Nobody Should Ever Deprive the American People of Their Right to Vote

Reason #3 to Reject a Return to O’Brien Legislature

The O’Brien legislature made voting more difficult in our state, placed another mandate on already struggling communities, and tried to ban military members and students from voting in New Hampshire.

On July 4, 2013 124 individuals from 57 countries were naturalized in a ceremony at Strawberry Banke in Portsmouth. There will be a comparable number today in 2014.

Last year I had the distinct honor and privilege of representing the District One Congressional Office and to shake every single individual’s hand at the conclusion of the ceremony. The warmth of every one of those handshakes, the excitement on their faces, their carriage and the pride with which their families celebrated their accomplishment, said all there was to say about how each felt about becoming an American citizen.

If you have ever talked to someone from a country in which they had no voice and no control over their own destiny, they would tell you that one of the most important freedoms they now have as a citizen of the United States of America is the freedom to vote. It is not unusual that these newly minted citizens, who have had to learn our history and our civics (and frequently demonstrate a better grasp than many native-born) to attain citizenship, often hold the franchise more dearly than those of us able to exercise it by right of birth.

Those who come to our shores seeking full membership into our society and civic life had the way paved for them by many before them. While our fore-fathers fought and died for the rights to self-govern, at the time they didn’t necessarily see universal suffrage as a legal or moral right. It took decades for women, who were often treated violently and regarded as mentally unstable, to obtain the right to vote. Later, it took more years for Black Americans to win the unfettered right to vote.

Today those voting rights are under attack in more than half the states in this country. Although the courts have now entered the fray and have, in a number of instances, ruled against more restrictive voting laws, there continues to be a concerted effort by Republican majority legislatures in these states to erect more barriers to voting — despite there being no objective evidence of systematic voter fraud or abuse.

Under the O’Brien reign there were a number of attempts to strip students and military personnel residing in New Hampshire of their legal right to vote. In the final analysis legislation requiring restrictive voter ID was passed over Governor Lynch’s veto. The NH Clerk’s Association, among others, argued against these bills that solved a non-existent problem, saying they would lead to long lines at the polls and place a financial burden on our communities.

So, How Did Our Side Do?

Election officials and town clerks have lauded the current legislature’s postpone of one of the most burdensome provisions of the new law, that of requiring that a photo be taken of anyone showing up at the polls during elections without a photo ID. These officials argue the law is unclear and that questions remain as to whose responsibility it is to take these photos as well as who is going to pay for it. Further, they say this places an undue burden on town officials during an already very busy time at elections.

The current legislature has placed a two year hold on these provisions to ensure both the integrity of our elections as well as the preservation of the right to vote by all those eligible to do so as any underlying issues are studied.

Steps You Can Take Today to Prevent a 2010 Replay

There are 127 days to the November 4, 2014 general elections. Each action you take between now and then can determine the difference between re-electing a responsive/responsible group of legislators or a return to the destructive policies of 2011-2012.

Here are some proactive steps you can take today:

Visit the NH Secretary of State’s website here to see who will be on the ballot for your House and Senate districts. Look up information on each candidate so that you can share this with friends, family, co-workers and neighbors.

Contact candidates to let them know you will host a sign on your property. You would be surprised at how effective it is to let your neighbors know you are supporting particular candidates.

Ask candidates what you can do to help.

I’ll offer more tips in the next edition of the 2014 Election Alert. (BTW, if you have suggestions that you would like to see included here, send them along. I’ll include them in upcoming issues and give proper credit for these tips.)

In the words of Franklin Roosevelt: Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people and the only way they could do this is by not voting.

Ensure that doesn’t happen by committing to vote today in the September 9, 2014 primary and the November 4, 2014 general election. Mark your calendars now, then reach out to others you know to encourage them to register, if they haven’t already, and to make the same commitment to vote. Jackie PS: Don’t miss the diary section below. For the Diary: Memories from the days of the O’Brien legislature: They’re foolish like I was ..Voting as a liberal…that’s what kids do….They lack life experience and they just vote their feelings. Bill O’Brien, in justifying how he was going to correct that by taking away legal rights to vote. (It is noteworthy that, according to Karl Rove, “As people do better, they start voting as Republicans–unless they have too much education and vote Democratic…” So perhaps it isn’t youth, but rather too much education.) If you are interested in reading more about the evidence, or lack thereof, of voter fraud, one source can be found here. Former Speaker O’Brien (who wants to return to that position) has repeatedly, and most recently said in June 30 FB post, that his top agenda to the upcoming legislative session is the deceivingly labeled “Right-to-Work” legislation that has been vetoed by every New Hampshire legislature and governor for the past several decades until the O’Brien days. For an indepth review of the myths and the facts about this legislation see Media Matters analysis here. A return to the O’Brien reign will clearly see continued efforts to establish higher barriers to voting, to reduce workers’ voices and drastic cuts to higher education (the funding of which O’Brien has said is “insulating an inefficient industry.”)

