolution? Because it has no chance of even being debated in the NH Senate right now.  Recently Senate President Peter Bragdon changed the rules of the Senate to say that a ‘super majority’ would be required before the Senate would even consider House resolutions.  If this sounds vaguely familiar and highly dysfunctional, think: US Senate Filibuster on a smaller scale. This change means that the NH Senate is not even going to discuss the resolution.

“New Hampshire voters, like most Americans, are fed up with the Citizens United anything-goes approach to money in politics. Six in 10 New Hampshire Republicans, nearly three out of four independents, and nearly eight in 10 Democrats support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. That’s why 10 Republican Representatives joined Democrats in passing HCR2 at the state House last month, and why the state Senate should now also heed the will of the voters,” said Peter Schurman, campaign director at Free Speech For People.

These Senators are elected to represent us. When the people overwhelmingly agree that this needs to change, something should change.  The Senate should stop hiding behind this arbitrary parliamentary rule.  Bring the resolution to the floor and let’s discuss it.

Jonah Minkoff-Zern, senior organizer of Democracy Is For People at Public Citizen sums it up perfectly:

“The only question is: Are the politicians ready to follow the will of the people, rather than the giant campaign spenders?”

 

At Legislator Luncheon, NH Labor Pushes For ‘Job Creating’ Casino Bill

Credit Joe Casey

Credit Joe Casey

Organized labor united in support of “job creating” bill, makes case for expanded gaming at legislative luncheon

Nearly 300 State Representatives packed the State House Cafeteria today for a legislative luncheon in support of SB152, the bill to create jobs and state revenue by licensing a casino in New Hampshire. The luncheon was sponsored by the New Hampshire labor community, and included presentations from Senator Donna Soucy, NEA President Scott McGilvray, SEA representative Jay Ward, Building Trades President and IBEW 490 Business Manager Joe Casey, Representative Ed Butler, and Matthew Landry of Strategic Market Advisors.

NH Building and Construction Trades Council President Joe Casey issued the following statement:

“The turnout today was incredible, even though we were forced to change the venue at the last minute. It’s clear that support for SB152 is building in the House. The Representatives who attended today understand that SB152 will create thousands of jobs and create a critical revenue stream to fund our state’s priorities.

The New Hampshire labor community is united in support of this bill, and the luncheon today was a great opportunity to showcase that. I was proud to stand alongside Scott McGilvray and Jay Ward, and to speak to the importance of this bill to our memberships. For our part, the construction industry needs our legislators to support SB152 in order to create more than $425 million in private investment that will create thousands of jobs. Estimates show SB152 will create 3,165 on-site construction jobs, 567 indirect construction jobs, another 1,087 jobs through increased economic activity due to construction, and 1,949 full time ongoing jobs in operating the casino. Our legislators have an opportunity to stand with New Hampshire’s working men and women by passing SB152, and the great showing we had at the luncheon today shows that many of them are ready to do that.

The anti-gaming lobby tried every dirty trick in the book to try and stop this luncheon from happening – even stooping to bullying St. Paul’s church into canceling it. Their support is slipping every day, and they’re desperate to stop us from being heard. But we will not be intimidated, and we will make sure there is a full, open, and honest debate on this issue in spite of their dirty tactics. We expect to see more of their big money misinformation campaign in the coming weeks, but the people of New Hampshire support this proposal, and momentum is clearly building among our legislators. No amount of dirty tricks and robo calls from the anti-casino lobby can stop that. ”

Sponsors of today’s event include:

NH Building and Construction Trades Council
IBEW 104
IBEW 490
IBEW 2320
Granite State Teamsters
Ironworkers Local 7
NEA NH
NH Troopers Association
Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 131
Professional Fire Fighters of NH
State Employees Association

AFT-NH Needs Your Help To Pass HB370 (School Vouchers)

Yesterday the Senate Education committee made the recommendation to defeat HB 370, which would repeal the education tax credit. To read more on the committee’s recommendation click here. It is time to take action and ask that this recommendation be overturned and a recommendation of “ought to pass” be made and supported.

Last year the legislature passed two bills diverting public money for education to religious and private schools as well as home schoolers. This session, HB 370 aims to repeal this education tax credit program.

The tax credit program initiated in 2012 is an ill-disguised attempt to begin privatizing and dismantling our public education system in NH while weakening our good schools. We are justly proud of our schools in NH and these “vouchers” disguised as tax-credits will only harm public education.

