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Granite State Progress Calls on Governor Sununu, Majority Leader Hinch to Name At Least 5 Businesses That Will Move to NH If Right to Work Passes

CONCORD, NH – Granite State Progress is calling on Governor Chris Sununu and House Republican Majority Leader Dick Hinch to name at least five businesses that will move to New Hampshire if so-called Right to Work passes. Both politicians made statements during last week’s inauguration and interviews that passing Right to Work is important for business development and that businesses will move to the state upon passage. However, when media outlets questioned NH Speaker Bill O’Brien over the same claim in 2011 he was unable to name even a single business. Instead, both NH’s Commissioner of Labor and NH’s Commissioner of Resources and Economic Development at the time confirmed that not a single business had asked about the legislation:

Union Leader, Businesses are not asking for the right-to-work bill by George Copadis, NH Commissioner of Labor: “Not once has the topic of right-to-work ever come up in all of [their] discussions with New Hampshire businesses and prospective businesses.” [5.24.11]

“Right to Work is wrong for working families and its wrong for New Hampshire,” said Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins. “This is nothing more than an attempt to undermine workers’ rights and create another hurdle for working families to come together to negotiate for good jobs with reasonable wages and benefits, job safety, and job training. The politicians and special interest backers pushing this policy should instead support raising wages, end off-shoring of our jobs, and pass family-friendly workplace policies that respect the contributions workers bring to increasing profits in our country.”

Senate Bill 11, this year’s version of so-called Right to Work, is up for a public hearing on Tuesday, January 10th at 1:00 pm in Representatives Hall in Concord. Granite State Progress is publicly calling on Governor Sununu and Majority Leader Hinch to release a list of the companies they purport will bring jobs to New Hampshire if the state passes legislation that hurts working families.

Convicted Domestic Abuser Placed In Leadership Of NH House Committe That Oversees DV Laws

GOP Lawmaker Convicted of Domestic Violence Named Vice Chair of NH House Committee That Oversees DV Laws 

Rep. Frank Sapereto (R-Derry) was convicted of simple assault in 2013 and has twice sponsored legislation to weaken New Hampshire’s simple assault laws

Concord, NH – Convicted GOP lawmaker Frank Sapereto (R-Derry) was named the Vice Chair of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee yesterday afternoon. The committee hears all domestic violence and sexual assault legislation; Rep. Sapereto was convicted of simple assault in 2013 and has twice attempted to weaken New Hampshire’s simple assault laws, in 2013 and 2014. 

“An individual convicted of domestic violence should not hold a leadership position on the very committee that will determine domestic violence laws in our state,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress. “In addition to his own conviction, Rep. Sapareto has twice sponsored legislation to weaken New Hampshire’s simple assault law, even though domestic violence advocates and law enforcement have repeatedly warned that doing so would empower bullies and abusers. This appointment also raises serious questions about how comfortable domestic violence survivors will be participating in committee hearings under his leadership.” 

“I’m very disappointed in this decision by the Speaker,” said Raymond Buckley, Chair of the NH Democratic Party. “Appointing someone with a criminal record to chair the Criminal Justice committee would be inappropriate in any circumstances, but to do it in exchange for an endorsement is reprehensible.”

In 2013, now-former State Rep. Mark Warden (R-Goffstown) spoke in support of Sapareto’s bill to weaken simple assault laws, stating that “a lot of people like being in abusive relationships” and “are always free to leave.” In a media interview that same year, Sapareto stated that the state court system had handled 8,417 misdemeanor assault cases the previous year and that his bill made sense because no one was seriously hurt in at least half of those cases. WCAX reported that House Speaker Shawn Jasper “says he offered Sapareto the job to win his backing for the speakership, which Sapareto also sought.”

According to the most recent report from the Governor’s Commission on Domestic and Sexual Abuse Domestic Violence, domestic violence was a causal factor in 83% of the murder/suicides in New Hampshire during the 2014-2015 biennium. 


