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Republicans In The NH Senate Stick It To Low Income Workers Twice In One Day

Yesterday in a very busy day in the NH State Senate, Republicans voted on two bills that specifically effect low income families in New Hampshire.  They voted on an increase in the minimum wage and a bill to kick thousands off of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) also referred to as food stamps.

The Senate rejected the minimum wage increase that would have raised the minimum wage to $12 over the next few years, right down party lines.  The bill would have raised the wages of over 100,000 people in the Granite State.  

“While 29 states and D.C. have increased their minimum wage in the last 4 years, Senate Republicans have voted to kill a New Hampshire increase for the fourth time, making us the only New England state that maintains a $7.25 hourly wage. I am disappointed that my Republican colleagues continue to turn their backs on working people. This is not only an economic issue, but a moral issue,” said Senator Donna Soucy (D-Manchester), Deputy Democratic Leader and sponsor of SB 83.

“This Republican logic that you can limit access to food assistance programs like SNAP while also voting to maintain a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour that is keeping working people in poverty fails to pass muster. People working full-time in New Hampshire should be able to earn enough to support themselves and their families.”

“Paying decent wages just makes good economic sense,” added Senator Soucy. “Volumes of research have shown that well-paid workers are better employees, better customers and are more likely to spend their dollars on necessities. The more workers feel financially secure in our state, the stronger and more robust our economy and the greater our ability to attract and retain skilled workers. While I’m disappointed our Republican colleagues continue to fail our workers, Senate Democrats will continue to push for an increase in our minimum wage and will continue fighting to expand opportunity for all.”

It is important to remember that some of the Republican senators are business owners that would be directly effected by an increase in the minimum wage.

In his opposition to raising the minimum wage last year, Senator  Andy Sanborn stated that raising the minimum wage is a “war on employers” but fails to mention that his vote against an increase is all about protecting his own self interest.

The Chairman of the NH Democratic Party, Ray Buckley, blasted the NH GOP for failing workers yet again.

“For four years, Governor Maggie Hassan worked to make our state number one in the nation for economic opportunity, with the lowest unemployment rate in the country. Building on that progress means making sure everyone with a job can provide for themselves and their family. For the second time in two weeks, Republicans have denied New Hampshire workers a raise by voting down a minimum wage.

By default, New Hampshire is tied for last in the country when it comes to paying its workers. The Granite State also has by far the lowest minimum wage in New England and that’s a legacy New Hampshire Republicans should be ashamed of. If Governor Sununu is truly committed to strengthening our economy and expanding opportunity, he should first make sure the people who live here are making enough to get by.”

“Raising the minimum wage to $12 per hour would come at the expense of entry level jobs,” said Senator Dan Innis as he argued against the increase.  Obviously Innis is mis-informed.  Study after study continues to show real life examples of how raising the minimum wage spurs economic growth, creating new jobs, and increases spending in the local community.

In January, Maine’s newly increased minimum wage went into effect and the results show what most economist routinely say, it will help create jobs.

“Average hourly earnings for private-sector Maine workers increased to $22.70 an hour and total employment increased to an all-time high, with a gain of more than 4,000 seasonally-adjusted jobs from December….Significant employment gains were seen among Maine’s restaurants and hotels, with the accommodation and food service sector gaining 700 jobs,” reported the Maine Beacon.

Then just to show how much Republicans care about low income workers they also voted to pass SB 7, a bill to change the eligibility of low income families to receive SNAP benefits.  

Senator Martha Fuller Clark was very disappointed in this partisan attack on low income families. 

“In the same day that we are discussing increased tax breaks for businesses and voting against the long overdue increase to the state’s minimum wage, Senate Republicans are passing legislation that prevents thousands of food insecure Granite Staters from accessing the SNAP benefits they so desperately need. I have to wonder – why are my Republican colleagues making it so hard for working families to succeed in New Hampshire?”

Senate Bill 7 restricts the Department of Health and Human Services from requesting or renewing a waiver of the federal work requirements for food stamp eligibility without legislative approval and requires that the department use the federal resource limits for food stamp eligibility for anyone denied a waiver. Food service providers, including the New Hampshire Food Bank, remain concerned that this legislation will have a significant, negative impact on the thousands of individuals who rely on SNAP to secure stable access to nutritious food. Moreover, significant research demonstrates that abuse of food assistance programs is extremely low. 

