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Climate Change Thought Leaders Gather at Alnoba to Discuss Renewable Energy

Kensington, NH,   – Alnoba, the premier destination for Retreats, Leadership, and Wellness, is hosting a panel discussion entitled “New England’s Energy Future: The Opportunities and Challenges of Renewable Energy Technologies” on Wednesday, April 12 from 5:3-7 p.m. It will be held in the Great Room at Alnoba, located at 24 Cottage Road, Kensington, NH.
Attendees will learn about New Hampshire’s powerful solar resource, the technology advancements that make it practical to harvest that sunshine, and to learn about the integration of renewable energy with electric appliances that enable consumers to replace oil, gas and propane with zero emissions clean technology, while having the investment paid for through fuel savings.

The expert panel will include:

  • Dr. Cameron Wake, UNH Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space & Josephine A. Lamprey Professor in Climate and Sustainability at the UNH Sustainability Institute
  • Phil Coupe, Co-Founder, ReVision Energy
  • Joe Harrison, Director of Clean Energy Finance at Community Development Finance Authority
  • Bradley Campbell, President of the Conservation Law Foundation
  • Dr. Clay Mitchell, Lecturer at UNH Dept. of Natural Resources and the Environment, Community and Environmental Planning, and Environmental Conservation and Sustainability
  • With Moderator Charles Forcey, Senior Software Architect at Advanced Energy Economy 

The evening will begin at 5:30 p.m. with light refreshments and networking, followed by brief presentations, a panel discussion and question and answer session.

The event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required. Sign up on Event Brite at https://AlnobaClimateChangePanel.Eventbrite.com or call 603-418-7409. 

This topic is very near and dear to us so we are happy to host these thought leaders,” explained Jan Byrnes, Director of Social Mission and Conservation at Lewis Family Foundation North. The Lewis Family has long been involved in conservation, sustainability and preservation. “Alnoba, designed by master architect Matthew O’Malia at GO Logic in Belfast, ME, was built with restored New England timber frames and is the first mixed use building to achieve Passive House standard in the Northeast. In addition, sustainability is integral with the design and operation of the buildings, property and programs at The Farm at Eastman’s Corner. In addition to LED and solar-sourced energy from solar panels, there are electric car charging stations around the property. We are working toward a net zero energy goal.” 

“Climate change is now a risk we ignore at our peril. Not only does the burning of fossil fuels result in the emission of heat-trapping gases that drive our changing climate, but every year New Hampshire exports approximately $4 billion from the local economy to import fossil fuels from away,” said Dr. Wake. “The good news is that renewable energy technology now makes it possible for individuals and organizations to cost-effectively reduce the use of fossil fuels and recycle more energy dollars in our state and region,” he added. 

According to ReVision Energy’s Coupe, solar electricity costs have plunged 75% and complementary technologies like heat pumps, batteries and electric vehicles have progressed to the point where people can transition to clean energy while deriving an excellent economic and environmental return on investment. The presentations will discuss the opportunities and challenges associated with this transition to clean energy. 

Attendees will get the opportunity to tour the facility and enjoy light bites from by The Farm at Eastman’s Corner, which is the exclusive caterer for Alnoba.

For more information about this and future Alnoba events, please contact Julie Cook at 603-418-7409 or email her at jcook@alnoba.org

About Alnoba

Alnoba was built by the Lewis Family Foundation (LFF) North with the goal of creating a special place for the community, organizations and families to gather, share, learn and be inspired to change people’s lives and save the earth we share. At Alnoba, individuals, groups and organizations come to continue their lifelong journey of learning and transformation. It is a place where we connect with our higher selves and each other to create a way of being in the world that is sustainable, nourishing and bold. Alnoba is located in Kensington, NH, convenient to Boston, Concord, NH, and Portland, ME. It is available for meetings, retreats, and special events. When you hold your meeting or event at Alnoba, you support conservation, community and the development of future leaders. For more information, visit www.alnoba.org.

Hassan Joins Progressive Senators In Introducing Legislation To Bring Down Prescription Drug Prices

Proposal Improves Upon the Affordable Care Act By
Addressing Skyrocketing Drug Prices

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and others in launching a major push to improve upon the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by bringing down the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs, one of the main reasons why health care costs for seniors and families are rising.

The Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act would help ensure that drug companies put patients before profits and bring much-needed relief to families and seniors, including many who have had to make the impossible choice between paying for a life-saving drug and putting food on the table.

“It is long past time for Congress to put patients first by coming together and acting to lower the cost of prescription drugs,” said Senator Hassan. “This major piece of legislation helps ensure that seniors and families can afford the medication they need through common-sense steps including cracking down on bad actors who hike the cost of prescription drugs that have been on the market for years or who play games to prevent competition. I will continue working with anyone who’s serious about addressing the rising costs of prescription drugs and ensuring that all Americans can afford critical care.” 

The landmark proposal, which the Senators said they want to see included in upcoming legislative debates, seeks to tackle prescription drug costs by increasing transparency and accountability, boosting access and affordability of key drugs, spurring innovation, and increasing choice and competition.  

The Senators were joined in introducing this legislative package, which is supported by a wide range of organizations and patient advocacy groups, by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jeff Merkley (OR), Tom Udall (D-NM), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).

You can read more about the legislation by clicking here or reading below:

The Senators’ legislation is supported by:

  • The American Medical Student Association (AMSA)
  • AFSCME
  • Housing Works
  • MoveOn
  • National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare
  • National Physicians Alliance
  • Other98
  • PFAM: People of Faith for Access to Medicines
  • Public Citizen
  • Social Security Works
  • Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM)
  • AFT
  • Doctors for America
  • Center for Medicare Advocacy
  • Alliance for Retired Americans

Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act

Title I: Transparency

Section 101: Drug manufacturer reporting.

To better understand how research and development costs, manufacturing and marketing costs, acquisitions, federal investments, revenues and sales, and other factors influence drug prices, this section requires drug manufacturers to disclose this information, by product, to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), who, in turn, will make it publicly available in a searchable format.

Section 102: Determining the public and private benefit of copayment coupons and other patient assistance programs.

To better understand how patient assistance programs affect drug prices and the extent to which drug makers are using independent charity assistance programs to drive up profits, this section requires independent charity assistance programs to disclose to the IRS the total amount of patient assistance provided to patients who are prescribed drugs manufactured by any contributor to the independent charity assistance program. It also requires a GAO study on the impact of patient assistance programs on prescription drug pricing and expenditures. 

Title II: Access and Affordability

Section 201: Negotiating fair prices for Medicare prescription drugs.

Medicare is one of the largest purchasers of prescription drugs in the country but, unlike Medicaid and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), it is not allowed to leverage its purchasing power to negotiate lower drug prices and bring down costs. This section would allow the Secretary of HHS to negotiate with drug companies to lower prescription drug prices, and directs the Secretary to prioritize negotiations on specialty and other high-priced drugs.

Section 202: Prescription drug price spikes.

Prescription drugs are priced in the United States according to whatever the market will bear and are sometimes subject to drastic and frequent price increases without apparent justification. This makes drugs increasingly unaffordable and creates significant uncertainty for patients’ and insurers’ budgets. This section requires the HHS Office of the Inspector General (HHS OIG) to monitor changes in drug prices and take steps to prevent drug manufacturers from engaging in price gouging. 

Section 203: Acceleration of the closing of the Medicare Part D coverage gap.

This section closes the Medicare Part D prescription coverage gap in 2018, two years earlier than under current law, providing faster financial relief to seniors, and requires drug manufacturers to pay a larger share of the costs during the coverage gap.  

Section 204: Importing affordable and safe drugs.

This section allows wholesalers, licensed U.S. pharmacies, and individuals to import qualifying prescription drugs manufactured at FDA-inspected facilities from licensed Canadian sellers and, after two years, from OECD countries that meet standards comparable to U.S. standards.

Section 205: Requiring drug manufacturers to provide drug rebates for drugs dispensed to low-income individuals.

This section restores prescription drug rebates for seniors who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid and extends these rebates to other Medicare patients in Medicare low-income-subsidy plans.

Section 206: Cap on prescription drug cost-sharing.

For plan years beginning in 2019 and later, this section caps prescription drug cost sharing at $250 per month for individuals and $500 a month for families enrolled in Qualified Health Plans and employer-based plans.

