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Election Bill Creating Poll Tax, Residency Requirements Passes House Election Law Committee

SB179 would penalize New Hampshire voters
rather than improve elections

Concord, NH – Today the House Election Law Committee passed an elections bill along party lines (11-8) that creates unnecessary hurdles for New Hampshire voters by instituting an arbitrary vehicle registration “poll tax” and a 30-day residency requirement. The key features of SB 179, which also passed along party lines in the state Senate earlier this month (14-10), are likely unconstitutional at both the state and federal level.

The House Election Law Committee amended SB 179 to require voters to obtain a driver’s license and register their car in New Hampshire – a change that has no clear connection to maintaining the integrity of elections. New Hampshire’s constitution clearly states that “all elections are to be free,” and this amendment acts as a poll tax by charging engaged Granite Staters vehicle registration fees in order to vote.

Furthermore, SB 179 falls short of meeting the standards set in the United States Supreme Court case Dunn vs. Blumstein, which permitted up to a 30-day registration requirement in states that need it for administrative purposes. Given that New Hampshire is a same-day registration state, there is no compelling argument that the state’s election administration officials need the additional time.

“The sponsors of this legislation claim these restrictions will somehow stop voter fraud, but the proposed changes would penalize New Hampshire voters rather than help our elections,” explained League of Women Voters New Hampshire Election Law Specialist Joan Flood Ashwell. “There are many ways for voters to confirm their identity without forcing them to pay vehicle registration fees, and there are many ways to ensure they live in our state without a 30-day residency requirement. We can’t deny eligible voters the right to vote here in New Hampshire.”

Despite all evidence to the contrary, politicians continue to push restrictive election laws based on a false narrative of ‘phantom’ voters. New Hampshire attorney general investigations and a national Washington Post investigation** found that in-person voter impersonation and registration fraud is virtually non-existent.

America Votes-New Hampshire State Director Paula Hodges said, “SB 179 is one of more than a dozen dangerous bills proposed by radical lawmakers that would deter voters and undermine New Hampshire’s long-held tradition of streamlining voting. The various proposed bills range from eliminating same-day registration, to creating new inter-state cross-check programs that could purge thousands of eligible voters from the rolls. It’s clear these politicians are trying to influence elections by discouraging voters, and that’s wrong.”

“We urge the governor to veto SB 179 should it pass both chambers this year,” Hodges added.

Granite State Rumblings: Building A New Hampshire Budget And Looking Deeper At Proposed Cuts

Last week we took a look at the federal budget process. This week let’s look at the state process.

The NH State Budget Process
The budget process is the arena in which public priorities are articulated and debated and ultimately where important choices are made by your elected officials. The budget process is a balancing act in which the “separate but equal” branches of government struggle with one another based upon the checks and balances established by the State Constitution.

The budget is often mistaken for an expenditure plan. It is, however, a plan to meet the public’s needs and priorities. There are two separate types of budgets: the Operating Budget and the Capital Budget.

  • The Operating Budget consists of current expenditures required to satisfy a particular mission and/or mandated purpose during the current fiscal year.
  • The Capital Budget provides for the state’s major long-term capital investments; such as, office buildings and prisons.

The state of New Hampshire’s budget is organized and controlled by RSA:9.  Although the Legislature meets yearly, New Hampshire continues to prepare its operating budget in two-year cycles called bienniums with the fiscal year running from July 1 to June 30. The “Biennial Budget.” consists of two annual or fiscal year budgets, numbered for the calendar year in which it ends.

New Hampshire’s Three Operating Budget Development Phases

Agency Phase
The Operating Budget process begins with the preliminary planning process by the state agencies. State agencies are required under RSA 9:4 to prepare a budget for the upcoming biennium. Often referred to as the “Agency Budget Request”, this includes a level of funding to provide the same level of services in the upcoming biennium, as well as any proposed new programs or other changes. From the beginning of August through September 30, the Agency Phase of the budget process is implemented. On October 1, the Agency Phase ends with the agency requests being submitted to the Department of Administrative Services’ Budget Office.

To view the latest completed Agency Phase requests for state agencies, use the following link for fiscal years 2016-2017: DAS Budget Office

Governor’s Phase
The second phase of the budget process is the Governor’s Phase. In November, the Governor holds hearings where state agencies explain their
Agency Budget Request. During this phase, the Governor reviews the agencies requests and compiles his/her recommendations which will be known as the Governor’s Recommended Budget. The Governor’s recommended budget is typically introduced as House Bills 1 and 2.

The Governor is required to submit a recommended budget to the Legislature for their consideration by February 15th.

To view the latest completed Governor’s Recommended Budget for the fiscal years 2016-2017 biennium, use the following link: DAS Governor Budget

Legislative Phase
The Legislative Phase of the budget process begins on February 15 and ends on June 30 of the odd numbered year.

The budget bills, HB1 (operating budget) and HB2 (“trailer bill”), are first referred to the House Finance Committee. The Committee splits into three “divisions”, each with assigned budget categories, to ultimately craft amendments to HB1 and HB2 for the full Committee and the House to consider and act upon.

Once the House has acted upon HB1 and HB2, the bills are referred to the Senate Finance Committee. The Committee considers changes to the House passed HB1 and HB2 and proposes its final recommendation on the two bills to the full Senate for action.
When the Senate completes action on the budget, it returns its version to the House.

