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Senators Shaheen and Portman’s Energy Efficiency Bill Passes Senate. 

Shaheen Portman Bill HEADER

Bipartisan Legislation will save energy, protect the environment, save consumers money, create jobs

 

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Bipartisan energy efficiency legislation authored by U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) today passed the U.S. Senate. The Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015 contains key energy efficiency provisions that will strengthen the economy and reduce pollution.

The provisions that passed today come from H.R. 2126, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives with overwhelming support last Congress.

“Energy efficiency has received such strong bipartisan support because it’s the cheapest and fastest way to address our nation’s energy challenges,” Shaheen said. “Today we passed a bill that will create jobs, save consumers money, and reduce pollution in a smart, effective and affordable way. Energy efficiency holds enormous potential for America’s energy future and the Senate has taken an important step toward realizing that future.”

“This bill has garnered such widespread support because of a simple fact – it is good for the economy and good for the environment. It’s part of an energy plan for America that can help bring the jobs back, help fix our trade deficit, help make our manufacturers more competitive, and actually help to protect the environment,” said Portman. “I’m pleased that these key portions of our energy efficiency bill passed the Senate today.”

The Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015 includes four simple but effective provisions that have been scored by the Congressional Budget Office to be budget neutral.  Title I establishes a voluntary, market-driven approach to aligning the interests of commercial building owners and their tenants to reduce energy consumption.  Title II exempts certain electric resistance water heaters used for demand response from pending Department of Energy regulation.  Title III requires federal agencies to coordinate with OMB, DOE, and EPA to develop an implementation strategy – that includes best practices, measurement, and verification techniques – for the maintenance, purchase, and use of energy-efficient and energy saving information technologies.  Title IV requires that federally-leased buildings without Energy Star labels benchmark and disclose their energy usage data, where practical.

Senate Democrats’ Comments on Senate GOP Making it Harder to Vote

CONCORD – Senator Bette Lasky, Senator David Pierce and Senator Molly Kelly condemned the passage of Senate Bill 179, which imposes an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote.

 

“This bill will only serve to further complicate the voting process for New Hampshire citizens. SB 179 proposes a new standard for what constitutes a domicile that is more confusing and less concise than the current law,” said Sen. Bette Lasky. “Voters need consistency and clarity when it comes to eligibility standards and this bill fails that test.”

 

In 1972, the Supreme Court ruled in Dunn v. Blumstein that durational residency requirements for voting in state and local elections were unconstitutional.  

 

“I am disappointed to see my Republican colleagues support such legislation even though the Supreme Court has been clear on this issue,” said Sen. David Pierce. “These unconstitutional assaults on our constituents’ right to vote in free and fair elections have got to stop. Unfortunately, the Republican majority won’t stop.”  

 

“Unlike other states, our constitution explicitly guarantees the equal right of every citizen to vote,” said Sen. Molly Kelly. “As we mark the 50thanniversary of the Selma march where some of our fellow Americans lost their very lives to secure the right to vote and as we approach the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we should be encouraging all eligible citizens to vote instead of making the process more confusing.”

Kuster Statement on Passage of Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015

Washington, DC – This afternoon, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) released the following statement regarding the passage of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Actof 2015, which would end the threat of harmful cuts to Medicare reimbursements and prevent millions of children from losing access to health insurance:

 

“Since taking office, I’ve made fighting to protect Medicare one of my top priorities. Today, I was proud to join an overwhelming majority of members from both sides of the aisle in passing legislation to replace the broken Sustainable Growth Rate formula – which threatened to prevent many Granite State seniors from continuing to see their own doctors – with a new model that protects access to care for our seniors, ensures cost-savings, and most importantly, helps support the sustainability of Medicare for generations to come. 

 

“This bill also included important measures to protect the Granite State’s most vulnerable: it will extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for two years and prevent millions of children from losing access to health care, expand funding for Community Health Centers (CHC), and protect vital assistance for low-income seniors.

 

“This is not a perfect bill, and I will continue to fight for a long-term extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. But this legislation will help protect access to medical care for older Americans and shore up Medicare for future generations, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to improve this bill and see it signed into law.”

Leaked Investor Chapter Of TPP Worse Than Imagined

Larry Cohen CWA

Larry Cohen, President of the Communication Workers of America

Washington, D.C. — Following is a statement by Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen:

“The 56 pages of the Investor chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership are worse than imagined and must be a wake up call for our nation.  Amazingly, this chapter is sealed for four years after either adoption or rejection of the TPP.  Everything we read and learn makes “Fast Track” authority unimaginable. It’s secrecy on top of secrecy.

The TPP is shaping up to be an exercise in words about citizen rights that are not enforceable versus expanded corporate rights to sue governments for supposed diminishment of corporate profits.  Section B of the leaked chapter documents new provisions of Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), the secret tribunal process that is above national law or courts.