Related Reading:

  • Russman Law, NH Considers a Bill to Reduce Simple Assault from a Misdemeanor to a Violation, October 29, 2013
  • Eagle Tribune, Derry lawmaker fights assault conviction, April 12, 2013
  • HuffPo, Mark Warden, New Hampshire State Legislator, Says People May Like ‘Being In Abusive Relationships’, February 27, 2013 (includes Concord Monitor story and Granite State Progress video)
  • WCAX, Rep convicted of misdemeanor given top criminal justice post, December 20, 2016
  • Governor’s Commission on Domestic and Sexual Abuse Domestic Violence Fatality Review Committee’s 11th Report, September 2016

New Poll Shows Gun Violence Prevention is Key Issue for NH Voters; Most State House Candidates Have a Record on Background Checks

On Friday, the Center for American Progress Action Fund released new polling, conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP), of voters in Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In the six battleground states, voters across the aisle expressed strong support for commonsense gun safety legislation, finding that candidates who endorse these policies are set to perform well on Election Day.

nh-ayotte-background-checks-pollIn New Hampshire, 42% of likely voters were LESS likely to vote for Kelly Ayotte because of her opposition to comprehensive background checks on gun sales. Only 14% were more likely to vote for Ayotte because of her position. Additionally, the poll found strong support from Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike for a number of gun violence prevention policies, and also that voters are more likely to vote for state legislators who support expanded background checks.

Of the 705 State House candidates on the ballot tomorrow, 307 of them already have a vote record on background checks. Granite State Progress compiled those votes from the past two legislative sessions and matched them with this year’s State House candidate list — take a look and see whether your State House candidates side with the gun lobby like U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, or with the overwhelming majority of Granite Staters who support common sense gun violence prevention.

GSP Brief: NH State House Candidates on Background Checks, 2016

GSP Brief: NH State House Candidates on Background Checks, 2016

 

 

Granite State Progress Releases List of 30+ Free State Project Candidates Running for State Legislature

Free State Project members running for political office often hide or deny their FSP affiliation; Granite State Progress’ Free State Project Watch exposes those connections

Concord, NH – Granite State Progress released a list of more than 30 Free State Project members running for the New Hampshire state legislature, including two State Senate candidates and dozens of House candidates.

“Granite State Progress has been tracking the Free State Project and its influence since 2008, paying particular attention to Free Stater activity in elections and legislation,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress. “Free State Project members running for political office often hide or deny their FSP affiliation from voters and downplay their extreme beliefs when asked. To challenge this, Granite State Progress researches and compiles a list of Free State Project candidates running for office so voters know about the extreme affiliation of those candidates.”

New Hampshire’s role started more than a decade ago when the ultra-extreme Free State Project voted on a state to move 20,000 libertarians to with the stated purpose to take over state government and dismantle it, and New Hampshire was the unlucky recipient of that vote. The Free State Project seeks to create a libertarian “utopia” void of public infrastructure and common laws, and to use their numbers to dramatically change New Hampshire. The Free State Project even threatens to secede from the rest of the country once it meets its initial goals:

“Once we’ve taken over the state government, we can slash state and local budgets, which make up a sizeable proportion of the tax and regulatory burden we face every day. Furthermore, we can eliminate substantial federal interference by refusing to take highway funds and the strings attached to them. Once we’ve accomplished these things, we can bargain with the national government over reducing the role of the national government in our state. We can use the threat of secession as leverage to do this.” – Announcement:
The Free State Project by Founder Jason Sorens

To date, the Free State Project has recruited more than 20,000 people to sign the pledge to move to New Hampshire, hitting their goal to “Trigger the Move” – all those who signed up are supposed to start moving once the agreed upon goal was met. More than 2,015 people have already moved.

