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Kuster Calls on House Colleagues to Pass Long-Term Extension of Highway Bill

July 06, 2015 |Kuster hears from local transportation planners about the importance of fully funding infrastructure projects

July 06, 2015 |Kuster hears from local transportation planners about the importance of fully funding infrastructure projects

Crucial infrastructure projects like the Route 4 Bridge could be threatened if Congress fails to pass a long-term highway bill 

West Lebanon, NH – This morning, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) visited the Route 4 Bridge construction site in order to highlight the importance of immediately passing a long-term surface transportation bill in Congress. Across New Hampshire and around the country, local projects like the Route 4 Bridge construction could be threatened if Congress fails to pass legislation to preserve federal transportation funding. 

In 2012, Congress passed the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act to fund our country’s surface transportation network for two years, and it has since been extended one year beyond its original 2014 expiration. MAP-21 is set to expire at the end of July, which means funding for the federal Highway Trust Fund and projects around the country could run out of money right in the middle of summer, our country’s busiest construction season. During Monday’s tour, Kuster – along with state and city officials, business leaders, and project planners – called on her colleagues in Congress to immediately pass long-term legislation to prevent this funding shortfall, which not only threatens local construction projects, but also vital summer construction jobs that New Hampshire workers rely on.

“Throughout New Hampshire, construction workers are hard at work fixing our roads and bridges, and making improvements to our transportation infrastructure in order to improve safety and efficiency. We must ensure these projects can continue throughout the busy summer construction months and the rest of the year,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “We cannot put the safety of our drivers, or the livelihoods of our workers, in jeopardy because of partisan politics. I call on my colleagues to immediately bring a long-term bill to the floor, so we can ensure the funding for these projects does not run out.” 

The Route 4 Bridge project was first started in 2013. After completion, the new steel beam bridge will improve access between West Lebanon and Hartford, VT, and it will eliminate congestion and detours that have delayed traffic for years throughout the area. During the tour, project officials gave an update on the status of the Route 4 bridge project, and Kuster outlined her own efforts in Washington to encourage passage of a long-term bill.

Congresswoman Kuster has long advocated for increased federal investment in New Hampshire’s transportation infrastructure.  She has proposed legislative solutions for increasing cost-savings at the federal level in order to replenish the Trust Fund in years past and she has toured the I-93 construction project in Windham, the Route 10 bridge replacement project in Winchester, and the Broad Street Parkway project in Nashua to highlight the urgent need to pass responsible, long-term funding legislation to support these projects.  Earlier this month, Kuster sent a letter to House Leadership urging them to bring a long-term surface transportation bill to the floor for immediate passage.

Does Chris Christie Really Think We Have Forgotten All Those Videos Of You Yelling A Teachers?

 As Christie tries to turn over a new leaf,
“he better hope that New Hampshire hasn’t discovered Google”
 

CONCORD – After a days-long swing through New Hampshire, Chris Christie is trying to turn over a new leaf. He’s working desperately to shed his reputation as the “bully who loses his temper and belittles people with less power,” and instead is now treating “the presidential contest like a season of ‘The Bachelorette.’” 

But one thing’s for sure: New Hampshire voters won’t let Christie run away from his failed record in New Jersey which includes nine downgrades in the state’s credit rating, a “public employee pension crisis,” and that darned “Bridgegate scandal, involving his once inner circle of aides.” As his hometown paper says, “he better hope that New Hampshire hasn’t discovered Google. Because when Christie bares his teeth it doesn’t look controlled. More like unchecked belligerence, the sort of thing that gets children placed in time-outs.” 

In N.H., Christie says he’s ‘Telling It Like It Is’ // James Pindell, Boston Globe

This week Christie became the 14th Republican to announce his intention to run for president in 2016. Two years ago Christie led the field, but he is in a much weakened position today.

Under his watch, New Jersey has undergone nine credit rating downgrades. The state is ranked 48th in private-sector job growth. He faces a public employee pension crisis. In addition, the so-called Bridgegate scandal, involving his once inner circle of aides, is still not over…

As a result, in his presidential announcement launch and during five straight days of campaigning in the Granite State, Christie has treated the presidential contest like a season of “The Bachelorette”: trying to win over voters with charm and personal rapport…

Christie tries to earn points by going after political opponents — liberals, Democrats, and teachers’ unions, Hawkins said.