 

Title III: Innovation

Section 301: Prize fund for new and more effective treatments of bacterial infections.

This section creates a $2 billion prize fund at the National Institutes of Health to fund entities that develop superior antibiotics that treat serious and life-threatening bacterial infections and to fund research that advances such treatments and is made publicly available. In order to receive prize funds, recipients must commit to offering their products at a reasonable price, share clinical data, and take steps to promote antibiotic stewardship. 

Section 302: Public funding for clinical trials.

This section creates a Center for Clinical Research within the NIH to conduct all stages of clinical trials on drugs that may address an existing or emerging health need. 

Section 303: Rewarding innovative drug development.

This section amends various exclusivity periods awarded by the FDA to brand-name pharmaceutical companies in an effort to accelerate competition in the generic and biologics market. First, the bill modifies the New Chemical Entity (NCE) exclusivity period to allow FDA to accept a generic drug application for the branded product after three years rather than five. Second, this section would add in a requirement that products awarded the 3-year New Clinical Investigation Exclusivity must show significant clinical benefit over existing therapies manufactured by the applicant in the 5-year period preceding the submission of the application. Third, this section reduces the biological product exclusivity from 12 years to 7 years. 

Section 304: Improving program integrity.

This section would terminate any remaining market exclusivity periods on any product found to be in violation of criminal or civil law through a federal or state fraud conviction or settlement in which the company admits fault.

 

Title IV: Choice and Competition

Section 401: Preserving access to affordable generics.

This legislation would make it illegal for brand-name and generic drug manufacturers to enter into anti-competitive agreements in which the brand-name drug manufacturer pays the generic manufacturer to keep more affordable generic equivalents off the market. 

Section 402 and 403: 180-Day exclusivity period amendments regarding first applicant status and agreements to defer commercial marketing.

This section enables FDA to take away the 180-day generic drug exclusivity period from any generic company that enters into anti-competitive pay-for-delay settlements with brand-name drug manufacturers. 

Section 404: Increasing generic drug competition.

This section introduces new reporting requirements and financial incentives to promote and sustain competitive generic markets. 

Section 405: Disallowance of deduction for advertising for prescription drugs.

This section eliminates the tax breaks drug companies receive from the federal government for expenses related to direct-to-consumer advertising.

Section 406: Product hopping.

This section establishes a definition for the term “product hopping” and instructs the FTC to submit a report to Congress on the extent to which companies engage in these anti-competitive practices and their effects on company profits, consumer access, physician prescribing behavior, and broader economic impacts.

Granite State Rumblings: Trump’s “Skinny Budget” Is Bad For Working Families

There is a lot happening politically in Washington and in Concord that will impact children and families. Every Child Matters in NH has been focused on advocating for the needs of family and children in both arenas. This week we will take a look at the implications for kids at the federal level. Next week we will focus on New Hampshire legislation and the NH budget.

The Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) have worked in unison to dramatically cut the ranks of uninsured children in New Hampshire and across the country. Because of the options available under the ACA the percentage of uninsured children has dropped from 14.9 percent in 1997 to just 4.8 percent in 2015 — a 68 percent reduction. That is impressive! 

And so are you!

With the hard work and dedication of so many who made phone calls, wrote letters and e-mails, attended town hall meetings, visited with Congressional staff, wrote letters to the editor and took a stand, the Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land. Thank you!!

Here’s the skinny on the Skinny (Budget).

President Trump has released his “Skinny Budget” for fiscal year 2018, and the news is not good for families. It cuts funds from the programs that are essential to low-income children and families – education, housing, job training, nutrition for women, infants and children (WIC), energy assistance (LIHEAP), legal assistance, eliminates afterschool and summer care through the 21st Century Learning Centers program, and more. All of these cuts are being made to offset an increase in money for the Pentagon (defense spending). 

Click HERE for a more detailed list of Trump’s FY 2018 Budget cuts from our friends at the Coalition on Human Needs.

Why is the President’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, making these cuts to programs that help to warm homes in the winter, educate, feed, and house our children, and eliminate care for children, making it harder for working families to work? 

Watch this video to hear his claims.

So I ask you, why is it okay to tax the single mother of two in Detroit to feed the Pentagon budget but not to feed children and the elderly? When did we become so callous?

