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NEXTGEN Climate Is Pushing Climate Change To The Forefront Of Our Political Discussions

Nextgen 2

NextGen Climate is an organization dedicated to bringing climate change to the forefront of American politics. In 2016, that means playing a big role in the upcoming election by holding politicians accountable to lay out their plans to address the risks of climate change and accelerate our country’s transition to a clean energy economy.  Voters across the country and right here in New Hampshire are eager for leaders who are ready to solve this problem—and we‘re organizing across our state to demand solutions.   

state_lead-horizontal_R-01Climate change threatens to have devastating impacts on our economy. Left unaddressed, climate change will reduce U.S. GDP 5 percent by 2050. In New Hampshire, we’re already experiencing the impacts firsthand. Our state has seen a 70 percent uptick in severe weather events in the last 15 years and warmer temperatures are already starting to dampen the tourism industry that the Granite State’s economy depends on. The moose population is greatly harmed by the heightened presence of moose ticks, the quality and availability of seafood and maple syrup is suffering, and the shorter winters are shrinking New Hampshire’s ski season. 

But the good news is that we have the solutions at hand clean energy, which will not only help solve climate change, but will also create jobs and strengthen our economy . Transitioning to clean energy is a common sense approach to create jobs and support broad-based economic growth that will benefit American families. We’re asking our leaders to lay out their plans to achieve 50 percent clean energy by 2030 and 100 percent clean energy by 2050. And a new report commissioned by NextGen Climate America concludes that accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy will create over a million jobs by 2030 and up to two million jobs by 2050—creating new opportunities for Americans across the country. 

This is tremendous progress by any standard, but to make this type of progress while also preventing climate disaster and promoting prosperity for all Americans? That’s a remarkable opportunity.

Nextgen 3NextGen Climate intends to take advantage of that opportunity, using the election cycle as a platform to educate voters on the importance of this issue—ensuring that Granite Staters don’t simply act on climate, but that they also vote on climate. 

Americans of every political stripe are ready for the transition to a clean energy economy. Fifty-four percent Republican voters across the country are more likely to vote for a candidate that supports #50by30, and 69 percent of swing-state voters agree. And that number jumps to 74% among young voters, who will be disproportionately affected by climate change.

A majority of Americans from both parties want to see us transition to a clean energy economy and the technology to do so is available and affordable. We have never been so desperately in need of action on climate change, but we have also never been so prepared to act. NextGen Climate is determined to make this tremendous potential a reality by educating and empowering Granite Staters and electing public officials who listen to voters and lay out their concrete plans to help build a stronger, cleaner future for our kids. 

Editors note: This is the first of many posts to come from NextGen-NH.  Starting today, NextGen-NH will begin posting a weekly editorial on the NH Labor News every Thursday. 

NH Worker To Legislature: Current Revenue And Spending Levels Fail The People Of NH

An open letter to the NH Legislature 

Hello my name is Paula.  I want to thank you for the work you all do for New Hampshire but it is not enough.  State employees and the citizens of New Hampshire need you to develop new revenue!  

I work for you and the citizens of New Hampshire.  I earn approximately $20.00 an hour.  I perform the regular duties of two positions, one of which was taken away when someone retired.  I process applications, which means I certify applicants to our program based on a child’s chronic health care needs and I also pay bills on behalf of many families for the program.  Presently, besides my regular duties, I am also covering for another program within the department – helping with invoicing and everything that goes along with it.  I also help coordinate other things in my office and covering a portion of another job due to someone’s vacation.  

I worked in the private sector while my children were growing up and when they became older I decided to apply for state service so that I could give something back to a state I loved so much.  I have loved to work for this state and our citizens for the past 12 years (prior to that I worked as a temporary employee for the state).  I know how important my job is to get things “done” for the people we serve.  Because, if I can’t or don’t perform my duties then the children and their families will not receive the services they need. 