It is ironic that the document demonstrates that the U.S. is leading the push for expanded Investor or corporate rights provisions while Australia is leading the opposition.  The center-right Abbott government has forced inclusion of a footnote in the current draft that Investor State Dispute Settlement “does not apply to Australia.”

Current ISDS action by Philip Morris, challenging Australia’s plain packaging cigarette regulations designed to prevent cancer and heart disease, is likely part of the explanation for this footnote.  This leaked chapter says as much about the corrosive effects of money and corporate interests in our political system as it does about trade.

These 56 pages must be a wake up call for our nation.  We must be defenders of democracy first and push aside the special interests of multinational corporations.  The nice words in other parts of TPP are more than outmatched by this section placing corporate rights over citizen rights and providing reparations for corporations versus government reports for other complaints.

The case for rejecting “Fast Track” authority for the TPP is now even clearer.  “Fast Track” or Trade Promotion Authority is only being considered by the U.S.  Every other government is preserving its right to read the text before speeding its adoption.  This chapter on Investment compels the U.S. to do the same. CWA will redouble our efforts to participate in the broadest coalition ever to defeat “Fast Track” and the TPP.  Our jobs, our living standards, our safety, our environment, our national sovereignty and our very democracy are on the line.  We will stand up and fight back for as long as it takes.”

Climate Disruption Not So Sweet for Maple Syrup

Speakers together_Wilhelm, Carlson, Lane and Presby

Event Speakers Whilelm, Carson, Lane and Presby

Over 80 Flock for Stacks, Speakers and Climate Action

DURHAM, NH – Pancakes and maple syrup brightens even the darkest corners of cabin fever as days get longer and spring slowly emerges from snow driven days to the official mud season. At the University of New Hampshire’s Halloway Commons, the Climate Impacts Pancake Breakfast highlighted the impacts of climate disruption taking place in New Hampshire on the tasty amber colored syrup. Over 80 people came to enjoy maple syrup, hear the speakers and take action to protect our environment. The forum was hosted by the UNH Sustainability Institute and Student Environmental Action Coalition with sponsors Moms Clean Air Force, Union of Concerned Scientists, National Wildlife Federation, League of Conservation Voters, Environment New Hampshire and New Hampshire Sierra Club.

Speaker Dr. Martha Carlson spoke on the specific climate impacts on maple trees and syrup production in New Hampshire and the region. As a maple farmer in Sandwich, NH, Doctor Carlson has researched the ways changing climate trends have affected the level of sweetness in the maple syrup and the timing for tapping over the years.

The tone of the event was squarely focused on solutions and innovation to help preserve the traditional coming of spring in New England – maple syrup. One such solution is the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan that will help reduce climate changing pollution from power plants, the largest source of carbon and greenhouse gases. The Clean Power Plan allows states to adjust the most effective technologies and methods to best reduce pollution to the emissions standards for their state. Flexibility and planning are the hallmarks of the Clean Power Plan – and New Hampshire is expected to be at the front of creating a plan because the state participates in a carbon reduction program already, called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

“The Clean Power Plan is our best defense to help save maple syrup in New Hampshire,” stated New Hampshire Sierra Club Chapter Director Catherine M. Corkery. “Lowering carbon from power plants and shifting our energy to more renewable sources is the way we can protect our maple trees and local food economy.”

Quotations from Speakers:

Martha Carlson, Scientist and maple farmer in Sandwich
For eight to ten millennia human beings have known precisely when to tap the sugar maples.  We knew by the watery blue sky, the warmth of the bark on the tree, the angle of the sun.  We developed methods and technologies fitted to a four to six week season.  We could count on mild nights just below freezing and warm days just above freezing.  The sap always ran just before the Spring Equinox.

Today, something is out of balance. The sap runs earlier than ever before or later than usual, for fewer days or more days.  Sap is less sweet than it was a century ago. The filters in the saphouse turn black with sugar sand and the syrup is dark.  In summer, the leaves of the sugar maple have more insect damage and in autumn, the leaves turn a dull brown and drop off earlier than usual.

This year with record cold persisting well into spring, with nights so cold even sugary sap can freeze, many of us have not made a drop of syrup yet.  And, now, as our orchards thaw out, we may find popped spiles and leaking equipment.  Our technologies and methods are not designed for climate disruption. Sugar producers are intelligent and adaptable.  So are the maple trees.  But there are very few of us.  If the sugar maple can be seen as an icon of our culture and environment in New England, then perhaps everyone can help us confront climate change.

What can we do?  We have to stop using fossil fuels.  We have to invest in alternative energy.  We need innovation in science and technology.  We need artificial photosynthesis and a new battery that is as easy to use, as portable and as clever as a sugar molecule.

