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Senators Unveil Bipartisan Amendment to Protect Dreamers, Strengthen Border Security

8 Republicans, 7 Democrats, and 1 Independent Introduce Legislation

Click HERE to read the text of the amendment

Washington, D.C. — A bipartisan group of 16 Senators unveiled legislation this evening to protect “Dreamers” and to strengthen border security.  The Senators are part of the Common Sense Coalition, a group of 25 Republican, Democratic, and Independent Senators convened by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), who have been meeting nearly every day in Senator Collins’ office to develop a framework to address Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and other immigration issues.

The lead sponsors of the legislation are Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Angus King (I-ME), and the original cosponsors include Senators: Collins, Manchin, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Chris Coons (D-DE), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Mark Warner (D-VA).

“This bipartisan agreement finally allows DREAMers a pathway to citizenship so that they no longer have to live in fear of deportation,” said Senator Shaheen. “Time is of the essence and I urge lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to support this proposal so that DREAMers can finally move on with their lives. This agreement further demonstrates the necessity of good faith bipartisan discussions and the need for compromise to get things done. I look forward to continued participation with the Common Sense Caucus to make further progress on the many challenges facing our country.”

“Our bipartisan proposal takes meaningful steps to enhance border security, adds limits to chain migration and permanently deals with DACA recipients,” said Senator Rounds.  “The $25 billion allotted for border security is a historic investment in our nation’s borders that will strengthen our ability to keep bad actors out of the country and keep Americans safe. It is a significant improvement from the status quo and will allow us to continue the dialogue as we seek to keep our borders safe and reform our immigration system to one that is merit-based.”

“Nearly everybody involved in this process has expressed a desire to help these young people, and that’s exactly what our bipartisan group, under the leadership of Senator Collins, has been working towards. Let’s help them, rather than getting bogged down in complicated, comprehensive and unrelated changes to our immigration policy,” said Senator King.  “I hope our amendment will get the votes we need to take these young men and women out of limbo and ensure their legal status in the country they call home.”

“Following the reopening of the government last month, members of our Common Sense Coalition saw that immigration was beginning to fracture along partisan lines.  We met continuously so that Senators could discuss this important issue and reach consensus,” said Senator Collins.  “Our legislation underscores the broad, bipartisan commitment to creating a path to citizenship for Dreamers, who were brought to this country illegally through no decision of their own, while strengthening border security to help stop the flow of illegal immigrants as well as drugs like heroin that are ruining lives.”

“This compromise shows the American people what Congress can get done when we work in a bipartisan way and put politics aside. I’m glad we could work through these complicated issues in a constructive way in order to secure our border and solve some difficult immigration issues that I think both sides can support,” Senator Manchin said.  

“Our proposal would represent the most significant change to immigration law in the past thirty-five years,” said Senator Graham.  “Providing President Trump with $25 billion for the Wall system he campaigned on is a giant step forward for border security.  As to the DACA population, we mirror President Trump’s proposal allowing DACA eligible individuals to obtain legal status and over a ten to twelve-year period, they can become green card holders. This will allow them to pursue their lives with certainty and stability in the United States – the only country they know. This is a substantial down payment on fixing a broken immigration system and truly is a win-win.”

“We’ve reached a deal that gives us the best chance to protect Dreamers against deportation from the only country they know as home,” said Senator Kaine. “This is a true compromise, which includes the significant boost in border security funding our Republican colleagues and President Trump have been asking for. I’ve worked across the aisle for weeks with this large group of Republicans and Democrats to reach this deal, and I hope my colleagues will join us in showing that the Senate can solve tough problems.”

“I’m pleased to be part of this group of Republicans and Democrats who are working together to make a law, rather than a point,” said Senator Flake.  “A broadly-supported, bipartisan bill that protects DACA recipients and strengthens border security ought to be able to get 60 votes in the Senate. Let’s put it on the floor and work together to get it passed.”

“This bipartisan legislation represents our best opportunity to make long overdue changes to our immigration laws that will allow 1.8 million Dreamers to live without fear of deportation, make robust investments in border security, and ensure that family reunification remains one of the core values of our immigration system,” said Senator Coons. “This process has not been easy, and this bill is not perfect, but Delawareans sent me to the Senate to not only fight for our values, but to also work across the aisle to get things done.  While this isn’t the bill I would have drafted, I believe this is a good, honest compromise, and I will support it on the Senate floor tomorrow.”

“Our immigration system is broken and we need to fix it,” said Senator Gardner. “There are many children who came to this country without documentation and we need to allow them the opportunity to remain here lawfully. This legislation addresses some of the largest challenges our broken immigration system faces, including a major boost to border security, and I urge members on both sides of the aisle that want a solution to support our bipartisan approach.”

