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UPDATED: More Towns Join In With 30 NH Towns Calling for a Resolution to Overturn Citizens United

We the corporationsStatement of Jonah Minkoff-Zern, Senior Organizer, Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign

Town meeting votes this week confirmed what many already knew: The people of New Hampshire want to free elections from the choke hold that corporations and mega-donors have on our democracy. So far, at 30 town meetings, citizens have passed – most by a vast majority – a warrant calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. More votes are coming; citizens in at least 19 towns vote on resolutions this week and results are still outstanding from towns that have held votes.

Given this clear indication of strong support by the people of New Hampshire, it is time for the state Legislature to follow their lead by passing similar legislation and make New Hampshire the 17th state to call for an amendment to overturn Citizens United. That ruling gave corporations the green light to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections, thereby drowning out the voices of everyday Americans. The influence of corporations and the wealthy was starkly apparent during New Hampshire’s 2012 gubernatorial race, when outside groups spent $19 million – almost five times what the candidates spent themselves.

Polls show the call to overturn Citizens United is popular among a wide swath of New Hampshire residents, no matter their political party. Seventy-two percent of residents have said they oppose the Citizens United ruling, and 69 percent would support a constitutional amendment that limits corporate campaign contributions and spending, according to a University of New Hampshire Survey Center Granite State Poll. Additionally, more than 100 New Hampshire residents recently marched across the state in the dead of winter to show their support for campaign finance reform.

With the voting results, the polls and grassroots organizing, it is crystal clear that the residents of New Hampshire want to join the nationwide movement to stop the flood of money from corporations and the ultra-wealthy into our elections.

For more information about this effort, and to find out how towns voted, visit www.nh4democracy.org.

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UPDATED 3-18-14

Below is an update from Jonah Minkoff-Zern on more towns joining the movement. 

The final tally for the New Hampshire town meeting votes is 47 Passed 12 Defeated and 1 Tabled. Thus, they passed at a 4 to 1 margin. This includes one town council (Newmarket) that voted in favor a few weeks prior. (The complete list is at www.nh4democracy.org)

All the results are in for towns that we are aware of – though it is very possible that there were other votes, as we still learned for 2 more towns not on our initial list from word of mouth over the last week.

More towns will be voting at town meetings that occur later this spring – at least 5 (Chester, Hanover , New London , Peterborough and Sanbornton already have it on their ballot) but likely many more as petition gathering is still occurring, and cities – there also 13 cities that have city council votes that can still bring it to their city council: Berlin, Claremont, Concord, Dover, Franklin, Keene, Laconia, Lebanon, Manchester, Nashua, Portsmouth, Rochester, Somersworth)

The next step is for the New Hampshire Senate to pass SB 307 with amended language that calls for a constitutional amendment – the state legislature should follow the clear will of the people.”

Advocacy Group Pushes For NH Constitutional Change To Overturn Citizens United

Democracy in Motion Speaking Tour Comes to New Hampshire to Rally Support for Constitutional Amendment Against Money in Politics

After the New Hampshire State House Passes a Resolution to Overturn Citizens United, Citizens Organize to Demand That Senate Does Same

The “Democracy in Motion” tour featuring the Coalition for Open Democracy and Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign will visit libraries, churches, parks, law offices and living rooms in nine towns in New Hampshire – New London, Plymouth, Hooksett, Tamworth, Derry, Hanover, Manchester, Concord and Nashua – to mobilize support for a constitutional amendment that would overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. At public forums in the first six towns, a rally in Manchester, a private event at a retirement home in Nashua, and a breakfast for state senators in Concord, organizers will meet with community members and provide guidance to help pass a state resolution protesting the court’s decision, which disregarded a hundred years of legal precedents and made money the corporate equivalent of free speech.

On March 20, in a widely applauded move, the New Hampshire House of Representatives, with bipartisan support, and in a 189-139 vote, passed a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. The bill, House Concurrent Resolution 2, calls on Congress to adopt a constitutional amendment declaring that corporations and other artificial entities are not people with constitutional rights, and that the expenditure of corporate money to influence the electoral process is no longer a form of constitutionally protected speech.