(NOTE: While no Speaker or legislative body is directly responsible for the remarks or conduct of individual members, it is noteworthy that the O’Brien legislature was awash with members who thought such comments acceptable and/or members who displayed truly bizarre behavior for even an ordinary person, never mind someone in a position of writing our laws. It is the aggregate of these that speak to the core and the leadership of that particular legislative body. More on this with each future edition.)

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07 2014

The Schooling of Dick and Jane

Reason #2 to Reject a Return to O’Brien Legislature

The O’Brien legislature was the most breathtakingly anti-education governing body we have seen in the state of New Hampshire.

If you were not a member of the 2011-2012 legislature, or if you were not reviewing every piece of legislation proposed during those two years as I did to share in the Legislative Action Alert, it would be truly difficult to appreciate the magnitude of the above statement. Frankly, it would be difficult to believe the number or scope of the attacks against public education and public school teachers that occurred over those two years (see example of Rep. Tasker at bottom of this column).

At the outset of the O’Brien legislature, I reviewed all of the proposed bills before they were formally introduced to their respective committees and reported out to readers that they were “trying to dismantle public education in our state.” At the time, plenty of folks suggested that I discard the Chicken Little approach and cautioned that, to be taken seriously, I would need to tamp down my alarmist tone. As the bills were introduced and media scrutiny began to focus on their substance, folks began to say to me “OMG, they’re trying to dismantle education.” What I said!

Although it may produce nightmares, you can find the full list of anti-education bills along with a discussion of each here. The following is but a sampling of legislation from the O’Brien years that underscores the above point. (O’Brien apologists have argued that some of the following did not pass and were, therefore, not priority items for the Tea Party legislature. I’ve noted whether the measure passed or failed and provided final roll call votes that demonstrate there was ample support for each.)

Sought to lower high school drop out age to 16 (despite the fact that raising the drop-out age to 18 in 2009 resulted in a 44% decrease in drop outs). This effort passed the O’Brien House 210-134. While the bill was killed in the Republican-controlled Senate, it is worth noting that 25% of those members also supported it.
Sought to repeal the mandate to provide kindergarten. (This bill was, indeed, killed in the House as some have pointed out. However, the final vote was 213-134. Thus, more than half of the Republicans voting in the chamber that day supported the measure.)
Despite being the state with the lowest level of public support for our University and college system, the O’Brien legislature stripped almost half (45%) of the funding for our university system. (Passed in budget with full support of Republican members in both chambers.)
Stripped scholarship monies for NH students from the privately funded NH Excellence in Higher Education Endowment Trust Fund. Given that NH students carry the highest debt load in the country, this move only made it more difficult for our young people to cobble together resources to help pay for their education. Moreover, these funds were not taxpayer monies. (Passed in budget with full support of Republicans in both chambers.)
The O’Brien legislature passed (then overrode Gov. Lynch’s veto) an ALEC-promoted law allowing a parent or legal guardian to object to course material. While the law requires a parent to pay for materials to provide an alternative, that falls well short of the full costs of preparing an alternative curriculum. Moreover, the law does not address the matter of whether a teacher may find something factually untrue but be required to teach it anyway. (An example here might be parents who do not want their children to be exposed to scientific books or materials discussing climate change.) (Bill finally passed on the override by 255-112, almost entirely along party lines and with the overwhelming support of the Republicans in each chamber.)
In addition to the above actions there were a host of attempts to reduce funding for k-12 education in NH, reduce the standards of education, reduce assistance to our communities for educating children with developmental disabilities, to give the power of educational standards and requirements to the legislature, and to abolish or weaken the NH Department of Education. Some of items of this agenda were more successful than others. What the scope of legislative attempts coupled with public statements made by elected officials demonstrated was a legislative body that was ideologically opposed to the concept of public education.

So, How Did Our Side Do?

Gov. Hassan and the current legislature took steps to repair some of the damage done by the O’Brien years. However, just as with the fast-moving destruction of a tornado or hurricane, the aftermath and clean-up take far-longer (a fact you may want to discuss with other voters). Nonetheless, there were some very noteworthy steps taken in this biennium.