“This agreement is full of tough compromises, but it shows that when senators really want to find bipartisan solutions, it’s possible,” said Senator Heitkamp. “That’s the whole purpose of the Common Sense Coalition – to work together, Republicans and Democrats, to reach results for the American people – and I hope Congress passes our deal. I’m proud to have been part of this group that worked together to reopen the government in 2013 and last month. And now we’re doing it again by forging a deal that both provides a permanent solution to those who came to our country as children through no fault of their own while boosting border security at all of our borders.”

“I am proud to be part of this bipartisan effort,” said Senator Murkowski. “The amendment seeks to protect the Dreamers while strengthening our border security and I am encouraged by the time and effort we have spent as a group trying to achieve a consensus on this difficult issue. I hope we can get to a final bill that protects the Dreamers and look forward to the debate.”

“My goal is to get a result on both border security and DACA so I will cosponsor and vote for Senator Grassley’s legislation implementing the president’s proposal. I will also cosponsor and vote for this narrower bipartisan proposal offered by Senators Rounds and King because it too solves the DACA problem and provides the $25 billion the president requested to improve border security,” said Senator Alexander.

“We can’t wait any longer to find a solution for the DREAMers and this bipartisan agreement – which was a product of working across the aisle with my colleagues for the past several weeks – includes a path to citizenship. I am hopeful it can get strong bipartisan support in the Senate,”said Senator Klobuchar.

“We have a real opportunity to secure our borders and address some of the issues in our immigration system,” said Senator Isakson. “I’m committed to continuing to work toward real solutions, and this legislation will help meet many of these goals.”

“This is a bipartisan solution that will provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers whose status in this country was left in limbo when the administration announced it was ending the DACA program,” said Senator Warner.  “This amendment certainly isn’t perfect, but I believe it is a suitable compromise and the best path forward for the Senate to advance legislation on this critical issue.”


Highlights of the bipartisan proposal include:

Legal Status and Path to Citizenship for Young People Brought to the US as Children.

The amendment provides legal status and a path to citizenship to individuals who were brought to the U.S. as children. Individuals who are registered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program automatically qualify, if they arrived in this country by June 15, 2007, unless they have engaged in conduct that would make them ineligible. To obtain legal status, individuals not enrolled in the DACA program must:

  • Have been continuously present in the U.S. since June 15, 2012, the date of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Executive Order;
  • Have been under age 18 when they entered the U.S., and under age 38 on June 15, 2012;
  • Meet educational requirements or be serving in the U.S. Armed Forces (or have been honorably discharged from military service); and
  • Pass background checks, medical exams, and register for the Selective Service, if applicable.

Individuals do not qualify if they are convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors. Individuals are required to pay any federal tax liability incurred while working legally in the U.S.

Beneficiaries can apply for citizenship after 12 years, and up to 2 years of credit will be given for time with DACA.

PROHIBITION ON DACA BENEFICIARIES SPONSORING THEIR PARENTS FOR CITIZENSHIP

The amendment includes language prohibiting parents from using their Dreamer children’s newly granted citizenship to apply for citizenship themselves.

BORDER SECURITY

The amendment authorizes and appropriates $25 billion in funding for Northern and Southern border security over the next 10 years.  The bill requires DHS to provide detailed reports to Congress on its security plan, including physical barriers, fencing, tactical infrastructure, technology, personnel, and the milestones for implementing this plan.

Funding after the first year is released each year once the DHS Secretary certifies that at least 75 percent of the goals for the prior year have been reached.  Sixty votes would be required in order to prevent funding for each fiscal year.

The bill also directs the Secretary to prioritize enforcement resources against aliens who:

  • Have been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, three or more misdemeanors;
  • Are a threat to national security or public safety; or
  • Are unlawfully present and arrived in the U.S. after June 30, 2018.

UPDATE 2-16-2018

The measure failed to get the required 60 votes (54-45) to pass the Senate.

Senators Shaheen and Hassan released the following:

“The agreement we voted on was the product of good faith bipartisan discussions and would have allowed Dreamers a pathway to citizenship so that they no longer have to live in fear of deportation,” said Shaheen. “I’m disappointed that, because of President Trump’s erratic and inconsistent positions on this issue, this agreement did not receive enough support to move forward in the Senate. It’s critically important that the Senate provide a pathway forward to protect Dreamers which is why I’ll continue my efforts across the aisle to find common ground.”