Please click here TODAYand urge your Senator to support NH public schools and pass HB 370 as written.

If you care about public education in NH, please take this action and share with your family, friends and neighbors.

Thank you!

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey

Stop Sending NH Taxpayer Money To Religious Schools; A Update On Voucher Repeal from Bill Duncan (ANHPE)

We have a real opportunity to achieve voucher repeal this year – maybe in the next 3 weeks.

HB 370, voucher repeal, has passed the house and is awaiting action in the Senate.  The vote count in the Senate is 12-12.  There has been a steady stream of letters in the paper urging the Senate to support repeal.

The public hearing on HB 370 has been scheduled for Friday, March 22, at 1:00PM in Room 100 of the State House

If I could ask you for one thing for the rest of this session, it would be to attend this Senate Health, Education and Human Services Committee hearing and speak in favor of HB 370.  Testimony should be very brief, one minute or less.  There is no need to make a long, reasoned pitch.  The only point is to show that the citizens of New Hampshire care about this issue and are paying attention.

No date has been set for a floor vote on the bill, but it could be the first week of April.

The array of arguments against the voucher program and for repeal is so persuasive that it’s hard to believe that Senator Stiles and other traditional conservative, good-government Republicans won’t favor repeal in the end.  Here are the issues that have become apparent as the program tries to roll out:

Is the voucher program about helping poor kids or about privatization of public education?

Voucher tax credits are sold as a way to provide school choice for poor kids.  But right behind the heart-strings tugging, the groups involved make clear that tax credits are really about privatizing public education.  The “Red Book” that all legislators received from the Friedman Foundation this week made that point too, saying that “school choice [is] the most effective and equitable way to improve the quality of K-12 education in America”  and the goal is “to make that opportunity available to all families nationwide.”  In other words, disinvest in  public education and send the money to private schools.     As you will see below, the New Hampshire advocates don’t stick to such bland purpose statements.  They say clearly that they want to shut down government schools.

Senators voting on repeal should be left with no doubt about what they are voting on.  Support for vouchers is support for privatizing public education.  In addition, as you see from the headlines below, the New Hampshire voucher program itself is a mess.  Here are the points voucher opponents have been making in the public debate.

The education tax credit (voucher) program is bad public policy.

There are many effective ways to improve the lives of poor kids – early childhood development programs, nutrition programs, medical health programs, targeting more education funding to poor communities.  But paying for them to go to religious schools is not one of them.  Recent news coverage about a Manchester family’s education challenges illustrated this point.  The idea was that, if they got tax credit scholarships, they could go to the local Christian school instead of the overcrowded Manchester schools.

The family would still have been left with large tuition bills, but leave that aside.  As a policy matter, sending a few of Manchesters 13,000 kids out to go to private schools would do little for Manchester education.  I wrote an opinion piece for the Nashua Telegraph on this, here.

The voucher program is not really rolling out.  It is stumbling.

Donations: Businesses have applied for $118,000 in tax credits so far and there has been little movement in this figure over the past 2 months.  As of a couple of weeks ago, none had actually donated money to a scholarship organization.  The Department of Revenue Administration says, “Business interest in the education tax credit program does not rise to the level of tepid.”  The BIA (our state-wide chamber of commerce) took no position on voucher.  Business people have little interest in being associated with an effort to dismantle public education.

Scholarship applications:   Apparently most of the 500 applications so far are from families with multiple children already homeschooling or in private religious schools.  We do see the State’s small religious schools marketing to the parents of their existing students.  It does not appear that there will be enough money to assist many applicants.

The program authorizes $8.5 million in the first 2 years, but with no oversight

New Hampshire’s 30 year old Community Development Finance Authority tax credit program grants only $3.75 million per year in tax credits but its staff and two separate boards review every project in detail.  The donors are listed publicly.  It is well managed, it is considered an honor to sit on the boards and there have been no scandals.

New Hampshire’s charter schools get vetted by the State Board of Education and answer to the Department of Education for curriculum and educational results.  As a result, they provide good curricula and enjoy good public support.

But the voucher program is a whole different animal.  Scholarship organizations are approved by Department of Revenue Administration staff.  There is no oversight board.  Donors names are not public.  Oversight consists of one report per year transmitting summary statistics.  Here’s more.