“McCain also had an inspiring war hero biography that was central to his story,” he said. “When people think of Christie, they think of a brash New Jersey guy who yells at people.”

Christie’s anger, the beast inside that he must hide // Moran, Star-Ledger

One of Gov. Chris Christie’s core tasks in New Hampshire is to make sure voters don’t see the beast within, the bully who loses his temper and belittles people with less power. 

We’ve seen this act over and over in New Jersey, and it’s one reason that the governor is now about as popular as a blistering skin rash. It’s not just because the state is a mess; it’s personal. 

For evidence, look to the latest FDU poll, which showed 39 percent of New Jerseyans “dislike everything” about the governor, as opposed to the added 23 percent who just hate his policies.

It’s as if Jersey stuffed a bad clam in its mouth and wants to spit it out fast… 

He better hope that New Hampshire hasn’t discovered Google. Because when Christie bares his teeth it doesn’t look controlled. More like unchecked belligerence, the sort of thing that gets children placed in time-outs…

 

Concord Monitor On The Damaging Consequences Of Unpaid-For Tax Giveaways

GOP Speaker Shawn Jasper Sends Lawmakers On Vacation

Concord, N.H. – As New Hampshire Republicans continue to push for unpaid-for corporate tax giveaways that would blow a $90 million hole in future budgets, the Concord Monitor examines the damaging consequences of unpaid-for tax giveaways. 

The Monitor reported, “So how did the cuts work out for Kansas? Did Brownback’s predictions come true? They didn’t. The state found itself with a gaping deficit and with shortfalls as far as the eye could see. Lawmakers this session had to figure out how to plug a $400 million budget hole, and their session stretched to an epic 113 days.” And in order to preserve the business tax giveaways, “the Kansas legislature ended up increasing sales taxes to the second-highest rate in the country.” 

The Monitor concluded that contrary to Republicans’ claims, if tax cuts for businesses “contribute to instability in state budgeting, such cuts could actually drive businesses away.” 

While Governor Hassan continues to reiterate her willingness to return to work immediately to pass a balanced, compromise budget that is fiscally responsible and meets the needs of New Hampshire, GOP House Speaker Shawn Jasper sent members on vacation, telling lawmakers “there will be no legislative activity this month and no mileage payments for traveling to and from Concord.” 

United States Agrees to Settle Lawsuit Alleging Wrongful Deportation

Immigration Policy Center logoWashington D.C. – After more than two years of litigation, the U.S. government has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by Leonel Ruiz on behalf of his minor daughter, E.R. The suit alleged that in 2011, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), unlawfully detained Mr. Ruiz’s then 4-year-old daughter—a U.S. citizen—when she arrived at Dulles Airport in Virginia, deprived her of any contact with her parents, and sent her back to Guatemala rather than allowing her to join her parents, who awaited her arrival in New York.

According to the complaint, during the twenty hours E.R. was detained in CBP custody with her grandfather, she was given nothing to eat other than a cookie and soda and nowhere to nap other than the cold floor. She was finally able to return home to the United States nearly three weeks later, but only after her father hired a local attorney to fly to Guatemala to retrieve her. Once home, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder by a child psychologist, who concluded that this was a result of her detention and her separation from her parents. The lawsuit, filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), sought damages for the harm E.R. suffered as a result of this ordeal. In June, the government agreed to pay E.R. $32,500.

On October 30, 2013, the government moved to dismiss the case, arguing that, among other things, the actions of the CBP officers fell within the “discretionary function exception” to the FTCA, which bars certain claims involving an element of judgment or choice. The court rejected this argument, finding that, taking the allegations in the complaint as true, there were no “discernible social, economic, or political policy considerations in the regulatory or statutory regime that would explain the CBP Officers’ decisions” while E.R. was held in Dulles’ secondary inspection area. Thus, the judgment was not the kind of discretionary function that the exception was designed to protect. The court also found that CBP’s alleged treatment of E.R. violated the settlement agreement in Flores v. Reno regarding the detention of minors, as well as CBP’s internal policies developed to comply with the Flores agreement. 

“This settlement is a fair and just one,” said Melissa Crow of the American Immigration Council, one of E.R.’s pro bono attorneys. “We hope that the government has learned from this case and that, in the future, CBP will take steps to ensure that other children do not endure similarly harrowing experiences.”

“Mr. Ruiz’s greatest concern has always been that what happened to his daughter should never happen again” said Matthew Gurgel of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, also pro bono counsel to E.R. “E.R. is a U.S. citizen and has constitutional rights to travel to the United States and to be free from unreasonable detention, and what happened to her should not have happened to any child.”

