And Occupy the Election We Did!

Left to right
Lew Henry, Wayne Alterisio, Carol Shea-Porter, and Bill Brickley

And Occupy the Election We Did!

I started posting on this website with a plea that we needed to get members engaged in this upcoming election because in 2010 we had our heads summarily handed to us on a platter. Mostly because of a pitiful voter turnout which invariably leads to huge Republican gains which translates into an attack on working families and the Labor movement overall. What we saw happen in Wisconsin was a prelude to what was about to happen to the rest of the nation.

Ann Kuster and NH Letter Carriers from the Union Night at the Fishercats

Newly elected Republican politicians turned 8 years of a Bush’s two wars and a ruinous Wall St. financial miss-step as a reason to lay-off teachers and dismantle bargaining agreements. You know what, aided by the conservative main street media, it worked! With the aid of ALEC generated legislation and flipped State Legislatures from blue to red, the onslaught began. It wasn’t long before the fight came here to New Hampshire. It was not just an attack on Labor with “right to work” but a host of crazy nutty legislation that was right out of a Fellini movie. Besides the phony claim that voter fraud was rampant in the country requiring us to set up an expensive time consuming voter ID system it was things we could have never imagined. It was things like being able to carry weapons on the House floor and on College campuses. My favorite was taking away lunch for State employees.

The Bill O’Brien Republican House was secret about its attacks never divulging their agenda or when legislation would be introduced. It was just a constant vigil. Democrats when they held the House always posted their agenda on pending legislation for the upcoming week. That is the fair and open thing to do.

This onslaught was not limited to Labor. It was also aimed at a women’s right to control her body and her decision as to when to start a family. That was probably a bigger mistake than attacking Labor. That has already been decided by the Supreme Court. All indications were pointing to Republicans wanting to change that decision. Their voting block was substantially larger. Coupled with the fact that the ethnic voter was not seeing jobs coming their way any too soon doomed the anti-fact checking Republican Party.

No poll or amount of corporate money and influence can stop a tidal wave of votes. Not in New Hampshire. Politics is real close-up and personal here. We will only succumb to logic and reason. We do fact check, and that drives our vote! We occupied the election like never before. I embodied this at my last union meeting when I called out all the people to stand who helped out on the election. I called them out by name too, because I knew who they were. It wasn’t just the usual few, it was many! Thank you brothers and sisters for making this election a roaring success for hard working families.

There was no apathy and that’s how we get change!

New Hampshire Union Members Celebrate Enormous Electoral Wins

For weeks now union members have been canvassing New Hampshire as part of the Labor 2012 campaign.  After making thousands of phone calls and spending every free moment knocking on doors, all of our hard work paid off!

With our help New Hampshire cast it’s four electoral votes for President Obama as part of his reelection last night. This is great news for New Hampshire and the rest of the Nation.

Here in New Hampshire many of the union locals are more excited about the other races.  We banded together to defeat Ovide ‘Scott Walker on Steroids’ Lamontagne in electing Maggie Hassan as our next Governor.  She has already assured us that she will veto any anti-worker legislation including Right To Work for less.  Ensuring that we have a labor friendly Governor was the most important part of  preserving collective bargaining in New Hampshire.  While Right To Work has already been proposed for next years session, we can rest assured it will not pass.

We also celebrated huge victories in our Congressional candidates.  Annie Kuster defeated Congressman Charlie Bass (NH-02).  We worked with Annie, who received the endorsement from almost every labor organization in the state.  Congressman Bass voted to turn Medicare into a Voucher system and gut Social Security.  While Annie campaigned on preserving the middle class and protecting our workers.

The big win did not come until after 2 am last night.  CNN was the first to call the NH-01 race for Carol Shea-Porter.  As the results were coming in, the results were all over the road.  Carol was up, then she was down.  Carol Shea-Porter will be returning to her seat in Washington DC, and removing one of the most anti-union legislators in Washington, Congressman Frank Guinta.   Congressman Guinta, who was backed by the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC),  pushed legislation to end project labor agreements and prevailing wage laws.

With Annie and Carol in our corner we can get back to rebuilding the middle class while we rebuild New Hampshire’s infrastructure. We will also have two amazing advocates for protecting all of our rights as workers in Washington.