“Free State Project members sign a pledge to move to New Hampshire and work to change the way of life in our state. They do not move here for a job, or for family, or even because they like what New Hampshire has to offer. Instead, they move here because a political group they are affiliated with voted on a state to move to and take over, and New Hampshire is the unlucky recipient of that vote,” Rice Hawkins said. “It is not surprising that so many Free Staters run for public office. Free State Project members uproot their families and move to New Hampshire purely to enact a political agenda, and running for office only further helps them reach that goal. Local communities who have dealt with them first-hand know how extreme their ideology can be, and that’s why we’ve seen push back from both Republicans and Democrats to expose them.”

The Free State Project candidate list is part of the Free State Project Watch of Granite State Progress, and can be found online at https://freestateprojectwatch.org/. The website includes the candidate list as well as individual candidate profiles.

Granite State Progress released similar candidate lists in 2012 and 2014. Members of the media and public are encouraged to ask FSP candidates whether they disclose their Free State Project affiliation in campaign materials and if not, why.

New Report Shows Senator Ayotte’s Office Is Worse Than National Average On Pay Equity

Women Earned Only 66 Cents for Every Dollar Men Earned in U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte’s Office, According to New Report

 In contrast, Governor Maggie Hassan and Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s offices are exemplars of equal treatment 

CONCORD, NH – A new report by Granite State Progress shows that women earned only 66 cents for every dollar men earned in U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte’s office. In contrast, women in Governor Maggie Hassan and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s offices earned exactly or close to a dollar for every dollar men earned in years reviewed. Women also serve in several leadership roles in the offices of Hassan and Shaheen’s offices, while the majority of Ayotte’s top paid staff members year after year are men. Key findings from the report:

Women earned only 66 cents for every dollar men earned in Kelly Ayotte’s Senate office – and even earned less than their male counterparts with the exact same job title. 

  • Women earned an average of $50,060.46 from 2012-2015, whereas men for the same period earned an average of $75,703.52.
  • Women working for Sen. Ayotte have only fared worse the longer she has been in office; in FY 2012, Senator Ayotte’s first full year in office, women earned 72 cents for every dollar men earned.
  • This pay gap exists at all levels in the Senator’s office: In FY 2015, a female with the title of Staff Assistant earned $18,183.19 annually, whereas a male with the same title earned $32,360.96 annually – nearly twice as much as a woman with the same job title. In FY 2013, a male with the title of Legislative Assistant (LA) earned $79,999.92 annually, whereas a female LA that same year earned only $60,000 – a 33 percent pay gap, or 75 cents for every dollar the male LA makes.
  • Senator Ayotte consistently employs men for the most senior roles in her office. In all years but one, the four highest paid employees in her office have been men. Women are consistently underrepresented in her office. 

In contrast, women fare much better under U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen.

  • Women earned an average of $61,530.91 from 2012-15, whereas men for the same period earned an average of $61,131.15 –  virtually no pay gap at all.
  • Women are also well-represented in senior roles in Senator Shaheen’s office; in every year reviewed, women held at least 2 of the 4 highest paid positions in the Senator’s office.

Governor Maggie Hassan – a vocal proponent of equal pay and signer of the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act – also has women well-represented in senior roles and virtually no pay gap in her office. 

  • Women who worked for Governor Hassan earned an average of $38,295.14 from 2013-15, whereas men for the same period earned an average of $38,313.74 – virtually no pay gap at all.
  • Women are also well-represented in senior roles in Governor Hassan’s office; in every year reviewed, women held at least 2 or 3 of the 4 highest paid positions in the Governor’s office.

The data on Senator Shaheen and Ayotte came from Legistorm, which collects publicly available data, and only those employed for a full fiscal year were included in this analysis. The data on Governor Maggie Hassan was gleaned from publicly available information by calendar year, without any indication as to if the person was employed for the full or partial year. 