Erin Lane of the USDA Northeast Climate Hub
“In a synthesis of assessed vulnerabilities in northeastern agriculture and forestry, we found that tree fruit and maple syrup are among the region’s MOST vulnerable products,” said Erin Lane, Director for Partnerships with the USDA Northeast Climate Hub. “The threats include extreme precipitation, drought, pests and early spring followed by frost. On the flip side, a longer growing season could provide opportunities in the northeast. Adaptation can mean BOTH adjusting to and taking advantage of variable weather conditions.”

Jennifer Wilhelm, New Hampshire Food Alliance

“A Network and Strategy approach allows us to leverage opportunities while addressing challenges and managing risk. It gives us the adaptive capacity to be more resilient to the effects climate change will have on the food system.

Chris Keeley, NH Sea Grant, UNH Cooperative Extension
New Hampshire Seacoast communities are taking action to prepare for climate change. They are hosting community conversations, reviewing vulnerabilities assessments, and identifying appropriate actions based on the impacts and vulnerabilities made visible by storms in recent years, and based on local research from the University of New Hampshire as well as regional and national research. We are fortunate in New Hampshire to have a collaboration called the New Hampshire Coastal Adaptation Workgroup that combines skills and knowledge of about 20 different organizations to assist communities by providing education, facilitation, and technical assistance.

Northeast Climate Hub: The Northeast Climate Hub includes the region stretching from Maine to West Virginia. A USDA multi-agency effort, the USDA Climate Hubs deliver science-based knowledge, practical information and program support to farmers, ranchers, forest landowners, and resource managers to support decision-making related to the impacts of a changing climate. Climate Hubs are led by the Agricultural Research Service, Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Congresswoman Annie Kuster Helps Reintroduce the Paycheck Fairness Act

Equal Pay for Equal Work (lilly ledbetter act)

Washington, DC – Yesterday afternoon, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) helped reintroduce the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation she has championed since taking office. The Paycheck Fairness Act would help eliminate pay disparities based on gender.

“On average today, women in New Hampshire continue to make only 78 cents to every dollar their male counterparts make. That’s simply unacceptable, and I was proud to reintroduce legislation to help close the gap and level the playing field for female workers and the families who rely on them,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “No woman should ever make less money than a man doing the same job. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join together and pass this legislation now, so we can move one step closer towards pay equity for every American, regardless of his or her gender.”

The Paycheck Fairness Act would institute a number of new safeguards against pay inequity, and would provide recourse for individuals who may be experiencing pay discrimination based on gender. It would also prohibit employers from retaliating against workers who share salary information with their coworkers – an important tool for victims of pay discrimination. Congresswoman Kuster also cosponsored this legislation last year, and has long pushed for its passage.

A strong advocate for paycheck fairness, Kuster believes pay inequity is not just a women’s issue, but a family issue. Since taking office, she’s worked to level the playing field for women and their families, and she’s fought to create equal opportunities for female professionals and women-owned businesses.  Last year, Kuster authored a Women’s Economic Agenda, a plan for Congress to prioritize initiatives to reduce pay disparities based on gender and support Granite State women and their families. In her first term in office, Kuster successfully pushed the President to issue executive orders to support fair pay for federally contracted employees. She has also hosted a series of roundtables to hear directly from women business owners and other professionals all across New Hampshire about what more Congress can do to help Granite State women succeed and receive fair pay in the workplace.

Bill to Extend Positive Train Control Implementation Misses Chance to Make Rail Transportation Safer

Transportation Trade Department LogoWashington, DC—Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issues this statement about the Senate markup of the Positive Train Control (PTC) extension bill:

“A five-year extension of the deadline by which Positive Train Control (PTC) technology must be implemented cannot be considered in a vacuum or in isolation. Rail employees, first responders, and communities have witnessed too many deadly freight and passenger rail accidents in recent years, including those involving the transport of crude oil and other hazardous materials. While the causes of these accidents vary, we know that passing long overdue safety reforms – not just simply delaying implementation of PTC – will make rail transportation safer.

“We unveiled a plan outlining measures that Congress can implement in order to improve both passenger and freight rail safety. That plan includes mandating at least two qualified crewmembers on every train; addressing chronic fatigue among rail employees; and requiring use of common sense technology such as alerters and shunting. We also released reforms to make hazardous materials transportation safer, including a call for better support and training for first responders and stronger tank car and inspection standards.

“A blanket five-year extension of PTC is the wrong approach. We understand that some of the reasons for delay in implementing PTC are outside the control of the railroads, but these companies could have done more to meet this mandate. Any extension should be of shorter duration and considered on a case-by-case basis while requiring carriers to submit a plan for how they will meet an extended deadline.

“At a time when the safety of rail transportation is gaining much-needed attention, it makes no sense for the Senate to only move a bill that delays implementation of life-saving technology without considering comprehensive safety reforms.”

