Friday, March 20, 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 90 years (since 1923), 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 www.gencourt.state.nh.us 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.  

Living Within Our Means



The NH House Finance Committee is currently working on the state budget. They are outraged by the budget sent to them by Governor Hassan, and so the pushback begins. So far it contains every bit of cruelty that today’s Republican Party has ever wanted to inflict on the non-wealthy, and plenty more besides.

NH’s infrastructure is the 11th worst in the nation, and that was before this winter. The Republicans on the Finance committee want to slash $88 million from the Dept. of Transportation (DOT) budget.  Some bridges would be closed. Welcome centers and rest areas would be closed. (Probably not the ones where we sell cheap booze to tourists.) Approximately 700 jobs would be lost, that’s half the workforce. Federal funds would be lost. Say goodbye to completing the widening of I-93. NH has failed to invest in infrastructure for decades, but this is a kind of bold, intentional negligence that is hard to imagine in a state that relies so heavily on tourist dollars. This also means that 2500 miles of roads and 1000 bridges would be turned over to cities and towns to pay for.

The state was sued for providing inadequate treatment services for the mentally ill. The class action lawsuit was settled in 2013.
The Republicans on the Finance Committee are suggesting that the terms agreed to in the settlement be underfunded by 20%. Some other legislature can deal with the costs of the next lawsuit, right?

Apparently the Republicans on the House Finance Committee really hate old people. They’re suggesting higher taxes on nursing homes, as well as higher fees and $26 million in state funding cuts. They’ve also proposed $10.5 million in cuts to social services for the elderly, cutting funds for transportation, caregivers, senior meals and meals on wheels. Our new state motto: Hey Olds: Live food free and die.

Some $2 million in proposed cuts to community health centers. At a time when heroin addiction and overdoses are rampant, the Republicans on the House Finance Committee have suggested cutting the inadequate addiction services budget by $6 million. Governor Hassan had proposed $8 million for emergency homeless shelters. The Finance Committee has cut that in half.

Representative Neal Kurk is the chair of the Finance Committee. He’s from Weare. His district consists of the towns of Weare and Deering. If you are from any of the other 219 towns or 13 cities in NH, you did not vote for Neal Kurk. That doesn’t matter - he’s not shy about speaking for you. “This is what the people of NH want,” he intones, with regards to the budget cuts he’s proposing. It seems unlikely he’s spoken all of the people in NH, especially those north of Concord. To his credit, he does not approve of the DOT cuts. He understands the connection between infrastructure and commerce. He doesn’t want to hurt the roads and bridges. Hurting people is a different story.

The people who want to make NH a failed state are the libertea crowd, a mix of John Birchers, Tea Partiers, and Free Staters.  Representative Dan McGuire, a Free Stater from Epsom, is emerging as a star pillager in this year’s budget follies.

Representative McGuire has proposed $2 million in cuts to the NH Veteran’s Home. The Veteran’s Home was established in 1890 as the Soldier’s Home for Civil War Veterans. It’s now a home for elderly and disabled NH veterans. The cuts proposed by McGuire would mean that the Veteran’s Home would have to kick out 25 residents. I suggest that Representative McGuire be the one to go in and choose who gets kicked out. I further suggest that this be televised.

The cruelty goes on and on. The Republicans are desperate to eliminate the NH Health Protection Program that is currently providing 37,000 NH families with health care, and has reduced emergency room visits to hospitals by 17% in just 6 months. The BIA supports the NHPP, by the way. It is slated to sunset in 2016. Failure to extend the program will mean a loss of approximately $240 million in federal funds.

The Republicans on the House Finance Committee are also intent on gutting existing Medicaid services to adults. They are eliminating personal care assistance for people who are wheelchair bound, and eliminating therapy for stroke victims. They’re also eliminating access to ambulances, optometry, audiology, and speech, physical and occupational therapy. Medicaid covers adults with developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injuries. What kind of people even think of doing this? If a budget is a moral document, NH is heading for the warm place.

A proposed Kurk/McGuire cut of $60 million in DD funds (developmental disabilities) failed on a tie vote in committee. This would be 10% of DD funding. Remember the shameful DD wait list? It’s likely to be coming back.

The Finance Committee hasn’t just cut funds to Service Link; they’ve eliminated them altogether. It seems that if you’re not funding any services, you don’t need an organization to help people find them.