“With ever-increasing numbers of U.S.-born children of mixed-status families, this will continue to be a problem unless CBP formally trains its officers on how to better handle issues around returning U.S. citizen children,” said Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, director of the Legal Aid Justice Center’s Immigrant Advocacy Project, which also provided pro bono representation to E.R. “CBP’s role is to facilitate lawful entries into the United States, not to throw up barriers and roadblocks.”   

Merrimack County Dept. of Corrections Workers Select SEA/SEIU Local 1984

Union-yes

Concord, NH, July 2, 2015 – Earlier this week employees at Merrimack County Dept. of Corrections voted to part ways with their existing union and to now be represented by SEA/SEIU Local 1984.  SEA/SEIU Local 1984 is the state’s largest public sector union representing employees throughout the state. 

There are 115 workers at Merrimack County Dept. of Corrections who will be part of the new SEA/SEIU Local 1984 bargaining unit.  Sixty-five percent of the eligible workers voted in the race between SEA/SEIU Local 1984 and the National Correctional Employees Union (NCEU). SEIU 1984 Logo

“I think this is a good change,” said First Shift Floor Supervisor, Sal Mills.  “We are looking forward to a better union.  NCEU could only offer us half of what SEA can. We are looking forward to better solidarity.”

The positions that are included in the bargaining unit are Shift Supervisor, Corrections Officer, Medical Services Coordinator, Correction Nurse, Maintenance Engineer, Maintenance Worker II, Training Officer, and Group II Case Manager.

“We are very pleased to welcome the workers at Merrimack County Dept. of Corrections,” said Rich Gulla, President of SEA/SEIU Local 1984.  “I think we are uniquely positioned to successfully represent these workers.  We represent other law enforcement workers in the state and we currently have staff members with law enforcement backgrounds who will extend their knowledge and expertise to representing this new unit.” 

The Merrimack County House of Corrections operates a 237-bed, correctional facility located in Boscawen, New Hampshire. Their detainees include pre-trial adults and adjudicated juveniles, as well as male and female offenders serving sentences of up to two years handed down by the Merrimack County Superior Court, or one of the district courts in Merrimack County.

Public Pressure Pushes T-Mobile US to Provide Fairer Paid Parental Leave Policy

 CWA-blue-line

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Responding to growing public pressure and local government initiatives, T-Mobile US announced this week that it would be adopt a paid parental leave program. The company also said it would end an oppressive policy that required call center workers to be on the phone 96.5% of their work time, leaving them with virtually no time for follow up on customer issues or to make changes in customers’ accounts as needed.

This is great news for workers who often must struggle to balance family and career. It comes as workers at T-Mobile US and a coalition of community supporters in cities like Albuquerque, N.M., step up efforts to restore a fair workweek and achieve other improvements for workers.

Members of TU, the union of T-Mobile workers, the Communications Workers of America and many organizations, including the Center for Popular Democracy, OLÉ and other coalition partners, have been raising concerns about unfair scheduling and other issues for workers at T-Mobile US and other employers.  Workers want a voice in the decisions that affect them in their workplace — not just the ones that the company selectively picks and chooses. That’s why T-Mobile US workers are joining TU.

T-Mobile US’s initial scheduling changes were made just as the Albuquerque City Council was moving forward to consider a proposal to implement paid sick leave and scheduling improvements. The Albuquerque coalition hosted a town hall meeting on irregular scheduling, where Albuquerque City Council members pledged to support their fight for a fair workweek including the right to take sick leave without retaliation.

A recent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision found T-Mobile guilty of engaging in illegal employment policies that prevented workers from even talking to each other about problems on the job. The judge ordered the company to rescind those policies and inform all 46,000 employees about the verdict. 

Parental leave is a good first step toward helping workers balance their career and family responsibilities. But workers want real bargaining rights and the right to fairly choose union representation. That’s what T-Mobile must realize.

Brackett to be sworn in as new NH AFL-CIO President

Glenn Brackett NH AFLCIO

Concord – Glenn Brackett will be sworn in today as the new President of the NH AFL-CIO. The former Business Manager of IBEW Local 2320 was elected to a 4-year term, succeeding long-time President Mark Mackenzie. The NH AFL-CIO is the largest labor federation in New Hampshire, representing more than 26,000 workers in both the public and private sectors from more than 40 unions.

