Thursday, March 05, 2015

Bills, Bills, Bills

The legislature is back from a week of hiatus, and they’re getting back to business. A lot of proposed bills were dealt with this week, and the committees are busy hearing more.

One of the many good things about NH is our unwillingness to frivolously amend the state constitution. Every legislative session numerous amendment bills are filed, and most of them never go anywhere. This week, the House voted that CACR 1 was inexpedient to legislate. CACR would have amended the constitution to stipulate that a 3/5-majority vote would be required to increase taxes or fees, or to authorize the issuance of state bonds.

This is model legislation, from the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate funded organization for conservative legislators. ALEC drafts model legislation for its members to try to pass in their own states. CACR 1 was sponsored by Rep. Jordan Ulery, who is the NH State Chair of ALEC. ALEC’s goal seems to be to ensure that taxes are not raised and state legislatures are hamstrung. It is telling that Rep. Ulery couldn’t muster up a single co-sponsor for his bill.

The House voted down HB 350, which would have created a commission to study the impact of the property tax on NH residents, businesses, municipalities, and the economy. The commission would have written a report. Just a report. A non-binding report.

 The very idea of this commission was so frightening to the Republican majority that they voted against it 213-143. This is the same party that thinks that eliminating collective bargaining and business taxes is going to entice companies to move to NH. Companies thinking of locating here will be bringing employees – employees who will be interested in the cost of housing, property taxes, and education. NH has the 11th highest housing costs in the country. That the property tax might be a deterrent is apparently not worthy of consideration, especially if you’ve been beating the wrong drum hard and loud for decades. All of our local Republican state representatives voted against the commission.  

Republicans do have a long-standing resentment against education in all forms, but especially public education, and perhaps that’s why the idea of a STUDY was so abhorrent. HB 302, a bill to require a public hearing prior to the submission of a grant application by the Dept. of Education was also defeated. The goal was clearly to make life more difficult for the Dept. of Education by forcing them to bow and scrape before the legislature before they could go about their business.

HB 438, a bill to exempt proprietorships from taxation under the business profits tax was defeated soundly, in a roll call vote of 254-54. This bill would have cost the state an estimated $17 million in revenue next year.

A number of bills attempting to make voting easier or more difficult will be dealt with this year. HB 627 is a bill to eliminate same day voter registration. The bill stipulated that voters could register at the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Dept. of Health and Human Services, and the Dept. of Education. This would have undoubtedly been a real treat for the perennially underfunded and understaffed agencies, but the bill went down in flames. HB 185, an attempt to bring back straight ticket voting was also defeated. The supporters of this bill said that filling in a whole ballot was too difficult and time consuming. HB 652, a messy and confusing bill, would prohibit undeclared voters from returning to undeclared status after an election. It was defeated.

The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee has voted to retain HB 582, a bill to eliminate the concealed carry permit for a pistol or revolver. The committee wants to further study the issue. The Senate recently passed a bill repealing the requirement for a concealed carry permit. Non-residents pay a $100 fee for a permit, so it is estimated that this will cost the state nearly a million dollars in annual revenue. Supporters of these bills tell us that NH is one of the safest states, which is why we need this bill. NH has required a permit for 80 years, and somehow managed to become one of the safest states. The MOAR GUNZ crowd isn’t big on logic. My other favorite is “criminals won’t obey the law.” If that’s the case, why should we have any laws?

SB 30, a bill to provide state backing for a $28 million loan to the developers of the Balsams has been retained in committee for further study. There is some question about the financing of the project.

Developer Les Otten had an independent economic impact study done that is worth reading. We would all like to see the Balsams open again, creating jobs for people in Coos County. It’s a landmark, it’s part of our history, and we want it brought back. The plans, however, are a mite grandiose.