“I am deeply concerned that President Trump and his Administration did everything they could to defeat this bipartisan agreement that would have protected Dreamers and strengthened our border security,” Senator Hassan said. “The Common Sense Coalition has demonstrated that there is strong bipartisan consensus for protecting Dreamers whose energy, hard-work, and innovation is critical to our economic future. While this setback is extremely disappointing, I will continue working with the Common Sense Coalition and anyone else who is willing to join us to find a path forward for Dreamers and to ensure that our country is safe, secure, and free.”

NH House Passes Paid Family Leave (Again) And Pushes Bill To A 3rd Committee

Yesterday the NH House pass HB 628, by a vote of 186 – 164, to establish a family and medical leave program in New Hampshire. House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff (D-Penacook) released the following:

“I am extremely proud of the House of Representatives this morning, particularly the House Democrats who have been working for years to bring a viable, sustainable, paid family and medical leave program to New Hampshire.  Over 80% of our constituents support family leave because they understand how beneficial it will be to our state’s economy. Every single House Democrat stood up for Granite Staters today by voting against the recommendation from Republican leadership that this bill be defeated.”

“New Hampshire businesses need educated, young workers to grow our state’s economy.  This bill establishes exactly the kind of program that will encourage those skilled workers to raise their families in our state.  Years and years of study, negotiation, and collaboration led us to this point, and House Democrats will continue to speak for the people in prioritizing this important program as it continues along the legislative process.”

The bill now moves to the House Finance Committee.

Rather than being sent to the Senate, it has now been sent to a rather unprecedented 3rd House Committee for further review. Senator Dan Feltes, a co-sponsor of House Bill 628, issued the following statement after today’s vote:

“This strong bipartisan endorsement of Family Medical Leave Insurance once again shows how essential this is to attracting and retaining a high quality workforce, to caring for our senior population, and to combating the opioid epidemic,” said Senator Feltes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This bill is plain and simple:

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

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

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

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: Vouchers, Paycheck Deception, and State Retirements

The NH Legislature managed to meet one day this past week, but Thursday’s snowstorm and the bitter cold led to the cancellation of Thursday’s scheduled House session. Instead, the House will convene this Tuesday, January 9, to continue working through the remaining retained bills from 2017. Although an additional session day on Thursday, January 11 is possible, most expect the House to finish retained bills on the 9th and then commence committee hearings on 2018 bills.

SB 193
The big news this past week was House passage of Senate Bill 193 as amended , the bill establishing so-called “education freedom savings accounts.” In simple terms, the bill takes funds normally distributed by the State to local school districts and places the money into accounts that can be used by parents who home-school or choose to send their children to private (including religious) schools. The NH Constitution explicitly prohibits expending public funds in support of religious schools, so the “education freedom savings accounts” are an attempt to bypass that prohibition. As one House member noted in debate, these accounts will act as a pass-through system, or in more direct language, as a “money-laundering” system to render public revenues into non-public money and thereby circumvent the state’s Constitution.

Funding for SB 193 will come directly from the state’s Education Trust Fund, thereby reducing the funds made available to local districts. The consequence will be less money to many districts, with estimates ranging well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars for districts such as Manchester and Nashua (look here for conservative cost estimates put forward by Reaching Higher NH Analysis, December 6, 2017). Local taxpayers will have to pick up the tab, meaning SB 193 will increase local property taxes, all to subsidize those who choose to home-school or opt for private schools. Moreover, the entire program, its assessment and accountability of how funds are spent will NOT be handled by the State but by a private organization based in New York. Given that the organization’s “take” will increase in direct proportion to the number of parents using these “Education freedom savings accounts,” one can only wonder at the potential conflicts-of-interest when this same organization is charged with monitoring expenditures and assessing effectiveness.

SB 193 now goes to the House Finance Committee where a hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, January 16, 2018 at 1:30pm. Ultimately, SB193 will come to the House floor for at least one more vote, this time to consider any amendments and the recommendation of the Finance Committee. So stay tuned for breaking news and action requests. You are encouraged to contact the members of the House Finance committee by sending a quick email by clicking this link House Finance Committee and let them know your concerns about SB 193 and ask them to recommend Inexpedient to Legislate.

Red Alert HB 438 Paycheck Deception
There are two bills of great concern to AFT-NH coming to the floor for votes on Tuesday, January 9. The most important is HB 438, which would prohibit public employers from withholding union dues, which is standard practice across the public sector. Withholding dues imposes no costs on public employers and is no different than withholding money on behalf of charitable organizations such as the United Way. The bill came before the Labor Committee in Spring 2017 but no testimony was offered in favor of the bill and the committee ultimately voted unanimously and in a bipartisan manner to recommend that the House kill the bill (Inexpedient to Legislate). It has been taken from the Consent calendar where it would have been expeditiously dealt with last week and will come up for debate and a vote this Tuesday. It is vitally important that you contact your legislator and urge a ‘yes’ vote to sustain the Labor Committee’s unanimous and bipartisan recommendation. The bill performs no useful public service and is simply designed to punish public sector labor unions representing law enforcement officials, teachers, town, county and state employees. Again, please urge your representatives to sustain the Labor Committee’s recommendation on HB 438 by taking this One-Click Action.