The staff salary differences reflect the legislative record of each of the public officials: Senator Shaheen and Governor Hassan are strong proponents of equal pay, with Hassan signing the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act into law in 2014 and regularly issuing Equal Pay Day proclamations. Meanwhile, Senator Ayotte voted against the federal Paycheck Fairness Act – a bill that would strengthen federal equal pay laws, and protect employees who speak up about unequal pay – four times.

Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins:

“Women have made great strides in achieving success in the workplace, breaking through multiple glass ceilings to get there and achieving parity in many ways. However, women today still face a wage gap that hurts their families in the form of lower salaries, decreased benefits, and smaller retirements. In 2015, women, on average, earned just 79 cents for every dollar men earned, and that pay disparity is even worse for women of color. For mothers, of whom 40 percent are the sole or primary breadwinner in their family, a mother earns only 71 cents for every dollar fathers earn. 

“The wage gap is impacted by the many discriminatory barriers to equal pay—including lower pay for women in the same job, the segregation of women into lower-paying jobs, bias against women with caregiving responsibilities, and lack of workplace policies to allow workers to care for families without paying a stiff economic penalty. On the issue of equal pay for equal work, Senator Kelly Ayotte claims she supports fair workplaces, and that she’s even “leading common sense efforts” on this issue. However, Senator Ayotte voted against the federal Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would strengthen federal equal pay laws, and protect employees who speak up about unequal pay, four times. Not only did Kelly Ayotte vote against the very measure she publicly claims to support, she has consistently paid men more than women in her own Senate office. The pay gap in Senator Ayotte’s office is even worse than the national gender wage gap. Senator Ayotte needs to square her public position with her own practices, and even more importantly, with her votes in the United States Senate to pay women a fair wage.” 

The full report and data is attached. Granite State Progress has worked on several efforts related to equal pay over the years, including toward successful passage of the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act in 2014 and most recently working with several New Hampshire businesses to offer women discounts on Equal Pay Day to highlight the pay gap and generate public awareness. In each instance, Granite State Progress has called on Congress – and in particular, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte – to pass the federal Paycheck Fairness Act in support of New Hampshire families.

Granite State Progress report on Senator Kelly Ayotte:

GSP-Research-Brief-Gender-Wage-Analysis-in-Office-of-U.S.-Senator-Kelly-Ayotte-October-2016

 

Granite State Progress report on Governor Maggie Hassan:

GSP-Research-Brief-Gender-Wage-Analysis-in-Office-of-Governor-Maggie-Hassan-October-2016

 

Granite State Progress report on Senator Jeanne Shaheen:

GSP-Research-Brief-Gender-Wage-Analysis-in-Office-of-U.S.-Senator-Jeanne-Shaheen-October-2016

State Senate Candidate Joe Duarte Questioned Whether a Female Applicant for a Town Committee Could Fulfill Responsibilities Because She is a Mother

In 2007, Duarte participated in a discussion about whether a woman – who was the only candidate for a Zoning Board of Adjustments alternate position – could dedicate the necessary time because she is a mother

Joe Duarte

Joe Duarte

Concord, NH – During a Candia Selectman meeting on April 23, 2007, several selectmen – including Senate District 16 candidate Joe Duarte – debated whether an applicant for a vacant zoning board of adjustments alternate position could dedicate the necessary time to the position because she was the mother of a young child.

The applicant, Amanda Soares, was the only person to apply for the position. While some public officials in the room stated that the applicant’s personal family commitments weren’t up to the board to comment on – and that the question would likely not come up for a male applicant – Duarte persisted:

“Selectman Lazott stated he did not want to stretch her too thin. Selectman Duarte stated he was not on with the ZBA appointment because she was just appointed to the Planning Board as an alternate. Selectman Brennan stated he did not think the appointment was a big deal pointing out that he holds a full-time job and serves on many Boards and Committees. One Selectman noted that Selectman Brennan did not have a family and this requestor does.