The study generates some fanciful expectations, like the idea that wealthy people will buy 50 percent of the residential units and relocate to the area. The plans for the Balsams are lovely, but anyone who thinks that the wealthy will be dying to move to a place where there is one bad road and questionable telecommunications access and infrastructure is living in fantasy land.

I encourage readers to go to the House on a Wednesday and observe the voting session. Many voters seem to vote purely on the basis of partisan affiliation. Most people don’t pay a lot of attention to what their elected officials do in Concord, or how they behave in the House chamber. It is an eye opening experience for anyone who hasn’t been there.

The NH General Court website is a treasure trove of information. You can look up legislators, look up bills, read the House and Senate calendars to see what’s coming up for a vote and what bills will be in committee during the upcoming week. Both the House and Senate voting sessions are live streamed for both audio and video. The chances are excellent that you’ll get the audio. The video, not so much.

As spring approaches, so does work on the budget for this biennium. This is something that will affect us all – so we should all be paying attention.  

Monday, March 02, 2015

The NAP is Crap

Some Free Staters are miffed about SB 105, a bill that would add electronic nicotine delivery systems (e-cigarettes) to the other tobacco products that are included in the indoor smoking act. The indoor smoking act prohibits smoking in enclosed workplaces or public places. 

When one is miffed about proposed legislation, one often begins by setting up an events page on Facebook. Here's the one set up by the Free Staters miffed about SB 105:

This is activism - organizing people in opposition to fight legislation that they object to. I wouldn't dream of criticizing these folks for taking action. 

Nope, what I find objectionable is a conversation on the event page. It begins with the use of the phrase "open season." Open season refers to the time when it is legal to hunt and kill a particular species. 

The activists I interact with don't make casual comments about shooting people they disagree with. 

Free Staters insist loudly and often that they adhere to something called the non-aggression principle. (NAP)  There's plenty of documentation that what they claim does not correspond to their actions. This is yet another instance. 

The open season post was made on February 2. Charlie McFreman is a Free Stater, and therefore one assumes he's an adherent of the NAP. It seems he doesn't think that suggesting "open season" on some of his fellow humans is inappropriate or needlessly provocative. He and his fellow Free Staters have had nearly a month to tell John Badeau that suggesting "busy bodies" might get shot is not only inappropriate, but it's aggressive -  in direct opposition to the non-aggression principle. 

No one has said a word. 

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Union Leader: FSP Propaganda Pipeline

On Feb. 28, the Union Leader  published a story about how the Free State Project is now claiming responsibility for 26% of the migrant population growth in NH from 2010 to 2014. 

It's part of a UL feature called NH Angle, which is featured on the front page of the electronic edition of the UL. 

All of this would combine to make one think that this is a UL story. It is not. The story was lifted right from the Free State Project's Free Keene blog, as you find if you "click to view the source material." The UL is presenting the FSP's  unsourced (and questionable) numbers as fact. 

We all know that the UL has been little more than a mouthpiece for the NH GOP, but this is different. This is the UL serving as a propaganda pipleline for the Free State Project, while giving them free publicity and a sort of credibility. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

New Hampshire's Rising Star

NH Senator Kelly Ayotte was the keynote speaker at the GOP conference in Missouri known as Reagan-Lincoln Days. Senator Ayotte is regarded as a rising star within her party, a party desperate to present itself as women friendly, despite all evidence to the contrary. 

From the Kansas City Star:

Keynote speaker Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire criticized Obama for foreign and domestic policy decisions, including problems in Ukraine and the Middle East.
“We need to take this presidency in 2016,” she told the group.
She also criticized the Affordable Care Act, referring twice to “800 million taxpayers” sent faulty notices as part of the program.
The figure was incorrect. The administration said this week it has sent out 800,000 bad notices, not 800 million.
There are roughly 320 million people in the United States.


photo from the Nashua Telegraph

Read more here:

Thursday, February 19, 2015

I'm Back

I’m back.