NH House Budget Committee Attacks State Employees Collective Bargaining Agreement 

SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Statement Following NH House Finance Committee Removing Funding Employees from Budget

 

The NH House Finance Committee is recklessly and irresponsibly recommending severe budget cuts.  No one and nothing has been spared. Last week they recommended cutting the NH Dept. of Transportation’s budget to the point that our roads will be unsafe; and practically eliminating our state’s safety net for NH’s most vulnerable people; and today they are attacking the public employees who work to fulfill the promise of the NH way of life. We are very disappointed with the actions taken by the House Finance committee this morning – removing funding for the state employees’ 2015-2017 collective bargaining agreement from the budget.

 

“This contract was a modest agreement reached in good faith with the Governor for the hardworking state employees and the legislature should honor that agreement,” said Richard Gulla, president of SEA/SEIU Local 1984. “This is a deliberate attack on the working families of the state and on the collective bargaining process by the House Republicans.”

 

Recognizing that the state budget process is still continuing, we hope that ultimately the legislature will fund this fair agreement for the dedicated individuals who keep our roads and bridges passable, operate health and safety agencies, protect our tourism industry, and keep our economy moving. 

NHDP THIS WEEK: NH House GOP Advances Draconian Cuts to Critical Economic Priorities, Senate GOP Pushes “Plan” to Exacerbate Damage

Elected Officials, Residents and Advocates from Nashua to Manchester and North Conway Decry House GOP’s Devastating Cuts 

Senate GOP “Plan” to Give More Tax Giveaways to Big Businesses Would Lead to Even Further Cuts

 
Concord, N.H. – This week, House Republicans moved forward with draconian cuts to critical economic priorities including higher education, combatting substance misuse, maintaining roads and bridges, and services for seniors and the state’s most vulnerable citizens.
 
Making matters worse, Senate Republicans voted to give more tax giveaways to big businesses, leading to further cuts that would hurt New Hampshire’s people, businesses, and economy. New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute Executive Director Jeff McLynch explained, “the proposed business tax cuts will not create jobs or foster economic growth, but will instead drain millions of dollars out of the budget each year.”   
 
“New Hampshire Republicans’ irresponsible actions have put their majorities in both chambers at risk as they voted to give more tax giveaways to big businesses while making middle class families and small businesses pay the price with devastating cuts to critical services,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley. “Granite Staters from Nashua to Manchester and North Conway have already made it clear that we won’t stand for these draconian cuts.”
 
In an op-ed in today’s Nashua Telegraph, Sandra B. Pelletier, president and CEO of Gateways Community Services in Nashua, outlined the devastating effects of House Republicans’ cuts: “The House Finance Committee’s proposed budget will essentially shut the door to our region’s most vulnerable children transitioning from school supports to community supports. It will dismantle family-support programs for people with developmental disabilities and cause hardship for those who do a lifetime of heavy lifting by caring for their loved ones.”
 
The outcry from Nashua follows reports from Manchester and North Conway of residents and officials decrying House Republicans’ irresponsible budget cuts.
 
Yesterday’s Union Leader reported that Manchester “officials are raising concerns about proposed cuts in the state budget that could impact efforts to combat drug abuse in the city,” and the Conway Daily Sun added, “Members of the New Hampshire House Finance Committee heard last week from a range of Carroll County constituents” who “[decried] cuts to disabled, senior program
s.”

Senator Shaheen Renews Effort To Help Students Refinance Loans

Shaheen co-sponsors Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Yesterday U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) cosponsored the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, legislation that was reintroduced to allow those with outstanding student loan debt to refinance at lower interest rates offered to new borrowers in the 2013-2014 school year. New Hampshire ranks first in the country in average debt per graduate, at nearly $33,000, and according to estimates, nearly 130,000 New Hampshire residents could benefit from this bill.

“Throughout New Hampshire and across the country people are struggling with the increasing costs of higher education and that’s hurting our students and our economy,” said Shaheen. “Students should be able to refinance their loans just like homeowners can refinance their mortgages. Our plan will help borrowers save thousands on their loans and we ought to act on it on behalf of students who are struggling with crippling debt.”

Many borrowers with outstanding student loans have interest rates of nearly 7 percent or higher for their undergraduate loans, while students taking out new undergraduate loans in the 2013-2014 school year paid a rate of 3.86 percent under the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act passed by Congress in 2013. The Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act could lower payments for millions of borrowers.

The average student loan debt among those who borrow to get a bachelor’s degree is more than $28,000 – and nearly 30% of Federal Direct student loan dollars are in default, forbearance, or deferment.

Throughout her career Shaheen has worked to make college more affordable and accessible, leading efforts to increase access to higher education for New Hampshire students and voting to maintain low interest rates for Stafford loans. She also supported education reforms in 2010 that increased the maximum Pell Grant to $5,730 to help low-income students go to college.

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