The Democracy in Motion speaking tour will rally local support for a similar resolution to pass in the New Hampshire Senate. Should the effort succeed, New Hampshire will become the 13th state to issue a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

Get more information about the tour at: http://www.democracyisforpeople.org/democracy_in_motion_nh.

New London
When: 10 a.m., Saturday, April 20
Where: New London House Party, 142 Job Seamans Acres, New London
Who: Jonah Minkoff-Zern, senior organizer for the Democracy Is For People campaign
Jane Armstrong, treasurer for the Coalition for Open Democracy

Plymouth (two events)
When: 2 p.m., Saturday, April 20
Where: Peace Public Library, 1 Russell St., Plymouth
Who: Jonah Minkoff-Zern, senior organizer for the Democracy Is For People campaign
Olivia Zink, program director for the Coalition for Open Democracy

When: 5 p.m., Saturday, April 20
Where: The Hebert Room, Hooksett Library, 31 Mount Saint Mary’s Way, Hooksett
Who: Jonah Minkoff-Zern, senior organizer for the Democracy Is For People campaign
Olivia Zink, program director for the Coalition for Open Democracy

When: 12 p.m., Sunday, April 21
Where: Tamworth Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 30 Tamworth Road, Tamworth
Who: Jonah Minkoff-Zern, senior organizer for the Democracy Is For People campaign
New Hampshire State Representative Bob Perry
Dick Pollock, organizer for the Coalition for Open Democracy

When: 4 p.m., Sunday, April 21
Where: Milan Legal, 78 West Broadway, Derry
Who: Jonah Minkoff-Zern, senior organizer for the Democracy Is For People campaign
Olivia Zink, program director for the Coalition for Open Democracy

When: 4 p.m., Monday, April 22
Where: Dartmouth College, Room 3 of the Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College, 2 Webster Ave, Hanover
Who: Jonah Minkoff-Zern, senior organizer for the Democracy Is For People campaign
Contact Mason.L.Cole.13@dartmouth.edu for more details on this event.

When: 7 p.m., Monday, April 22
Where: Veterans Memorial Park, 889 Elm St, Manchester
or in case of rain, the Manchester Main Library, 405 Pine St., Manchester
Who: Jonah Minkoff-Zern, senior organizer for the Democracy Is For People campaign
Olivia Zink, program director for the Coalition for Open Democracy
Hosted by New Hampshire State Representative Jeremy Dobson

This event will have free Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

After Failing To Pass CACR 13, The NH Legislature Introduces It Again As CACR1

If at first you don’t succeed,  try try again.

This is the matra of the NH GOP in the 2013 legislative session.  After the two year battle over Right To Work (for less), former House Speaker Bill O’brien, once again submitted the Right To Work (for less) bill.  That is not the only bill making a comeback this year.

Last November Granite State voters rejected the idea of handcuffing the state budget in voting down CACR 13.

CACR13: [Art.] 5-c. [Income Tax Prohibited.] No new tax shall be levied, directly or indirectly, upon a person’s income, from whatever source it is derived. (1)

The bill would have mandated 3/5 majority to pass any tax or fee increases by the legislature.   Now in the 2013 session we have CACR 1:

[Art.] 5-c. [Increase in Rate of Taxation.] A 3/5 vote of the members present and voting in the house of representatives and the senate shall be required to pass a new tax or license fee or to increase a tax or license fee that has been levied by the state, or to authorize the issuance of State bonds.

I will tell again that this is a bad idea.  This was a bad idea last year, which is why voters rejected it.  I hope that this legislature rejects this amendment before it has the chance to be voed on again.

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We have done a lot of research on CACR 13 and here are a few of the posts we put together in opposition to the Tax Change.

CACR 13 A Tax bill that will ultimately crush New Hampshire

CACR 13: Putting New Hampshire in a Financial Straightjacket

CACR 13: The Amendment To Stop Moving NH Forward



What Happens To Our Public Schools Now, and Update From Bill Duncan of ANHPE

From Bill Duncan,
Advancing NH Public Education

Friends of New Hampshire Public Education,

Well! We have a lot to digest from the election.  In this brief Update, I won’t try to accomplish too much – just get us oriented for the coming session.