Committee of Conference
Typically, the House will request and the Senate will accede to a Committee of Conference on HB1 and HB2. These Committees, usually comprised of members of House and Senate Ways and Means and Finance Committees, will ultimately negotiate the final versions of HB1 and HB2 (including revenue estimates). The compromise version of the budget is again voted on by both the House and the Senate. If the House and Senate adopt the recommendations from the Committees of Conference on HB1 and HB2, the bill is then submitted to the Governor for action.

Governor’s Action
The Governor can either accept the budget and sign it into law, let it become law without his or her signature, or veto it. If the chief executive takes the latter course, the Legislature must vote by a two-thirds majority in order to override the veto.

The full House is set to vote on the budget on April 1st.

There is still time for you to act. PLEASE call your state representative today and let them know that NH Is Better Than This, We Can Do Better.

Below is a summary of some of the cuts being proposed by the House Finance Committee and the life changing effects they will have on the young, elderly, disabled, poor, and everyone else who lives in the Granite State.

Proposed Health and Human Services cuts create uncertainty across N.H.
By Casey McDermott, Monitor staff
Sunday, March 22, 2015  (Published in print: Monday, March 23, 2015)

Today, members the House Finance Committee – the ones tasked with reviewing Gov. Maggie Hassan’s budget proposal – will meet to go over the plans they’ve come up with for their own version of the state’s financial roadmap for the next two years.

For the last week, the division that oversees funding for the Department of Health and Human Services has whittled away at a number of programs – in some cases, eliminating state funding entirely and jeopardizing the accompanying possibility of federal funding along with it.

In votes that were mostly split along party lines, with Republican representatives supporting the cuts and Democratic representatives opposing them, committee members opted not to renew the state’s Medicaid expansion beyond the end of 2016 and not to extend substance abuse coverage to the state’s traditional Medicaid population. They also completely eliminated Medicaid coverage for so-called optional services such as wheelchair vans, private duty nursing and hearing aids for people older than 21, resulting in an estimated savings of $8.6 million in general funds.

They voted to take away all state funding for ServiceLink Resource Centers – used heavily by the state’s elderly population, veterans and people with disabilities – to the tune of about $2.6 million, which will also likely result in the loss of additional federal funding. They also cut state funding for “social services for non-Medicaid eligible elderly clients” – such as home meal delivery and transportation services, for example – by about $10.5 million, or about half.

They decided to delay by a year the opening of a 10-bed crisis unit at New Hampshire Hospital, which was supposed to open in July. This unit was meant to allow people experiencing a mental health crisis to be admitted more quickly and to alleviate the days, sometimes weeks, of waiting many are otherwise facing in hospital emergency rooms across the state.

They reduced funding for the Division of Developmental Services by an estimated $52 million, half in the form of general funds and half in the form of matched federal funds.

They decided to cut funding for the state’s emergency shelters – which provide help to people who are homeless and in other crisis situations, such as domestic violence – in half, taking away an estimated $4 million over the next biennium.

In explaining these and other proposed reductions, House finance officials have said the state simply cannot afford to spend at the levels proposed by Hassan in her version of the budget. Lawmakers also point to increased spending required by two recent settlements, one involving the state’s mental health system and another involving the Medicaid Enhancement Tax, as major cost drivers that need to be balanced out with reductions elsewhere.

“A budget is a balance,” House Finance Committee Chairman Neal Kurk said in an interview Friday morning, following a week of deliberation over these and other proposed reductions. “All of us would like to make sure our fellow citizens get every possible service from the state to the extent that their lives have been transformed by congenital or accidental injury or disability, but it’s not always possible for all needs of all people to be fulfilled all of the time.”

The proposed budget, Kurk said, “provides at least for basic needs.”

An estimate for the total, immediate cost savings achieved by these and other actions was still being finalized heading into this past weekend. An update on the reductions will likely be released today.

But already, many – from Nashua to the North Country – are worrying that some of these decisions, if carried through, would have devastating consequences for the state’s most vulnerable residents.

‘My life . . . would be over’

For Jeff Dickinson, the most troubling of the proposed cuts are the ones that would eliminate “optional” Medicaid services. As advocacy director for Granite State Independent Living, he knows hundreds of people who might be affected by the state’s decision to no longer pay for these services – but he’s also worried on a personal level.

Dickinson has muscular dystrophy, and he relies on personal care attendant services – one of the categories that would be eliminated under the House’s proposal. This, he said, allows him to “remain independent, continue working full time, pay my mortgage and live where I choose to live.”

“Without these (personal care attendant) services I am not sure how I would get out of bed, get dressed, fix meals, toilet, shower, and do all of those regular activities that most people usually take for granted,” Dickinson wrote in an email. “Truth be told, I wouldn’t be able to. I would be forced to live in a nursing home where I do not want to be. It is not an exaggeration to say that my life as I know it would be over.”

The private duty nursing services – which, in Dickinson’s case, are necessary to monitor his use of a ventilator overnight in case the device would malfunction – would also be eliminated.

“For people that receive these services,” Dickinson wrote, “there is nothing optional about them at all.”

Without the support from the state, HHS Deputy Commissioner Marilee Nihan said, many families will be left with few alternatives for maintaining the care they rely on. According to the most recent data, provided by Nihan: About 10,000 people are currently using ambulance services that would be eliminated; about 3,000 people are using speech and occupational therapies, each; and about 2,500 are using audiology benefits, such as hearing aids.