Oh! And by the way, high quality afterschool and summer programs DO work. There is a significant body of research demonstrating the positive outcomes associated with participation in quality afterschool programs overall.

  • An evaluation of high-quality afterschool programs (including 21st Century Community Learning Centers) serving 3,000 low-income elementary and middle school students found that regular participation in high-quality afterschool programs by low-income youth resulted in significant gains in math test scores and work habits and reductions in behavioral problems. (Vandell, et.al., 2007)
  • A meta-analysis by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) that examined 75 studies of 68 afterschool programs found that students who participated in an afterschool program exhibited improved behavior and performed better academically than students who did not participate in a program. (Durlak, et.al., 2010) ~Source: afterschoolalliance.org

Should the 21st Century Learning Centers funding be eliminated, the Afterschool Alliance estimates that 5,717 Granite State children would be impacted. Across the country nearly two million children and families would be left without reliable afterschool choices.

Let’s once again raise our voices, send the e-mails and make the calls to tell the Trump Administration that this budget is bad for kids – and bad for their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, friends……..

Join Every Child Matters today to take action in support of afterschool programs. 

Click here to send a brown bag message to Mick Mulvaney!

Shea-Porter And Kuster Vote Against FCC Giveaway Of Your Private Internet Information

Republicans in Congress just sold you out. They have just voted to allow all of your online activities and data to be sold to corporations by your Internet Service Providers (ISPs) without a consumer’s permission.

Both Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) and Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02)  voted “no” on S.J.Res.34.

“Today, I voted against rolling back Internet privacy protections. Allowing Internet companies to sell personal information flies in the face of the New Hampshire ‘live free or die’ values we cherish,” said Shea-Porter. “Congress should be doing more to safeguard our Internet privacy, not making it harder for law-abiding citizens to protect their own data.”

The legislation Shea-Porter opposed would overturn Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules that currently require ISPs to secure a consumer’s permission before selling their private internet browsing history and other sensitive information. It would also overturn rules that currently require ISPs to use “reasonable measures” to protect consumers’ personal information. For these reasons, leading privacy organizations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Consumer Federation of America, and Access Now opposed S.J.Res.34.

A staunch Internet privacy advocate, Shea-Porter previously introduced the Personal Data Privacy and Security Act of 2014 to ensure consumers are notified quickly if their private information has been compromised, and help prevent cyber-attacks by addressing the underlying problem of lax security and a lack of accountability. She has also co-introduced legislation that would prohibit employers from requiring current and prospective employees from disclosing their personal passwords as a condition of either keeping or getting a job, and was a leader in 2014’s successful fight to defend net neutrality.

“It is unacceptable that Republicans in Congress are trying to roll back basic privacy protections for internet users. Instead of voting on a bill that will make it easier for Internet Service Providers to sell customers personal information, Congress should be working together to strengthen existing privacy protections for broadband users,” said Kuster.  “Today’s vote begs the question, who is Congress working for: Granite Staters and Americans who use the internet, or multi-million dollar Internet Service Providers? I’m disappointed by today’s vote and will continue to stand up for the right to online privacy.”

Our right to privacy should be protected, not sold to marketing firms and multi-national corporations.  

NH Congressional Leaders And Environmental Groups Speak Out Against Trump’s ‘Anti-Climate’ Order

Yesterday, President Trump and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt are issued an executive order to destroy public health protections, in various arenas, aimed at reducing climate harming emissions and impacts from fossil fueled energy and industry. The Trump Administration’s ‘dirty energy’ executive order will target the Clean Air Act and roll back essential public health protections.

President Trump directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to “rewrite” the lifesaving Clean Power Plan, moved to stop the government from litigating on climate related cases, repealed four Obama-era policies that combat climate change, and manufactured an interagency working group to “reconsider” the social cost of carbon, an estimate of the damage caused by climate change.

After signing the order Trump received harsh criticism from legislators and environmental groups.