Selectman Giffen reiterated that Mrs. Soares was extremely capable and that the ZBA meetings were typically short. Selectman Giffen advised he would not want to turn any volunteers down. Tax Collector Sanders mentioned she was aware that Mrs. Soares no longer had a daily commute to Massachusetts. Road Agent Lewis stated some months the ZBA does not meet. Selectman Giffen motioned to appoint Amanda Soares to the Zoning Board as an alternate member. Seconded by Selectman Brennan. Chairman Kelley stated he was still deciding because he was not sure about her time considering she has a small child. Selectman Brennan said the Board should let her make her own decisions regarding her time. Selectman Duarte stated attendance for two alternates for the Planning Board last year was poor and both had families. Ingrid Byrd of Depot Road wondered if the Board would be having the family discussion if the applicant was a man … Selectman Giffen mentioned that Mrs. Soares had perfect attendance when she was on the Solid Waste Committee and Conservation Commission. (Candia Selectmen, Approved Candia Selectmen’s Public Meeting Minutes, April 23, 2007)

The vote was postponed, but during the same meeting Duarte seconded a motion to approve two men for a town committee with no discussion of whether they have domestic responsibilities at home.

“Selectman Giffen to make recommendations on members for a Town of Candia Website Committee: Selectman Giffen advised public notice was placed in the paper for Public Meeting held on 4/19/07 for the purpose of establishing a website Committee. Selectman Giffen stated only two individuals showed up to volunteer. Selectman Giffen motioned to appoint Joe Miele and Larry Twitchell as members of the Town’s website committee with one-year terms, term to expire 4/23/08 effective today’s date. Seconded by Selectman Duarte. All in favor. Motion carried.” (Candia Selectmen, Approved Candia Selectmen’s Public Meeting Minutes, April 23, 2007)

In a follow-up meeting about the appointment, Duarte directly questioned the female applicant about her “full agenda” including other time commitments. Soares responded by saying her husband could be home to run the household in the evenings.

Selectman Duarte noted Mrs. Soares had a full agenda and asked her if she had enough time to devote to another Board. Mrs. Soares stated most of the meetings were held in the evenings when her husband is home and able to maintain the household … ZBA Chair Boyd Chivers pointed out that Mrs. Soares was the only person who expressed interest and did not know how the Board could turn her down. Secretary Chabot verified an advertisement was run for the position and Mrs. Soares was the only interested party. Selectman Giffen moved to accept the recommendation of the ZBA for the appointment of Amanda Soares as an alternate member with a term to expire on 10/28/08. Selectmen Lazott and Duarte indicated they were opposed. ZBA Chair Chivers noted the ZBA unanimously recommended her appointment.” (Candia Selectmen, Approved Candia Selectmen’s Public Meeting Minutes, May 14, 2007)

Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins:

“It appears Joe Duarte judges women based on his own personal opinion of what her domestic roles and responsibilities should be, rather than letting a woman decide for herself. While other public officials pushed back, Duarte persisted in making this an issue of a woman’s assumed role in a household and at no time raised concerns about the sexist nature of the conversation. In fact, he asserted that it was relevant despite the candidate’s demonstrated commitment to other town committees and the fact that she was the only applicant for the position. Duarte, himself, was serving on multiple committees at the time.”

This is not the only time Duarte has stood in the way of women. In 2014 Duarte voted against the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act, an act to ensure women receive equal pay for an equal day’s work; and in 2012 he voted to allow any employer to deny coverage for contraception based on the employer’s own personal beliefs. (SB207, Roll Call #235, 5/14/2014; HB1546, Roll Call #117, 3/7/2012) Duarte also endorsed Donald Trump for President.

Note: Soares later went on to successfully complete 5 years of service on the Candia Board of Selectmen. She resigned in early 2015 when her family moved out of the area. (Candia Selectman, Candia’s Selectmen’s Public Meeting Minutes, 1.12.15)

Granite State Progress is a progressive advocacy organization that addresses issues of immediate state and local concern. Granite State Progress works as a communications hub for the progressive community to provide a strong, credible voice in advancing progressive solutions to critical community problems.