“We’re talking about families who make $15,000 a year, they don’t have a lot of options,” Nihan said. “They certainly don’t have the resources to be able to fund some of these services themselves.”

In some cases, Nihan said, if families choose to forgo these services because of a lack of money, that could ultimately create more problems for the state – resulting in worse health for those residents and more pressure, or “downshifting,” onto local welfare offices.

Families face uncertainty

Earlier this month, Darienne McGuinness of Stratham attended the finance committee’s public hearing on the budget in Concord. There, the mother of three urged lawmakers not to reduce funding for developmental disability support services. Her oldest son, 11, has autism and receives services through the in-home support waiver program.

Those services, along with others provided through the state’s network of 10 nonprofit agencies that provide support to families caring for loved ones with developmental disabilities, would likely be affected by the reductions proposed by lawmakers last week.

On Friday, McGuinness was one of several family members gathered in Concord for part of an advocacy training workshop through the New Hampshire Leadership Series. She and several other families there – caring for children between ages 6 and 25 – watched lawmakers’ actions with trepidation about the ramifications of the reductions to developmental disabilities funding.

Consistency is especially important when you’re caring for a child with a disability, they said, and the support services that fall within the realm of the proposed reductions provide just that.

“Kids who experience disabilities need consistent support in order to maintain safety and skills throughout their lives,” said Jill Prakop, a parent from Derry who is on the waiting list for support services for her two children, ages 7 and 9. “That’s after 3 o’clock, you know, what they get in school. They need that at 4, 5, 6, 7 o’clock when they’re out in their communities with their parents.”

Thanks to the availability of those kind of supports, Michael Poulin said his son Brandon, now 25, is able to live independently in his own apartment in Nashua. It was “a long road to get him there,” Poulin said, but it was worth it.

“He wants to be independent, he wants to have his own life, he does have a job – it’s working minimal hours a week,” Poulin said. “He just loves going out into the community, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.”
To help make that possible for Brandon, his family relies on help from personal care service professionals – which might be cut under the House budget proposal.

“Our biggest fear is that, with the loss of losing that, it would be a step backwards,” Poulin said. “Our goal is to reduce his budget over time, and we’re really doing good in getting there – if it takes a step backwards, when we’re dead and gone, we just fear what would happen to him when we’re not here anymore and he doesn’t have them anymore.”

Jennifer Pineo, whose 6- and 10-year-old children are both on the autism spectrum, said she wishes legislators realized that reducing access to family supports has not only a significant financial impact on the families affected – it also affects the community, even the state, as a whole.

“We’re doing a lot of work with a little bit of funds,” said Pineo, who lives in LIttleton and sits on the board of the advocacy group ABLE NH. “And I know when you look at it all together it seems like a lot of money, but when you look at what it would cost if they were in other places or not within the family, it’s going to cost a lot more – supporting us so we can stay as family units and work through that is going to be more cost-effective than, you know, decimating our system.”

ServiceLink acts as lifeline

Paul Robitaille, manager for the ServiceLink Resource Center of Coos County, is similarly worried about what the elimination of state funding would mean for the future of his center. Located in Berlin, the Coos County facility logged about 15,000 contacts with clients – some of which included multiple contacts by the same people – last year.

“It would leave a tremendous hole,” Robitaille said. “I don’t know what goes on in a lot of other counties, but here in Coos County, we’re used to partnering with a lot of other agencies.”

The ServiceLink centers, he explained, act as a kind of “front door” for other support services in the community and the state at large. Older adults come in for assistance with making sense of their Medicare options, he said, while veterans can get help applying for benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Low-income residents can connect with job training programs, housing assistance and more.

Many of the clients who seek help through ServiceLink are not computer literate, Robitaille added. Navigating through cumbersome, confusing online applications, phone menus or paperwork can get in the way of connecting people to the benefits they need, he explained.

“If ServiceLink is not here,” Robitaille said, “those questions do not get answered, and those people fall through the cracks.”

Rep. William Hatch, a Democratic lawmaker from Gorham, used to sit on the board of the Coos County ServiceLink. Particularly in rural regions of the state, he said, these centers are lifelines for people in need.

The loss of this program, combined with the potential loss of programs like at-home meal delivery for seniors, could make it more difficult for the state’s older population to remain independent in their communities, he said.

“This is real stuff,” Hatch said. “They do so much more than drop off meals three times a week. . . . This service enables people to stay in their homes, to not have to go to assisted living, to not have to go to a nursing home, which in many cases costs a lot more than having meals delivered.”

Cuts create HHS challenges

As lawmakers debated these and other proposed cuts, top department officials spent much of the week responding to questions and attempting to convey the potential toll of reductions.

The cuts, according to Nihan and other officials who were at the center of the budget discussions, will result not only in wide-reaching changes for the people who rely on the department’s services, but will also create significant administrative work for the department.

In some cases, the state will need to seek federal approval for proposed changes to its Medicaid program – something it’s had to do repeatedly in recent years, Nihan said. This, in part, has led federal officials to approach New Hampshire with increasing scrutiny, she said.

