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NH House Passes Measure Blocking Towns And Cities From Gaming State Retirement System

CONCORD, NH – The New Hampshire House passed HB 561 today by voice vote, sending to the state Senate a solution to stop towns and cities from gaming the New Hampshire Retirement System (NHRS).

Towns and cities across New Hampshire consistently gripe about the lack of talent required to fill management and part-time positions in local government, while at the same time wishing the employer contributions required to fulfill pension debts are staved off to the next generation. Working after retirement, otherwise known as “double dipping,” spreads the costs of the Unfunded Actuarially Accrued Liability (UAAL) of the NHRS to other cities and towns participating in the system, but little has been done until now to address the practice.

House Bill 561, authored by longtime Rep. Neal Kurk (R-Weare) and debated for weeks in the House Executive Departments and Administration Committee, accomplishes both enforcement, by giving the state’s pension system penalty measures for exceeding hourly work limitations; and accountability, requiring towns and cities to pay their debt obligations even when reclassifying employee positions to part-time or filling them on an interim basis.

Highlighting public safety heads retiring on Friday and coming back to work on Monday on a “part-time basis” without adding to their pension benefit, public employees say enough is enough. “Cities and towns have used gimmicks to skirt their debts and employer obligations for far too long,” says Bill McQuillen, Chair of the NH Retirement Security Coalition and President of the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire. “The unanimous recommendation of the Committee and consent of the full House of Representatives clearly indicates our elected officials’ priorities. The House approved responsible and sensible measures to ensure the security of the NHRS and address the UAAL.”

HB 561 now goes to the State Senate, where it will be heard in the Executive Departments and Administration Committee.

 

The New Hampshire Retirement Security Coalition consists of a dozen public sector member organizations fighting to ensure accountability and fairness on behalf of taxpayers and employees throughout the Granite State.

Shaheen, Hassan And Other Senators Question CMS Nominee On Protecting Maternity Care

Shaheen, Hassan Express Concerns Over Trump’s Nominee to Lead Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and Her Commitment to Protect Maternity Care

In a letter to CMS Administrator Nominee Seema Verma, the Senators questioned whether Verma would enforce legal protections for women’s health

(Washington, DC) — U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined 19 senators on a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Nominee Seema Verma expressing concern about her commitment to protecting women’s health care given her recent comments concerning maternity care during her confirmation hearing. The Senate Finance Committee will vote on Verma’s confirmation today. 

“During your confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, you were asked if women should get access to prenatal care and maternity coverage, as afforded under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or whether insurance companies should get to choose whether to cover this for women,” the Senators said. “Your response indicated that coverage of prenatal and maternity care should be optional – in direct contrast to the law and the care that women and families receive today.”

“Not only was your response inadequate, it reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of an individual’s ability to make health care decisions when no options are made available to them, as was the case before the ACA,” the Senators went on to say.  “If no plan offers maternity coverage, and if coverage is extraordinarily costly or requires long waiting periods, what kind of choice does that present to women?”

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tom Carper (D-DE), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Gary Peters (D-MI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Bob Casey (D-PA) also signed the letter.  

The full text of the letter is available below. 

March 1, 2017

Mrs. Seema Verma
CMS Administrator Nominee

ATTN: Office of the Assistant Secretary for Legislation
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201

 

Dear Mrs. Verma:

We write to express our deep concern about your commitment to protect quality, affordable health care for women and to address disparities in health care quality and access. In addition to other concerns, your recent comments concerning maternity care during your confirmation hearing raise real questions about whether you would enforce current legal protections for women’s health. During your confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, you were asked if women should get access to prenatal care and maternity coverage, as afforded under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or whether insurance companies should get to choose whether to cover this for women. Your response indicated that coverage of prenatal and maternity care should be optional – in direct contrast to the law and the care that women and families receive today. 

Not only was your response inadequate, it reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of an individual’s ability to make health care decisions when no options are made available to them, as was the case before the ACA. If no plan offers maternity coverage, and if coverage is extraordinarily costly or requires long waiting periods, what kind of choice does that present to women?