“139,730 people in New Hampshire are food insecure and 24% of those individuals are veterans. No one in our state should have to choose between paying their bills and buying food for their family,”  continued Fuller Clark. “This legislation puts vulnerable Granite Staters needlessly at risk and places an undue burden on municipalities and already strained food bank services. Democrats will continue to fight against these dangerous and misguided policies that put our state’s families at risk.”

Sarah Mattson Dustin is a staff advocate with The NH Legal Assistance, who testified against the proposed bill,  was also displeased with this vote and vows to continue fighting for low income families.

“NHLA and our allies who work on behalf of low-income New Hampshire families recognize the improvements the NH Senate made to SB 7 today. But this bill as amended still makes it harder for the food stamps program to continue serving low-income working families with kids. We will keep advocating for these essential benefits, which are 100 percent federally funded and a crucial tool in the fight against child hunger. We heard in the debate that New Hampshire’s senators received HUNDREDS of messages against the bill. That is a great sign that New Hampshire voters are engaged and committed to protecting our most vulnerable neighbors. There is still much work to be done, but we are deeply grateful to everyone who stood with us and with low-income working New Hampshire families.”

Opponents of SB 7 continued to point out the SNAP is a federally funded program and the State only pays a portion of the administrative costs.  The changes proposed would increase administrative costs at the state level while kicking more than 10,000 people off the program.

SB 7, submitted by Senator Kevin Avard (R-Nashua), was “word-for-word from The Foundation for Government Accountability, a Florida “welfare reform” think tank and member of the right-wing State Policy Network,” wrote Granite State Progress.  GSP also posted Avard’s “Tirade Against Poor Families, Food Stamps, and the Bible on YouTube.

Hard working, low-income workers just got completely screwed by the Republican led Senate who once again blocked an increase in the minimum wage and simultaneously making it hard for them to feed their families.

Senate Democrats’ Comments on Unanimous Passage of Pro-Business and Pro-Worker Legislation

CONCORD – Senator Martha Fuller Clark and Senator Donna Soucy praised the unanimous passage of SB 254 and SB 255.  These bills will enable the legislature to look at how best to support the growing peer-to-peer businesses in our state while protecting the stability of our existing businesses, creating safeguards for our citizens, and expanding opportunity for our low wage workers. Both SB 254 and SB 255 passed on voice votes on the consent calendar.

“Peer-to-peer businesses, such as Uber and AirBnB, are a rapidly growing sector of our economy and we should be doing everything we can to support new business growth,” said Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, prime sponsor of SB 254. “But as these new types of businesses start to grow here in New Hampshire, we must fully understand how these businesses can operate safely, what the state can do to support them and our existing businesses, and ensure a fair regulatory structure that protects consumers. I am very pleased that the Senate gave its unanimous support for this study.”

“As New Hampshire’s economy continues to strengthen, its important for us to make sure we are looking out for our low wage workers,” said Sen. Donna Soucy, prime sponsor of SB 255. “A lot of our job growth has been in the service industry, which tends to create lower paying jobs. As legislators, we need to understand how these low wage jobs impact our state and our local communities. And we want to ensure that we continue to focus on expanding opportunity for all our workers. I thank my Senate colleagues for supporting the creation of this important task force.”

SB 254 establishes a committee to study the impact of services provided for the public by peer-to-peer businesses and SB 255 establishes a low-wage worker task force.

State Senator Fuller-Clark and Rep Elliot: Overturning Citizens United Is Truly A Bi-Partisan Solution

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CC (FLICKR LIght Brigading)

By NH state Senator Fuller Clark and Representative Elliott

As Americans, we take pride in our Democracy and in the notion that in our Government we all have equal voice.  However, the New Hampshire legislature is currently debating the very meaning of this word. The State House and Senate will consider a constitutional amendment that would overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling. On January 29th, ordinary citizens, both Republicans and Democrats, argued for its necessity at the Capitol in Concord. They understand that the Supreme Court decision has opened the floodgates to unlimited campaign spending in our State by outside groups, drowning out their voice and that of the average New Hampshire voter.  While an open debate on the best way to rally support for or against individual candidates is important, let it be clear that the citizens of New Hampshire have already overwhelmingly decided on the issue of allowing outside money to influence the outcome of our elections. 