The state is also in the process of renegotiating contracts with the companies involved in its Medicaid managed care program, and those negotiations will also be affected – perhaps prolonged, officials said – by some of the representatives’ actions.

While Nihan hesitated to pick out one action that will have the most significant impact on the state – “I think they’re all egregious, contentious” – she said the decision to end the state’s Medicaid expansion is particularly disappointing.

Not only did the department and the state invest significant energy and resources getting the program off the ground in the last several years, she said, but now the 37,000 people who signed up for coverage through the expansion could end up “right back where they started” without access to affordable health care coverage.

And while Nihan and other officials have come to expect lawmakers to put forward some reductions, the outcome of last week’s votes was far more drastic than the department was expecting.

“There is virtually nothing in the work that DHHS does that went untouched,” Nihan said, “and nearly every single client who seeks services with DHHS is going to be impacted in some way.”

**Note: After voting last week to eliminate coverage for “optional” Medicaid services – not mandated by the federal government but still critical for many residents living with injury or disabilities – state representatives reversed course yesterday afternoon, opting to maintain funding after all.

FACT CHECK: Senate GOP’s False Excuses for Voting to Kill Bill to Ensure Balanced FY 2015

Concord, N.H. – After voting to kill SB 233, a fiscally responsible bill to help ensure the state ends FY 2015 with a balanced budget, Jeanie Forrester and Chuck Morse issued false statements underscoring that they’ve lost all credibility when it comes to fiscal responsibility.

See below for a complete fact check of the false statements from Jeanie Forrester and Chuck Morse.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith) issued the following statement on the Committee voting down the Governor’s request for budget cuts from the Legislative and Judicial Branches:

Forrester’s Claim: “For almost a year, I have been asking Governor Hassan to share with the Legislature information on the spending problems within New Hampshire agencies.”

Fact: Taking aside the numerous briefings from Governor Hassan and her administration to the Legislative Fiscal Committee, Forrester could’ve simply checked TransparentNH for monthly spending data by agency.

Forrester’s Claim: With revenues running ahead of projections, it was essential that we address spending proactively. Instead, the Governor kept the problem to herself, tried to blame it on revenues even as they exceeded our targets, and finally came forward with this package of cuts to branches that are controlling their spending.”

Fact: Forrester can’t possibly write with a straight face that Senate Republicans are “controlling their spending” after they massively overspent the Senate’s operations budget.

And the Governor has repeatedly highlighted budget challenges (dating back to last spring), including troubling trends with business and I&D revenues and increased caseloads at DHHS (mostly representing more children getting on traditional Medicaid due to a change in federal law). Beginning last spring, the Governor took preventive and preemptive action including, among other actions, instructing agencies to halt equipment purchasing. Right after, Senate Republicans went on a shopping spree for new office furniture.

Forrester’s Claim: “The Governor would have raided dedicated funds and taken money from branches that are living within their budgets, yet would barely scratch the surface of the $58 million overspending problem. As such, the Finance Committee voted down this bill.”

Fact: Again, Forrester’s statement that Senate Republicans are “living within their budgets” is beyond laughable.

Additionally, the dedicated funds mentioned in the bill are transferring dollars from one fund at the Department of Safety to another fund at the Department of Safety to address a shortfall in plea by mail revenue. This measure is necessary to fund state police detectives and the state crime lab.

Not to mention that Forrester’s claim of a “$58 million overspending problem” is simply not true. That number is an estimation representing all potential liabilities, including the large back-of-the-budget cuts to DHHS that Forrester and her Senate GOP colleagues insisted upon. As Forrester knows, all agency spending has been approved by the legislature (whether through the budget, Fiscal Committee, or other legislation).

Despite these challenges, the Governor has worked with department heads to make the tough decisions to maintain a balanced budget, including issuing an executive order that cut $18 million from state agencies and working with DHHS to submit a plan to end FY15 with a balanced budget.

Meanwhile, Forrester’s Finance Committee voted to kill a bill that would help ensure a balanced FY15 budget because it would require the legislature to make cuts to its own budget. (You can listen to the full hearing here).

Senate President Chuck Morse (R-Salem) added the following statement:

Morse’s Claim: “The Legislature continues to manage its budget, and it is now time for the Governor to manage her state agencies spending problems.”

Fact: Governor Hassan has worked with department heads to carefully manage state expenditures, and state agencies beat their savings reduction targets last year by $8.5 million. Given additional challenges – including more children getting on regular Medicaid due to a change in federal law and back-of-the-budget cuts insisted on by Senate Republicans – the Governor has worked with department heads to make the tough decisions to maintain a balanced budget, including issuing an executive order that cut $18 million from state agencies and working with DHHS to submit a plan to end FY15 with a balanced budget.

When asked why the Senate overspent its operations budget and wildly missed its own budget targets, Senator Morse replied, “I had a lot on my plate last year.”

Morse’s Claim: She needs to stop raiding dedicated funds and trying to take money away from other branches of government that are meeting their Constitutional obligation to live within their means.”

Fact: Again, see here: “when it came to returning unspent money to the treasury, it was the State Senate that seemed to spend like there was no tomorrow.”

(Written by the NHDP)

Is The NH Legislature Listening To Voters’ Anger When It Comes To Money In Politics?