Funding of the University System was partially reinstated for 2014 (70% of the 2010 funding level) and 2015 (90%). While that was a significant improvement over the previous budget cuts, it should be noted that this funding is still lower than it was and it was already the lowest in the country.
In return for the increased funding, the colleges and University of the system have agreed to use the funds to freeze in-state tuition for the two years of the biennium.
Four million dollars of the UNIQUE funds for scholarships from the NH Excellence in Higher Education Endowment Trust Funds were restored.
This legislature’s state budget provided for grants to local schools to launch their own FIRST Robotics programs in order to enhance their science and technologies efforts.
Perhaps most importantly, the current legislature has been able to prevent legislative efforts that will diminish the quality or availability of education for our children. Although in the minority at this time, the Tea Party caucus has continued efforts to abolish the Department of Education and to weaken educational standards in New Hampshire.
Your talking point to friends, family and neighbors:

To create good-paying jobs and rebuild our economy, we must ensure access to a high quality education for every one of our children. Undermining education undermines our economy. O’Brien’s followers, even now in the minority, have continued to promote attacks on educational standards. You can bet that if they get back into the majority they will redouble their efforts to succeed in the mission they established in 2011.

Steps You Can Take Today to Prevent a 2010 Replay

There are 130 days to the November 4, 2014 general elections. Each action you take between now and then can determine the difference between re-electing a responsive/responsible group of legislators or a return to the destructive policies of 2011-2012. So here are some proactive steps you can take today:

Forward this newsletter to every educator, parent and grandparent of school-aged children and person interested in education in NH who you know. (BTW, you are doing a GREAT job forwarding the 2014 Election Alert. Every day I receive requests for subscriptions!)
Before you write a single check to an out-of-state candidate please consider those running for the office that will have the greatest impact on you and your family. (I love Elizabeth Warren, too. However, most of us have limited resources to use to help candidates and our state and local candidates need our help. Remember that even running for State Rep costs hundreds of dollars in signs and campaign literature and most of these folks are giving up an opportunity to earn money in order to serve us — all for the princely sum of $100 per year.)
Ask one person per day between now and the election to agree to vote. Make a list of these names and send an e-mail or note along a week before the election reminding each of the date and that they agreed to vote. Studies have shown that simply asking people to vote and reminding them of their commitment is very effective in increasing voter participation rates. (Asking them to sign a “pledge to vote” card and sending that back to them before the election is especially effective.)
I’ll offer more tips in the next edition of the 2014 Election Alert. (BTW, if you have suggestions that you would like to see included here, send them along. I’ll include them in upcoming issues and give proper credit for these tips.)

Jackie

PS: Don’t miss the diary section below.
For the Diary: Memories from the days of the O’Brien legislature:

“We would prefer teachers get jobs at private schools where they would negotiate their own contracts and make more money than the state can afford to pay them….they should consider the joys of serving their community as compensation for any pay or benefit cuts they may receive.” Rep. Kyle Tasker’s (R, representing Nottingham, Deerfield and Candia) response to a constituent concerned about the legislature’s abusive treatment of public school teachers.

Unfortunately, this is hardly the only time that Rep. Tasker’s statements or actions have, or certainly should have, raised questions about what voters were thinking of when they voted him into office for a second time in 2012. The latest controversy he inspired involved a sexually explicit graphic he posted to a public FB page with the statement “50,000 battered women and I still eat mine plain.” (Seriously, has anybody shown this stuff to his mother or the other women in his life?)

Rep. Tasker has also managed to drop one of the two guns that are part of his daily ensemble on the committee floor in the Statehouse, talked about shooting police officers and said he needed alcohol in order to work with Democrats.

Rep. Tasker is running for re-election and hopes to continue to represent the good people of Nottingham, Deerfield and Candia. You may want to take a few minutes out of your day and send along the above information to voters you know from those communities.

(NOTE: While no Speaker or legislative body is directly responsible for the remarks or conduct of individual members, it is noteworthy that the O’Brien legislature was awash with members who thought such comments acceptable and/or members who displayed truly bizarre behavior for even an ordinary person, never mind someone in a position of writing our laws. It is the aggregate of these that speak to the core and the leadership of that particular legislative body. More on this with each future edition.)

15

07 2014

Downshifting Responsibility Hurts New Hampshire Citizens

Reason #1 to Reject a Return to O’Brien Legislature

The O’Brien legislature cost our communities tens of millions of dollars (estimates range from $150 million to $250 million of downshifting) that is now being shouldered directly by property owners.

While O’Brien apologists argue that his legislature reduced the budget by 9.2% (a figure not disputed by the NH Center for Public Policy, a think-tank that analyzes state budgetary impacts), what they fail to tell voters is that none of the costs attached to those reductions went away. These needs simply became costs to our towns and cities.

Constitutionally, New Hampshire communities have no taxing authority beyond what the legislature grants them. ( FYI, because we are not a “home rule” state and because our municipalities are considered subdivisions of the state, the only authority they have is that which is expressly granted by state law.) The statutorily created ability to levy property taxes is the single most important source of revenue for our towns and cities. Those revenues support the lion’s share of services expected by our citizens.