HB 413 State Retirement Obligation
Finally, HB 413 will come to a vote on Tuesday in the House. As previously noted, this bill would require the State to begin meeting its promise to help contribute to the retirement system on behalf of municipal, town and school district employees. The NH House on February 15, 2017 voted Ought to Pass by an overwhelming vote of 267-83 and referred it on to the House Finance Committee. Funding for this did not occur in the state budget. When towns, counties and school districts joined the NH Retirement System, the State promised to pay 40% of the cost of contributions, but for the past six years, the State has paid 0% of the costs. Yes, nothing. HB 513 would have the State pay 15% to local communities which would be a great relief to local property taxpayers. The House Finance Committee has recommended Inexpedient to Legislate by a 17-9 vote. Yet this is the same Legislature that is somehow going to find money to make up the losses in local school districts stemming from SB 193? We hope HB 413 passes on Tuesday, but the bigger lesson is to not trust promises of any future payments by the Legislature, because it is a record of repeated broken promises. Perhaps a note to your legislators asking them to do their job and represent their local communities and provide some necessary property tax relief by supporting this bill might be helpful. To email your representative, you can click Contact Your Representative, find your town and send an email to your representative.

Stay warm and let’s all enjoy the higher temperatures predicted for the end of the week. Our January thaw is on the way!

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

Download and share the PDF here. 

Attack On Voting Rights To Come Up For Vote In NH Senate Next Week

For months now we have talked about the Republican attack on voting rights as they pushed HB 372 through the New Hampshire House. The bill would redefine “domicile” status for voting purposes, effectively forcing registrants to declare residency upon registering to vote, chilling the right to vote for college students in New Hampshire. The bill would also require that anyone who votes in New Hampshire legally change their residency to New Hampshire and would be required to pay all the fees associated with changing their residency.

On January 3rd, the New Hampshire State Senate is expected to discuss and vote on HB 372.  Voting rights advocates are encouraging everyone to attend the Senate session.

HB 372 Legislative Vote
Wednesday January 3rd, 9:15am
State House, Concord
RSVP via Facebook 

College students and voting rights groups have been outspoken in their opposition to this bill from the beginning.

“HB 372 serves one purpose: to drastically decrease student turnout on campuses across New Hampshire,” said University of New Hampshire sophomore Isabella Arms. “Thousands of students, like me, move to New Hampshire every year to learn and contribute to our communities, with the hope of staying here to start our careers. However every year, Republicans in Concord make it their priority to disenfranchise the exact group of people they need to attract and retain in order for our state to grow and thrive. The state benefits from students like us when it means getting more federal money or electoral clout, but they don’t think we count when it comes to voting for local issues that affect us, including preventing tuition hikes or investing in workforce training.”

“Senator Sanborn’s amendment to House Bill 372 is the New Hampshire GOP’s latest attempt to stop college students from voting,” said Let America Vote President Jason Kander. “Last session’s Senate Bill 3 is still in court, but that isn’t keeping Republicans from trying to further stop eligible New Hampshire voters from voting. When a college student registers to vote, they shouldn’t be threatened with possible legal penalties for how their car is registered. Voter registration should be a simple, straightforward process for all eligible Granite Staters. This is classic voter suppression, and it’s clearly a Republican priority to stop college students in New Hampshire from being able to vote in the state where they spend the most time.

When confronted by a young activist, Governor Chris Sununu said he “hated the bill” and “hopes the legislature kills it.” (The interaction was caught in the short video below.)

However after making the bold statement he would veto the legislation for its attack on the voting rights of college students, his resolve seems to be wavering.

Sununu told reporters, “There are some aspects that I’m supportive of, but there’s also some potential unintended consequences, and that’s what makes myself and some other folks across the state nervous. And that’s why we’ve asked them to go back and really take a look at not just what they’re trying to achieve but what the unintended consequences might be.”

With a Republican majority in the Senate there is a reasonable probability this bill will pass the Senate. This is why we need to reach out to our Senators and tell them to oppose this bill and kill it once and for all.

Make your voice heard and call your State Senator today!


America Votes will be holding phone banking sessions on:

  • Friday, December 29th from 5 pm to 7 pm
  • Tuesday, January 2nd from 5 pm to 7 pm

If you would like to help us with phonebanks please sign up here and America Votes will contact you directly. 