Several hundred people attended the January 29, 2015 rally at the State House in Concord, in honor of Granny D.           Image By Liz Iacobucci

Several hundred people attended the January 29, 2015 rally at the State House in Concord, in honor of Granny D. Image By Liz Iacobucci

By Paul Brochu and  Liz Iacobucci

“It’s almost impossible to exaggerate how angry, frustrated and even disgusted people are with the flood of money” into political campaigns.

That’s what Joe Magruder told the state Legislature last week, during hearings about Citizens United. Joe spent more than three decades covering New Hampshire for the Associated Press. He worked as an impartial observer through eight presidential primaries. He’s seen it all. And he thinks this year’s anger level is so far off the scales that “it’s almost impossible to exaggerate” just how bad it is.

Last week’s House hearing was packed to overflowing. So many people came to testify that there wasn’t enough time for everyone to speak, before the Senate hearing started across the street. (See our live-tweets from the hearings at @NHStampede)

We’ll find out whether the Legislature was listening this afternoon, when the first of the bills is expected to be reported out of committee.

Both the House and Senate bills are pretty mild, compared to the emotion outside the hearing rooms. The bills would allow the Legislature to study the issue of money in politics through a statewide series of public hearings. Then New Hampshire’s Legislature could decide whether to join 16 other states – including New Mexico, Montana and West Virginia – calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

That’s all the bills would do: create a series of opportunities so people around the state can tell the Legislature what they think about the flood of Big Money into political campaigns. Give the people a chance to have their voices heard.

The Stamp Stampede's new mobile billboard circled the State House in support, during the Committee hearings.   Image provided by Stamp Stampede NH

The Stamp Stampede’s new mobile billboard circled the State House in support, during the Committee hearings. Image provided by Stamp Stampede NH

It’s ironic that the Legislature needs to create a hearing process in order to hear the voices of ordinary citizens over the voices of special interest lobbyists.

But right now, the system is set up to hear lobbyists, not ordinary citizens. The first thing everyone noticed, when they came to testify on the bills last week, was that the House hearing room had only eight seats.

Two weeks ago, hundreds of people walked across the state to draw attention to the issue of Big Money in politics. The NH Rebellion organized 300 miles of marches – from the four corners of New Hampshire all the way to the State House – in honor of Granny D.

We walked with the group between Nashua and Concord. We talked with people, as we walked along, and Joe Magruder is right: everyone is angry, frustrated and disgusted.

Angry enough to take time off work, walk through snowstorms, cross icy bridges, sleep in strangers’ homes.

Frustrated enough to keep going, mile after mile, even after reporters asked whether walking across the state could possibly make any difference.

Disgusted enough that it didn’t matter what party you belong to, what generation you belong to. Republicans and Democrats, Free Staters and progressives, middle school students and great-grandparents: everyone walked together.

That’s how badly people want their government back. “It’s almost impossible to exaggerate.”

Days after our State House rally, two businessmen announced plans to “invest” almost $1 billion in the 2016 presidential campaign. That’s more than both parties spent – combined – in the 2012 campaign.

How do Granite State voters feel about the fact that presidential candidates are being selected by high-dollar donors in invitation-only “conferences” – more than a year before the “First in the Nation” primary?

How are ordinary citizens supposed to have their voices heard, over all that money?

At StampStampede.org, we’ve created a petition on steroids to give voice to that frustration. We’re working with thousands of Granite State voters to rubber stamp $3.8 million dollars with messages like “Stamp Money Out of Politics.” Every stamped dollar bill is seen an estimated 875 times; together, the message will be seen over 3 billion times. Enough to ensure that our representatives cannot ignore us.

Poll after poll reports that people believe their elected officials care more about special interests than constituents. Here in New Hampshire, according to a 2013 Granite State poll, almost four out of five people agree that special interests get more attention than citizens. That’s bipartisan agreement, in its purest form.

Last week, an overflow crowd turned out to explain to the Legislature the depths of their disgust. “It’s almost impossible to exaggerate.”

Could the Legislature hear them?

We’ll know, later today.

 

Paul Brochu is the Lead Organizer-NH and Liz Iacobucci is the Press Secretary-NH for StampStampede.org.

Put The Middle Class First Bus Tour

The bus tour stops in Manchester at 10:00am, at Veteran’s Memorial Park. Manchester speakers will include NH Alliance for Retired Americans President Lucy Edwards and Pastor Gail Kinney.

The Nashua stop will be at 1:00pm outside the Nashua Public Library.

image004

The political narrative around bread and butter economic issues that won the day for progressives and Democrats in 2012 is no less important today.  And, at a time when Republicans are doubling down on policies that hurt the middle class while benefiting the likes of the Koch brothers and the richest one percent, having a vehicle (pun intended) to advance the “who’s on your side” narrative that has worked so well for our side in the past is absolutely critical to our success.

Americans United has a rich and successful history of using bus tours for progressive campaigns that have generated significant benefits with respect to earned media and grassroots and grass-tops organizing.  Americans United’s most famous bus tour occurred in 2008 around the Presidency of George W. Bush and the failure of his and the GOP’s domestic and foreign policies during his tenure.  The Bush Legacy Bus was on the road for nearly five months, visiting 42 states and generating thousands of media hits with an estimated value of $2.5 million paid television airtime alone.  The tour contributed to the effort of Democrats to win the presidency, in part, by making a strong argument against putting another Republican in the White House for essentially a third Bush term.