However, in order to insure the health and economic vitality of our communities, New Hampshire has had a long tradition of “sharing” certain revenues. Our towns and cities rely on these to build and maintain infrastructure, to educate our children and to address costly environmental issues. Additionally, when the state has “partnered” with municipalities on programs such as the NH Retirement System, it has paid a portion of the costs for that partnership.

A sampling of the O’Brien legislature’s downshifting costs to our communities includes: elimination of the state contribution to the NH Retirement System (approximately $125 million dollars over the two year biennium to our communities) from the 2012-2013 budget, sweeping $150 million out of our community hospitals, costing jobs and hurting local economies, failing to reinstate state revenue sharing ($50 million over the biennium) and failing to reinstate state aid grants to communities for water and waste-water treatment ($8.8 million), to name just some of the downshifting that went on.

It could be argued that some of these reductions were necessitated by the slow recovery following the Bush-era Great Recession, but that would not explain why the O’Brien legislature reduced a number of revenue sources. For example, while balancing the budget on the backs of our communities, they reduced cigarettes by ten cents a pack leading to a decline of $20.1 million in state revenues. A variety of other tax reductions have led to tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue as well. (See NH Fiscal Policy Institute’s analysis for more on this subject http://www.nhfpi.org/research/state-tax/exempting-internet-access-from-taxation-would-increase-fiscal-stress.html.)

So, How Did Our Side Do?

While constrained by the Republican majority NH Senate, the current legislature and Governor Hassan’s administration did make strides in helping our cities and towns. Of particular note here is the fact that the Governor and key Democratic leaders worked closely with Republican leadership to craft the budget and policy decisions in a bi-partisan manner (something the O’Brien legislature was well-noted for rebuffing). Consequently, there were several legislative accomplishments that will improve conditions for our communities. These include:

• Of singular significance was the expansion of Medicaid that will ensure healthcare coverage to more than 50,000 of our citizens and bring more than $2 billion of our own tax dollars back into our state. This will relieve the pressure of uninsured patients on our community hospitals as well as the strain on local welfare budgets. (There will be more on Medicaid expansion in a future edition of this publication. However, it bears noting that the legislation that allowed for this requires that it be reauthorized in 2016. If the O’Brien legislature is successful, that reauthorization will come before a body that spent its two years in power railing against providing access to healthcare for our citizens. Thus, there is a very real risk of discontinuation of this program.)
• State aid grants for water and waste water infrastructure were reinstated in the amount of $9.5 million.
• Increased Meals and Rooms revenues to the municipalities by $5 million.
• Full funding for the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program that will send $8.5 million back to our communities over the biennium.
Your talking point to friends, family and neighbors: Who would you rather see in the majority — a group who cuts cigarette taxes while downshifting costs to our communities or one that understands economic growth comes from a partnership between the state and our cities and towns?

Steps You Can Take Today to Prevent a 2010 Replay

There are only 137 days to the November 4, 2014 election. Each day you can take a small step to ensure the continuation of the Democratic majority in the NH House, electing a Democratic majority in the NH Senate, keeping Governor Hassan in office and therefore, maintaining responsible governance. Below is a list of easy actions:

1. Send this communication to your e-mail list and encourage them to subscribe.
2. Talk to one neighbor or NH friend or family member about the true costs of the O’Brien legislature and ask that they pass the information along. (Think about this: If you get one other person to agree to vote in November today and you each get one more tomorrow and you all continue on that way for only 13 days you could reach every registered and eligible voter in New Hampshire — 1,048,576. Then you can take the rest of the summer off:))
3. Familiarize yourself with candidates running for NH State Rep and NH Senate (I’m sure you are already familiar with those running for congress and the Governor’s office) so that you can talk with others about what a great slate of candidates we have. (If by chance you still have an open spot on the ballot in your district, please consider running yourself or talking to someone you know about running. Although the official filing period has closed, there are still ways to get you on the ballot in September.)

That will give you enough to do before the next 2014 Election Alert! I’ll offer more tips in the next edition.

Start Your Diary Today:

“The world population has gotten too big and the world is being inherited by too many defective people….I believe if we had a Siberia we should send them to this and they would all freeze to death and die and we will be rid of them.” Former Rep. Marty Harty who resigned under enormous pressure from the public four days following his remarks. (NOTE: While no Speaker or legislative body is directly responsible for the remarks or conduct of individual members, it is noteworthy that the O’Brien legislature was awash with members who thought such comments acceptable and/or members who displayed truly bizarre behavior for even an ordinary person, never mind someone in a position of writing our laws. It is the aggregate of these that speak to the core and the leadership of that particular legislative body. More on this with each future edition.

Jackie

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07

07 2014

Welcome to my world of Politics

I’ve decided to go online to make keeping up with you easier, please stop back often to read the newest Updates on what’s happening in Concord.

 

04

07 2014