I am writing to not just ask for a 2% raise but to “beg” for it and I have never “begged” for anything in my life.  My husband can no longer work.  He worked for 45 years as a surveyor and the job has taken a toll on his body due to debilitating arthritis.  He can no longer work.  We also help family members through their hard times.  I worked a part time job for about eight months last year and I was too exhausted to continue.  I also earn extra money at some of the fairs around the state in the fall.

We, state employees, worked without raises for many years, gave up benefits, paid more for our insurance, etc.  We haven’t caught up to what we have given back to our beloved state and the people we serve.  I need the money for food, to help pay my monthly bills, which includes a mortgage, to pay taxes, and to pay for gas.  I would really appreciate my 2% raise and invite any of you to walk a day in my shoes beside me and tell me I don’t deserve it because you can’t find the revenue!

Stories From The NH Primary: A New Web Series You Need To Check Out

Stories From The NH Primary

If you follow New Hampshire’s First In The Nation primary like I do then, I think you would enjoy this new web series from Kevin Bowe aptly named, Stories from the NH Primary. .

This informative project is going behind the scenes and taking a closer look at some of the ways Granite Stater’s get involved in the NH Primary process.

Below are the first four episodes in the ongoing series.  You can subscribe to all of them via YouTube here.

Video 1: Unicorns and Rainbows

Video 2: The Empire Strikes Back…

Video 3: Bird Dog U featuring Arnie Alpert and Olivia Zink from AFSC.

Video 4: Ode To The 4th of July

I talked with Kevin  Bowe about this new project and he gave me a little insight into why he started this new web series.

“It is a combination of my passion for politics (I worked for Wes Clark in the 2004 NH Primary), my recently developed skills as a video producer (acquired after 2004) and the fact that I live so close to New Hampshire,” said Bowe.  “All the ingredients were in place and it is really one of those situations where I HAD to do a video series on the New Hampshire Primary.”

“My video production work has recently started to focus on telling the personal history and family legacies of ordinary people.  So when I started to think about how I could do something unique with the New Hampshire Primary, I realized that there are a ton of stories–that are compelling, funny or reflective of our republic and political system–that surround the primary,” Bowe said.

I asked Kevin what is the ultimate goal of the project?

“I know what the goal will not be, and that is the bread and butter “cover the candidates and provide analysis” that everybody does and frankly will do better than a one-person band like me,” said Bowe  

“My audience is the political junkie that absorbs a ton of presidential news, so my goal is to create small bite sized weekly videos (about 2 minutes) that give a them added information or perspectives that are unique and entertaining.  That could be something as simple as showing crowd sizes (something the networks seldom do); giving viewers a feel for the circus atmosphere at many events, original footage of candidates and the media behind the curtain, or telling some of the countless stories about the people who make the New Hampshire primary the iconic event that it has developed into,” concluded Bowe.

 Be sure to subscribe to his YouTube channel to get your weekly update of Stories From The NH Primary

More information about Kevin and his project can be found at these links:

Production company: http://story-crafters.com 

Youtube channel with the series:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzl7JplaXZK-qFL390eqdXg

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StoryCrafters?ref=hl

Twitter: @storycrafters   

NATCA’S Proven, Powerhouse Leadership Team, Will Continue To Lead NATCA For The Next Three Years

NATCA Convention 2010 (Micah Maziar (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0))

NATCA Convention 2010 (Micah Maziar (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0))

NATCA President Paul Rinaldi and Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert
to Serve Historic Third Term

Over the past twenty-seven years the National Air Traffic Controllers Association has grown to become one of the biggest power players in Washington D.C. NATCA was formed from the ashes of the PATCO strike, when President Ronald Reagan summarily fired over 12,000 air traffic controllers on August 3rd 1981.

The problems that the PATCO controllers talked about – safety, fatigue, and equipment failures – did not go away when the workers were terminated. A few years after that dreadful day, a new generation of controllers began to organize and eventually formed the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA).

NATCA was officially certified as the sole representative for Federal air traffic controllers in an overwhelming election in 1987. Since that small and humble beginning, NATCA has grown to represent over 20,000 public and private air traffic controllers, as well as engineers and safety professionals who help make the National Airspace System the safest and most efficient in the world.