If confirmed as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), you would be responsible for overseeing programs that serve over 100 million Americans, including women and families, who access health care services through Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP and the Marketplace. When further pressed at your confirmation hearing whether women should pay more for health insurance, you mentioned that you “think that women have to make the decisions that work best for them and their family.” We agree. However, we know that women and their families are better able to make such decisions when they have access to maternity care coverage, which is why we fought hard to make that care accessible for millions of women and families through the ACA. 

If confirmed as Administrator, it would be your job to enforce and implement the law. For this reason, we think it’s important you do some research and increase your awareness about how life was for women seeking health care before the ACA became the law. Prior to the ACA, women who purchased their own insurance were unlikely to find coverage that included maternity care. According to the National Women’s Law Center, in 2013, just 12% of individual market plans offered maternity benefits. If maternity coverage was offered, it was often as an expensive rider with a waiting period, limiting the options of women to afford pregnancy care and plan families.

Even with maternity coverage excluded, before the ACA, 92% of plans charged women more than their male counterparts for coverage, a practice known as “gender rating.” Insurers often treated pregnancy as a pre-existing condition, allowing them to raise premiums for, or deny coverage to, expectant parents. According to a 2013 report by Truven, the average total price charged for pregnancy and newborn care was about $30,000 for a vaginal delivery and $50,000 for a C-section. 

Today, maternity care is a federally mandated essential health benefit that must be included in all individual and small group plans, as prescribed under statute. Insurers can no longer charge women higher premiums simply because of their gender, and every plan, inside and outside of the exchanges, must offer maternity care. These are huge strides towards ensuring that women and their families, and not their insurers, are able to make important decisions about their reproductive health and family planning.

Going back to the time when insurers were in control, and maternity care was an optional benefit, will lead to worse health outcomes for women. We urge you to commit to enforcing current law requiring maternity care to be covered by all insurance plans for all women, and commit to protecting the benefit if confirmed. Our hope is that you will stand with us in ensuring that women have full access to maternity care.

Planned Parenthood Gears Up For New Legislative Fights In NH House

Planned Parenthood Gears Up to Protect Reproductive Health Care Access in First Legislative Fights of the 2017 Session

Bills to Ban some Abortions and Repeal the Buffer Zone Headed to the House Floor

Concord – Next House session, members will act on HB 578 and HB 589. These are the first pieces of legislation coming before House members this biennium which, if passed, would impact the landscape for accessing reproductive health in the Granite State.  Planned Parenthood opposes both measures. Earlier this week the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines (10-7) to support HB 578 and introduce new abortion restrictions into state law. In contrast, bipartisan support was achieved for a recommendation of Inexpedient to Legislation (10-7) on HB 589, the repeal of the buffer zone law. 

HB 578, both in its original form and as amended by the Judiciary Committee, restricts the right of New Hampshire women to make private medical decisions later in pregnancy and is part of a larger strategy by the bill’s proponents to chip away at abortion rights through multiple restrictions. It was opposed by leading medical organizations including the NH Medical Society and the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The Committee amendment, titled the “Viable Fetus Protection Act” would introduce new limitations to abortion access in state law without protecting longstanding rights. The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade held that the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of liberty protects a woman’s decision to have an abortion, limits government involvement with private medical decisions prior to fetal viability, and enables states to restrict post-viability abortions with exceptions to protect the health and life of the pregnant woman.  Support for Roe v. Wade and for access to safe, legal abortion is stronger in New Hampshire than any state in the nation. Planned Parenthood does support adopting language that would align New Hampshire law with the principles of Roe. Such an amendment was discussed at the Committee level and may be offered on the House floor.

“HB 578 is a clear attempt to begin unravelling the legal protections defined in Roe v. Wade and would ban some abortions later in pregnancy,” said Kayla Montgomery, Director of Advocacy and Organizing for Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund. “Planned Parenthood urges the House to defeat this restriction and uphold New Hampshire’s bipartisan tradition of protecting privacy rights and abortion access. ” 

HB 589 is a measure to repeal the Buffer Zone, which was signed into law with bipartisan support in 2014. This legislation allows for the establishment of zone of privacy and safety up to 25 feet, limiting the physical presence of protestors from the entrance to a reproductive health facility while at the same time balancing the first amendment rights of those individuals wishing to express their opinions on the public sidewalk adjacent to that facility.