Get Covered: NH Insurance Department Reminds NH Residents Open Enrollment Ends December 15

CONCORD, NH – Open enrollment for individual health insurance (on and off HealthCare.gov) ends this Friday, December 15 at 11:59 P.M. The first premium needs to be paid by the insurance company’s due date before the 2018 coverage will take effect. Coverage will begin on January 1, 2018.

“Governor Sununu and the Insurance Department want to make sure that people are aware their last chance to sign up for a 2018 plan is this Friday,” said Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny. “If you still have questions about what plan is best for you, reach out to an insurance agent or broker or a Navigator for help understanding your options.”

New Hampshire residents should be aware that there are only three companies selling qualified health plans: Anthem, Ambetter, and Harvard Pilgrim. If a consumer purchased coverage from a different company, the plan may not offer them full coverage of services. Individuals who have questions about the plans they purchased may contact the NH Insurance Department’s Consumer Services unit for assistance by calling 1-800-852-3416 or (603) 271-2261, or by email at consumerservices@ins.nh.gov.

If a consumer needs assistance selecting a plan during the open enrollment period, the Insurance Department recommends that they contact an insurance agent or broker or a Federal Navigator. Residents can receive assistance from these types of in-person assisters at no additional cost during the open enrollment period. The Insurance Department’s website features a federally-created list of agents and brokers who are certified to sell plans on HealthCare.gov, although many also sell plans outside of HealthCare.gov. Consumers may also visit the Find Local Help tool on HealthCare.gov to find a local agent or broker by zip code.

Even if a consumer likes their 2017 plan, they should still update their application on HealthCare.gov and shop and compare options for 2018. The only way to receive an accurate financial assistance amount for 2018 is to update and submit an application on the website. If consumers who purchase coverage through HealthCare.gov do not take any action they will be automatically enrolled into a plan by HealthCare.gov that is considered “similar” to their current plan; but that plan may not have a similar premium, and their doctors and prescription drugs may not be in network. That plan will not be effective unless the consumer pays the first premium.

Outside of the open enrollment period, the only way residents can enroll in an individual insurance plan is if they qualify for a special enrollment period, typically the 60 days following certain qualifying life events.

Minuteman Health members have a special enrollment period until March 1, 2018, but need to enroll by December 31st to avoid a gap in coverage. For more information visit here.

The NH Insurance Department Can Help:

More information for New Hampshire residents about open enrollment may be found on the Insurance Department’s website. If you have questions about or issues with using the Marketplace and obtaining coverage, please call the federal government at (800) 318-2596. Once you have coverage, please contact the Insurance Department with questions or concerns at 1-800-852-3416 or (603) 271-2261, or by email at consumerservices@ins.nh.gov.
About The New Hampshire Insurance Department

The New Hampshire Insurance Department’s mission is to promote and protect the public good by ensuring the existence of a safe and competitive insurance marketplace through the development and enforcement of the insurance laws of the State of New Hampshire. For more information, visit http://www.nh.gov/insurance.

Rights and Democracy To Host 2nd Annual Assembly and Celebration

WHEN: SUNDAY, DECEMBER 10, 1-6PM

WHERE: LEBANON HIGH SCHOOL
(195 HANOVER ST., LEBANON, NEW HAMPSHIRE)

RSVP Here http://www.radnh.org/assembly2017

LEBANON, NH – Hundreds of Rights & Democracy members from across Vermont and New Hampshire will gather on Dec. 10th for the organization’s annual membership assembly and celebration.

RAD members will celebrate key victories in each state as well as Washington, DC and will look to the movement organizing that lies ahead in 2018 and beyond.  That organizing will include the adoption of a multi-issue People’s Platform for each state.

Members will also discuss organizing campaigns that center on building a rural agenda in both states – from raising the minimum wage to decarceration to universal health care, among other topics.

Other highlights of the day’s events include a special “bird dog” training to show members how they can use direct action to hold their elected officials accountable, a potluck meal, as well as “Resistance Bingo,” and breakout sessions on core issue campaigns in each state. (RSVP For Birddog Training)

Before the event, there will be a special training “Resistance Through Bird Dogging Powerholders” run by three national trainers who have been helping organize the national resistance to the GOP and Trump agendas to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act and enact a tax bill that will make cuts to Medicaid and Medicare to give tax breaks to millionaires. That training will take place from 10:30AM – 12:30PM at Lebanon High School.

In just two years, Rights & Democracy has gone from being a scrappy startup grassroots organization with a handful of key Vermont leaders and staff to a bi-state organization with 12,000 members and a vision to change the world.