NATCA President Paul Rinaldi

NATCA President Paul Rinaldi

This week the National Air Traffic Controllers Association announced the reelection of President Paul Rinaldi and Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert. They will be the first President and Executive Vice President in the history of NATCA to serve three terms in their respective positions. They ran for the third term unopposed.

“I am honored that the incredible professionals of NATCA give their full support for Executive Vice President Gilbert and me to represent them for another term,” said Rinaldi. “We look forward to continuing our work as their voices in Washington and around the world to enhance collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration and the aviation industry, and to advance the safety and efficiency of the National Airspace System.”

“The opportunity to continue representing my NATCA brothers and sisters is a true privilege,” said Gilbert. “The dedication and passion they have for their professions and the system is unrivaled. Together, we have accomplished so much over the past six years; I’m eager to continue building on the work we’ve done and take NATCA and the National Airspace System to new heights.”


Labor Struggles Shape NATCA’s Future

Paul Rinaldi began his career as a controller at Dulles (IAD) Tower where he served as the Facility Representative and the Alternate Regional Vice President for the Eastern Region. Rinaldi’s diverse history in NATCA includes time as an Air Safety Investigator and arbitration advocate.

In 2006, Rinaldi was elected to the National Executive Board as NATCA’s Executive Vice President. At the time, NATCA was in a bitter labor dispute with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA and NATCA could not come to an agreement on their Collective Bargaining Agreement and the FAA unilaterally forced its “last best offer” on to the membership. These “imposed work rules” slashed the pay for newly hired controllers and sparked outrage by the membership.

These were tough times for NATCA members and it would take strong leadership from their then-President Patrick Forrey and his newly elected Executive Vice President Rinaldi. As push came to shove, and speaking became yelling, NATCA members banded together to fight the oppressive work rules. NATCA would later describe this “as the worst time in our union’s history.”

To overcome these “imposed work rules,” NATCA needed a legislative fix and leadership change from the White House down. At the time, Trish Gilbert was the chair of NATCA’s Legislative Committee. This very difficult but prestigious position was responsible for making NATCA’s issues known to the members of Congress.

NATCA had many friends on the Hill, both Republican and Democrat. Trish Gilbert and all of NATCA’s legislative team lobbied the members to help resolve this dispute. NATCA found help from the relatively unknown Junior Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama.

In 2006, then-Senator Barack Obama, spoke to NATCA members at their annual lobby week, NATCA in Washington.


Just prior to speaking at the NATCA in Washington event, Senator Obama co-sponsored bi-partisan legislation written by Senators Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and James M. Inhofe, R-Okla — The Federal Aviation Administration Fair Labor Management Dispute Resolution Act of 2006 — to block the FAA from imposing its work rules and require it to bargain in good faith with NATCA.

Though the bill failed to stop the FAA from imposing their “work rules,” Senator Obama solidified his relationship with NATCA and the 15,000 air traffic controllers it represents.

NATCA worked with other labor unions across the nation to help Senator Obama become President Obama.

On top of his other union obligations, (then-Executive Vice President) Rinaldi spend much of his time traveling the country, speaking directly to members about the importance of standing strong against the “imposed work rules” and the importance of electing a President who would stand with NATCA.

(Then-Senator Barack Obama Addresses NATCA members at their convention in 2008)

“President-elect Obama supported NATCA from the beginning in our long struggle for fair collective bargaining rights with the Federal Aviation Administration,” Patrick Forrey, then-President of NATCA wrote in a 2008 statement. “We were proud to support him and join with working men and women across the country to win this campaign.”

Shortly after taking office, President Obama directed the FAA to open negotiations with NATCA and resolve the three-year labor dispute. By the fall of 2009, NATCA and the FAA reached a tentative agreement that was ultimately ratified by the members.