In many cases, the cuts being made will result in further cost shifting to counties, cities and towns. Those cities and towns will have to come up with funding – and you know what that means. Hello property tax increases!

There will be a significant loss of federal dollars. The libertea crowd thinks this is striking a blow for independence from the gummint. What it really means is that instead of a portion of your federal tax dollars coming back to NH, they’ll go to some other state. FREEDUMB!

The Republicans on the House Finance Committee assert that they have to do make all of these budget cuts, and they mouth the usual platitudes about “living within our means.” If NH is in such dire straits for revenue, how is it that the Senate has passed SB 1 and SB 2- bills that cut the business enterprise tax and the business profits tax to the tune of tens of millions of dollars? What they’re saying is that if we lack sufficient revenue to run our state in a responsible and humane way, we should make big cuts to revenue sources.


“Cruelty, like every other vice, requires no motive outside of itself; it only requires opportunity.”  George Eliot










Monday, March 16, 2015

Cruzin' For Unlimited Cash






Ted Cruz was busy in NH over the weekend. At one event he was working hard to ensure that a  three year old grows up to become a Democrat. 

Cruz thinks there should be no limits  on political cash: 

Unlimited political cash would give rank-and-file conservative activists greater sway in picking their representatives, including the president..

So people who don't have lots of money would benefit from not having lots of money? Huh? 

Cruz, a first-term senator who represents Texas, said deep-pocketed donors should have the same rights to write giant campaign checks as voters have to put signs in their front yards. Both, Cruz said, were an example of political speech, and he added that “money absolutely can be speech”.

Because everybody knows that folks who put signs in their yards have exactly the same clout as big donors! 




NH Legislators Teach Fourth Grade Class a Lesson


Mr. Cutting's fourth grade class at the Lincoln Ackerman School in Hampton Falls did something this year that many other fourth grade classes have done over the years. They decided to get involved in the legislative process by proposing a bill and following along as it progressed through the legislature. Their bill, HB 373 , would have named the red tailed hawk as the official NH state raptor. 

NH is a state that has an official state song and 8 honorary state songs. We have an official state butterfly, a state insect, and a state amphibian. We have an official state saltwater game fish and an official state fresh water game fish. We are not afraid of state symbols or songs. 

This year there was a glut of similar legislation. A state poem, a state fossil, and an official state wild cat were also headed to the House floor. The bill to name the bobcat as the official state wild cat passed. The others are doomed. It may be that the wildcat bill was assigned to the Fish and Game committee. It might be that the wildcat bill emanated from a private school. In a legislature dominated by public school hating Republicans, that might have made a difference. Or maybe it was just too many bills all at once for a legislature already strained by political strife and epic levels of incivility. 

Mr. Cutting's class testified before the Environment and Agriculture Committee, and did such a good job that the bill came out of committee with a recommendation  of OTP (ought to pass) on a vote of 10-8. This wasn't a ringing committee endorsement, but it was an endorsement, nonetheless. On March 12, the day of the session, the bill was special ordered to be the first bill taken up. The gallery was packed with Mr. Cutting's fourth grade class and their parents. 

From the moment the bill was introduced by the Speaker, things went really, really wrong. Angry legislators (from both parties) excoriated the students for wasting their time. For those who need a reminder, these kids are 9 and 10 years old. Representative Christy Bartlett testified at length. After criticizing the choice of the red tailed hawk, she seemed intent on teaching the kids a lesson that NOT EVERY BILL PASSES. 

Representative Warren Groen gave his first bizarre performance of the day. (It was not his last) He spoke about how the red tailed hawk has talons and a razor sharp beak. He described how the hawk grasps its prey with the talons then rips its victim to shreds - tears it apart limb by limb. Representative Groen then announced that the hawk would serve as a much better mascot for Planned Parenthood. Yes, this was how Groen chose to address the fourth graders and their parents who were sitting in the gallery - with this peculiar and inappropriate tirade. 


Then along came Representative John Burt, who thinks he has a great sense of humor. Burt announced that a constituent named "Big Chicken" sent him to speak. This was supposed to be funny because hawk, big chicken...okay, well it wasn't funny.  He then went on to complain that NH has a 10 billion dollar budget we should be working on, and that if we keep bringing more of these bills forward, which we shoon't, we'll be having a state hot dog next. This is supposed to be funny, because Burt puts on a self-aggrandizing hot dog shindig every year on the State House lawn. 