More recently, Americans United ran a month-long national “Raise the Wage” bus tour advocating for raising the federal minimum wage, which appeared in key states ahead of a vote on the issue in the U.S. Senate.  The “Raise the Wage” bus tour held 35 events in 22 states resulting in 265 television clips valued at $301,846 in equivalent paid media time and 170 pages in newspaper clips.

Proposed “Put the Middle Class First” Bus Tour:  In contrast with the Right, Democrats have a detailed set of proposals that put the middle class first, giving more Americans a fair shot at getting into the middle class and achieving the American Dream.  Any one of these provides significant material for a bus tour, as Americans United proved with this spring’s “Raise the Wage” bus tour.  However, because these commonsense, popular policies can be combined together to draw a stark picture of what we are for and what the other side is against – and because the resonance of some of these issues varies some from state to state and even district to district – we are launching a bus tour to promote ways to “Put the Middle Class First” that will provide a platform to promote a range of progressive economic policies that are popular with the American people.

The issues we will highlight are those that would give Americans a fair shot, including:

·         Raising the minimum wage

·         Equal pay for equal work

·         Making college affordable

·         Creating jobs by investing in infrastructure

·         Protecting Social Security and Medicare

The bus’s art and rhetoric will make it adaptable as a platform to discuss any or all of these policies and to target, and hold accountable, lawmakers who are on the wrong side of these issues.  With “Put the Middle Class First” as the topline, the bus will serve as a platform for other issues in states, districts or communities where they make sense.

Duration, States: The Middle Class First bus tour will start Monday, October 6th and run until the weekend before the election.

Stops will include:

Monday, October 6

Manchester, NH

Nashua, NH

Tuesday, October 7

Portland, ME

Bangor, ME

Wednesday, October 8

Hartford, CT

Syracuse, NY

Thursday, October 9

Philadelphia, PA

Harrisburg, PA

Pittsburg, PA

Friday, October 10

Columbus, OH

Lansing/East Lansing, MI

Monday, October 13

Detroit (Southfield), MI

Chicago, IL

Tuesday, October 14

Milwaukee, WI

Madison, WI

Wednesday, October 15

Davenport, IA

Des Moines, IA

Red Oak, IA

Thursday, October 16

Omaha, NE

Friday, October 17

Denver, CO

Ft. Collins, CO

Monday, October 20

Dallas, TX

Texarkana, AR

Tuesday, October 21

Little Rock, AR

West Memphis, AR

Thursday, October 23

Tampa, FL

Orlando, FL

Friday, October 24

Tallahassee, FL

Atlanta, GA

Monday, October 27

Lexington, KY

Louisville, KY

Tuesday, October 28

Charleston, WV

Wednesday, October 29

Charlotte, NC

Greensboro, NC

Raleigh, NC

Thursday, October 30

Norfolk/Hampton Roads, VA

Richmond, VA

Friday, October 31

McLean, VA

Maine Community Health Options To Provide Coverage Across New Hampshire In 2015


Nonprofit Insurance Carrier Awarded
$67.6 Million by CMS to Support Statewide Expansion
 

Concord, NH – Maine Community Health Options (MCHO) today announced its award of $67.6 million in additional financing from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to support its full statewide New Hampshire expansion. As a nonprofit, Member-directed Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP), MCHO is now able to bring its plan offerings to benefit consumers through all of New Hampshire in 2015. MCHO’s proposed plans for the Marketplace in 2015 have been approved by the New Hampshire Insurance Department and are presently under review at CMS.

When asked about the rationale for expanding into New Hampshire, Kevin Lewis, chief executive officer of MCHO explained, “On the basis of our success in Maine, we will bring great benefits at affordable pricing to all people in New Hampshire. We offer a new model for health insurance, and people have responded positively. On the strength of our experience, we bring to New Hampshire desirable plan designs with an eye for improving health outcomes at lower costs to our Members.” MCHO garnered national attention earlier this year when it was highlighted as a high-performing CO-OP insurance company, securing 83% of the market share of the Marketplace business in Maine.

Today’s announcement about MCHO’s geographic expansion reflects MCHO’s dedication to bringing new options to the people of the Granite State in the upcoming year. MCHO’s broad network of providers is a contrast to narrow network approaches that have excluded certain hospitals and providers in 2014.

“Our plan is one of the few that includes a broad provider network,” said Robert Hillman, MCHO’s chief operating officer. “This is an important hallmark for us, as we want to help ensure that people can get the health care they need within their community. Partnering with providers and patients is central to our mission of providing comprehensive, Member-focused, and Member-led health insurance benefits for individuals, families and businesses.”

Of the total new CMS lending, $64.8 million is specifically allocated for the anticipated increase in reserves necessary per state and federal requirements for both Maine and New Hampshire combined. Both development and solvency loans will be repaid to the federal government within five and 15 years respectively.

About Maine Community Healthy Options:

Licensed in both Maine and New Hampshire, Maine Community Health Options (MCHO) is the Maine-based Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) dedicated to providing affordable, high-quality health benefits through productive partnerships with their Members and a broad network of providers throughout its service areas.  For more information about MCHO, visit the website: www.maineoptions.org.