In 2009, just after the agreement was ratified by the membership, NATCA President Forrey stated, “Today, the members of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association overwhelmingly approved a collective bargaining agreement with the FAA. It is a testament to our membership that they have endured the worst time in our union’s history, working towards and holding out for a contract that was negotiated in a fair process and agreed to by the parties.”

“This would not have been possible without the support and commitment of the Obama Administration, key members of Congress and the AFL-CIO in providing a fair and transparent process,” Forrey said. “Now is the time to move forward and forge a working relationship that will stabilize the workforce, effectively train the large number of new hires and keep the current system safe and efficient while we transition to the Next Generation Air Transportation System.”



Just prior to reaching an agreement with the FAA, Paul Rinaldi was elected President of NATCA and Trish Gilbert was elected Executive Vice President.

“I’m honored that my NATCA brothers and sisters have chosen me to represent them and am equal to the task. Throughout my career, I’ve made it my mission to further the goals of this union and I’m not stopping now,” said Rinaldi.

NATCA's Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert

NATCA’s Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert

Trish Gilbert was very well known throughout NATCA. Over her 21-year career, Gilbert was the Facility Representative at the Houston Air Route Traffic Control Center, chaired NATCA’s National Legislative Committee from 2005-2009, chaired NATCA’s National Organizing Committee and was the NATCA Charitable Foundation’s Vice President, and then its President.

“I congratulate my colleague, friend and NATCA president-elect and am ready to work with him to move our organization to the next level,” said the newly elected Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert in 2009.

The new leadership team of Rinaldi & Gilbert faced both new and familiar challenges. For the three years prior to their taking office, the relationship between NATCA and the FAA was completely broken. Rinaldi and Gilbert led NATCA to a new era of mutual collaboration with the agency. They have made improving the working relationship between NATCA, the FAA and Department of Transportation a top priority. Efforts like the Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP), Professional Standards, and Partnership For Safety are a result of their focus on progress and safety. These processes have led to collaborative decisions on important issues involving airspace, procedures, technology, staffing and training while also raising NATCA’s leadership role and voice in the aviation industry.


Political Strife Results In NATCA’s Rise To Power In Washington

2013 would prove to be an especially difficult year for NATCA and its members, as NATCA began warning people about the possible effects the Sequester cuts could have on the National Airspace System and the flying public.

“Sequestration cut nearly $493 million from the FAA’s Operations budget, $142 million from its Facilities and Equipment budget, and $8.6 million from its Research, Engineering, and Development budget,” Rinaldi testified to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “These sequestration cuts were not the result of a research-driven strategy to increase safety and efficiency, but rather for the sole purpose of saving money.”

NATCA Stop the Furloughs“Today’s announcement from the FAA unfortunately confirms the concerns we have been warning about for months – sequestration will significantly and perhaps permanently undermine the capacity of the National Airspace System. The fact that they will not just be furloughing critical FAA personnel but closing air traffic control towers means the system will be even more compromised than anticipated,” said Rinaldi. “The National Air Traffic Controllers Association continues to urge the nation’s policy-makers to find a solution that prevents or mitigates the impact of sequestration in a way that does not diminish the world’s safest and most efficient national airspace system.”

As March 2013 approached, it became clear that the Sequester cuts were going to take effect, and they were going to be painful for the American public. NATCA produced its own report on exactly how the Sequestration cuts would affect the flying public, and explained how every air traffic controller would be forced to take between 11-22 furlough days – forced time off without pay – between March and the end of the fiscal year.

The forced furloughs would mean that at least 10% of the available controllers would be forced off without pay on any given day. The Department of Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, and NATCA warned that this would mean immediate and significant delays throughout the National Airspace System.

NATCA, under the strong leadership of Rinaldi and Gilbert, tried to overturn these disastrous cuts. NATCA worked with legislators from both sides of the political aisle to pass legislation to stop the controller furloughs.

Like many things in life, sometimes you have to lose something to realize how much you really needed it. This was the case with Congress as air traffic controllers were furloughed in April of 2013.