For Three Years, Ayotte Refused to Meet with Gun Violence Prevention Advocates In-State, So Two of Them Flew to Washington DC to Talk with Her

NH advocate, gun violence survivor attend “Coffee with Kelly” in Washington DC, ask Ayotte to meet with constituents about gun violence prevention; Meeting took place just one day before NH voters barred from Ayotte campaign town hall for wearing gun violence prevention t-shirts

WASHINGTON, DC – Gun violence survivor Clai Lasher-Sommers of Westmoreland and gun violence prevention advocate Sonia Prince of Nashua flew to Washington, DC last Thursday to attend U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte’s weekly constituent ‘Coffee with Kelly’ after Ayotte has refused to meet with gun violence prevention advocates in New Hampshire despite several requests over the last three years.

“Senator Ayotte sided with the gun lobby over the 89 percent of her constituents who support common sense background checks, and she’s avoided meetings about it ever since,” said Prince, a mother of three whose children attend school in the same district as Ayotte’s own children. “I told her that every time I buzz into the school I think of mass shootings, and that it’s sad our children are coming home concerned because they did a shooting drill at school. We need to take action to end gun violence.”

Lasher-Sommers, a gun violence survivor who was shot in the back when she was just 13 years old and who has become an outspoken advocate on gun violence prevention, talked to Ayotte about her personal experience and the need to close the background checks loophole and the terror gap.

“This is the second time I’ve been in Washington DC to meet with Senator Ayotte during a Coffee with Kelly this year,” said Lasher-Sommers. “It was the first time I felt that she really listened, although she did not make any commitments regarding future votes or conversations. I delivered a letter from Granite State Progress and other organizations asking the Senator to host a gun violence prevention town hall – a request that has been made for the past three years and echoed by many of her constituents – and offered my assistance in pulling it together. The public is ahead of politicians on gun violence prevention measures, and Senator Ayotte needs to sit down and hear directly from her constituents even if they do not have the time or funds to travel to Washington, DC.”

Lasher-Sommers and Prince said the meeting was a cordial one. The women are members of Granite State Progress and several other organizations working to reduce gun violence. The letter they delivered is a request for Ayotte to host a town hall specifically on gun violence prevention; Granite State Progress first issued the call on April 30, 2013 after Ayotte hosted three poorly publicized town halls where moderators such as former Congressman and current State Senator Jeb Bradley publicly admitted to screening out questions regarding Sen. Ayotte’s vote against background checks and the 89% of her constituents who support them. Granite State Progress, OFA-NH, Project for Safer Communities, and other organizations have re-issued the call during August Congressional recesses since then, and Granite State Progress members additionally host periodic coffee sit-ins in the Senator’s district offices to highlight her absence and remind her of the meeting request. Americans for Responsible Solutions and the Brady Campaign joined in the call for a town hall this year. For 3 years, 4 months, and 15 days, Ayotte has refused and additionally has avoided constituents’ requests for meetings on gun violence prevention.

On Friday, New Hampshire voters were barred from an Ayotte campaign town hall because they were wearing t-shirts promoting gun violence prevention.

moms-demand-action

Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins: “Ayotte’s constituents shouldn’t have to fly to Washington, DC to talk with her about issues of national concern. We appreciate her new support to help close the terror gap just months after voting against it, but if Ayotte wants us to truly believe that she is interested in gun violence prevention and not just election year posturing she can prove it by accepting our invitation to meet with survivors of gun violence and the family members of victims, advocates, faith leaders, law enforcement officials, mental health advocates, and responsible gun owners.”

Activists Deliver Beach Balls To Senator Ayotte: Time To Do Your Job

SCOTUS Beach Ball Action, Sen. Ayotte Office Desk Filled, 8.31.16Beach Ball Delivery to U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte: Summer’s Over, Time to #DoYourJob and Fill the U.S. Supreme Court Vacancy 

PORTSMOUTH, NH – The Why Courts Matter New Hampshire coalition – including Granite State Progress and People For the American Way – delivered eight beach balls and ninth deflated one to U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte’s office today with a message to get back to work and #DoYourJob.