Shaheen Announces Job Training Program Grant To Concord Community College

NHTI at Concord’s Community College will receive $2.5 million TAACCCT grant to support development of statewide IT training programs 

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today announced the New Hampshire Technical Institute (NHTI) at Concord’s Community College as the recipient of a $2.5 million job-training grant from the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) competitive grant program. The grant will support a project to create new certificate and associate degree programs in information technology (IT). The new programs, designed in partnership with employers, will expand job seekers’ ability to access training and career pathways to high-growth potential industries that require IT skills, such as health care, energy, and advanced manufacturing. Earlier this year, Shaheen wrote Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez in support of NHTI’s grant application. She is also cosponsoring legislation to reauthorize the TAACCCT grant program.

“This investment in NHTI is great news for New Hampshire job seekers and our economy,” Shaheen said. “There is a growing need for highly-skilled workers trained in information technology, and this grant will help our community colleges partner with employers and develop educational pathways to prepare Granite Staters for the kind of in-demand jobs that are an important part of our state’s future.”

The $2.5 million grant comes from the TAACCCT competitive grant program, and will go toward an NHTI-Concord’s Community College project to develop, improve and expand adult educational training pathways to careers in multiple industries that require certified information technology skills and knowledge. NHTI will create a Common Core IT Curriculum certificate and associate degree programs in IT in fields including cyber security, networking and game programming, with the goal of expanding these programs to the six other campuses in the Community College System of New Hampshire.

“The grant will enable us to build upon very strong information technology programs here at NHTI,” said Susan Dunton, president of NHTI, Concord’s Community College. “We will expand IT programming with industry-recognized, stackable credentials; create an Industrial Design Technology program that builds upon our advanced manufacturing curriculum; expand industry partnerships with the game programming industry; and enhance academic and career advising to strengthen pathways to careers. This will create exciting new opportunities for students and strengthen the workforce pipeline for New Hampshire employers. I thank the team here at NHTI who put an extraordinary amount of work into developing this grant and successfully bringing these resources to New Hampshire. ”

“New Hampshire’s community colleges are committed to enhancing pathways in high-skill, high-demand and high-paying fields to strengthen New Hampshire’s economy and support the economic advancement of New Hampshire communities and residents. This grant reflects our continuing effort to ensure that our state benefits from opportunities at the federal level,” said CCSNH Chancellor Ross Gittell.

Shaheen has made promoting job creation and economic growth in New Hampshire a top priority throughout her career. She has been a strong advocate for workforce training programs that give American workers the knowledge and skills needed to compete for quality jobs, and has introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Thad Cochran (R-MI), the On-the-Job Training Act, to help Americans obtain employment and learn the skills they need to keep it. Earlier this year, Congress passed bipartisan legislation improving the nation’s workforce development system and prioritizing the on-the-job training programs Shaheen has championed.

Governor Hassan, Senator Shaheen Announce Five NH Projects to Receive Northern Border Regional Commission Grant

Grants to Help Spur Economic and Community Development in the North Country

CONCORD – Governor Maggie Hassan and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen today announced that five New Hampshire projects will receive grant funding from the Northern Border Regional Commission to help spur economic and community development in the North Country.

Totaling $968,365, the five grants will be awarded to the Women’s Rural Entrepreneurial Network (WREN), the Town of Littleton, the Coos Economic Development Council, the Northern Community Investment Corporation (NCIC) and the University of New Hampshire Broadband Mapping and Planning Program.

“The Northern Border Regional Commission is an important regional collaboration and federal-state partnership that helps spur economic and community development in some of our most economically distressed areas,” Governor Hassan said. “These five projects will address infrastructure and transportation needs and promote business development across the North Country, creating jobs and strengthening our economy. I thank Senator Shaheen, the Northern Border Regional Commission and our regional partners in Maine, New York and Vermont for their efforts to help make this important investment in our people, businesses and communities a reality.”

“Today’s announcement is great news for jobs and the economy in northern New Hampshire,” Senator Shaheen said. “These five projects will support small business growth while addressing important infrastructure needs that are crucial for economic development in the North Country. I am hopeful that with the support of this grant, we will see a rejuvenation of North Country communities and businesses that have faced significant economic challenges.”

“This is great news for the North Country,” state Senator Jeff Woodburn said. “Each of these projects will in their own way contribute to revitalizing our economy, improving life for people and our business community.  I’m grateful to the persistent leadership of these organizations who applied for these grants and work tirelessly to improve our communities, and our national, regional and state officials who advocated so strongly for us.”

WREN will receive a $161,670 grant to create an entrepreneurial training center and “maker space” to serve more than an estimated 75 emerging and existing entrepreneurs.

The Town of Littleton will receive $250,000 to support a Main Street revitalization project, with two businesses already saying they plan to expand once the project is completed. Littleton will construct a multi-use bridge over the Ammonoosuc River, which will connect pedestrians, bicycles and off-road vehicles with downtown and the riverfront.

The Coos Economic Development Council will receive a $250,000 grant to construct a new cell tower on Cummings Mountain in West Dummer, a strategic connection that will provide service in unserved areas of Coos County, encouraging business development and enhancing emergency communications.

The NCIC will receive a $200,000 grant to expand and improve the NH Grand website, an important visitor information portal for Coos County.  NH Grand supports tourism marketing initiatives, and the funding will be used to incorporate new features on the website, including search engine optimization, multi-lingual accessibility, mapping and teletype, as well as a booking system and marketing opportunities via search engine sponsorships.