The top line is that we elected friends of public education.  The budget challenges have not gone away but the debate this year will about solving problems and strengthening our schools in New Hampshire – and how to pay for that – rather than about dismantling public education.  The assault on public education was only one component of the larger assault on government in all its forms, but it’s fair to say that voters have rejected that.

It’s certainly fair to call Governor-elect Hassan an all-out advocate for public education.  She sees our public education system, including higher education, as the key to our development as a state.  And most of our legislators – new and returning, Republican and Democrat – and are strong supporters as well.  Opposition to public education was one the issues that brought candidates down.  Some of the winners even ran on their opposition to the voucher plan.

In response, we will now call ourselves “Advancing New Hampshire Public Education,” rather than “Defending…”  Updates will be called “ANHPE Updates.”  And we  have a new web site (here) because so much of the “Defending…” site will not be relevant to this year’s legislative debate.  The “Defending…” site will remain up, though, and we’ll refer to it as needed.

The new site is more in a blog format, with more opportunity for interaction.  I’ve listed the pre-filed education bills (here) though many of the old standards like proposals to disband the Department of Education will no longer be relevant.  We’ll weed them out as we go along.

I would not suggest that we have a real agenda for this session at this early stage, but here are some of the points I would make:

The voucher plan
The constitutionality of the voucher bill has not yet been challenged in court but may still be soon.  One bill concerning the voucher plan has been filed by Rep. Peter Sullivan of Manchester (Legislative Services Requiest 2013-H-0190-L).  Since Rep. Sullivan opposed the voucher bill last year, this may be the beginnings of an effort to repeal the voucher plan.  Most defenders of the plan have retired from elected office (Sen. Forsythe) or been defeated (Rep. Hill), so there may not be much of a constituency for this orphan bill in the new Legislature.  In case the voucher plan does survive, I have commented on the proposed regulations, suggesting greater reporting transparency on what happens to the state’s money.

University system funding
Restoring the drastic cuts to UNH and our community college system will be a high priority for the Governor and many legislators.  Finding the money for this will not be easy but restoring cuts to the cigarette tax and the motor vehicle registration surcharge would be a good starting point.

Education funding
Last year’s efforts to eliminate the state obligation to fund public education, to eliminate the fundamental right of our children to an adequate education and to minimize the authority of our courts in education will probably not gain real traction this year.  But the perennial discussion of a constitutional amendment to allow targeting state aid to the neediest communities is bound to come back this year.  It’s a complex subject that even strong supporters of public education disagree about.  In the opinion of many experienced advocates, however, that we do not need a constitutional amendment to target sufficiently.  We will try to promote a constructive solution to this issue this year.

School building aid
The last Legislature essentially opted out of any significant state support for building schools, a severe blow to public education in New Hampshire, especially to any community with a small tax base.  Under the current plan, no real money would be available for years.  This will surely get further discussion this year.

It will take time to address these and other pressing issues like vocational education funding, support for our community colleges and support for early childhood education.  But New Hampshire’s economy and state revenues will probably improve over the next four years, along with the national economy as a whole.  There will be many demands on these expanding revenues but we will advocate for investing a fair proportion in education, for the benefit of the kids and the development of the State.


CACR 26: Bill O’Brien’s Legislative Takeover of the NH Courts

This November, voters will be asked to weigh in on two proposed NH Constitutional amendments.

CACR 13: no new tax on personal income shall be levied by the state of New Hampshire.
(See the NHLN write up on CACR 13)
CACR 26: the legislature and the chief justice of the supreme court shall have concurrent power to make rules governing the administration of all the courts of the state.

In this post I want to talk about CACR 26.

CACR 26 is a complete grab at power by the NH Legislature. The title of the amendment is very deceiving.  To truly understand what they are trying to do, you must look at the changes.

