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Trump Administration Looks To Outsource And Privatize More Federal Prisons

Trump Administration Proposes Slashing Jobs;
Endangering Correctional Workers, Inmates,
 and Communities Across America
AFGE: Bureau of Prisons is ‘turning a blind eye’ to the needs of law enforcement to fill for-profit private prisons 

WASHINGTON – Defying staffing mandates and the need for increased hiring to safeguard prisons, this week the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) made public it is initiating a process of eliminating jobs within the agency. The mandate will slash roughly 14 percent of positions from correctional facilities. The proposed cuts are coming at a time of severe understaffing in most of its prisons.  BOP has left thousands of authorized correctional workers’ positions vacant all year, endangering inmates in its custody, control, and care.

“President Trump came into office preaching about the need for a safer America, but instead he is putting the lives of federal law enforcement officers and our communities at risk.” said American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. “The men and women who risk their lives guarding our prisons deserve proper staffing levels to ensure they can do their job and make it home safe. This mandate is bad for citizens, it’s bad for prison staff, and it’s bad for inmates.”

The announced cuts follow BOP’s decision in 2005 to begin the “Mission Critical” initiative, which cut correctional staff across the board in all departments to a minimum number of workers necessary to operate prisons safely. Unsurprisingly, the problem with the initiative came with the lack of consideration for workers on sick leave, military service leave, and other absences.

With less correctional officers in the prisons, BOP has turned to augmentation – when there aren’t enough officers employed or scheduled that day, which means other employees such as cooks, foremen, secretaries, electricians, teachers, accountants, or counselors are “augmented” to replace officers inside the prison – to fill the gaps in staffing. This results in situations where inexperienced workers are required to work in positions they are not properly trained for. This also results in less non-custody staff able to respond to emergencies in the prison in the event of violence.  Augmentation can result in one correctional worker supervising hundreds of dangerous prisoners, including terrorists, gangs, and murderers inside each facility with no backup.

“Our communities know peace only because our correctional workers take great pride in the work they do for the American people, and they do it well,” said AFGE Council of Prison Locals President Eric Young. “But it’s becoming much harder to be successful when we’re understaffed for the task at hand. President Trump declared he would be the ‘law and order’ President.  Currently, we see the Administration turning a blind eye to the needs of the public servants who have dedicated their careers to safeguarding our nation’s prisons.  Our hope is he will fulfill his campaign promise to these law enforcement officers and will also discontinue enriching his campaign’s backers, private prisons.”

“The impact of these shortages already is hitting correctional facilities hard in middle America. U.S. Penitentiary, Lee, in southwest Virginia has seen 62 positions cut from its staff,” said Brian Shoemaker, president of AFGE Local 1405. “With less correctional officers to maintain order and rehabilitate inmates, Shoemaker says it’s becoming more dangerous and difficult for his members to do their job.  The prison is currently in a lockdown status because of institution disturbance.  Incidences of attempted escapes where inmates were caught between the fences has been previously reported.

“I feel that the administration is setting our agency up for failure,” Shoemaker said. “As violence and recidivism rises, our staff struggles to meet accreditation requirements, and we will be blamed for these failures. Then, the Administration will point to this as an excuse to contract out our law enforcement role to the private prison industry.”

The process of contracting more correctional work to private corporations is already starting. In a recently leaked memo, the administration plans to outsource more work and more inmates to private contract prisons.

The Jan. 24 memo from Assistant Director of the Correctional Programs Division Frank Lara read: “In order to alleviate the overcrowding at Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) institutions and to maximize the effectiveness of the private contracts, effective the date of this memorandum, please submit eligible inmates for re-designation to the Designation and Sentence Computation Center for transfer consideration to private contract facilities.”

Says AFGE’s Shoemaker, “The highly trained staff that work for this agency have already proven that we provide this essential, inherently governmental function in a much more responsible and cost-effective manner than the private industry. The historical data and evidence backs that up unquestionably. But if we allow the administration to sabotage our operations with these dangerous staffing changes and policies, I’m confident that they will use the results against us, and I’m sure the shareholders in the private prison industry will profit from it.”