New Hampshire workers almost received the biggest surprise of all.  Shortly after the polls closed it was reported that NH Speaker Bill O’Brien had lost the largest of the two towns in his district.  O’Brien was the one leading the anti-worker charge in the NH House with attacks on collective bargaining, and Right To Work.   After hours of waiting the results finally came in after midnight that Bill O’Brien retained his seat by 25 votes.  While we never expected O’Brien to loose his seat, it would have made all of our victories just a little sweeter.

The next legislative session will be very different in New Hampshire.  We are still awaiting final results on the breakdown of the NH House, we know that the GOP has lost their 3:1 majority.  Even after all the gerrymandering in the NH Senate districts the Democrats picked up seats.  Now the NH Senate is split with a slight GOP favor at 13-11

Now we start looking to the next legislative session where we can fight to repeal the Voter ID law and other extreme legislation that was passed over the past two years.

However our future looks brighter already.

A Must Hear Report On NH House Speaker Bill O’Brien and Partisan Politics In NH

I wanted to share a radio spot from This American Life in which they talk with Annmarie Timmins from the Concord Monitor,  as well as many of the Representatives from the NH House.

A portrait of what it looks like when politics gets polarized, and how hard it is for people in the middle to hang on. Producer Sarah Koenig explains what happened when a wave of Republican politicians swept to power with a three-to-one majority in 2010. New Hampshire’s a small state, and the shift to a more divisive in-your-face kind of politics happened very quickly, so it’s possible to see exactly what’s gained and lost when that happens. (30 1/2 minutes).

A special report from Sarah Koenig (former Concord Monitor reporter)

The report covers everything from Union Busting Tea Party Leadership, Rep Vallencourt’s  German statement, and blocking the Concord Monitor reporters out of the press conferences.

Below is the full special report.

 

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

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

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

In this post I want to talk about CACR 26.

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

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

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

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

Even former Governor Steve Merrill said

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

CACR 13: The Amendment To Stop Moving NH Forward

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

There are two amendments being offered this year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Remember What Happened after Katrina

Remember this mobile billboard, used in protests after Hurricane Katrina?

Grover Norquist and his allies are still trying to “shrink government.”

  • Ovide LaMontagne wants to “shrink government.”
  • House Speaker William O’Brien wants to “shrink government.”
  • Charlie Bass wants to “shrink government.”
  • Frank Guinta wants to “shrink government.”
  • Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to “shrink government.”

But where would we be now – a year after Hurricane Irene – without a government that could repair roads and replace bridges?

How long would it have taken to get electricity restored, after Irene, without all the state employees and municipal workers who worked 12-hour shifts every single day for weeks, to get the roads open so the linemen could do their jobs?

Those residents trapped by the rising Saco River – what might have happened to them, if there had been no emergency workers to rescue them?

Our government is supposed to be “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

When President Lincoln was speaking at Gettysburg, he wasn’t talking about just the top 1%.  He wasn’t talking about the 53% of people that Mitt Romney believes are worthy of his attention.  (Remember the $50,000-a-head fundraiser video?  The full transcript is available here.)

President Lincoln was talking about all the people.  A government for all the people.

That’s your choice, this election year.  Candidates who want to “shrink government” versus candidates who –like President Lincoln – believe in a government for all people.

As Hurricane Sandy’s winds swirl across the eastern United States, think about the difference between our government’s response to Hurricane Katrina and to Hurricane Irene.

Think about what type of government you want to have, the next time a hurricane hits.

 

Photo by Rob Goodspeed

 

 

Before Romney Fired Big Bird, NH House Speaker Bill O’Brien Tried to Banish Him

Matt Sayles/AP/File

Extreme NH House Leadership voted to abolish funding for public television

CONCORD, NH – More than a year before GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney publicly vowed to fire Big Bird and his friendly Sesame Street crew,  the New Hampshire House voted to abolish state funding for public television in New Hampshire.

On February 15, 2011 the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted to pass HB 113, prohibiting the use of state funds for New Hampshire public television, by a margin of 263-102.1 The State Senate later tabled the bill.

Click here to see which legislators voted to abolish state funding for Big Bird, who appears on NHPTV six days a week.2 For more legislator vote records, visit the GSP State House Report Card of more than 200 roll call votes organized by issue and legislator, online at www.GraniteStateProgress.org.

Report Shows High Cost of a Defined Contribution Plan for New Hampshire Taxpayers

New Data Highlights the Benefits of the Current Public Employee Defined Benefit Plan for New Hampshire’s Economy

New Hampshire – A new actuarial report commissioned by Speaker O’Brien’s own study committee on Defined Contribution plans, demonstrates how catastrophic this idea would be for New Hampshire taxpayers.  The number one key finding of the Segal firm’s study is that total pension funding costs will rise if a DC plan is implemented.