Here are a few of our key New Hampshire success stories from our first two years:

  • Developed a robust canvassing operation to knock on 60,000 doors in the 2016 elections in support of Sen. Maggie Hassan in a tight race for US Senate, and brought thousands of our members who came in the door supporting Bernie Sanders to stay involved by defeating Donald Trump and Kelly Ayotte in incredibly tight races.
  • Launched the Transgender Organizing Leadership Development (TOLD) project that has been a leading voice for transgender nondiscrimination in New Hampshire. Nearly 500 people turned out in Manchester’s Victory Park in the Summer of 2017 to stand in unity for LGBTQ+ protections in the coming legislature.
  • Mobilized thousands of Granite State residents to take direct actions – like our “die-in” when US Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price (who has since resigned!) visited the state. Other actions included calling on Republican Gov. Chris Sununu to push back against the Trump administration’s most horrific proposals to kick millions off health care.
  • Defeated yet another misnamed “right to work” legislation push that would undermine worker protections in New Hampshire.
  • Won legislation to allow acupuncture to treat addiction, thanks to a grassroots advocacy effort led by Elizabeth Ropp, RAD NH leader and acupuncturist. The law allows frontline workers to use ear acupuncture to treat addiction to heroin or fentanyl, also known as auricular acupuncture or acu-detox.
  • Worked with the Monadnock Progressive Alliance, which is now an affiliate of RAD, as a way to build a truly progressive movement in the region’s communities.  RAD-NH’s long-term goal is to develop and invest in similar local organizing teams throughout the state.
  • Connected with voters in two special elections in New Hampshire, which helped to elect Democrats to the NH legislature in districts that have, in previous elections, supported Republicans and even voted for Trump in 2016.
  • Provided our key allies with support around clean elections, universal health care, immigration rights, reproductive freedom and more.

After the membership assembly, Rights & Democracy will celebrate with its inaugural Human Rights Awards. These awards are to designed to lift up the important work in both Vermont and New Hampshire that are making a difference in the lives our communities.

The inaugural awards will be presented to the following individuals and organizations:

VERMONT

Migrant Justice is a Vermont-based organization of dairy farm workers which organizes to advance human rights. The Milk with Dignity agreement reached on October 3, 2017 between Migrant Justice and Ben & Jerry’s — an agreement three years in the making — continues to make waves across the country as one of the most significant wins for worker’s rights in 2017– at a time when rights are under attack.  The news quickly caught the attention of major media outlets, from the New York Times to the AP to Vermont Public Radio and was also picked up in major media outlets throughout Latin America.

Vermont Racial Justice Reform Coalition is a coalition of organizations which led  a grassroots effort to successfully pass a far-reaching Racial Justice Reform Law  which sets forth guidance to “establish a panel to review and provide recommendations to address systemic racial disparities in statewide systems of criminal and juvenile justice”.

RAD VT’s Health Care Justice Heroes: Starting in the Spring and continuing in the Summer of 2017, leaders of Rights & Democracy, including nurses and people directly affected by the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act, began participating in rapid response civil disobedience direct actions to push back on the Trump Administration and GOP leaders in the US Senate and House. These brave acts, along with organizing across the country, help prevent deep cuts to Medicaid and millions of Americans from losing their access to health care.

Muslim Girls Making Change (MGMC), a youth slam poetry group created by Burlington and South Burlington High School students class of 2018 Kiran Waqar, Hawa Adam, Lena Ginawi, and Balkisa Abdikadir, is dedicated to social justice through poetry. Tired of having their voices ignored by older generations, they turned to slam poetry to be heard and to make a change. Since forming, these girls have competed at international levels, won numerous awards, performed widely, and help lead several local and national initiatives to increase cultural understanding, fight against racism and promote women’s rights.

Vermont Women’s March Core Organizers: Vermont’s solidarity rally with the Women’s March on January 21, 2017 was organized by a group of dedicated women organizers including RAD’s own Elise Greaves, Katie McCarty, Michelle Mraz, Bonnie Acker, along with Melinda Moulton, Cara Nelson, Marie Lallier, and Katie Titterton. The rally drew an estimated 25,000 people becoming the largest political rally in Vermont’s history.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

New Hampshire Labor Movement for defeating “Right To Work in NH”: A grassroots effort defeated the Republicans first priority of passing so-called “right-to-work” legislation after winning the Governor’s seat and retaining majorities in the NH House and Senate. Despites having all the odds against them, the labor movement and allies led a push to defeat the bill in the House. RAD NH was proud to have contributed strategic field outreach in this NH Labor Movement struggle to defeat Right To Work against all odds

The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA): A grassroots advocacy effort led by Elizabeth Ropp, RAD NH leader and acupuncturist.  The law they won for ear acupuncture to treat addiction allows frontline workers to use ear acupuncture to treat addiction to heroin or fentanyl. Known as auricular acupuncture or acu-detox, this is one treatment that practitioners insist can help recovering addicts deal with the painful symptoms of withdrawal and the accompanying stress.