As a result, the only scholarship organization so far is, well, a poor choice

There were plenty of credible alternatives, but the only scholarship organization appointed to date is a California group that helped write the New Hampshire legislation authorizing the tax credits – The Alliance for the Separation of School and State.  In New Hampshire they call themselves The Network for Educational Opportunity. Describing their mission, they say,  “Our society has become a slave to the state by virtue of government-controlled schools….Government schooling stands in direct opposition to the liberty this country was founded on… I favor ending government involvement in education.

This is the group that operates autonomously, marketing New Hampshire’s tax credits and deciding who gets the donations.  Here’s more.

There is no accountability in the selection or performance of the voucher schools

The New Hampshire voucher program is unusual in how little accountability is required of participating schools (more here).  As a result, many small unaccredited schools are planning to participate (here’s a sample).  Many teach a Creationist, often overtly political, curriculum far removed from that of any publicly supported school.  A number of religious schools and their associations testified for the voucher bill.  Here’s how one of those schools, the Tri-City Christian Academy, describes it’s philosophy:

“Government schools have assumed a virtual monopolistic influence over the lives of the vast majority of American families with school-aged children….Every fact in the universe is a God-created, God-interpreted fact, and therefore all instruction is to be given in terms of God…It is virtually impossible, however, to control the child’s education in the state (public) school. It is nowhere specified in Scripture that the civil magistrate (the state) is to have responsibility for the education of our children.”

Here is more detail on the curricula in many New Hampshire religious schools.

As a result, we can anticipate the kind of trouble other states have experienced with voucher programs

Here is an alarming sample of recent headlines.

 

Please plan to come on Friday.  The senate committee needs to hear from you.

Bill

Create your own job? NH Senate gives initial approval to “Pathway to Work” bill

by dpstylesâ„¢, on Flickr

Earlier today, the NH Senate voted 21 to 3 to initially approve SB 143, which would create a “Pathway to Work” program within the Department of Employment Security.

The new program would allow 2.5% of unemployment recipients to receive entrepreneurship training to start their own businesses, rather than looking for a job working for someone else. Delaware, Maine, New Jersey, New York, and Oregon already have similar programs.

“Senate Democrats and Republicans talk about ensuring NH workers have the skills and opportunities they need to succeed,” Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen said in a statement today. “Passing ‘Pathway to Work’ is a way to do that for unemployed people, particularly older more experienced workers, who are likely to exhaust their state benefits.” Read her statement here.

The bill now moves to the Finance Committee for review.

Strong Labor Opposition To Senate Bill 37 (The bill to restrict collective bargaining in NH)

When you talk about cutting collective bargaining rights for public employees, the labor unions come out in droves.  As they should. Thats why we form unions.  One solid voice to speak for the membership.

Today was no different.  At the committee hearing for Senate Bill 37, “an act relative to management rights under collective bargaining” members and representatives from many of the public sector unions came out in strong opposition to this bill.  To speak against the bill was Kurt Ehrenberg from the NH AFL-CIO. Glen Milner from the Professional Fire Fighters Association (PFF-NH).  James Allmenginger spoke on behalf of NEA-NH. Harriet Spencer spoke on behalf of AFSCME.    Even the unions who were unable to attend, like AFT-NH, submitted written testimony against the bill.

All of the testimony was pretty much the same.  Why are we attacking the collective bargaining process that has worked so well for everyone in New Hampshire for the last forty plus years.

“It guts much of collective bargaining and much of the collective bargaining agreements in existence,” said James Allmenginger,  NEA New Hampshire.

“We see this as an attack on public employees in New Hampshire,” said Kurt Ehrenberg, political and legislative field director for the New Hampshire AFL-CIO.

“It is a radical piece of legislation that upsets the apple cart and takes the state back 40 years” said Glen Milner of the PFF-NH

SB37 basically gives all the power to management by making everything ‘management rights’.  This means that the ‘management’ can set all the rules around, evaluations, disciple, layoffs, and much more.   According to Senator Bragdon “all these things is still subject to negotiations”.  If management sets the rules why would they ever need to negotiate about it?

At the hearing it also became more evident who was pushing for this type of restrictive legislation.  The NH School Boards Association was one of the organizations advocating for the this bill. Their ‘concern’ is all about teacher evaluations. They would want more control in creating (and imposing) their version of teacher evaluations.