The University of New Hampshire Broadband Mapping and Planning Program will receive a $106,695 grant to extend and enhance its broadband availability and mapping activities to the rural addresses of Coos County. The project will provide data about service availability in unserved and underserved areas in the region, which will be used to prioritize where investment should be focused to expand broadband access and to provide information to people and businesses considering relocating to the region.

The NBRC was created as a federal-state partnership approved in the 2008 Farm Bill, with a mission to address the economic and community development needs in economically distressed communities in the Northern Forest region, which includes New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont and New York.

New Web Video Highlights Sen. Shaheen’s Support For NH Workers And Opposing Outsourcing

Manchester — Today, Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s campaign is releasing a new web video titled “Backbone,” that highlights the clear difference between Senator Shaheen’s record and commitment to helping create jobs in New Hampshire, and Scott Brown’s support for companies and policies that ship U.S. jobs to China and Mexico.

As Massachusetts’ Senator, Scott Brown voted to protect tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas. Since leaving the Senate, Brown joined the board of a Massachusetts company that sent American jobs to China to increase its bottom line. Brown collected more than a quarter of a million dollars serving on the company’s board and even signed legal documents just two days before he entered the race for the U.S. Senate that endorsed the company’s outsourcing practices.

“New Hampshire workers have been hard hit by the outsourcing of jobs to foreign countries,” Shaheen says in the video. “In November, there will be a very clear choice about who supports sending jobs overseas. Scott Brown wants a tax code that rewards companies for sending jobs overseas. Scott Brown wants to help pay for companies to build plants overseas. We need leaders who understand that working families are the backbone of this country.”

Jeanne Shaheen has worked tirelessly to strengthen New Hampshire’s middle class and help create jobs throughout the state. She voted to close tax loopholes for companies that ship jobs overseas, and fought to invest in our state’s roads and bridges by securing funding to expand I-93 and rebuild the Portsmouth Memorial Bridge, both of which created hundreds of new jobs. She took on her own party and opposed a new round of base closures to protect the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and the people who work there.

Senator Shaheen also wrote provisions in the Small Business Jobs Act that established programs like the STEP grant, which provides key support to businesses across the state trying to sell their products overseas. She was the first New Hampshire Governor to lead a trade mission outside of North America, and has been a strong advocate for Trade Adjustment Assistance grants, which help train workers for new jobs when their previous jobs have been outsourced.

“I want to sell New Hampshire products overseas; I want to invest in rebuilding our roads and bridges, and create good jobs here in New Hampshire; I want a tax code that encourages companies to bring jobs back to the United States,” Shaheen says in the video.

Meet The Candidate: Diane Sheehan For Executive Council District 5

Diane SheehanI am Diane Sheehan, and I am a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Executive Councilor in District 5.

As a three-time Alderman in Nashua, the largest city in our Executive Council District, I have always been supported by our Firefighters and Teachers Unions, and won each time.  I have been proud to receive their support in recognition to the fact that I place a high priority on our employees, our families, and the value that hardworking employees bring to our community.

I am endorsed by the Professional Firefighters of NH and the Teamsters for the Executive Council.

PFF SheehanMy Dad, who now lives with us, is a retired Teamster.  My Mom, now deceased, worked for the US Post Office, which was a blessing when she was struck with terminal breast cancer.  She didn’t have to worry about losing her health insurance while she was going through her illness, or going bankrupt to pay for her care.

My husband, Patrick is now retired from the city, but was our AFSCME Local 365 president when I was first elected. My home has been union.

I have a deep understanding of the morale impact of working under an expired contract – or worse, working to contract, or even striking. As a kid, there was strike for my Dad, and I remember the impact on our family, the stress my Dad went through, and the sacrifices that had to be made because there was no paycheck.

Just before I ran for office, I marched with the Nashua teachers in their rally before the near-miss strike.

Once I was elected, one of my first legislative actions was requiring a first contract reading to have all costs outlined. Previously, that was rarely done, and our 30 day window would expire. This obstruction was often stalled the process and triggered renegotiations. That is now a thing of the past. It passed the Board unanimously, and our process has been much smoother as a result.

I have gone to Concord to speak against Right to Work (for less).

Professionally, I have management experience, and I understand that is it better for an organization to work with a contract, and that working together to align goals in a contract drives good outcomes for both parties. As an executive, I negotiated contracts, and as Alderman At-Large in Nashua, I vote on labor contracts.

I have passed 35 pieces of legislation in my first two terms as Alderman. Most passed nearly unanimously.  My process includes working with others: finding common ground to make solutions makes it easier to get to “yes.”

Coming from a labor-based family gives me a labor-based perspective.  Small issues are slippery slopes to incremental erosions of bigger issues that affect consumers, labor, and families.

Union-busting attempts are easy to recognize when you have grown up with them. Right to Work (for less) is bad for New Hampshire. We have had an excellent ranking of economies in our country, but when you look at the Right to Work states, you see they are the bottom. We’re the model for them to follow, not the other way around.

We need to look out for our middle class, strengthening and expanding it — not lining the pockets of the 1%.

I am the voice that understands and speaks up for the middle class, and I ask for your support on September 9th.   

Vote Sheehan for the best chance of standing up to the anti-labor candidate who will seek to dismantle our New Hampshire way.

 

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