Speaker O’Brien asked for this study because he did not like the information presented by the Retirement System’s own actuarial firm Gabriel Roeder & Smith (GRS).  Unfortunately for the Speaker, Segal stated they agree with GRS “that the proposed DC plan is more expensive than the DB plan.”

“It is disturbing the way that Speaker O’Brien has tried to twist information about the New Hampshire Retirement System in order to mislead New Hampshire voters,” said SEIU President Diana Lacey,  “The Republican legislature can’t escape the simple fact that their Defined Contribution plan is vastly more expensive and would increase the unfunded liability.”

“The Legislature already downshifted over $60 million dollars to local communities with last year’s pension legislation,” said AFT President Laura Hainey.  “Now, Speaker O’Brien wants to increase the burden even more on cities, towns, school districts, and ultimately local property taxpayers.”

There is also a new study on the economic impact the Retirement System has on New Hampshire’s economy.  The National Institute on Retirement Security found that pension expenditures by retirees support over 6,000 jobs and result in over $800 million in economic activity in our state.

“Not only is a Defined Contribution plan bad policy for New Hampshire taxpayers, it would also be a tremendous blow to our economy and small business, “said NEA-NH President Scott McGilvray.  “Speaker O’Brien wants to put New Hampshire small business jobs at risk just to score cheap political points.  Our state frankly deserves better.”

Right To Work Is Back Again, and That Is Not All

Well we asked for it and now we got it.  The NH Legislative Services department released the first batch of Legislative Service Requests (LSR’s) and that information was posted on the NH General Court Website.  These LSRs are only released as Titles and Sponsors.  Only knowing the titles of the bills some may be confusing, while others are obvious.

As we saw in last years LSRs there were a few that were good, and many that were horrible.  Some were just plan crazy.  I went through and picked a few I thought people should know about, before they vote. So let the craziness begin!

Once again we lead off the year with Robert Kingsbury’s LSR requesting that all bills in the NH House make reference to the MAGNA CARTA!

2013-H-0094-R title: in favor of mentioning the Magna Carta in bills introduced in the house of representatives.
Sponsors: (Prime)Robert Kingsbury

The Magna Carta bill is by far the craziest bill submitted so far (as I can tell by the titles) .

As fully expected by our current extremists in the House, Speaker Bill O’Brien has submitted Right To Work (for Less) again.  This means that we will be fighting once again to keep NH from becoming the 23rd state to pass Right To Work laws.

2013-H-0247-R title: establishing the Franklin Partin right-to-work act.
Sponsors: (Prime)William O’Brien

Not all of the submitted LSRs were aimed at hurting workers.  Peter Sullivan a Democrat from Manchester who won his seat in a special election last year, submitted a bill relative to the state’s minimum wage law.  Since last session the NH Legislature passed a law removing NH’s ability to have a minimum wage higher than the Federal Government wage, I can only assume that this would be an increase to the state’s minimum wage laws.

2013-H-0084-L title: relative to the state minimum wage.
Sponsors: (Prime)Peter Sullivan

I hope that Rep Sullivan plans to move both minimum wage and tipped wages for all workers.  The minimum wage for Tipped workers is still $2.35 an hour and that is far too low.  Even though minimum wage has gone up a few times over the last decade, tipped wages have been frozen for many more years.

Also in 2011-12 session we saw many attacks on Education in the state.  Looking at a few of the LSRs for next year this will be the case once again.

We already know that NH Governor Candidate Ovide Lamontagne wants to remove the law that would allow public funding to go to religious schools. Rep. Charles Sova wants to remove the Department of Education entirely.

2013-H-0023-R title: abolishing the department of education and transferring all functions and duties to the state board of education.
Sponsors: (Prime)Charles Sova

There is also a repeat of some of the failed bills from last year.  David Hess (and others) are resubmitting a bill that would give the NH Legislature complete control over the funding of public schools in the state.

2013-H-0043-R title: Relating to public education. Providing that the general court shall have the authority to define standards for public education, establish standards of accountability, mitigate local disparities in educational opportunity and fiscal capacity, and have full discretion to determine the amount of state funding for education.
Sponsors: (Prime)David Hess

One of the reasons the Legislature does not have control of funding now is because of the Claremont Decision.  This case ruled that funding was not equally distributed by the Legislature and courts took away the Legislatures ability to make those decisions.