Norma Love of the Associated Press paraphrased it perfectly when she wrote:

Betsy Miller, executive director of the New Hampshire Association of Counties, said her group supports anything that increases managerial prerogative. The changes — if adopted — would give more authority to managers, she said”

Collective Bargaining works when both sides have something to win and something to loose.   There must be give and take from both sides.  This type of legislation is contrary to the collective bargaining process.

If the NH School Boards Association has an issue with teacher evaluations, they should look at some of the contracts that other cities and towns have passed.  The Nashua Teachers’ Union (AFT), the Rochester Federation of Teachers (AFT) and Hillsboro Federation of Teachers (AFT) negotiated a teacher evaluation as part of their contract.  This allowed the city and the union to compromise on how the process should work.

Even after all of this information today, I am still confused as to why a very moderate Senator Bragdon would be sponsoring this bill?  Sen Bragdon was the former chairman of the Milford School Board (now just a member).  What is the real goal of this legislation?  Is it really about evaluations or is it about layoff procedures (another negotiated process)? Or disciplinary procedures (another negotiated process)?   Only time will tell.

NH Senate President Writes Legislation To End Collective Bargaining

After enduring two full years of constant attacks on the collective bargaining process, we thought that after the elections we would be safe.  We were wrong!

Senate President Peter Bragdon, who is a strong supporter of Right To Work legislation, has introduced a bill that would effectively end collective bargaining for public employees, without actually saying it.

The bill, Senate Bill 37, is a very sneaky and underhand way of removing items from the collective bargaining process to effectively destroy it.  (Bold are proposed changes)

The phrase “managerial policy within the exclusive prerogative of the public employer’ shall be construed to include but shall not be limited to the functions, programs, and methods of the public employer, including the use of technology, the public employer’s organizational structure, [and] the selection, direction and number of its personnel, and the right to determine standards for evaluation, compensation, selection, layoff and retention, discipline, assignment and transfer, and other traditionally accepted managerial rights, so as to continue public control of governmental functions.

This change means that unions are no longer allowed to negotiate over wages, evaluations, reductions in force, or disciplinary procedures.  I would be the first to say that a contract is more than just pay and time off, however taking these above items out would destroy our collective bargaining process.

To me this appears to be going right after our state’s teachers unions.  Restricting their rights to bargin over seniority based layoffs and classroom evaluations.   In going after the teachers this legislation will decimate the collective bargaining process that has worked so well in NH for the last 50 years for all public employees.

I will not stand idly by and let them take away my rights to collectively bargain.  The first committee meeting for this bill is at the State House on WEDNESDAY January 23  at 9:30 am in room 100. Can I count on you to be there too?

If you cannot be there you can still help.  The American Federation of Teacher (NH) have created an online action page for you to send a message directly the Senate Committee.

We must work together to stop the attacks on our police, fire, educators, and public servants.  They have dedicated their lives to serving the public and deserve the rights to have a voice in their workplace.

Democratic State Senator Martha Fuller Clark files legislation restoring UNH cuts

Sen. Clark, who represents UNH’s main campus, believes that cuts harm community, economy

(Portsmouth, NH) After being sworn in yesterday for a two-year term representing a new district that includes both her hometown of Portsmouth, UNH’s main campus in Durham and the surrounding communities of Newmarket, Madbury, and Lee filed legislation today to restore the cuts made to the University of New Hampshire during the last session.

“At a time when NH and the rest of the country is challenged to compete globally for good jobs, nothing is more important than having a well-educated workforce. We owe the opportunity for all of New Hampshire’s young people to access such an affordable quality education through our university system,” Fuller Clark said, adding. “That is why today I filed legislation to restore the millions of dollars of cuts from the University’s budget that occurred under Republican leadership in the state’s budget for 2012-2012.”

During her campaign to return to the Senate after a two-year absence, Fuller Clark repeatedly heard from voters that they were outraged by the cuts the GOP legislature delivered to the University of New Hampshire.

About Martha: Martha served terms in both the New Hampshire House and Senate since the ‘90s. A two-time candidate for the U.S. Congress, she currently serves as Vice-Chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, a member of DNC and, in 2008 and again in 2012 served as co-chair of the New Hampshire Committee to elect Barack Obama President of the United States.Martha participates on many different boards and commissions in her community. She presently serves as President of the Board of Strawbery Banke, as an advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and is the past President of Scenic America.

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