“Congressional recess – summer break – is coming to a close and it’s time for Senator Ayotte to do her job and fill the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress. “A full 60 percent of New Hampshire constituents oppose the decision of Senator Ayotte and Senate Republican leaders to not hold confirmation hearings and an up-or-down vote. People are tired of Senator Ayotte playing politics with the Constitution by refusing to consider the President’s nominee to the Supreme Court.”

President Obama nominated Chief Judge Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created earlier this year by Justice Scalia’s passing, but Ayotte and the Republican-led Senate refuse to hold a timely hearing and confirmation vote. Ayotte and her colleagues now hold the record for the longest number of days from nomination to confirmation in SCOTUS history, continuing their pattern of partisan obstruction for judicial confirmations in general.

“Senator Ayotte tries hard to brand herself as independent and bipartisan, but her continued obstruction around the U.S. Supreme Court nominee shows otherwise,” said Linds Jakows, New Hampshire Campaign Organizer with progressive advocacy group People For the American Way. “Merrick Garland has received the highest possible rating from the American Bar Association and has waited longer for a hearing than any nominee. Senate Republicans refusing to do their jobs and leaving the Supreme Court to operate with just eight justices means the Supreme Court is unable to do its job. Because of Republican obstruction, the Supreme Court finished this year’s term with a 4-4 tie on some of the most important issues to reach the court in recent years, denying justice to millions of our families and neighbors in the process.” 

The organizations delivered beach balls taped with headlines and editorials from across the state calling on Ayotte to stop obstructing the Supreme Court nominee, and with the message #DoYourJob when she returns to Washington, DC from Congressional summer recess next week.

Granite State Progress Renews Call For Ayotte To Host Town Hall On Gun Violence Prevention

Over 1,000 Days and Counting: Advocates Renew Call for Sen. Ayotte to Host Town Hall Specifically on Gun Violence Prevention 

It’s been 3 years since Sen. Ayotte voted against criminal background checks and 1,220 days since she first refused to meet with New Hampshire gun violence prevention advocates 

CONCORD, NH – Gun violence prevention advocates are renewing the call for U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte to host a town hall or forum specifically dedicated to the pressing issue of reducing gun violence. It’s been 1,220 days since the request was first issued and Senator Ayotte’s office has still refused to sit down and meet.

“Constituents have made phone calls, sent letters, signed petitions, and invited the Senator to their homes for dinner, but Senator Ayotte has repeatedly denied meeting requests from gun violence prevention advocates ever since she voted against background checks and the 89 percent of her constituents who support them,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director, Granite State Progress. “We renew our call for Senator Ayotte to host a town hall solely focused on gun violence prevention. In the three years since Senator Ayotte voted against common sense background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, domestic abusers, and the seriously mentally ill, more shootings and more national tragedies have occurred. Senator Ayotte needs to stop hiding behind NRA lobby talking points and meet directly with her constituents. She has a responsibility as a U.S. Senator to participate in open town halls on these important topics instead of cherry-picking the issues she wants to discuss.”

In a letter to Senator Ayotte, Granite State Progress renewed its call for a town hall on gun violence prevention that would include participation from survivors of gun violence and the family members of victims, in addition to gun violence prevention advocates, faith leaders, law enforcement officials, mental health advocates, and responsible gun owners. Members of the organization are being asked to contact the Senator and call on her to engage in a community conversation about how we can work together to protect more children and families. 

Background: In April 2013, Senator Ayotte voted against the Manchin-Toomey background check bill – the only bill that would have required background checks for commercial gun sales and improved the background check system. Instead, Senator Ayotte voted for an amendment created by the gun lobby and sponsored by Senators Chuck Grassley and Ted Cruz that would actually weaken the system and put more guns in the hands of the seriously mentally ill. Ayotte’s public approval ratings plummeted after her vote.