New Hampshire House Gets A Second Chance To Ban Conversion Therapy Saving Thousands Of LGBT Teens

New Reports Shows Tens Of Thousands Of Teens Subjected To Conversion Therapy
By The Time They Reach 18

On February 7th, the New Hampshire House will get another chance to do the right thing and ban “conversion therapy” in New Hampshire.  The bill, HB 587, first came up on January 9th, where Speaker Chandler voted to break the tie and kill the bill.  However, after the vote, Rep. Henry Parkhurst of Winchester called for a reconsideration vote.  Because Parkhurst voted in the majority, he can ask for a reconsideration vote, implying he has changed his mind and wants another chance to vote.

Previously, we have talked about the horrors of “conversion therapy” and laid out a number of reasons why it should be banned.

“Conversion therapy is a dangerous and discredited practice that is aimed at young people in order to change their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Senator Martha Fuller Clark.  “This harmful practice uses shame, rejection, and psychological abuse and can lead to depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, and even suicide.”

“It is not therapy but child abuse that can lead to suicide; and should be illegal,” said Mo Baxley, Former Executive Director of New Hampshire Freedom To Marry.

“Research suggests the treatment can worsen feelings of self-hatred and anxiety, because it encourages people to fight or hate a sexual orientation that can’t be changed [5 Surprising Facts About Gay Conversion Therapy],” wrote Tia Ghose for LiveScience.

This week, the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law released a shocking new report that showed that 20,000 adolescents between 13 and 17 will undergo conversion therapy from a licensed health care professional before the age of 18.  Another 57,000 will undergo conversion therapy from a religious or spiritual advisor.

The researchers also found that approximately 698,000 LGBT adults in the U.S have received conversion therapy at some point in their lives, including about 350,000 who received it as adolescents.

“Many professional health associations and the public support ending the use of conversion therapy on LGBT youth,” said Christy Mallory, the state and local policy director at the Williams Institute and lead author of the study. “Our research shows that laws banning conversion therapy could protect tens of thousands of teens from what medical experts say is a harmful and ineffective practice.”

A number of prominent national professional health associations — including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among others — have issued public statements opposing the use of conversion therapy and several have called on Congress and state legislatures to pass laws that ban the practice.

For more than a century, health care professionals and religious figures have used a range of techniques to attempt to change people’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently, talk therapy is the most commonly used therapy technique. However, some practitioners have also used “aversion treatments,” such as inducing nausea, vomiting, paralysis or applying electric shocks.

“With such a large number of teens at risk of conversion therapy,” said study author Kerith Conron, Blachford-Cooper Distinguished Scholar and research director at the Williams Institute, “we must ensure that families, faith communities and service providers have accurate information about sexual orientation and gender identity and work to reduce stigma and promote acceptance of LGBT youth and their families.”

Lets hope that the New Hampshire House can get it right this time and ban this horrific practice, once and for all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With Shutdown Over, Union Hopes Real Governing Can Begin

AFGE says keeping agencies, employees in budget limbo is disservice to them and nation

WASHINGTON – In response to Congress passing a short-term spending bill to re-open the federal government, American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. issued the following statement:

“Congress has ended a crisis of its own making, allowing the government to fully reopen after forcing a shutdown at midnight Friday.

“Even though the shutdown lasted just three days, it was long enough to cause a massive disruption to our government operations and widespread confusion for federal workers, federal agencies, and the public.

“None of this would have happened if lawmakers had done their job in the beginning and passed a federal budget on time. Instead most federal agencies are limping by on borrowed time, unable to start new projects, fill new positions, or focus on long-range projects. This counterproductive cycle of short-term continuing resolutions must end now.

“Lawmakers now have 17 days to pass a budget that will fund federal agencies through the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. I urge Congress and the administration to come to the table, resolve their differences, and pass a long-term budget so that federal employees can continue to do their jobs in service to our country.