As you know, I was involved in a serious car accident in November. I had a crushed femur, 4 compression fractures in my vertebrae, and a bunch of broken ribs. This resulted in 2 surgeries, a 2-month hospital stay, and in ongoing physical therapy. I’m hoping to be walking again by spring. I’m feeling pretty fortunate – I didn’t die! I was also really lucky to learn that I have the best friends and the best support system anyone could hope for.

Enough about me. On to the legislature!

The big news so far this year was the O’Brien vs. Jasper upset vote for Speaker of the NH House. Former Speaker Bill O’Brien was so sure he was going to be Speaker again that he was boasting about it in the press. His supporters were negotiating deals on committee chair positions.

Then he lost. The libertea crowd lives in a bubble. They only talk to each other. This insularity leads them to believe that their rabid ideology is far more popular than it actually is; that they are far more popular than they really are. O’Brien made a lot of promises to be a different sort of speaker this time – one with an open door policy, and presumably one that wouldn’t close the House gallery to the people, or deny reporters access to his press conferences. Those promises fell on skeptical ears. 

On the day of the election, O’Brien tried to change the rules so that he could be king. Then he failed to get a majority in the first vote. After that, Republican Shawn Jasper entered the contest. Jasper managed to secure bi-partisan support, and finally won the speakership. O’Brien had a Rumpelstiltskin style tantrum, declared himself the real leader, and opened an office across the street from the State House to. …lead, or something. The libertea crowd has been calling conservative Republican Shawn Jasper a RINO and a (gasp!) Democrat ever since. If this sounds childish, that’s because it is.  O’Brien went to the Iowa Freedom Summit last month to mumble into a microphone and announce that he is the current Republican NH House Leader, which probably came as a surprise to Rep. Jack Flanagan who actually holds that position.

The O’Brien cabal is now doing all that it can to subvert the process. Bills that come out of committee with a unanimous or near unanimous recommendation (like a vote of 15-0 that the bill ought to pass) go on the Consent Calendar, which is a section of the House voting session that is usually pretty quickly dispatched by voice votes. Occasionally a representative will pull a bill off Consent, to try to sway his or her fellow legislators that the recommendation is wrong, and this bill deserves greater consideration. The libertea crowd has begun pulling everything off Consent in an effort to slow down the process. They know they aren’t going to change the outcome, but they can obstruct and delay, and that’s the goal.

The Speaker assigns the seating in the House chamber. Jasper sat the most obnoxious members of the libertea crowd  in the middle of what is called “Murderer’s Row” in the middle section of the chamber. Murderer’s Row is a reference to the 1920’s NY Yankees batting line up. In the case of this particular legislature, it’s a lot of angry men wedged in together, forced to climb over one another to get to the podium to speak. They heckle, make sexist remarks about women, and they plot their next moves in the obstruction and delay derby that appears to be their idea of how to best serve their constituents. Lucky for them, their constituents appear to vote solely on the basis of party affiliation, and pay no attention to how effective their state representatives actually are.

This is a budget year in the biennium, so the predictable talk about revenue and budget cuts has already begun. Given how little revenue NH raises to run the state, it’s interesting to watch the GOP try to starve the state even further. The Senate recently passed a bill to eliminate the concealed carry permit. This will create an approximate annual loss of a million dollars to the state, which bill sponsor Senator Jeb Bradley blithely dismissed as unimportant in an interview with NHPR. Given Bradley’s sudden toadying up to the gundamentalists, the lack of concern for revenue, and recent spate of mountain climbing publicity, it’s likely that Bradley has plans to run for higher office in 2016.

The bill to reduce the amount of the business profits tax from 8.5% to 7% would reduce revenue to the state by $60,000,000 in 2016. A bill to exempt businesses doing business as a proprietorship from the business enterprise tax would decrease revenue to the state by $17,100,000 in fiscal year 2016, and unknown amounts in the future, according to the fiscal note attached to the bill. Another bill to exempt proprietorships from taxation under the business profits tax would decrease state revenue by $17,025,000 in fiscal year 2016, and unknown amounts in the future. SB 6, a bill to increase the research and development tax credit against the business profits tax would decrease state general fund and education fund revenues by $500,000,000. Add in the million dollars from Jeb Bradley's gun bill and we're looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of $600,000,000. 