Granite State Progress first issued the call for a town hall specifically on gun violence prevention on April 30, 2013 after Ayotte hosted three poorly publicized town halls where moderators such as former Congressman and current State Senator Jeb Bradley publicly admitted to screening out questions regarding Sen. Ayotte’s vote against background checks and the 89% of her constituents who support them. Granite State Progress, OFA-NH, Project for Safer Communities, and other organizations have re-issued the call during August Congressional recesses since then, and Granite State Progress members additionally host periodic coffee sit-ins in the Senator’s district offices to highlight her absence and remind her of the meeting request. Americans for Responsible Solutions and the Brady Campaign are joining in the call for a town hall this year. In August 2013, Sen. Ayotte responded with a generic form letter stating she would hold general town halls later in the year – but for 3 years, 4 months, and 2 days has ignored constituent requests for a conversation on gun violence prevention.

In contrast, during the national health reform debate in the Summer of ‘09, the New Hampshire Congressional Delegation held town halls specifically focused on the pending health care reform legislation – also an issue of national debate and interest.

NH Health Protection Program, aka NH Medicaid Expansion, Moves Forward After Key Vote

Yesterday, the New Hampshire House of Representatives Finance Committee, by a bipartisan 18-8 margin, approved HB 1696, which would reauthorize the New Hampshire Health Protection Program through December 2018.

“It is clear that our bipartisan New Hampshire Health Protection Program is getting results for our people and businesses and boosting our economy, while also strengthening our efforts to combat the heroin and opioid crisis and help save lives. The House Finance Committee’s vote is another step forward, and I will continue to work with members of both parties to reauthorize this critical program,” state Governor Maggie Hassan.

“We applaud the House Finance Committee vote in favor of reauthorizing the New Hampshire Health Protection Program,” said Zandra Rice-Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress. “The legislators who cast a vote in favor of the legislation are taking a much needed step forward to ensure that the nearly 48,000 Granite Staters currently on the program can continue to have affordable access to preventative and primary care in New Hampshire.”

“At the same time, we ask those few politicians who voted against New Hampshire families to recall the stories of hardworking small business owners who can’t afford health care coverage, and of mothers who are thankful to finally be able to see a doctor about health concerns so that they can be there for their children for years to come, and to reconsider whose side they stand on,” added Rice-Hawkins.

New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute Executive Director Jeff McLynch applauded the committee’s decision.

“Today’s vote by the House Finance Committee represents another positive step toward reauthorizing the program for two more years and continuing a successful, unique, and bipartisan approach to promoting health security and fostering economic growth.”

“Many of the Granite Staters who take part in the Health Protection Program work in jobs that are low-paid, but that help keep the New Hampshire economy moving. They provide care to children and to the elderly, build roads and bridges, and staff restaurants and hotels in communities across the state,” added McLynch.

Reauthorizing the NHHPP will also help address the growing opioid addiction problem plaguing our state.

“The program would continue health insurance coverage for nearly 48,000 Granite Staters. Approximately 6,700 of those individuals will likely access treatment services for substance use disorders,” said Linda Saunders Paquette, Executive Director of New Futures. “The New Hampshire Health Protection Program is the single-most important tool NH has to address its drug and alcohol crisis.”

“New Hampshire had the third highest rate of drug induced deaths per capita (100,000 residents) in the United States in 2014. According to an October 2015 poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire, Granite Staters view the opioid crisis as the number one issue facing our state, added Saunders Paquette.

“New Futures’ advocates will be the first to tell you that access to treatment and recovery services are critical to someone physiologically snared by heroin. On behalf of our constituents, New Futures applauds the House Finance Committee for supporting a practical and bipartisan response to our drug and alcohol epidemic,” concluded Saunders Paquette.

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