“Americans deserve to be able to access the programs and services that their tax dollars have funded, and federal employees deserve to be able to go to work without wondering when or if they will get paid.

“I do want to thank lawmakers for ensuring that federal employees who were impacted by the shutdown do not lose any pay. Federal employees and their families should not be forced to go without pay when they are not allowed to do their jobs because Congress cannot pass a funding measure. A special thanks goes to Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland and Congressmen Don Beyer and Rob Wittman of Virginia for first introducing the retroactive pay language in Congress.”

Kuster, Shea-Porter Vote Against Continuing Resolution For Good Reasons

In a flurry of activity yesterday, the U.S. House passed yet another continuing resolution to keep the government open for another 30 days.  The bill passed by a vote of 230-197.

Many of the House Democrats opposed this short term resolution.  Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) voted against the bill and released the following:

“Short-term funding measures are no way to run government. It’s disappointing that Congressional Republicans are unwilling to sit down and work across the aisle to provide long-term certainty for important programs that Granite State families rely on. Their short-term funding measure fails to address critical needs, including resources to combat the opioid epidemic, support our veterans, fund our community health centers, and protect young Dreamers. It’s time Congressional Republicans rolled up their sleeves and sat down with Democrats to develop a responsible long-term budget that will produce real results for the American people.”

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) also opposed the continuing resolution and released the following:

“I refuse to join House Republicans in abandoning the fundamental tasks of governing by kicking the can down the road yet again on the most basic responsibility we have, funding the government. In a hearing this afternoon, Admiral John M. Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations, said, ‘I can’t in good conscience testify before Congress about naval power without mentioning the toxic and corrosive effect of nine years of continuing resolutions and years under the Budget Control Act…The absence of stable and adequate funding for defense makes everything that our sailors and their commanders do harder. On a scale of one to ten, the importance of stable and adequate funding scores an 11.’

“This is now the fourth extension, and it is time to end the harmful cycle of lurching between short-term funding bills with the now monthly threat of a government shutdown.

“This bill fails to:

  • Increase resources directed at the opioid epidemic fight
  • Provide predictable funding for our military and veterans’ access to health care
  • Help disaster-stricken communities
  • Extend funding for community health centers

“These monthly failures to govern are simply unacceptable, and they need to end. I will continue to stand up for Granite Staters, who are sick and tired of the constant dysfunction and excuses. We need to work together to find long-term solutions to the critical issues facing our nation, instead of kicking the can down the road one month at a time.”

 

This is not how a government is intended to work.  We can have differences in our funding priorities, but then we sit down and hash out our differences like adults.  Congress needs to grow up and do what is best for the country and pass a serious multi-year budget that meets the needs of the government and the people.

New Bill To Create A Death Benefit For School Employees Killed In The Line Of Duty

In 2017, approximately 40 people per day died from gun related injuries according to a report from Gun Violence Archives. Unfortunately this is the world we live in.  This is why children practice “lock down” procedures in school in the event of an armed gunman gaining access to the school grounds.

Today we are not here to discuss how we need to do something about the growing gun violence problem in America: today we want to talk a new bill being pushed in the New Hampshire Legislature to extend death benefits to school employees who are killed in the line of duty.

This week, the NH House Committee for Executive Departments and Administration held a public hearing on HB 1415.  The bill is would simply extend the same death benefit given to police officers, killed in the line of duty, to school employees.

Doug Ley, President of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT-NH) testified before the committee on why this bill should be passed.  He cited that since Columbine in 1996, there has been 202 school shootings that resulted in deaths of “164 students, 44 educators & school employees, and at least 3 security/police personnel.”

The American Federation of Teachers, represented the five teachers at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut. Those educators and aide’s were honored as heroes for doing all they could to protect the lives of the children in their care.

Just one example was special education teacher Anne Marie Murphy, 52, a 14-year veteran of the school, was found dead, holding the lifeless body of 6-year-old Dylan Hockley.