“New Hampshire’s Buffer Zone law, enacted in 2014, was carefully tailored to strike a balance between public safety, free speech, and privacy rights. Planned Parenthood is committed to protecting the privacy and safety of our patients, while respecting first amendment rights. No woman should face intimidation, physical obstruction or fear of harm while seeking to access confidential medical care,” said Montgomery. 

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 2-24-17: Payroll Deduction And The Expansion Of School Vouchers

February 24, 2017  

This week and next week the House will not be in session, due to school winter vacations, though the Senate is holding sessions and many committee hearings continue to be held. So, business continues to be done, though we are in a bit of a pause in the House, before the deluge of bills hits the floor on March 8 & 9. Due to the pause, and trying to closely monitor committee actions, this bulletin is intended to provide a snapshot of where we are and what lies ahead the next few weeks.

Right to Work So-called ‘right to work was defeated soundly on February 16th and also was indefinitely postponed. However, it is “not quite dead yet:” Yes, you read that correctly. The House version of so-called right to work (HB 520), is a virtual carbon copy of the Senate version decisively rejected by the House last week. However, there does need to be one more vote on the House bill. On either March 8 or 9, there will be a procedural vote on whether to take up HB 520 in the House. A 2/3 margin is needed to take up the bill, so it is unlikely to rise from the dead, but opponents of anti-worker, so-called ‘right to work’ legislation will need to be vigilant and in their seats, ready to vote to defeat the motion. AFT-NH is actively engaged with our fellow labor unions and community allies to close out this ugly chapter.

It is not too late to thank those legislators who stood with us to defeat right to work. To view the list, please click here. If you click on the name of the representative, the contact information is provided.

Payroll Deduction (HB 438) As you may already know, this proposal is a companion piece to so-called right to work, except it lacks even the flimsy veneer of ideological justification so often touted by advocates of so-called right-to-work. It is vindictive and an undisguised assault on the financial basis of labor organizations, their member dues. Under this legislation, no public employer will be allowed to deduct union dues from an employee’s wages, meaning the union must develop alternative means of collecting dues. Payroll deduction is a long-standing system that is negotiated in contracts, and must be authorized by individual union members. Yet unlike voluntary contributions to charities, apprenticeship funds, voluntary health insurance, or savings funds, all of which will continue to be allowed as voluntary deductions, union dues will be singled out and barred by law from payroll deduction. Why such a prohibition? To simply weaken the ability of unions to collect member dues, thereby weakening their financial foundations and ultimately, weakening the ability of labor unions to fight for their members, whether it be for better wages and benefits, workplace protections, or simply having a voice in the workplace. In essence, time for workers to return to the good old days, before labor unions, when the employer was unchallenged and the worker, to quote Frank Zappa, had to “do as you are told, until the rights to you are sold.”

The public hearing on this bill will be held on Wednesday, March 1, in front of the House Labor Committee, beginning at 10 am in LOB 305-307. If you are able to do so, please attend the hearing and register your opposition. You can also send an email to the entire House Labor Committee at

HouseLaborIndustrialandRehabilitativeServices@leg.state.nh.us

Education Legislation This week yielded up a mixed bag in regards to education-related legislation. A proposal (HB 505) to create a new, alternative body to authorize charter schools (thereby making it even easier to establish such schools) was retained by the Education Committee, meaning it will not come to the floor of the House in 2017 but could be addressed in 2018. That is a victory, at least in terms of delaying action. Another bill (HB 429), to strip the judiciary of any role in determining adequate education funding, was unanimously recommended to be killed by the House Legislative Administration Committee. Given the obvious and repeated failures of the Legislature in years past to adequately fund public education, this is a victory.

However, legislation to create a statewide education voucher system in NH continues to move forward. Last week, the House narrowly approved (along largely party lines) a bill (HB 647-FN) to establish a voucher system for use by parents of children with disabilities. While we all care deeply about such children, a voucher system that removes funding from the public schools and gives it to parents to use for private and/or religious education, is simply wrong for NH, weakening the public system and providing direct aid to schools that quite often do not need to meet the same stringent requirements and thresholds of traditional public schools. This bill now proceeds to House Finance (Division II) which will be conducting hearings on Feb. 28th and March 2nd. Stay tuned for specific actions on this bill as we determine the direction which will be taken from House Finance.