“President Trump is ignoring the mountain of evidence on climate change and plowing ahead with a dangerous agenda that threatens the health and well-being of New Hampshire,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “Rolling back carbon emissions rules and clean energy initiatives is a shortsighted political move that prioritizes the interests of big oil and coal companies over every day Americans. In New Hampshire, we see the effects of climate change every day and it is a direct threat to our environment, economy and way of life. We owe it to future generations to build on the Clean Power Plan and the Paris Agreement in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. I will fight President Trump’s actions in the Senate and have joined several of my colleagues in introducing legislation to rescind the President’s Executive Order.”

As one of nine Northeastern states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), New Hampshire has reduced greenhouse gas emissions in the power sector by nearly 50 percent since 2008. New Hampshire is on track to meet the Clean Power Plan’s carbon reduction goals 10 years ahead of schedule. RGGI was the first market-based regulatory program in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

recently released report by the Coastal Risk and Hazards Commission, estimates that the Seacoast will experience sea-level rise due to climate change of between a half-foot and two feet by 2050. By 2100, the report estimates sea-level rise of one-and-a-half feet to over 6 feet.

“From our White Mountains to our beautiful Seacoast, New Hampshire’s beautiful natural resources define us as a state and I am extremely concerned by President Trump’s efforts to roll back the Clean Power Plan’s common-sense environmental protections,” said Senator Maggie Hassan. “Granite Staters know that protecting our environment while building a stronger, more affordable energy future is critical for our families and our businesses. New Hampshire has been a leader in efforts to cut carbon emissions, conserve our natural resources, and combat climate change and we need to see similar efforts at the federal level. That’s why I have been a strong supporter of the Clean Power Plan, and I will continue fighting for a cleaner environment and stronger renewable energy future that reduces our dependence on fossil fuels and helps our citizens, businesses, and economy thrive.”

“The decision by President Trump to dismantle the Clean Power Plan is disappointing but not surprising,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster.  “It’s a move that not only undermines our ability to fight climate change but also puts the United States at an economic disadvantage as we cede the technologies of the future to other nations. This executive order will endanger the Paris Climate Agreement which was instrumental in getting some of the world’s largest polluters to take important steps to reduce their carbon emissions. New Hampshire has been a leader in addressing greenhouse gas emissions through our participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. It’s long past time the rest of the nation followed the lead of New England. If we fail to act on climate change we’re only kicking the can down the road. We should be acting now to end climate change, not leaving future generations to clean up our mess.”

“The threat of catastrophic climate change is very real, and today’s short-sighted actions from the Trump administration leave us less prepared than ever to confront it. I will fight to restore these protections,” stated Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. 

President Trump’s executive order represents a serious attack on our environment and public health, aimed at nothing less than gutting the Clean Air Act and letting polluters off the hook.

“Today’s executive orders to protect polluters, signed by President Trump at EPA headquarters, are an unprecedented attack on clean air safeguards,” said Rebecca Whitley of Moms Clean Air Force. Our children will bear the costs. Our families will bear the costs. Our communities will bear the costs. Never has a president, or an EPA head, acted with such reckless disregard for our health—or our safety in the face of the clear and present danger of climate change. Trump and EPA head Pruitt are doing the bidding of the biggest polluters.”

“The executive order includes a laundry list of climate rollbacks but one thing is certain there will be wide ranging devastating impacts because delaying implementation of clean energy alternatives will expose the most vulnerable to dangerous pollution: our children, elders, and wildlife,” stated Catherine Corkery of the NH Sierra Club.

“Climate protections are based on scientific analysis and included a rigorous democratic public process – of which many in New Hampshire participated. The Trump/Pruitt orders are not aimed at helping the American Public; rather, it is a handout to the billionaire fossil fuel executives, companies, and lobbyists. People in New Hampshire want solutions, not more unsafe, expensive, dangerous waste dumps, polluted water, or air pollution,” Corkery added.

“Calling climate change a ‘hoax’ won’t stop temperatures or sea level from rising. We can tackle the climate crisis by investing in science and clean, renewable energy, but only if we move boldly and quickly. Defunding science, undercutting clean energy, and doubling down on fossil fuels is sheer reckless folly,” said Madeline Page, outreach director for Environment New Hampshire in a statement posted earlier on the NH Labor News.