“We take great comfort in knowing that Dylan was not alone when he died, but was wrapped in the arms of his amazing aide, Anne Marie Murphy,” the Hockley family said in a statement. “Dylan loved Mrs. Murphy so much and pointed to her picture on our refrigerator every day.”

These heroes should be given the same death benefit as any police officer killed in the line of duty.


Below is the full written testimony of AFT-NH President Douglas Ley Testimony In Support of HB 1415: Death Benefit for School Employees Killed in Line of Duty

Thank you Mr. Chairman and thank you to the Committee for providing me this opportunity to testify in favor of HB 1415, establishing a death benefit for a school employee killed in the line of duty.

My name is Douglas Ley, and I am one of the members from Cheshire County, District 9, representing the towns of Dublin, Harrisville, Jaffrey, and Roxbury. I am also president of American Federation of Teachers-NH, and I have filed all the requisite paperwork with the Legislative Ethics office and intend to participate in the discussion of HB1415.

As we know, NH Statutes currently authorize a death benefit of $100,000 for families of police officers and firefighters killed in the performance of their duties. That is a good thing, and I am proud to have helped pass that legislation. Today, we consider establishing a similar death benefit for the families of school employees killed in the line of duty, and on behalf of AFT-NH I am here to voice our support for this proposed statutory addition.

Dr. Donna Decker is my colleague at Franklin Pierce University and an expert on school shootings, a subject on which she has written and spoken. I asked her the other day just how many such incidents have occurred since the infamous shootings at Columbine High School back in 1999. According to her research, there have been 202 school shootings in the US since Columbine, or an average of 11 shootings per year over the past 18 years at all levels of education. Not all are mass shootings, and not all involve fatalities, but even so, the numbers are staggering—164 students killed, 44 educators & school employees, and at least 3 security/police personnel. Besides Columbine, the most infamous such shooting occurred in Newtown CT, my former hometown (I graduated Newtown High School in 1976)—20 students and six school personnel were cold-heartedly murdered. Thankfully, NH has thus far escaped this phenomenon and I hope that will always be the case, but it is best to be prepared for the worst.

As a negotiator, I have helped negotiate a dozen school personnel contracts. In reviewing them, I find that all include small life insurance policies for the personnel, ranging from $7500 to $30,000, paid for by the Districts. In a few cases, there are also provisions for death benefits in the form of small cash buyouts of unused sick days. None of these benefits, however, come close to the $100,000 benefit proposed here and none of these current benefits would even remotely compensate for the anguish and loss suffered by a family when a school employee is killed in the line of duty.

In my work as a negotiator, I often work with school secretaries. These are the personnel on the front-line of school security, authorizing or denying entry to individuals seeking to enter schools. Their work is often highly-demanding, pulling them in multiple directions at the same time, but the one area about which they always express deep concern is their ability to maintain school security. Like the secretaries, para-professionals, food-service workers, and teachers all tell me over and over that their greatest concern is the safety and security of the children for whom they take responsibility. They wish there was no need for school safety provisions, but they know the world in which they live and work, and they welcome the trainings and drills on how to handle life-or-death school emergencies.

Allow me to close with the following thought. We entrust our children to teachers, para-educators, and all the professionals who work in our public schools. Those school personnel take that charge very seriously, and are ready for whatever emergencies arise. I hope there is never a school shooting incident in NH, but if there is, I am quite certain that school personnel will do all they can to preserve the lives and protect the safety of the children in their charge. Because of the trust and the heavy burden we place upon these secretaries, teachers, para-educators, and all others, providing a $100,000 death benefit to their families in the event of death in the line of duty is right. It can never make up for a family’s loss, but it can provide some aid and assistance and is tangible evidence of the public’s recognition and regard for the heavy responsibilities we place on those in our public schools. Let us do the right thing, and pass HB1415 to the House floor with a recommendation of OTP.