Meanwhile, in the Senate yesterday, SB 193-FN passed 13-10. This bill would establish a statewide voucher system for all students in NH, moving millions in taxpayer funds into private and religious schools. The impact on local communities is incalculable at this point, but these bills could easily be labeled as “Raise Your Local Property Tax” legislation. Traditional public school facilities would still need to be maintained, programs offered, and requirements met, but the funding would decrease while taxpayer dollars flow into private and religious schools. Needless to say, this is bad legislation, but is supported by Governor Chris Sununu as well as his new Commissioner of Education, Frank Edelblut. This bill is now referred to Senate Finance. Both SB 193 and HB 647 will reappear in late March.

There is also the so-called “Croydon” bill, SB 8-FN, which passed the Senate this week. This bill would allow a school board to contract with a private school if there is no public school in the student’s grade in its district. More diversion of tax dollars to private schools. This will proceed to Senate Finance. The topic of non-academic surveys was also addressed by the Senate in SB 43 which no student shall be required to participate in these surveys without written consent from the parent or guardian. The only exception to this would be the youth risk behavior survey developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, a parent could opt out on behalf of the student.

As a member of the NH Retirement Security Coalition, we continue to monitor any bills affecting the NH Retirement System and your benefits. HB 413, which would require the State to pay 15% of the retirement obligation to local communities, is now in House Finance (Division I) and will have a public hearing on February 28th. This bill would provide much needed relief to local communities.

There is much else going on in Concord as we approach the “cross-over” when are bills are due to be voted on by the respective chamber and sent to the other body. We will keep you posted in those bills where there is need for immediate action. Breaking news first appears on our AFT New Hampshire page, so please have your friends, family and colleagues take a moment to like our page!

For those of you starting your February vacation, enjoy your time off and the warmer weather. Spring is around the corner.

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

NH State Senate Passes Ban On Conversion Therapy

Last week, we posted a story about the horrors associated with “conversion therapy” and why it should be banned in New Hampshire (and throughout the country).  Today we have some good news: The New Hampshire Senate just passed SB224, a bill to ban “conversion therapy on minors under 18.”

“I applaud my Senate colleagues for taking this important step to eliminate this dangerous practice in New Hampshire. No child should be told that they are not equal, not worthy, or should somehow conform to be like everybody else. That is the antithesis of freedom and human dignity,” said Senator Fuller Clark, prime sponsor of SB 224.

“All children should have the opportunity to grow up without being told that they should not be who they are. I commend my colleagues for their bipartisan passage of this bill to protect our children from the damaging effects of this practice,” Fuller Clark added. 

“As a young LGBTQ Granite Stater, it is unconscionable that it would be legal in this state for a child to be told that they are not equal, not worthy, or that they are somehow not normal,” said Brenna Connolly, a UNH Manchester student from Nashua. “Conversion therapy is a dangerous, discredited practice and is nothing more than sanctioned discrimination that does incredible physical and mental harm to LGBTQ children.” 

“While we are thankful that the Senate passed SB 224 today, we are calling on Governor Sununu to vocally support this bill and commit to signing it if it reaches his desk. Given the fact he nominated someone who has defended conversion therapy to be our new Education Commissioner, it is Governor Sununu’s responsibility to stand up and let all LGBTQ children know that he will protect them from dangerous practices like conversion therapy. Anything short will be unacceptable to our state’s proud tradition of advancing LGBTQ rights,” Connolly added.  

“Edelblut compared anti-LGBTQ counseling – and therefore, being gay or lesbian – to counseling to end a smoking, drinking, or drug addiction,” said Zandra Rice-Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress, who released the video of Edelblut testifying against banning conversion therapy last year.  

Edelblut is not the only one who defends this type of child torture.  GOP State Senator Bob Giuda defended conversion therapy’s ability to “protect societal norms.” Senator Giuda once compared same-sex marriage to “bestiality.”

“Senator Giuda’s comments are horribly inhumane. Referring to gay children as ‘outside of the societal norm’ is precisely the reason they face bullying, physical harm, and question their own worth. This kind of thinking builds on the intolerance we saw in Washington this week as the Trump administration stripped away the trans rights enshrined into law during the Obama administration,” said Raymond Buckley, Chair of the NH Democratic Party. 