Brackett issued the following statement:

“I am very proud to take the reins of this great organization. Former President Mackenzie has done more than anyone I know to advance the cause of working men and women here in New Hampshire, and I look forward to carrying forward his legacy of progress and steadfast leadership.

Working men and women in the Granite State deserve leaders that will fight hard for their best interests in Concord and in Washington, DC. They deserve a President who will work with our allies to advance the cause of working people, but who will never back down from a fight when big corporations and politicians put profits ahead of people. And most importantly, they deserve an AFL-CIO that listens to its members and to workers across this great state, and that makes sure everyone’s voice is heard. Those are the values that I’m committed to upholding as President.”

Glenn is the outgoing Business Manager of IBEW Local 2320, where he recently led more than 600 local workers in a successful 130-day strike to secure a landmark agreement with FairPoint Communications, winning major compromises that benefited workers’ health, safety, and security. Glenn is a 1976 graduate of Gorham High School, and currently lives in Northwood with his family.

Civil and Human Rights Applauds Commonsense Overtime Pay Adjustment by Obama Administration

WASHINGTON – Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president and director of policy of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued the following statement after the announcement that the Obama Administration would update overtime pay requirements to reflect the realities of the current workforce. The proposal would allow workers who make up to $50,440 per year to be eligible for time and a half for overtime work; the previous threshold was only $23,660. This adjustment would make 5 million more working people eligible for overtime pay:

“This is an important step forward in updating our nation’s labor practices and will ensure a fairer overtime wage for more workers, including women, low-income people, and people of color. This overdue adjustment would provide overtime protections for 5 million people who currently work above and beyond 40 hours a week without any benefits. 

By and large, our nation’s labor practices haven’t caught up with the times. Workers are suffering from stagnant wages, a rollback of their right to organize, unscrupulous employment contracts that bar them from enforcing their rights in court, and a minimum wage that—due to inflation— is worth a little less every day.

More needs to be done.  Our country needs sweeping reforms necessary to ensure economic security for the American workforce. We also need legislative action that protects workers and raises the minimum wage, issues that cannot be addressed by the executive branch alone.

We applaud the Obama Administration and Secretary Perez for this important step forward in ensuring that more workers can pursue the American Dream.”

Nancy Zirkin is executive vice president and director of policy of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference, visit www.civilrights.org. 

Granite Staters Speak Out In Support Of Hassan And Budget Veto

Businesses, Advocates And Elected Officials Stand With Governor Hassan As She Fights For A Fiscally Responsible Budget That Protects Economic Priorities

Tom Strickland, owner of Sequoya Technologies Group in Peterborough, wrote in an op-ed, “My business is larger than 93 percent of the businesses in New Hampshire and these tax cuts will only save me $150 per year. That’s not enough for me to hire workers, buy equipment, or expand… What these tax cuts WILL do is result in even deeper cuts in critical state programs. The needs don’t go away when the program funding does. Those needs just shift to the community and that costs us all. Please keep my tax cut. I just can’t afford it.”

In a joint op-ed, Katie Robert, president of the New Hampshire Public Health Association and Kim Mohan, executive director of the New England Rural Health Roundtable, wrote, “The priorities embraced by the 2016-17 budgets, recently passed by the New Hampshire House and Senate, seem notably inconsistent with the needs of the state from a public health and public policy perspective… While these budget priorities are disconnected with the needs of the state overall, they would be particularly detrimental to the rural communities of our state, which make up 47 percent of the state’s population and cover 90 percent of its area.” 

In an editorial on the Supreme Court’s decision upholding access to affordable health coverage, the Concord Monitor wrote, “The New Hampshire Legislature, in particular, should see the writing on the wall and reauthorize the state’s [Medicaid expansion] program without delay.” 

Tym Rourke, chairman of the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention, Intervention and Treatment, told the Concord Monitor, “Reauthorization [of Medicaid expansion] has a big impact on treatment availability.”

In a joint op-ed, Senator Andrew Hosmer and Rep. Cindy Rosenwald wrote, “We stand with Governor Hassan in her decision to veto the fiscally irresponsible and unbalanced Republican budget, which we can only describe as a trail of false promises. You may have heard Republicans claim that their budget increases funding for critical priorities like substance abuse treatment, mental health services, and our seniors. But there’s one very big problem. Republicans’ fiscally irresponsible budget isn’t actually balanced, placing every single one of those priorities — and more — at risk.”