“After just two days of furloughs for air traffic controllers, more than 10,000 flights have been delayed and more than 600 canceled,” wrote the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. “This is no way to run the world’s safest, most efficient national airspace system. Controllers continue to do their best every day to keep the system running. It’s time policymakers show the same amount of effort and dedication.”

Within three days, a bill was put on the floor of the House to end the controller furloughs. Within one week the FAA Furlough Bill was signed into law and controllers returned to work. It clearly showed the importance of the air traffic system and the political might of NATCA.

“Thanks to the action taken this week in Congress, they will be able to return to work full time,” NATCA said. “We applaud the bipartisan nature of the votes and look forward to working closely with the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure the newly granted flexibility is exercised in a way that maintains our national airspace system’s status as the safest and most efficient in the world.”

As 2013 continued, it became more and more obvious that House and Senate were never going to agree on a federal budget. Without a budget the government was forced to shutdown on October 1st. NATCA President Rinaldi and Executive Vice President Gilbert worked with Congress and informed the public of the dire effects on the air traffic system if Congress did not act to end the government shutdown.

“It is unacceptable that thousands of our aviation safety professionals have been forced to stay home due to partisan posturing in Congress,” said Rinaldi. “I implore Congress to reach an agreement to end this shutdown, which is hurtful to our nation’s aviation system, our economy and the American people.”

Image From NATCA

Image From NATCA

15,000 air traffic controllers were forced to go into work without knowing if they would be paid for their work.

“There are grave repercussions as a result of the shutdown on all aspects of the system,” said Rinaldi. “There are real people suffering real consequences as a result of this shutdown. The only way to restore the aviation system to full staffing and speed is to end it right away. This is an increasingly difficult situation that will only worsen as it drags on. The shutdown must be stopped immediately.”

NATCA was not alone in the fight to protect the National Airspace System from the government shutdown. NATCA partnered with unions and aviation advocacy groups calling for an end to the government shutdown.

It took two full weeks before the political winds shifted and the government reopened. NATCA began to make a call for a more stable form of funding, to avoid these problems in the future.

“Sequestration, the shutdown and the uncertainty they have wrought have disrupted flight schedules, peeled away layers of safety redundancies and threatened our ability to maintain fully staffed and trained workforces,” NATCA wrote.

It is clear to see why Paul Rinaldi, Trish Gilbert, and NATCA are helping to shape policies that affect not only the National Airspace System but all of labor as a whole.

At the AFL-CIO 2013 Convention, Rinaldi was elected as a vice president of the labor federation’s Executive Council. Rinaldi also serves as a union representative on the FAA National Labor-Management Forum, a group whose formation was mandated by a presidential executive order to improve labor relations within the federal government.


Looking Forward

As Rinaldi and Gilbert begin their historic third term they are facing some significant and pressing political issues. With the Republicans regaining control of the Senate and retaining their control in the House, the attacks on federal workers have already begun.

NATCA continues to call for a more stable funding process, one that will not be affected by the shifting political winds. President Rinaldi testified before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation. Rinaldi delivered his remarks during a hearing about the upcoming Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization process and options for FAA air traffic control reform.

“NATCA looks forward to working with Congress and other stakeholders to determine a solution that protects air traffic control and secures it for future growth,” said Rinaldi.

Now the entire government is facing deeper cuts due to the Sequester beginning again in this October. This is compounded by the cuts proposed by the House and Senate budgets that would force workers to pay more for benefits, push workers into a new retirement system, hinder the FAA from continuing their modernization efforts and would put addition strain on the workforce.

“End sequester,” Rinaldi said. “It is not conducive to modernizing our system, running our day-to-day operations, and growing aviation, which is an economic engine. We need a predictable funding system so that we can enhance the NAS and continue to be the world leader.”

It will take strong leadership and strong political influence to overcome the issues facing NATCA in the near future. NATCA clearly has both.


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)

Public Employees: Speak Up Knowing You Are Protected!