Once again were are going to see ALEC model legislation being pushing in the NH House.  Jordan Ulery and Speaker Bill O’Brien both submitted the same ALEC bill requiring 3/5ths majority to create any new or raise any taxes or fees.

2013-H-0093-R title: Relating to taxation. Providing that a 3/5 vote is required to pass legislation imposing new or increased taxes or license fees, or to authorize the issuance of state bonds and providing that the general court shall appropriate funds for payment of interest and installments of principal of all state bonds.
Sponsors: (Prime)Jordan Ulery
2013-H-0245-R
Sponsors: (Prime)William O’Brien

Couple this Tax Bill with the current make up of the NH Legislature, there will never be another fee increase, or tax increase from the State level.  This would effectively freeze the current NH Budget forever.  As we all know, the cost of business always stays the same!

While some are pushing ALEC legislation others are working to remove ALEC’s influence from NH.  Timothy Horrigan submitted this LSR removing the Voter ID law in NH.

2013-H-0126-R title: eliminating the photo identification requirement for voters.
Sponsors: (Prime)Timothy Horrigan

As I have been saying for months now, this election is vitally important.  We need to move NH forward not backwards.  We need pass laws that help workers and protect our rights, not bills like Right To Work (for less).   Though I have not seen it yet, I am sure another LSR will be filed repealing collective bargaining.

This is why the Governor’s race is so important.  Think of where NH would be if John Stephen beat Gov Lynch in the last election.  We would have no collective bargaining for state employees, Right To Work for all private employees, and who knows what else.  If Ovide Lamontagne wins this election it will destroy New Hampshire as we know it.  He and Speaker O’Brien will push their extreme agenda right through.

If you love New Hampshire and do not want to see it destroyed you must get out there and vote for Maggie Hassan.  She is dedicated to protecting Workers Rights, Women’s Rights, and rebuilding the middle class.

(Editors note: you can also research current legislators via Granite State Progress’s new Legislator Report Card website.  A great place for information about how they voted and what they pushed in the 2011-12 session)

Is The NH HOUSE Speaker Hiding Something? Yes He Is….

In yesterday’s edition of the Concord Monitor it was announced that NH Speaker Bill O’Brien would be changing tradition by holding back the early filed bills for next year.

“House Speaker Bill O’Brien has ordered the proposed bills be kept secret until after the November election.”

Why would he do this? The answer is simple.  He does not want voters to know about what they are planning for next years session.  So by hiding the proposed bills until after the election he can shield voters from truth.

David Campbell State Rep from Nashua told the Monitor:

“Given the political agenda some Republicans put forth last time, I wonder if this is a way to keep those extreme bills from becoming a political controversy before the election.”

People have already referred to the NH House as the most extreme legislature in New Hampshire history.  All this because the NH House focused on things like Right To Work (for less), Guns, Women’s Rights, and Marriage Equality instead of the jobs as they promised.

Now they are all campaigning on preserving the NH Advantage and creating jobs.  The same pile of bull they feed to voters in the last election.

The truth is that all the bills that were passed this year that did not become law will be proposed again in hopes that a new governor will pass them.  Even Bob Clegg, lobbyist and former State Senator knows.  He said

“They don’t want them public because some of them will be used in the upcoming election.”

“Marriage is coming back and nobody wants to say if they are for it or against it. They’d rather wait until after the election. A number of other social issues will be back. Right-to-Work will be back. And (the lawmakers proposing that legislation) would be a direct target by those affected.”

Rep Neal Kurk also commented on keeping the LSR’s hidden.

“If you make your decision based on the title (of the bill request), I think it will not be a fully informed vote.”

I beg to differ, I think it is very obvious what you are trying to do by the title of some legislation.   Take for example HB 383, sponsored by Neal Kurk

“AN ACT prohibiting the collection of certain agency fees from state employees who are not members of the state employees’ association”. (HB 383)

This was a Right To Work (for less) bill specifically targeting state employees.  I would bet that Rep Kurk has already filed a new Right To Work (for less) bill and would prefer voters did not know about it.

Now Speaker O’Brien is backtracking on his statements after the Monitor article is released.  Now he states,

“If it’s something that is not a work in progress, it should be available to voters and citizens,” O’Brien said. “There is a difference between disclosing work papers that are nonpublic or someone having written down some notes about an idea for a bill. I don’t really know where this falls into all of that.”

Read the full article  “O’Brien denies he ordered keeping proposed legislation titles secret