The legislature shall have a concurrent power to regulate the same matters by statute. In the event of a conflict between a statute and a court rule, the statute, if not otherwise contrary to this constitution, shall prevail over the rule.

This is another attempt by the NH Legislature to give themselves power over the courts. They are grasping at any way to have the authority to overrule the courts and ultimately overturn the Claremont Decision.

The Claremont Decision was the landmark case in which the NH Courts decided that the Legislature was not properly funding the schools and children the in town of Claremont were not getting the same education as other students due to a lack of funding.  Ever since this decision, some legislators have been working to overturn this decision and return that power to the Legislature. Education funding will again become a political football.

Even former Governor Steve Merrill said

“The court is not a state agency. It is a branch of government. By the language of the New Hampshire Constitution, the legislative branch is political, the judicial branch is not. We value an independent political branch, and we value an independent judicial branch. Everyone, nevertheless, should be concerned about a legislative takeover of the courts because political control of the judiciary is just not in the public interest.”

The Claremont Decision is not the only court decision that Speaker Bill O’Brien would overturn if he had the power.  The Fosters Daily Democrat reported that Speaker O’Brien is appealing the ruling on the new NH Voter ID law.  O’Brien has criticized the ruling, calling it “judicial activism of the worst sort.”

John T Broderick, former Chief Justice of the NH Supreme Court, understands what Speaker O’Brien is trying to do with CACR 26.

“This proposed amendment represents a step backward. The framers sought to protect the separation of governmental powers because they had lived under regimes that respected no dividing lines, when the Legislature could invade the province of the judiciary for purely partisan reasons or, perhaps, without any reason at all”

We need to ensure that this amendment does not pass or we could have Speaker O’Brien and his Tea Party extremists running two branches of the Government.



CACR 13: The Amendment To Stop Moving NH Forward

On election day Granite Staters will not only make the choice on who will lead us for the next few years, we will also vote on proposed changes to the New Hampshire Constitution.

There are two amendments being offered this year.

CACR 13: no new tax on personal income shall be levied by the state of New Hampshire.

CACR 26: the legislature and the chief justice of the supreme court shall have concurrent power to make rules governing the administration of all the courts of the state.  (More on this in another post.)

CACR 13 seems very simple and it is.  They want to change the New Hampshire Constitution to ban personal income taxes forever. The problem is that we do not know what tomorrow will bring. – and so we don’t know what fiscal options the Legislature may need, tomorrow.

Jackie Cilley ran a great campaign for Governor over the summer, mostly on the fact she refused to take “the (no tax) Pledge”.  She made the case that we have some serious funding issues in New Hampshire, and that our property taxes have risen to the point where people are being forced out of their family homes because they cannot afford their property taxes.  She campaigned saying “we need to look at all options” and that “pledges are handcuffs” to conversations.

Jackie even made national news after she released the “Pledge Zobies” ad.

Jeff McLynch, executive director of the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute, said

“If the amendment passes, it would tie the hands of future legislators and citizens and take their power away to deal with issues and challenges that are not contemplated today”.

While I am not advocating for a new income tax, I am not against the idea that an income or sales tax might – at some time in the future – be beneficial to New Hampshire.

Some members of House Leadership say that it would destroy the “NH Advantage”:

“Look at all the states around New Hampshire — they have an income tax,” Paul Mirski (R-Enfield) said. “New Hampshire is growing in this region because of our reputation as a low-tax state.”

Of course, the NH House Republicans seem to say that anything and everything will boost the NH Advantage.  Jack Kimball, chairman of the NH GOP said the same thing about the passage of Right To Work (for less).

“I commend the House and Senate for working together on Right to Work to ensure that New Hampshire’s economy will flourish while promoting job creation, competition and free market principles. If Governor Lynch believes in jobs for New Hampshire, he should sign this bill immediately.

Every candidate from State Rep to President is talking about how we need to make policy changes to protect our children and our grandchildren.  I agree we need to protect our children, and to do that we must oppose this amendment — because we cannot predict the future.  We must insure that when that time comes we have all the tools necessary to move New Hampshire forward.


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