Written by
Terri D. Donovan, Esq.,
Director of Collective Bargaining and Field Services
American Federation of Teachers-NH

NH House Committee Hearing (Image by Christopher Schmidt CC on FLIKR)

NH House Committee Hearing (Image by Christopher Schmidt CC on FLIKR)

All of a sudden there are many meetings in our cities, towns and school districts consumed with budget hearings and deliberative sessions where funding decisions will be made about our schools and vital public services. You read the headlines. The loud voices to slash budgets seem to be heard above all. Will you sit on the sidelines or speak up about important public services and your schools?

You go to work every day and teach your students, plow the roads, answer a burglary call or respond to a house fire. You wonder do these naysayers really know what is happening every day in your workplace. Do your fellow community members realize the pride you take in your work? Or are you just a line item in a budget?

This time of year there are many questions from our members and other public employees if they are allowed to speak at a public meeting. If they speak, can they be disciplined? Fired? The answer is NO. As a public employee in NH you have a right to free speech. Just because your paycheck is from a city, town or school district does not diminish your right to be heard.

If you are covered by a union contract you have protections. In fact, AFT-NH Local #6214, Pittsfield Town Employees, filed an Unfair Labor Charge at the NH Public Employees Labor Relations Board in 2012 which addressed a gag order which had been imposed by the Pittsfield Board of Selectmen. The gag order was passed when union members spoke out against an egregious budget cut and actions taken to implement this cut. The Selectmen retracted this order shortly thereafter but the Union pursued the claim to stand up for public employees’ free speech rights. The NH PELRB was clear in supporting public employees in their rights to speak public about their collective bargaining agreements and their working conditions.

The NH PELRB ordered the following, “The Town shall cease and desist from any activity, including the development and enforcement of any policy, that would prohibit bargaining unit employees’ communications with the public or media on the issues related to collective bargaining or the terms and conditions of their employment.”

Also as a public employee in New Hampshire you have unique statutory protection under Chapter 98-E, Public Employee Freedom of Expression. If your employer is a county, city, town, school district, SAU, precinct or water district you are protected.

 98-E:1 Freedom of Expression. – Notwithstanding any other rule or order to the contrary, a person employed as a public employee in any capacity shall have a full right to publicly discuss and give opinions as an individual on all matters concerning any government entity and its policies. It is the intention of this chapter to balance the rights of expression of the employee with the need of the employer to protect legitimate confidential records, communications, and proceedings. 

Please check for important meetings in your city and town. Deliberative sessions and budget hearings are happening now! You may not be comfortable speaking but jot down a few notes so you feel more comfortable. Speaking from the heart and with sincere concerns will resonate with fellow community members. Your opinion does matter to them. Be sure to avoid disclosing any confidential information you may know as a result of your work. You should rely on your Union to advise when it is appropriate in the collective bargaining process to speak out publicly. Once a contract is presented to the voters for approval, it is very important for you to reach out for support in the community.

You can speak to what you would believe to be the impact of budget cuts and speak proudly of the work done in your district or municipality. When you speak out you offer encouragement and support for others in the community to also have their voices heard.

Please don’t be silenced!




AFL-CIO Announces Targeted Mail Campaign In Select States

AFLCIO MailMail to hit nearly 1 million households in AK, CO, CT, FL, IA, IL, KY, ME, MI and WI

(Washington, DC)—This week the AFL-CIO will launch its 2014 mail program, designed to persuade voters to support working family candidates. The mail is part of the AFL-CIO’s massive political mobilization program, which includes knocking on doors, distributing worksite fliers and phone banking. With more than 12 million members, the AFL-CIO’s boots on the ground make it one of the largest grassroots efforts in the country.

This week’s mail program includes 25 different pieces in 10 states: Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan and Wisconsin. The mail specifies the economic stakes this fall for all working people. The program is built on the trust and solidarity within unions and is designed to encourage voting even among working people who are discouraged by the weak economy.