“Fortunately, Sen. Giuda’s thinking isn’t in the majority. In a bipartisan fashion, the New Hampshire Senate stood up against the cruel practice of conversion therapy. We encourage the House to do the same and send this bill to the Governor’s desk. Governor Sununu has been silent on the issue of conversion therapy, and it’s time he make his position known,” added Buckley. 

Next the bill will move to the NH House where it will once again be debated before it is voted on.  Hopefully the House will follow the Senate’s bi-partisan support of this bill and ban conversion therapy for minors in NH.

Sen Avard, Along With His Lobbyist Friends, Push Bill To Toss Thousands Off SNAP Program

State Senator Kevin Avard just submitted a new piece of legislation (SB7), co-written by out-of-state lobbyists, to cut the number of people eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) commonly referred to as “Food Stamps.”

Avard stated in his press release:

“The intent of this legislation is to strengthen New Hampshire’s food stamp program so that it can remain solvent for those who truly need the benefits for years to come.”

That all sounds good but there are a few things Granite Staters should know about SNAP before considering applauding this legislation.

SNAP is fully funded by the federal government. The State of NH pays nothing towards the benefits low-income families are receiving through the program.

The State of NH does have to cover 50% of the administration costs of running the program in New Hampshire, passing this bill is likely to increase the amount the state pays in administration costs.

So what would this bill accomplish?

It is all about changing the eligibility of recipients and forcing them to file additional paperwork to continue to receive benefits. It would also lower the threshold of eligibility based on gross income that does not take into account the high cost of child care.

“In 2014, there were 45,000 children in New Hampshire living in food insecure households. That means that in the previous twelve months there was an uncertainty of having, or an inability to acquire, enough food for all household members due to insufficient money or other resources. My concern with this legislation is that it will most likely increase the number of hungry children in our state,” said Marylou Beaver, Executive Director of Every Child Matters in New Hampshire during her testimony to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

“With child food insecurity at an unacceptable number, child poverty creeping upward, and a Food Stamp program that works for children, families, and the State, now is not the time to be making changes,” Beaver added.

“SB 7 would increase the complexity of the Food Stamps application process by eliminating expanded categorical eligibility and requiring cooperation with the Division of Child Support Services. These changes will undoubtedly increase administrative spending, for which New Hampshire must pay fifty percent,” said Sarah Mattson Dustin, an attorney for the NH Legal Assistance in her testimony opposing the bill.

The changes to eligibility requirements are much more complex than most people need to understand but Mattson sums up how the NH Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) applies the income limits.

“Expanded categorical eligibility is a targeted method of determining eligibility for Food Stamps that applies to families with children that have incomes up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level ($3,108 a month for a family of three).

Again, expanded categorical eligibility only applies to families with children. If a family with children has gross income of 185 percent of the federal poverty level or less, DHHS waives the resource limit and the gross income limit that would otherwise apply.

DHHS does not waive the net income limit; families that have expanded categorical eligibility still have to meet the net income limit.”

The key is that DHHS takes into account the cost of housing, utilities, and child-care expenses before saying they exceed the income cap. This added flexibility in DHHS allows them to help struggling families above what the federal guideline would suggest but not above the federal “net income” level.

Avard admitted that he “co-wrote” this legislation with help from lobbyists at “the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA),” a well known right-wing advocacy group that is “pushing similar measures in statehouses around the country.”

The FGA is part of the right-wing “State Policy Network” that the Center for Media and Democracy describes as, “a web of state pressure groups that denote themselves as ‘think tanks’ and drive a right-wing agenda in statehouses nationwide.”

The FGA has direct ties to the nationwide corporate lobbying and policy development group, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The CEO of FGA, Tarren Bragdon, presented on Florida’s ‘drug testing for welfare recipients bill’ at ALEC’s 2011 conference.

The former director of ALEC’s “Health and Human Services Task Force, Christie Herrera, went on to become FGA’s vice president of policy.”

Tarren was also the Executive Director of the “Maine Heritage Policy Center, a Koch-funded and affiliated right-wing think tank described as very influential within the Maine GOP establishment.”

Sen. Avard pointed to Maine as a model for how this legislation would reduce the number of people receiving SNAP benefits as a positive role model.

Since Governor Paul LePage pushed similar legislation through more than 60,000 Mainers lost access to SNAP benefits. This drastic cut resulted in many people being forced to rely on local food pantries for help in feeding their families.