 

‘Marsy’s Law’ A New Constitutional Amendment Being Proposed In New Hampshire

New Hampshire’s Top Elected Leaders Announce Bipartisan Support for Constitutional Amendment to Create Equal Rights for Victims of Crime

Governor, Senate and House Leaders Join Victims, Law Enforcement, Prosecutors, and Advocates to Support Marsy’s Law for New Hampshire

Concord, NH – A nationwide effort brought to the Granite State by the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence has quickly surged to a major policy priority for Governor Chris Sununu and legislative leaders in both parties, who seek to pass a constitutional amendment recognizing rights for victims of crime. Governor Sununu joined Senate and House leadership and dozens of victims, law enforcement, and advocates to launch efforts to pass Marsy’s Law for New Hampshire.

While most states provide crime victims with constitutional-level protections, New Hampshire remains one of only 15 that does not. Once passed by the legislature and adopted by the voters, Marsy’s Law will grant constitutional rights to crime victims on par with those provided to the accused and convicted.

Under the Marsy’s Law for New Hampshire amendment, crime victims would be afforded the following rights:

  • The right to be provided with notice of all proceedings involving the accused
  • The right to be heard in any proceeding involving release, plea, sentencing, disposition, and parole
  • The right to reasonable protection from the accused
  • The right to reasonable notice of any release or escape of the convicted
  • The right to restitution resulting from the financial impact of the crime

“New Hampshire’s constitution lacks important rights like notifications for victims, the right to be present in court, and the right to have a voice in the process,” explains Governor Sununu. “Granite Staters have long supported equal rights, and this constitutional amendment is necessary to ensure that our state’s constitution protects us all.”

“Right now, victims have statutory rights, but not constitutional rights,” explains Senator Sharon Carson, primary sponsor of Marsy’s Law for New Hampshire. “By elevating the basic rights of the victim to meet the rights of the defendant, we will restore balance and ensure that victims also have a voice in the courtroom.”

“When dealing with issues affecting victims of crime, elected officials must put partisan differences aside and act with one voice,” says Senate Democratic leader Jeff Woodburn.  “This amendment does not impact the rights of the accused, rather it creates a system were victim’s rights and defendant’s rights are balanced.”

“This will be a priority for House leadership on both sides of the aisle, and we urge our colleagues to recognize the importance of equal rights in our criminal justice system,” said NH House Speaker Gene Chandler

“Victims of crime shouldn’t be re-victimized by New Hampshire’s criminal justice system. The clear inequality in that exists in New Hampshire’s Constitution must be addressed this legislative session” said House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff.

“In recent years, New Hampshire’s lawmakers have passed some of our nation’s most comprehensive victims’ rights laws. However, without state constitutional rights, victims of crime will always be at a distinct disadvantage in New Hampshire’s criminal justice system. The passage of Marsy’s Law is a critical step toward ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system” says Amanda Grady Sexton, Director of Public Affairs for the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence and State Director for Marsy’s Law for New Hampshire.


About Marsy’s Law:

The Marsy’s Law movement began in 1983, when a young woman named Marsy Nicholas was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend. Only a week after her murder, Marsy’s mother and brother, Henry T. Nicholas, walked into a grocery store where they saw the accused murderer. The family, who had just come from a visit to Marsy’s grave, had no idea the accused murderer had been released on bail. In an effort to honor his sister, Dr. Henry Nicholas has made it his mission in life to give victims and their families across the country constitutional protections and equal rights.

For more information on the Marsy’s Law for New Hampshire initiative, please visit https://marsyslaw.us/marsys-law-state-efforts/new-hampshire/ and follow us on Facebook (Marsy’s Law for New Hampshire) and Twitter (@MarsysLawforNH) #ML4NH

AFT-NH President Ley Testifies Against SB 193 To House Finance Committee

(January 16, 2018) Below is the full submitted testimony of AFT-NH President Douglas Ley on SB 193:

Let me begin by offering my thanks to the Committee Chair and to the Finance Committee for taking the time to hear my testimony.

For the record: Douglas Ley, representing District 9-Cheshire County, towns of Dublin, Harrisville, Jaffrey, & Roxbury. In addition, I am here as president of American Federation of Teachers-NH, and have filed the requisite paperwork with the Legislative Ethics Office.