Freedom NH and the Transgender Organizing & Leadership Development: RAD NH and Freedom NH have been working together to pass comprehensive legislation to protect trans folks from discrimination in the workplace, housing and public accommodations. Although our opponents in the State House tabled our bill in 2017, we’ve built impressive grassroots momentum around the issue and have started a statewide conversation about LGBT+ rights that is unprecedented in New Hampshire’s state history. In 2018, RAD NH and Freedom NH will again be introducing an identical nondiscrimination bill and will be working to pass it during the upcoming legislative session.

New Hampshire Harm Reduction Coalition and the tireless work of Dean Lemire on a grassroots level: for helping hundreds of people get into recovery through an all pathways approach, creating needle exchange programs and providing test kits to test level of Fentanyl. As we struggle for more public health solutions for these epidemics, Dean and the work of the coalition is doing critical work saving and turning lives around in our communities.

National COSH on OSHA, Bureau of Labor Statistics Nominees: Transparency Saves Lives

 Advocates call for “open source” policy on workplace fatalities and renewed action on silica, temp workers

SAN DIEGO: As the U.S. Senate prepares for a hearing on nominees to head the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, safety advocates are calling for the two agencies to boost efforts to save lives in U.S. workplaces by collecting and disseminating full information about on-the-job fatalities.

“Transparency saves lives,” said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH.) “The more we know about how and why workers are dying on the job, the more we can do to prevent future tragedies.”

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) will hold a hearing this coming Tuesday, December 5th at 10:00 am ET to consider the nominations of FedEx safety executive Scott Mugno to serve as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health and William Beach of George Mason University to serve as Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

“Every day, workers are at risk because of hazards that can be controlled and prevented,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, also a co-executive director of National COSH. “It’s time for OSHA and BLS to adopt an open source policy and tell us all they know about workplace fatalities. That includes identifying – and publicizing – what goes wrong when workers lose their lives because employers fail to provide safe working conditions.”

The BLS conducts an annual Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), which publishes aggregate information about worker deaths, but does not includes names of workers, employers or additional details. In 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, BLS identified more than 4,800 fatalities due to traumatic events in U.S. workplaces. U.S. OSHA is responsible for investigating workplace deaths.

National COSH is also urging senators to ask Mugno about his plans to limit worker exposure to silica dust and whether he will continue OSHA’s initiative to offer enhanced protection for temporary and contract workers.

Background on silica:

  • Millions of workers every year are exposed to silica dust, a known carcinogen and primary cause of silicosis – a potentially fatal lung disease. OSHA issued a new safety standard in 2016 that limits exposure to silica dust and will save an estimated 700 lives each year.
  • Industry groups have urged Congress to reverse the new standard, issued after years of careful research, with thousands of pages of testimony from scientists and labor and industry stakeholders. OSHA is currently limiting enforcement of the new standard to those employers not acting in “good faith.”

Questions for Scott Mugno on Silica Dust:

What are his views of this life-saving regulation?
What are his plans to carry out inspections and enforcement?

Background on temporary workers:

  • Temporary workers, who represent about two percent of the U.S. workforce, accounted for 17 percent of fatalities from workplace trauma in 2015.
  • Temp and contract workers often do not receive adequate training and have little or no job security.  These and other factors combine to make temp work more hazardous than permanent, full-time employment.
  • In 2013, OSHA began an initiative to protect temporary workers, holding both host employers and contract agencies responsible for following safety laws, including the duty to provide a safe workplace.
  • In September 2017, Patrick Kapust, OSHA’s deputy director of the Directorate of Enforcement Programs, told the National Safety Council: “We are continuing this initiative. We are trying to get forth that staffing employers and host employers both have joint responsibility for their workplaces.”

Questions for Scott Mugno on Temporary Workers:

Does he support OSHA’s temporary worker initiative?
Will he continue the emphasis on joint responsibility for both host employers and contract agencies?

“Nominations to these crucial positions deserve a rigorous review by the U.S. Senate,” said Martinez, “because so much is at stake for American worker and our families.”

NH Rebellion “Democracy Dinner” With Special Guest Lawrence Lessig

On Thursday, November 30, NH Rebellion will hold a “Democracy Dinner” starting at 5:30 pm at the Lawrence Barn Community Center, 28 Depot Road, Hollis, NH with special guest Lawrence Lessig.