“Food pantries were conceived as a source of emergency food assistance. Instead, they have become a regular source of food for many low-income Americans, including thousands of Mainers” wrote the Good Shepard Food Bank in their “Hunger Pains” report released this month.

The Hunger Pains report is based off of over 2,000 food pantry users across all 16 counties in Maine.

“Most survey respondents (86 percent) report using the food pantry at least once a month, with 29 percent visiting a pantry every week and 15 percent visiting a pantry every two weeks.”

It also has not helped childhood hunger, as 1-in-4 Maine children are “food insecure.”

Since adding these changes, Maine ranks 22nd in overall poverty and 19th in child poverty compared to New Hampshire that has the lowest rate of poverty and the lowest rate of child poverty in the Nation.

Poverty in Maine

Poverty in NH

While New Hampshire is doing well to combat poverty there is a growing number of people who are food insecure. New Hampshire ranks 6th in the nation, with 10.1% of the population reporting food insecurity, whereas Maine ranks 43rd with a whopping 15.8% reporting food insecurity.

Food Insecurity New Hampshire

Food Insecurity Maine

We do not want New Hampshire to be more like Maine. They should be striving to be more like New Hampshire.

Avard’s bill also introduces an additional provision to require all Food Stamps applicants and recipients to cooperate with the Division of Child Support Services.

“This means that custodial and non-custodial parents would have to work with the Division to establish paternity and child support in court. This is a sweeping eligibility change which will add complexity to the Food Stamps application process for program participants and enormous administrative burdens for DHHS,” testified Mattson Dustin.

This legislation would actually harm the low-income families already struggling to put food on their tables. These out of state lobbyists are trying to get New Hampshire to push thousands of Granite Staters out of the SNAP program forcing them to rely on local food banks and the charity of others to feed their families.

The Senate should reject this bill and tell the lobbyists in Washington that they should follow our lead when it comes to helping combat poverty and food insecurity.

Legislators Consider Prohibiting Union Dues Deductions From Public Employees

On March 1st, the NH House Labor Committee will hear public testimony on HB 438, a bill to prohibit a “public employer from withholding union dues from a public employee’s wages.” Essentially this would prohibit workers from choosing how they want to spend their own money and how they choose to spend their own money.

According to RSA 275:48 an employee can elect to have money deducted from their paycheck and sent directly to the account of their choice for dozens of reasons.  A public employee could have their rent deducted, their utilities deducted, their medical bills deducted, send money to their personal savings accounts, or to make a donation to the charity of their choice.

This bill is singling out our police, firefighters, teachers, plow drivers, public health professionals, and state employees from being allowed to have their union dues automatically deducted from their paychecks.

What benefit does the State gain by taking away the option to deduct union dues?  None.  There is no cost to have the deductions automatically withdrawn and there is no savings to be found by prohibiting automatic dues deductions.

For a state that boasts “live free or die” why would we want legislation that infringes on a workers freedom to choose how they spend their paycheck.  It is not for the government to decide how and when I spend my own paycheck.

This is a purely an assault by out-of-state lobbying groups on unions in an attempt to weaken and destroy the public unions in New Hampshire. These are the same out-of-state lobbyists who pushed so-called “Right to Work” and the repeal of collective bargaining bills in the past.  They only have one goal, destroy unions.  Since they already lost the “Right to Work” fight they are grasping at anything in an attempt to weaken the public employee unions in New Hampshire.

The Labor Committee should reject this bill again this year as they have done in years past.

Kuster introduces legislation aimed at increasing STEM learning in early education

Congresswoman Kuster introduces her new early education STEM legislation at the Child and Family Development Center at NHTI 

(Concord, NH) – This morning, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) introduced legislation aimed at increasing STEM learning in early education during a visit to the Child and Family Development Center at NHTI-Concord’s Community College. The legislation will establish a competitive grant program under the jurisdiction of the Department of Education to provide assistance for early childhood STEM programs and teacher training that meet certain requirements.

“There is an ever growing demand for jobs in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, yet data show we are not doing enough to train students in these skills,” Congresswoman Kuster said. “This legislation will help provide teachers and schools the tools they need to prepare the workforce of tomorrow.  When I return to Washington, I will get back to work urging my colleagues in the House of Representatives to immediately pass this legislation, so we can best ensure hands-on learning for our future workforce and economy.”