Environment New Hampshire Says Trump’s New EPA Policy Is “Reckless,” Calls On Governor To Take Action

“Calling climate change a ‘hoax’ won’t stop temperatures or sea level from rising. We can tackle the climate crisis by investing in science and clean, renewable energy, but only if we move boldly and quickly. Defunding science, undercutting clean energy, and doubling down on fossil fuels is sheer reckless folly.”
Madeline Page, outreach director, Environment New Hampshire.

President Trump speaks before signing Executive Order undoing climate change regulations. Video here.

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Trump signed an executive order rolling back climate progress. The executive order instructs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to rewrite the Clean Power Plan, the single largest step the U.S. has taken to limit climate change. The order also lifts the moratorium on federal coal leasing and limits on methane from fracking operations. The administration also initiated a process to reconsider the Social Cost of Carbon and the National Environmental Policy Act guidance on climate pollution. Madeline Page, outreach director, Environment New Hampshire issued the following statement:

“Calling climate change a ‘hoax’ won’t stop temperatures or sea level from rising. We can tackle the climate crisis by investing in science and clean, renewable energy, but only if we move boldly and quickly. Defunding science, undercutting clean energy, and doubling down on fossil fuels is sheer reckless folly.

“2016 was the hottest year on record, beating 2015 which was the hottest year before that.  The climate and clean air safeguards that President Trump is proposing to block would increase pollution and threaten our health and the planet. If fully implemented, the Clean Power Plan alone would have reduced our power plant emissions 32% by 2030 with huge health and environmental benefits for granite staters. 

“Instead of accelerating this progress, the administration is proposing to endanger our health and threaten our children’s future. Blocking the Clean Power plan will lead to 3,600 additional premature deaths, 90,000 more asthma attacks in children, and 300,000 more missed work and school days by 2030.

“Millions of Americans have called for strong climate action, submitting more than 8 million comments asking the EPA to take action to cut carbon pollution from power plants. More than 600,000 of these comments came from Environment America’s members and supporters.

“More than 1100 health professionals sent a letter urging the President to support the Clean Power Plan, to limit carbon pollution, phase out drilling and mining on public lands, increase electric vehicles and set higher fuel economy standards for cars. 

“We need to stop President Trump’s rollbacks of our environmental protections that will make us more dependent on dirty fossil fuels. Today’s actions by the administration threaten our health, our environment, and our treasured places. 

“Despite the President’s dangerous and backwards energy agenda, the fact is the clean energy revolution can’t be stopped. Clean energy solutions like solar, wind and efficiency will reduce carbon pollution and clean up our air, protect our health including reducing asthma attacks, and promote energy independence. 

“At a time when the federal government is stalling progress, we are calling on Governor Sununu to keep leading the charge on and double the strength of America’s most successful regional climate and clean energy program. New Hampshire is one of nine in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative which has helped cut power plant pollution in half and invested more than $2.5 billion in clean energy over the last decade. We need Governor Sununu to act swiftly and boldly to double the strength of this successful climate program.”  

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 3-17-17: School Vouchers And Kindergarten Bills

March 27, 2017

 

After concluding business in a rush back on March 10, the NH House reconvened this past Thursday for a short session. The most notable action of the day concerned HB 647, the so-called voucher bill for children with disabilities. The bill had previously passed the House on policy grounds, but on Thursday, came to the floor with a strong, bi-partisan recommendation of “Inexpedient to Legislate” from the Finance Committee. Nevertheless, in what looks to have been a party-line vote (it was not a roll-call but a division vote, meaning only the totals are recorded, not individual votes) the bill was tabled rather than killed. The motion to table came from Republican leader Dick Hinch, who asked the House to table on grounds that voting to kill the bill would prejudice the fate of SB 193, the broader, full-scale education voucher bill. With a vote of 193-161 (closely resembling party numbers in the House) HB 647 was tabled. The bill itself is essentially dead for 2017 but can be revived in 2018, and may also make an appearance in the 2018-19 budget bill still under construction by the House Finance Committee.