The speaking program will focus on the group’s campaign for a “Civic Dollars” campaign financing system in New Hampshire.

“Open Democracy believes in an equal voice for all,” said Executive Director Olivia Zink. “Through our NH Rebellion campaign, we are working to stop big money in politics, end partisan gerrymandering, protect the right to vote, and more by engaging thousands of Granite Staters in nonpartisan civic involvement.”

In 2018, the group will be supporting “Civic Dollars” legislation with bipartisan support in Concord. A Civic Dollars system would help balance the influence of out-of-state dark money in New Hampshire’s elections. It would also end the so-called “money primary” that keeps qualified candidates from running for office, empower every citizen to fund the candidate(s) of their choice, and encourage voter participation. Maine, Arizona and Connecticut already have this type of system at the state level; and some cities, including Albuquerque, NM, have also passed this kind of election reform.

When enacted, the measure would allow political candidates to opt-in to a “Civic Dollars” system that will limit campaign contributions to $250 per person.  It would also ban out-of-state donors; require quick disclosure of contributions; create a voluntary program for citizen-funded campaign financing through four $25 “civic dollars” issued to registered voters that could be donated to qualified candidates of the voter’s choice; and establish an agency to enforce campaign finance laws.

“We all want our children and the next generation to have a better life and more opportunities than we did. But too many hard-working Granite Staters are just barely scraping by because wealthy donors and special interests have too much power and make the rules.” Zink said. “If we want our children and the next generation to inherit a free and fair New Hampshire, that will take coming together to make our democracy work for all of us.”

NH Rebellion members have walked a total of more than 40,000 miles, continuing the legacy of New Hampshire’s legendary campaign finance reform activist “Granny D.”  The network of more than 33,000 local activists have organized town meetings, circulated petitions, supported legislation and “Asked The Question” hundreds of times to get candidates on the record about their position on campaign reform.

Scholar-activist Lawrence Lessig draws inspiration from the “rebellion clause” of the New Hampshire Constitution, which empowers citizens “to reform the old or establish a new government” when laws serve a privileged few rather than “the common benefit, protection, and security of the whole community.

NH Rebellion is part of Open Democracy, the Concord-based nonpartisan reform organization founded by Granny D. To learn more,  please visit: www.nhrebellion.org.

Some Would-Be Speakers of the NH House Decline to Debate Ethics, House Procedure

Non-partisan candidate forum to be held Saturday at 2pm, at the New England College in Concord

Since the announcement by Speaker of the House Shawn Jasper that he may be stepping down to fill the role of agriculture commissioner, many Republicans have thrown their hats in the ring for House Speaker.  However, while many attended the Freedom Caucus conservative policy-based forum, only a few have agreed to debate other candidates regarding the actual non-partisan role of Speaker, House procedure, or ethics.

In answer to the Freedom Caucus’ forum asking policy questions such as those regarding taxes and abortion, the 55-member NH House Progressive Caucus decided to host a non-partisan candidate forum focusing only on issues of ethics and procedure, with no political questions or litmus tests.

Of the declared candidates, only two Republicans, Rep. James McConnell (North Swanzey), and Rep. Steve Smith (Charlestown) have agreed to participate.

They will be joined by Democratic candidate Stephen Shurtleff (Penacook).

Rep. John Burt (Goffstown), who recently released a letter explaining his walkout at the Freedom Caucus forum, initially had confirmed but cancelled, due to family matters.

Republican candidate Rep. McConnell expressed his enthusiasm for the non-partisan forum, explaining, “I am looking forward to it!  I think it’s important that we take advantage of every opportunity to sit down with members of the House and discuss the matters that should be important to all of us.  It is important to note that this is only the second opportunity we have had to discuss these things publicly.”

Recognizing the importance of the Speaker’s duties, outgoing Speaker Shawn Jasper notes that, “It is critically important that the Speaker of the House be totally impartial in presiding over the House.  Every member deserves the same courtesy as any other.  Maintaining decorum of the House that allows debate to be open and free is a really important job.”

“With all the ethical issues and questionable procedures that have occurred in the House in the last few years, I cannot imagine a more important event for anyone seeking to become Speaker.  We welcome all the candidates and hope that those who aren’t planning to can find a way to attend”, invited Progressive Caucus convener, Rep. Ellen Read.

The House Speaker Candidate Forum Part II – Ethics and Procedure will be held this Saturday, November 18th at 2:00pm, at the New England College, 62 N. Main Street, Concord.  The public is invited to attend, and will have the opportunity to submit questions for the candidates.

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