According to a University of New Hampshire Survey Center Granite State Poll, 72 percent of residents have said they oppose the Citizens United ruling, and 69 percent saying that they would support a constitutional amendment that would limit outside campaign contributions and spending from special interest groups and corporations 1. Our citizens understand that the presence of money in politics means that politicians are not necessarily beholden to their citizens, but rather to special interests.

Ignoring the support of New Hampshire’s citizenry for a constitutional amendment, those supporting defeat of HB and SB try to wedge a partisan divide by claiming that this is only a liberal issue. However, the fact remains that this issue is popular amongst voters across party lines – Republicans, Democrats and Undeclared. The average conservative voters understand that when outside money from special interests become the priority for their Representatives, their own voice is diminished. They understand that liberal special interest groups are no less culpable when it comes to big spending. For example, in the 2014 election, the top two highest spending superPACs in the country were both liberal.  What proud conservative voter in New Hampshire would have outside liberal donors such as Mr. Soros and Mr. Eychanar speak louder than any one individual voter does in our state and local elections? 

For any American, whether liberal or conservative, we must face a harsh reality. A recent Princeton study demonstrates that America is no longer a Democracy, when any major policy initiative only gains traction with the Government after wealthy special interest groups fight for them 3. In this day and age, if you want your issue taken seriously, you better have a billionaire on your side. 

Detractors continue to argue that spending unlimited money for or against a politician is a matter of freedom of speech. But, by that logic, why not allow them to give unlimited amounts of money (“bribes”) to a politician and call that freedom of speech? Why not allow lobbyists freedom of speech by allowing them to buy politicians free dinners and cruise trips as a means of gaining votes? Why shouldn’t the voices with the most money be allowed to control our elections? Most of us do not believe that this is what the Founding Fathers intended when they passed the first amendment protecting freedom of speech or what the soldiers who have sacrificed their lives for our county meant when they spoke of freedom.  And that is why it is so important for our democracy that the Citizens United decision be overturned. 

Clearly, if the legislature should represent its people, there is only one outcome possible – the bills are currently being considered in both the New Hampshire House and Senate this week should resoundingly pass in both bodies. How can any politician who votes against this legislation claim to represent his or her constituents?

 

1       Azem Z., and Smith A., Granite State Poll: New Hampshire Coalition for Open Democracy. The Survey Center, University of New Hampshire.April, 2013.

2       2014 Top Donors to Outside Spending Groups. <https://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/summ.php?cycle=2014&disp=D&type=V&superonly=N.>

3       Gilens M and Page B., Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens. Perspectives on Politics. Vol. 12: 03. September, 2014, pp 564-581.

Senator Martha Fuller Clark Introduces Breastfeeding Reform Bill To Help Working Mothers

Martha Fuller Clark 2

Image via Martha Fuller Clark (Facebook Page)

CONCORD – State Senator  Martha Fuller Clark has announced that her first legislative initiatives of the coming session is a bill that would require employees to provide  appropriate accommodations for nursing mothers while at work.

“Given the known significant health benefits of breastfeeding and the widely varying situations in which mothers may need to nurse or express milk, clearly the time has come to guarantee a working mother’s right to have a clean, private place for such activity,” Senator Clark said. “This legislation offers employers reasonable latitude to provide such accommodations, dependent upon the specific nature of their business and its respective facilities

but makes clear that working mothers must have access to a clean, comfortable and appropriate space.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding through the first 6 months of an infant’s life and continued breastfeeding until the infant is at least 12 months old . The World Health Organization, the US Surgeon General’s Office, and the American Academy of Family Physicians also recommend similar periods of active breastfeeding for mothers and their infants.

Clark’s proposal closely follows both federal and state legislation from around the country. Over 25 states have already passed similar legislation allowing for greater workplace access for nursing mothers during this crucial first year.  The Affordable Care Act also requires employers to provide such accommodations and provides for legal recourse to working mothers if employers fail to do so.

Clark added, “Encouraging and facilitating breastfeeding through the first year of an infant’s life ensures better health outcomes for both children and mothers  – that is why this is good legislation that I hope will be supported by all members of the business community throughout the state”.

Senator  Martha Fuller Clark represents Senate District  21 which is comprised of the communities of Durham, Lee, Madbury, Newfields, Newington, Newmarket, and Portsmouth. 

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