Speaking on behalf of myself and the 4,000 members of AFT-NH, I come before you in opposition to SB193. The written report provided to you focuses upon financial aspects of SB193 and places the proposed program into a broader national context by looking at its financial provisions as compared to those in other states with similar Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). You can read the report by clicking the link Following the Wrong Path.

Based upon the comparison between SB193 and similar programs in five other states, the report concludes that “NH should expect similar taxpayer and academic accountability problems as these states.” Without going over the report in detail (I am confident the Committee will do its due diligence), let me simply highlight a few salient points:

  1. SB193 eligibility requirements closely mirror those in AZ (esp. prior to very recent amendments there), but unlike AZ and other states, there is no requirement in SB193 for prior public school enrollment as a condition of eligibility. Thus, NH can expect similar student loss from public schools and the accompanying costs as occurred in AZ.
  2. Funding formulas across states with ESAs are generally similar. In AZ there was a 10-fold increase in costs between 2012-15, and the losses estimated by Reaching Higher NH are in line with experiences in other states.
  3. On the issue of financial accountability, AZ’s Attorney General just two years ago found that in one six-month period, there was over $100,000 in misspent funds. Under SB193, there is only very limited public financial accountability—instead, accountability is outsourced to the same private entity earning money from the program. In addition, there is no requirement for posting of surety bonds or other insurance by private providers, to ensure that private schools or providers would have enough money to reimburse the State for any misused funds. Ultimately, SB193 lacks even rudimentary public financial accountability standards, to say nothing of the very meager academic accountability standards.

Other witnesses will undoubtedly go into great detail on specific estimated costs to the State and to local property tax payers in order to fund SB193 while maintaining our constitutional duty to education and our social contract commitment to public schools and public education. Allow me to close by noting two additional items:

First, let me draw your attention to a letter from the Superintendent of the Monadnock Regional School District, which includes one of the towns I represent. In that letter sent to you on Monday, January 15, the Superintendent expresses her clear concerns over the financial impact on the Monadnock District of anywhere from $83,000 to $172,000 in lost State aid to the District. What is not said in that letter is that this is a District that has faced very difficult budget battles over the past five years and the likelihood of those budget wars continuing for the near future.

Second, you also received a letter from the president of the Nashua Teachers Union (NTU), who could not attend this hearing today due to conflicting commitments. In that letter, NTU president Adam Marcoux reviews their objections to SB193, pointing to Nashua’s loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in State funds if SB193 becomes law. His conclusion regarding SB193’s financial impact is succinct and pointed: It “sounds like a state property tax increase, in addition to the anticipated local property tax increases.”

At a time when this committee has already rejected a number of other policy proposals on grounds that State funds are simply not available, I ask that the Committee reject SB193 as financially unsound for the State of New Hampshire and as an expenditure of public funds with virtually no public accountability. For localities, this will entail further downshifting of costs onto local taxpayers in order to provide public funds to those who choose of their own volition to send their children to private or home schools. This is not a proper use of public funds, unregulated, unaudited, and certain to result in tax increases. I ask that you therefore reject SB193 and vote to recommend ITL.

[Note: The entire written testimony is provided but actual testimony was abbreviated due to time constraints and to avoid duplicate testimony. Per President Ley, many school boards, school board members, superintendents and policy experts tore into the bill in great and meticulous detail. AFT-NH applauds their efforts.]

 

NH Pushes Legislation To Limit Big Money In Politics

Overwhelming Cross-Partisan Majorities Believe Big Money in NH Elections is A Problem

Majority Support “Civic Dollars” Solution

CONCORD, NH — A survey of New Hampshire voters has found that large majorities in both parties believe big money is a problem in state elections, and support a current legislative proposal to fix it.

In the survey just released by Public Policy Polling, eight in 10 voters — including  79% of Democrats, 74% of Republicans and 85% of Independents — said they believe big money is a problem in Granite State elections.