Joining Congresswoman Kuster at the event were representatives from NHTI, Early Learning NH, Every Child Matters and Moms Rising-New Hampshire, among others.

“Early Learning NH is grateful to Congresswoman Kuster for introducing an important bill to support early childhood education programs’ ability to promote essential learning in the early years,” said Jackie Cowell, Executive of Early Learning NH.   “STEM learning, along with its accompanying learning in the essential life skills of perseverance, problem solving, curiosity, and the ability to work well in teams, is critical for today’s youngest children to help them become the productive citizens of tomorrow.  The Kindergartners we met today will graduate from high school in 2030.  Since many of them will hold jobs that haven’t even been invented yet, how do we prepare them for the complex world they will inherit?  This bill addresses just that – the answer is promoting STEM learning in the earliest years.” 

“Moms Rising is very eager to support initiatives that help to increase the quality of early childhood education programs, such as this new focus on STEM in early learning,” said Christina D’Allesandro, state director of Moms Rising. “Increasing access to high quality affordable early learning is a high priority for MomsRising members both in New Hampshire and nationwide.”

“NHTI has been a leader in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education in the state of New Hampshire since we were founded in 1965,” said Susan B. Dunton, NHTI President. “As the demand for a workforce educated in the STEM fields promises only to grow in the future, introducing students to the STEM fields at the earliest possible opportunity is critical.  Rep. Kuster’s proposal is an important step in helping achieve this shared goal of making STEM an integral part of Early Childhood Education. “

End Child Abuse In The Name Of “Therapy”

‘The Plight of the Transgender’
Image by Rose Morelli, www.facebook.com/Rosemorelliphotography

This coming week the New Hampshire State Senate will debate and ultimately vote on a bill to prohibit “conversion therapy” to change a person’s gender presentation or identity for children under 18.

New Hampshire looks to join the five states and the District of Columbia that have already banned conversion therapy on minors.

“No child should be told that they are not equal, not worthy, or should somehow conform to be like everybody else. That is the antithesis of freedom and human dignity,” said Senator Fuller Clark, prime sponsor of SB 224.

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

“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.

Conversion therapy is highly controversial due to the unproven tactics and the fact it has continually been deemed as ineffective.

“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.

Ghose goes on to describe the practice of conversion therapy as “a method reminiscent of the one used in ‘A Clockwork Orange.’ In aversion therapy, gay people were exposed to a negative stimulus (such as being shocked, given nausea drugs or imagining such exposures) while viewing same-sex erotic material.”

Conversion Therapy has not been proven to “convert” people but is actually harmful to “patients.”

American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry wrote in their 2012 study, Practice Parameter on Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Orientation, Gender Nonconformity, and Gender Discordance in Children and Adolescents:

“Clinicians should be aware that there is no evidence that sexual orientation can be altered through therapy, and that attempts to do so may be harmful. There is no empirical evidence adult homosexuality can be prevented if gender nonconforming children are influenced to be more gender conforming. Indeed, there is no medically valid basis for attempting to prevent homosexuality, which is not an illness. On the contrary, such efforts may encourage family rejection and undermine self-esteem, connectedness and caring, important protective factors against suicidal ideation and attempts. Given that there is no evidence that efforts to alter sexual orientation are effective, beneficial or necessary, and the possibility that they carry the risk of significant harm, such interventions are contraindicated.”

“There is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of “reparative therapy” as a treatment to change one’s sexual orientation,” stated the American Psychiatric Association in a 1997 study. They go on to say, “The potential risks of “reparative therapy” are great and include depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.”

The Human Rights Coalition cites at least a dozen other organizations that show “conversion” or “reparative” therapy does not work and can cause more harm to young adults.

“People who have gone through conversion therapy face 8.9 times the rates of suicide ideation, face depression at 5.9 times the rate of their peers and are three times more likely to use illegal drugs and be at high risk for sexually transmitted infections,” wrote Zach Stafford in the Guardian.

It is time to end this inhumane practice, especially on children. This bill will be heard in the NH Senate this Thursday, Feb 23rd. Contact your State Senator and tell them you want them to support SB 224, a ban on conversion therapy in NH.