Subjects include the need for working people to vote to counteract corporate control of politics, hold accountable pro-Wall Street politicians, support public education and enable paid sick leave. This mail program will continue through Election Day, and conversations with union members about working family candidates will continue into 2015 and beyond.

To view individual mail pieces, click on this link or paste it into your browser: http://www.aflcio.org/Legislation-and-Politics/2014-Printed-Mail-Political-Ads

Guest Column: The Age Of A Fractured Political System

Dr. Thomas J. Mackell, Jr.By Thomas J. Mackell, Jr., Ed.D.

This is an age of fractured jobs, a fractured economy, fractured families, a fractured political system, a terribly fractured American Dream and where the political protagonists, our elected leaders, are in need of spinal transplants.

The soon-to-retire greying generation is experiencing no pensions. Those pensions are promises that will not be kept, leaving thousands of employees in dire straits when they are most vulnerable. Roller-coaster retirement accounts subject to the whims of the market. Longer life spans and higher health care costs. Children in college. Young adults with staggering student-loan debt who are financially incapable of purchasing a home. Aging and ailing parents. A will to work but fewer jobs to be had.

America is dying for a champion who makes preserving the middle class a top priority. They want somebody who can level the playing field so that Main Street doesn’t always come second to Wall Street. Someone who is not running networks of oligarchs who take advantage of our weakened campaign finance laws to manipulate the democratic process in pursuit of their self-interests.

This is the scenario as we head into the 2014 Congressional elections with predictions that Republicans will hold the House of Representatives and, perhaps, gain control of the Senate.

If that happens, forget a Congress that looks out for the little guy.  In conjunction with a non-caring Congress, today, unfortunately, the concept of freedom has come to mean the freedom of the wealthy to do whatever they want, without regard to the consequences for the rest of us. In reality, the 1 percent has undertaken a serious effort to buy elections.

At any kind of gathering whether it be at work or at home, Americans are expressing disappointment about the way things run in Washington. They don’t see them dealing with the multitude of problems facing our nation. Their approval rating is at an all-time low. Many citizens say they see no value in bothering to vote.

Clearly, the constant bickering between the Republicans and Democrats is wearing thin on Main Street and leads to a notion of false equivalency. The Pew Research Center says that Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines than at any point in the last two decades.

The GOP has done all it can to undercut the Obama presidency. Democrats had to fight back. The line is drawn in the sand which has resulted in blind allegiance or blind hatred.

But let’s put the blame where it belongs: on the Republican side of the aisle. The Republicans must end their internal civil war between the moderates and the Tea Party aficionados.

Recently, a number of the members of Congress who have announced their plans to retire have expressed their frustration with the cantankerous environment in Washington and their inability to get things done.

When even the pols start complaining, you know that things are really bad. If they can’t find solutions then we are, truly, in deep trouble.

Despite this horrendous dilemma, failing to vote surely will make things worse. We have a solemn obligation to go to the polls. Neglecting the most fundamental responsibility of citizenship invites complacency and encourages political abuse. Showing up on Election Day proves we are in the game, that we care and that we want to see change.

There are areas of this country where people have been removed from the ranks of eligible voters and GOP operatives are doing all they can to suppress participation by traditional Democratic constituencies.

Today, the American workplace is plagued with wage theft, disrespect of culture, pressure, unsafe environments, unbridled automation and more. Everything solid is melting into air. This should not be tolerated in modern America. We must vote our pocketbook to protect our livelihoods and our well-being.

We must encourage our union memberships, thoughtful young folks and retirees to go out on Election Day and exercise their right to vote. They must be engaged in their communities and serve as an example to those who might stay away. Staying home is not an option. It will only continue and calcify this dangerous divisiveness.

Dr. Thomas J. Mackell, Jr. is Senior Consultant to the International Longshoremen’s Association, AFL-CIO for political, legislative and public affairs.

Cheshire Country Democrats Talk About Why They Are Running For Office

The Cheshire County Democrats are proud to release their slate of candidates for the upcoming fall election.