House Bill 1773 would provide voters with four $25 “civic dollars” to donate to candidates for Governor, Executive Council and state Senate who pledge to limit their maximum donation from private donors to $250. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Renny Cushing, also includes other reforms, including stronger requirements to ensure financial transparency of SuperPACs and candidate campaigns, and tougher enforcement of campaign finance laws.

The House Election Law Committee has scheduled a hearing on the bill for January 16 at  10:50 a.m.

When the Civic Dollars proposal was described to the survey’s respondents, 60% said they would support it, including 64% of Democrats and 67% of independent voters. A majority of Democrats (71%) and Republicans (59%) also said they’d be more likely to support a Civic Dollars candidate who limits individual donations to $250 than a candidate who accepts donations up to $7,000.

“Civic Dollars will give New Hampshire voters a stronger voice,” said Olivia Zink, Executive Director of Open Democracy in Concord. “Our elected officials should work for all of their  constituents, not just for the big contributors who put them in office.”

“My lengthy and varied experience in New Hampshire election campaigns has convinced me of the need for a public election financing system as a voluntary alternative for candidates,” former state Senator Jim Rubens said in prepared testimony. “The present purely-private elections finance system seriously restricts participation by otherwise viable candidates for governor, councilor and state senate and narrows the range of debate and policy proposals during campaigns.  The result is fewer choices for voters among candidates and slower progress in solving public policy challenges.  Additionally, the current purely-private system tilts influence away from voters and toward those with money to spend on campaigns.”  Rubens has also served as chair of the GOP platform committee; chair of the 2000 GOP redistricting committee; and on two election finance panels which proposed public election finance legislation.  As candidate for US Senate, he proposed voter tax rebates as a means to provide public finance mechanism for Congressional elections.

Other key findings from the survey include:

•    A majority of respondents (63%) would be likely to contribute their Civic Dollars to qualified candidates, including 70% of Democrats, 54% of Republicans and 67% of Independents.

•    38% of respondents said they were even more likely to support the Civic Dollars program after learning that it would cost less than 1% of the New Hampshire state budget.

•    A plurality of respondents (34%) — including 37% of Democrats, 33% of Republicans and 34% of Independents — think wealthy campaign donors have the most influence in New Hampshire politics. Only 14% said they believe that N.H. voters have the most influence.

New Hampshire House To Hold Public Hearing On Two Bill Aimed At Relaxing Gun Safety Laws

This Wednesday, January 10th, the two New Hampshire House committees will be taking up bills relating to allowing guns in schools and removing your city or town’s rights to prohibit firearms on public property.

The first is HB 1749, an act “relative to the state’s authority to prohibit or regulate firearms and relative to the selectmen’s authority to manage town property.”  This bill, being considered by the House Municipal and County Government committee wants to remove a municipalities ability to prohibit firearms on community property.  

Even though RSA 159:26 gives cities and towns the right to create ordinances to protect the safety of their residents, legislators in Concord disagree.  They feel that cities like Lebanon violated the law when they banned guns on school property or at school sponsored events (off campus).

These legislators want to take away the city’s ability to prohibit guns in our schools.  They want to be able to tell the Town of Milford that they must allow people to conduct target practice on town property.

The committee hold a public session on this bill Wednesday, January 10th at 10am in Reps Hall. Take a moment to tell the committee how you feel about the State Legislators taking away the towns rights to protect their own residents. (Email the committee directly)

The Second bill is HB 1542, “an act relative to carrying a pistol or revolver on university system and community college system property.” 

This bill is plain and simple:

“This bill allows any person who is not otherwise prohibited by state or federal law to carry a pistol or revolver on the exterior grounds of any university system of New Hampshire and community college system of New Hampshire property.”

They want to make it legal to carry guns on college campuses.  If this law goes through it is a disaster waiting to happen.

The committee hold a public session on this bill Wednesday, January 10th at 10:40 am in LOB 204. Take a moment to tell the committee how you feel about the State Legislators allowing guns on college campuses. (Email the committee directly)

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