Rep. Timothy Smith wrote in an op-ed, “This year, the Senate started by considering tens of millions of dollars in new tax cuts for businesses with its very first bills – but no one has really looked at the long-term consequences of these cuts.”

 

See below for a roundup of additional coverage:  

From the Nashua Telegraph:

… Hassan made good on her threat and vetoed the proposed two-year budget, saying the tax cuts would blow a $90 million hole in future years in exchange for giveaways to big corporations.

“When I made this decision, which I didn’t do lightly, what I really stepped back to think about was the progress we’ve made over the last two years and the progress we need to continue to make so that we are a competitive 21st century economy – not just in this two-year cycle, but in all the cycles to come,” she said Thursday during an interview with The Telegraph editorial board.

… Hassan criticized the Republican budget for unpaid-for tax giveaways to mostly out-of-state corporations at the expense of other economic priorities such as higher education and public safety.

Her administration said the budget would not provide year-to-year increase to the university system and leaves New Hampshire vulnerable to losing young people looking at high price tags at in-state colleges. She also blasted the budget for failing to adequately fund substance abuse prevention and diverting infrastructure funds intended for road and bridge repairs.

Hassan said she is not against corporate tax reductions when done properly, but said Republican budget writers raided all the wrong funding sources to make them a reality.

“Philosophically I’m not opposed to doing it, but we do have to be able to pay for the very things that businesses all around the state tell me are their priorities,” she said.

Rep. Cindy Rosenwald, a Nashua Democrat and party leader in the House, said there is general agreement on spending priorities and she shares the governor’s concern about the unpaid-for business tax cuts.

“They would cost $23 million in this budget and $90 million in future budgets. The evidence that such tax cuts would drive higher economic growth just isn’t there,” Rosenwald said. “States like Kansas and Ohio have tried without success, and our own experience several years ago with a reduction in the tobacco tax rate also failed.” [Full story]

From the Associated Press:

Hassan said the budget would not provide any year-to-year increase to the university system, still funded below 2010 levels, or adequately fund substance abuse prevention. She said it also would force the Sununu Youth Services Center to cut a quarter of its budget; omit a modest cost-of-living increase for employees; divert funds intended for road and bridge repairs and underfund snow plowing and removal. [Full story]

From the Union Leader:

“I have vetoed the budget passed by the legislature because it is unbalanced, makes false promises about what it funds, and gives unpaid-for tax giveaways to big corporations, many based out-of-state, at the expense of critical economic priorities, including higher education, health care, public safety and transportation,” Hassan said in her veto message. “The long-term impact of these unpaid-for corporate tax cuts will create a more than $90 million hole in future budgets, further eroding our ability to encourage economic growth.” [Full story]

From NHPR:

Hassan said she hopes negotiations will start immediately. “I urge the legislators to meet with me as soon as possible so we can begin discussions on how we can build the kind of budget that is critical to our economic future,” she said Thursday at the State House. [Full story]

Governor Hassan Reiterates Intention to Veto Fiscally Irresponsible Budget, Supports Continuing Resolution

CONCORD – Governor Maggie Hassan issued the following statement today after the legislature voted to pass the Committee of Conference budget proposal, as well as a continuing resolution:

“The Republican budget is unbalanced, dishonest about what it funds, and includes unpaid-for corporate tax cuts that create a more than $90 million budget hole in future budgets at the expense of critical economic priorities, and I will veto it when it comes to my desk. While I am not philosophically opposed to business tax cuts, we cannot undermine our economic future and jeopardize priorities such as affordable higher education, access to health care, safe roads and bridges, and combatting the substance misuse crisis facing our state by not paying for those cuts.

“I have repeatedly offered compromises to address the unpaid-for corporate tax cuts, and will continue to do so, but we cannot enact a plan that would create a $90 million dollar hole in future budgets that will undermine our ability to fund the services we all agree are critical to our people, families and businesses.

“Despite our disagreements on the budget, I appreciate the legislature’s efforts to pass a continuing resolution, and I will sign this measure to keep state government open. Moving forward, I continue to encourage legislative leadership to return to the table and negotiate in good faith to develop a fiscally responsible, balanced budget, and I remain ready, willing and able to sit down with them at any time to reach a true compromise that builds on our progress of the last two years and honestly supports the priorities that are critical to keeping our economy moving forward.”

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