This is fiscal irresponsibility of on an epic scale. If all of these bills pass, NH will be in a mess. It will take decades to recover.

The libertea crowd is under the impression that once they eliminate business taxes and unions, then companies will be lined up at the door to relocate to NH. This is further evidence of the bubble. NH property taxes are outrageous. We do not invest in education. Our energy costs are exorbitant, and we have the 11th worst infrastructure in the nation. It’s clear to any company considering a move that we don’t invest in our state, so why would they?

Will the bubble burst? Stay tuned.  

Edited to fix the numbers - thanks Tony Schinella!

This was published as an op-ed in the February 20, 2015 issue of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper. 

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Two Tales of Grafton

Residents of Grafton, NH had their deliberative budget session on Saturday the 7th, in preparation for their annual town meeting on March 10.

As most readers know, Grafton is home to a number of members of the Free State Project, the band of armed miscreants moving to NH with the stated intent of taking over the NH government, dismantling it, and threatening secession. Grafton was ground zero - the town that the FSP intended to take over and turn into a model community at the beginning of their invasion. It hasn't gone well. Free Staters (then and now) don't seem able to grasp that not everyone shares their vision of a glibertarian utopia - and that many of those who don't share their vision were here before the FSP arrived to liberate them. 

I found two stories covering the Grafton deliberative session. They couldn't be more different. I suggest you read them both and reach your own conclusions.

In the Union Leader, news correspondent John Koziol is desperate to portray the town moderator as a weepy woman. It's mentioned twice in his story, and once in the headline:

Effort to constrain Free State backfires, confusion brings Grafton moderator to verge of tears 

In the story, she goes from "weeping" to "seemingly weeping." Hmmm....sounds like weepful thinking on the part of the writer. 

Koziol casts Free Stater Brian Fellers as something of a budget watchdog; asking for each department to review the budget, and making a variety of motions to cut the budget. He never mentions  Fellers problem with impulse control. Last year he was found guilty of disorderly conduct after his arrest for disrupting the deliberative session.  

For an entirely different look at the Grafton deliberative session, we turn to the Valley News:

By the end of a 10 -hour deliberative session yesterday, no substantive changes had been made to the 36 articles on the warrant that Grafton residents will vote on next month. 
In some ways, the meeting resembled last year’s — an 11-hour slog that, despite Free Staters’ efforts, resulted in no cuts to the operating budget. This year, attempts to slash the budget were once again rebuffed.

I'm just not seeing the "backfire" here. 

Many see Free Staters’ focus on procedure as a ploy to drag out the meetings so other residents will become frustrated and leave, allowing those remaining to vote in changes to their liking. 

The delay, disrupt, and obstruct tactics that the residents of Grafton see at their deliberative session are the same tactics that the Free Staters and their libertea allies use in the NH legislature. In Grafton it shows contempt and disrespect for the other residents of the town. In the NH House, it shows contempt and disrespect for their colleagues in the House - and even more contempt for the  people of New Hampshire. 

Two stories about the same event - yet they couldn't be more different. 

The Valley News appears to engage in a quaint, yet time honored practice known as "reporting."

The Union Leader has long served as a stenographer for the far right. In recent years they've embraced the Free State Project, and attempted to cast them in a flattering light whenever possible. This tear-stained story is just another of those attempts. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

NH GOP Clown Car Derails in Iowa

Mr. O'Brien went to Iowa and displayed all of the charm and charisma that have made him a legend in New Hampshire:

O'Brien introduced himself to Iowa as the present Republican NH House Leader. Bet the guy who was actually elected to the position was surprised to hear that.