School Voucher Bill   As for SB 193, the broad-based education voucher bill, it has been referred to the House Education Committee but no public hearings have as yet been scheduled. As we have stated before, SB 193 is a very dangerous piece of legislation and could have dire consequences for public education in New Hampshire, reducing funding and ultimately raising property taxes in towns and cities across New Hampshire. A fine piece by Mark Fernald, recently published in the Keene Sentinel and Nashua Telegraph, quite clearly makes the case for SB193 as legislation that will increase property taxes AND harm public education. According to Fernald, the immediate impact of SB 193 will be to drain $25 million in funds from public schools, and the eventual costs will range much higher. Nearly all the benefits of the bill will go to families in upper-income brackets, since the amount per student per voucher is merely a fraction of the cost of sending a student to private or charter schools. In other words, the only “choice” to be offered is for those who can already afford it, while the cost will be borne by the rest of us in higher property taxes to support our public schools. (The full piece by Mark Fernald can be accessed at Vouchers for the Wealthy). This is not a good or sensible approach to public education, and the costs must be made clear when the bill comes before the House Education Committee. In the meantime, we must also remain vigilant that this proposal is not dropped into the upcoming budget bill coming from House Finance Committee (a often-utilized method of hiding unpopular or controversial proposals). 

Action Needed   We are requesting that you reach out to your state representative(s) and ask them to vote no on SB 193. Here’s the link, Protect NH Public Schools, so you can take direct action and have your opinion heard. Please share far and wide! For more resources to help defeat vouchers, please visit our website at Defeat School Vouchers

Kindergarten   Speaking of the House Finance Committee and the upcoming budget bill, the Republican majority on the committee voted this past week to remove funding for full-day kindergarten. This was an initiative proposed by Governor Sununu, but it was made clear that in the eyes of House Republicans the governor knows very little regarding education. House Speaker Shawn Jasper, when questioned about the Finance Committee vote, replied that “The capacity of a 6-year-old to be attentive in a classroom for a full day is pretty much non-existent,” hence his opposition to State-funding towards full-day kindergarten. And so, New Hampshire remains adamant in its stance against full-day kindergarten, unless localities or individual parents & families wish to pay for it (as has been proposed by some in places such as Nashua).

The focus this week in the State House will be on the final construction of the House budget bills, which must be reported by March 30. What must be remembered is that the budget bill for 2018-19 can contain or include all sorts of policy initiatives, so long as they have a fiscal impact. Therefore, proposals such as HB 647, tabled by a House vote, are not yet dead, but may surreptiously re-appear in the House budget bill. So stay tuned.

In Memoriam   On a final sad note, we mourn the untimely passing of Senator Scott McGilvray. Only 51 years of age, Senator McGilvray had just been elected to the NH Senate in November 2016 after serving for many years as president of NEA-NH, and his passing is a major blow to Democrats in the NH Senate and to the labor movement in NH. Upon learning of the tragic news, I released the following statement on behalf of AFT-NH:

“AFT-NH is shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of State Senator Scott McGilvray. On behalf of AFT-NH members, we express our deepest sympathy and condolences to the family of Scott McGilvray, and to our colleagues at NEA-NH.” 

“Scott dedicated his life to advocating for New Hampshire’s children, public education, educators and working families. He was a strong labor leader and his career was marked by public service at its finest culminating with his election to the NH State Senate this past fall.” 

“The passing of Senator McGilvray is a great loss to public education, the labor movement and the entire state of New Hampshire.  He was taken from us far too soon, and leaves a void that will be difficult to fill.” 

I wish you all good health as Spring slowly makes its way to NH, and let’s keep up the good fight!

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

NH Democrats File Ethics Complaint Over Governor’s Tweet Promoting Sununu Family Owned Ski Resort

NHDP files Executive Branch Ethics Committee Complaint against Governor Sununu

Concord, N.H. – Yesterday, The New Hampshire Democratic Party filed a complaint with the Executive Branch Ethics Committee concerning Governor Sununu’s use of his official Twitter account to promote his family business.

In a Tweet from the Governor’s official account, as opposed to his personal one, Sununu mentioned and promoted Waterville Valley. This free advertising from the platform of the governor is a privilege not given to any other ski resort, and could have led to increased revenue for the business. 

The Executive Branch ethics code mandates that “no executive branch official…use his or her position within the state to secure privileges or advantages for himself…or advantages for others.” Since taking office, Governor Sununu has filed a Financial Interest form, indicating financial interest in Waterville Valley that is relevant to his position as governor. Sununu’s family is also reported to have a stake in the company, maintaining positions on the Board of Directors, with a spokeswoman refusing to reveal which family members serve on the board. 