Cheshire County Courthouse (Wiki Common)

Cheshire County Courthouse (Wiki Common)

According to Carl DeMatteo Chairman of the Cheshire County Democratic Committee “At this time it is critically important that we all support and vote for the Democratic ticket to be sure we continue to make the kind of progress made in the last Two years in Concord. There is much unfinished work to do to ensure equality of opportunity for all citizens of New Hampshire.  Every vote matters! We cannot afford to return to the policies of obstructionism and the anti labor sentiments that are prevalent in the opposition party.  Even though we enjoy a strong voter registration presence here in Cheshire County, we are not taking anything for granted. We are encouraging our candidates to pound the pavement and talk to voters about our values and our vision for moving the state forward.”

County Commissioner District 2 Candidate Terry Clark of Keene, states his reason for running for County Commissioner is “To increase the level of resource sharing among local governments. State and Federal funding to local and county government is trending down and we must make the most of every tax dollar we raise. After all, it’s the same taxpayer paying for city, school and county government expenses. I also want to make sure that any changes in nursing home care do not take away the safety net county government has been providing all these years, and that property in Keene is not taken off the tax rolls to house a new nursing home.”

Anna Tilton, Cheshire County Registrar of Deeds who is running for re-election, “It is critical that the land transaction record of Cheshire County be accurate and safely maintained for future generations. I am committed to always improving our on-line services, serving the public and protecting the public record.”

“I am running for re-election as Cheshire County Register of Deeds to continue with updating our technology to secure our paper and digital records and to better serve those who use our services now and in the future.”

Eli Rivera Sherriff of Cheshire County who is running for re-election “During my first term in office, as Cheshire County Sheriff, I’ve been able to increase revenue by reviewing current practices and making the proper adjustments to reflect a true cost for services.  Our community involvement has increased and we’ve become active participants with local organizations throughout the county. It is important that our momentum continues and we stay focus on moving into the 21st century.”

State Senator Molly Kelly of District 10 is who is running for re-election “Through the tremendous efforts of the people of New Hampshire, our beautiful state has begun to make its way to recovery. The economy is growing and unemployment is at its lowest levels since 2008.   We have made progress with restoring funding to our University System and our Community College, providing health insurance for 50,000 hard-working people, and working together to solve difficult problems.

We have made great strides, but the recovery remains fragile. Now is the time for proven and experienced leadership to secure continued growth. Over the past eight years, I have worked with our political and community leaders to be that force for greater opportunities for our citizens, and more importantly a voice for the needs of the people of Southwest, NH. There is still work to be done and I would be honored to serve once again as your NH State Senator.”

State Senate:

District 10

Molly Kelly Keene

State Representative

District 1

Michael D. Abbott Hinsdale

Tara Sad Walpole

Lucy McVitty Weber Walpole

Paul Berch Westmoreland

District 2

John E. Mann Alstead

District 3

Daniel Adams Eaton Stoddard

District 4

James Cleaveland Keene

William Pearson Keene

District 5

John Bordenet Keene

District 6

Timothy N. Robertson Keene

District 7

Gladys Johnsen Keene

District 8

Cynthia L. Chase Keene

District 9

Richard Ames Jaffrey

Douglas Ley Jaffrey

District 10

Marge Shepardson Marlborough

District 11

Luke Sacher Fitzwilliam

District 12

F. Barrett Faulkner Swanzey

Ben Tilton Swanzey

District 13

Henry A.L. Parkhurst Winchester

District 14

Patricia Martin Rindge

District 15

Bruce L. Tatro Swanzey

District 16

Larry Phillips

Kris E. Roberts Keene

Conan Salada Keene



Eli Rivera Keene

County Attorney

D. Chris McLaughlin Westmoreland

County Treasurer

Roger T. Zerba Keene

Register of Deeds

Anna Z. Tilton Keene

County Commissioner District 1

John M. Pratt Walpole

County Commissioner District 2

Charles Weed Keene

Christopher C. Coates Keene

Philip Dale Pregent Keene

Terry M. Clark Keene





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