Senators Shaheen And Hassan Take To The Senate Floor To Oppose EPA Nominee Scott Pruitt

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) spoke on the Senate floor today in opposition of Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s nominee to serve as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Shaheen voiced her concerns about Pruitt’s record as Attorney General of Oklahoma, including his many lawsuits in favor of the oil and gas companies, and his outspoken position denying climate change, which puts him at odds with the mission of the EPA. “Mr. Pruitt has been nominated not to lead the EPA forward, but to prevent it from carrying out its mission,” said Shaheen. “Make no mistake, Mr. Pruitt and his extreme agenda are a threat to the environment, to the planet, and to public health.”

Shaheen spoke of climate change impacts in New Hampshire, where warmer temperatures are affecting tourism and outdoor recreation as well as maple syrup production and the moose population. “People in my State of New Hampshire have no doubt about the reality of climate change… we see it and experience it every day.” Shaheen also cited the significant progress New Hampshire has made reducing its power-sector carbon pollution through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, putting the state on track to meet the Clean Power Plan’s carbon-reduction goals 10 years early. “Across New England, we are demonstrating that smart energy choices can benefit the environment and strengthen job-creation and the economy overall,” Shaheen said. 

Shaheen went on to read letters that her office received from Granite Staters, both Democrats and Republicans, who “not only oppose Mr. Pruitt’s nomination, they genuinely fear the consequences of putting him in charge of the EPA.” Christopher Morgan of Amherst, NH wrote: “This is my first message I have ever sent to my senator in my 32 years as a voting American. . . . As a registered Republican . . . I am vehemently opposed to Mr. Pruitt leading the EPA. He has consistently shown he does not believe in the threat posed by climate change. Climate change affects every citizen in this country and has had a detrimental effect on the NH climate specifically.”

“Mr. Pruitt’s nomination is not about ‘shaking things up in Washington,’” said Shaheen. “It is about turning over control of the EPA to the fossil fuel industry – and turning back the clock on a half century of bipartisan efforts – in Democratic and Republican administrations alike – to protect clean air and clean water, and to pass on to our children a livable environment and habitable Earth.”

Shaheen urged her Senate colleagues to oppose Pruitt’s confirmation and “reject this effort to un-do nearly five decades of bipartisan efforts to protect our environment and planet.”

Watch Shaheen’s Video

Senator Maggie Hassan also delivered remarks on the Senate floor, opposing the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to serve as Administrator of the Environmental Protecting Agency.

“It is clear from Mr. Pruitt’s history of opposition to the agency he will be tasked to lead, his record of working to weaken critical environmental protections that our citizens need to thrive, and his unwillingness to fight climate change that he is unfit to serve in this position,” Senator Hassan said on the Senate floor today. 

In her remarks, Senator Hassan highlighted the work done in New Hampshire to protect the state’s beautiful natural resources, environment, and citizens. The Senator also noted how Mr. Pruitt has been a consistent opponent of the EPA, taking legal action against the agency over 20 times and fighting against the EPA’s efforts to combat climate change and protect our land, air, and water. 

“The foundation of a future where all Americans have an opportunity to thrive starts with a healthy environment and healthy families. And the EPA serves an important role in protecting the health of our people. We must do better than having an administrator who has fought so tirelessly to undermine the work this agency does,” said Senator Hassan. 

Additionally, Senator Hassan explained that it is unacceptable that Mr. Pruitt is a climate change skeptic, putting him at odds with the world’s leading climate scientists.

“Mr. Pruitt, however, has been a consistent skeptic on the role of climate change has on our environment. Mr. Pruitt has stated that we do not know the extent of human impact on climate change, and has called it a natural occurrence… The EPA is a science-based organization, and it is unacceptable for the EPA Administrator to be at odds with the well-established views of leading scientists,” the Senator said.

Senator Hassan concluded her remarks by noting the critical role a cleaner environment plays in New Hampshire’s economy and that we should be building on the EPA’s efforts on climate change and protecting public health, not rolling them back. 

“We know that a cleaner environment plays a key role in the economy of New Hampshire and our entire nation. And we should be building on the critical efforts the EPA has taken to combat change and protect public health – not rolling them back.  Mr. Pruitt’s hostility to the basic functions of the Environmental Protection Agency, and his work to undermine protections for our air, land, and water make clear that he should not serve in this role,” added Senator Hassan.

Watch Senator Hassan’s Video 

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