“Using an official platform to promote a family business is precisely what the ethics code attempts to prevent.” said NHDP Chair Ray Buckley. “Whether it’s Governor Sununu promoting Waterville Valley, Donald Trump defending his daughter’s products against Nordstrom, or Kellyanne Conway hawking Ivanka Trump’s wares from the White House press room, promotion of a business from a position of power is a serious abuse.” 

Buckey continued, “Governor Sununu has been coy about his business dealings in the past. Giving his family business free advertising isn’t exactly the way to dispel concerns about his conflicts of interest. This violation would be a good opportunity for Governor Sununu and Waterville Valley to disclose more information about the company’s funding and remaining Sununu connections.”

Groups To March On NH State House Opposing Legislation To Take Away Voting Rights

Granny D founded group Coalition for Open Democracy, NH Rebellion, Others to Host 1.2 mile March through Downtown from Concord High School to Steps of NH State House in Support of Voting Rights, Democracy

CONCORD, NH – The New Hampshire March for Voting Rights will be held on Saturday, April 1st at 1:00 pm and include a 1.2 mile march starting at Concord High School and ending with a rally on the steps of the New Hampshire State House in support of a strong and fair election system. 

The New Hampshire Senate and House are currently considering dozens of bills that would undercut our popular same day voter registration system and adversely affect thousands of eligible voters including students, low-income people, and veterans. The NH March for Voting Rights sends a bold message to elected officials in New Hampshire that we will stand together to protect our voting rights in the face of legislative attacks which threaten to discourage voter participation and weaken voting rights, particularly bills such as SB 3 and HB 372.

Hundreds of concerned citizens will join together to voice opposition and instead call for reforms that modernize and streamline New Hampshire’s election system. The speaking program will feature elected leaders, students, veterans and affected voters. Speed activist workshops will follow the rally and provide multiple direct actions for impact on voting rights.

WHAT:     NH March for Voting Rights & Rally

WHEN:     Saturday April 1st from 1pm – 3pm following “Crossover Day” at the State House

WHERE:     Concord High School, 170 Warren St, Concord, NH 03301 march starts at 1:00 pm

NH State House, 107 N Main St, Concord, NH 03303 rally starts at 2:00 pm

Various Locations – TBA, Concord, NH 03303 activist trainings start at 3:00 pm

WHO:     Hosted by NH Rebellion/Open Democracy with co-sponsors American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU-NH); America Votes – New Hampshire; American Friends Service Committee-NH; Liberty Lobby LLC; Granite State Progress; League of Women Voters-NH; NH Peace Action; Veterans For Peace NH; NH for Humanity; League of Conservation Voters; NH Independent Voters; NH Citizen’s Alliance; America 2.0; The Resistance Seacoast, The Green Alliance, and WNHN

Senator Hassan Joins Colleagues, Advocates for Disability Community in Speaking Out Against Trumpcare

Senator Highlights Devastating Impact Cuts to Medicaid Would Have on Critical Services for Granite Staters Who Experience Disabilities

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), former Senator Tom Harkin, members of the disability community, and advocates for a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol highlighting the devastating impact Trumpcare would have on Granite Staters and Americans who experience disabilities.

“Trumpcare hurts people who experience disabilities with drastic cuts to the traditional Medicaid program,” Senator Hassan said to advocates outside the Capitol. “This plan changes Medicaid into per capita caps or a block grant system – and that is just code for a massive cut to the federal support states receive…[If Trumpcare passes], states will be faced with cutting services that people with disabilities depend on, such as personal care, prescription drugs, and rehabilitation services.”

“We can’t afford to go back to the days where we marginalize or don’t assist some of our most vulnerable people, so I’ll will stand strong with the people of New Hampshire, and my colleagues in fighting against this dangerous bill that would pull us backward,” Senator Hassan added.

Senator Hassan emphasized the importance of building a stronger, more inclusive society where all citizens can be engaged and active in our economic and civic life. The Senator also urged attendees to continue speaking out against Trumpcare, underscoring the importance of advocacy efforts in impacting real change on a local and federal level.

Watch video of the press conference here.

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