These were fourth graders, visiting the People's House. Representative Burt's performance was obnoxious and disrespectful. 

This is how adults serving in our legislature chose to comport themselves in front of a fourth grade class. These students were there because they embarked upon a project that was intended to teach them about how the NH legislature functions (or dysfunctions) and how a bill becomes law. They had one heck of a learning experience.  

See for yourself - the video starts with HB 373 - it's only a few minutes. 




These fourth graders, their families, and their school deserve an apology. If our legislators can't manage to do better than bullying ten year olds, they ought to resign. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Fergus Cullen - Moocher



Former Chair of the NH Republican Party Fergus Cullen lives in Dover. He ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 2013. One of the policies he mentioned his support for in interviews was Dover's tax cap, as we see here in Fosters:

After gaining political experience at the state and national levels, Cullen said he now wants to focus on making Dover a more attractive place for people to live. Cullen said he is supportive of the current City Council, which he said has been successful in adopting two consecutive budgets consistent with the tax cap, “putting a stop to runaway spending and tax hikes.”

“The sky did not fall,” Cullen said. “The tax cap is basically working. I'm supportive of that change. It was a long time coming.”

Cullen said it is possible to oppose higher taxes while at the same time supporting city services. He said that things have “settled down” for now, and that the city should continue to look for ways to “live within our means.” 


Tonight, Fergus has Jeb Bush coming to his house

Local Republicans are ready: So many people are expected to attend political consultant Fergus Cullen's evening house party for Bush that the city manager of Dover sent a bucket loader to move snow so that more cars can park in the neighborhood.

This is Fergus's idea of how to "live within our means?" This is mooching off taxpayers. That public funds are being used to clear snow for a private party for Jeb Bush makes it just that much more offensive. 




Thursday, March 12, 2015

Frank Guinta Still Under Investigation by the FEC




Remember this attack ad from October 2014? Frank Guinta claims Carol Shea Porter is LYING about him. He claims he's been cleared by the House Ethics Committee.

Here's the thing - Guinta was never under investigation by the House Ethics Committee. His transgression (the $355,000 magic bank account that funded his first run for Congress) occurred before he was elected. The investigation Frank is trying to deny is being conducted by the Federal Election Commission. (FEC). 

Here he is again, bleating about being a victim, claiming he was exonerated, during a televised debate on WMUR. He accuses Carol of lying. 




Guinta claimed that money was in a bank account he "forgot" about. Hell, who among us hasn't forgotten about over a quarter of a million dollars?

He's refused to explain where the money came from. One would think that he'd be able to produce a bank statement to clear it all up. One would think he'd want to clear this up. One would be wrong.

Guinta's first campaign featured a lot of wailing about alleged abuses by Congresswoman Shea-Porter of the House franking system. Guinta went on to become the largest abuser of that same franking system:  "Also among individual House members, Rep. Frank C. Guinta, R-N.H., spent the most on franked mail in 2011: $164,650."


Frank Guinta seems to believe that the rules don't apply to him. He  may be right - he's certainly not being held accountable. 

He repeatedly stated during his 2014 campaign that he was no longer under investigation. 

As Dean Barker has thoroughly researched, that just isn't true.  The FEC investigation into Franks Funny Money is still pending. It's been pending since 2010.. Surely Guinta could have produced a bank statement by now. 

Frank Guinta repeatedly stated during his 2014 campaign that he was no longer under investigation. 

At a town hall meeting this past week in Dover, he was confronted by constituent Bob Perry. From Fosters:

One testy exchange occurred toward the beginning of the forum when Bob Perry of Strafford asked Guinta about the Federal Elections Commission investigation into his past campaign spending practices. 

Guinta confirmed the investigation is ongoing but dismissed the initial complaint, brought by state Democrats, as political in nature. 

It wasn't Carol Shea-Porter who was lying. Frank Guinta owes Congresswoman Shea-Porter and all the voters of his district a big, big apology. 



Frank Guinta repeatedly stated during his 2014 that he was no longer under investigation. 










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:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1391474131160891

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.

OOPS


photo from the Nashua Telegraph

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/the-buzz/article10793018.html#storylink=cpy