Thursday, April 14, 2011
Is This What You Voted For? Part 2
The current NH legislature has a GOP majority, comprised of a few old-school Republicans, mixed in with Free Staters (who moved to NH with the stated goal of dismantling our state government), Tea Partiers, and John Birchers. Thus far, they’ve caused our state more negative national attention than we’ve gotten since Pat Buchanan won the NH primary.
After running campaigns calling for balancing the budget, and creating jobs, their first act was to allow guns back in the state house. No word on how that would balance the budget. Highlights for the month of January include:
Rep. Al Baldasaro filing a Constitutional Amendment changing the oath of office taken by state and federal legislators.
Citizens denied the right to testify before an HHS Committee hearing, by Committee Chair John Reagan, who gaveled the hearing closed as soon as the primary sponsor introduced the bill.
The NH House ordered the state AG to challenge the Constitutionality of the health insurance reform bill, despite being told by the AG that ordering him to do so is in fact, unconstitutional.
Speaker O’Brien quoted as saying “Kids are voting liberal, voting with their feelings, with no life experience,” as a reason for a bill denying college kids and service members the right to vote in NH.
The House had a hearing on 2 bills that would repeal the marriage equality law, and one bill that would repeal all marriages, replacing them with a “domestic union.” Ridicule caused the House Judiciary to announce they were tabling these bills till next year. Except for the “domestic union” bill, which was judged inexpedient to legislate. Apparently no one wanted to explain to Grandpa and Grandma that they weren’t married any more.
Charlie Arlinghaus of the right wing Josiah Bartlett Center chooses $666 million as the amount of the state budget deficit. Not because it was accurate, but because it’s from the book of Revelation.
Rep. Lars Christiansen files a petition on behalf of a convicted felon – a man convicted on 69 counts of felonious sexual assault on a female relative under the age of 13. Speaker O’Brien initially approved this petition.
Speaker O’Brien hires a $75,000 a year “policy advisor,” intended to prevent him from making even more gaffes. This gives the Speaker a total of 6 staffers.
Rep. Steve Vaillancourt announces he wants to defund NH Public Television because National Public Radio fired Juan Williams. Clearly Vaillancourt doesn’t watch Sesame St, or he’d know the tune, “one of these things is not like the other.” Eventually this passed the House, with Rep. Karen Umberger speaking in favor of killing Elmo.
That was just January. The fun has continued. The NH House has voted to cut revenue by at least $240 million over the next 2 years, thereby ensuring cost shifting to counties and communities. Expect those folks who promised to “cut taxes” to actually cause an increase in your property taxes. The solution to that is simple, though:
“The property tax is a great tax because it’s voluntary. If you think your property taxes are too high, you can always sell some property. It’s all about how large you want to live. It’s a choice.” Rep. Paul Mirski of Enfield.
There you have it. Sell a few rooms of your house, and you’ll be all set!
The NH House has also tried to eliminate mandatory kindergarten, and eliminate divorce for couples that have minor children. (Can anyone say nanny state?) The House also passed tax cuts that even they recognize the state can’t afford, and tabled them, creating the illusion that they voted for tax cuts.
Rep. Dan Itse tried to give us a Permanent NH Defense force, for the upcoming invasion of Canada. This would cost the state upwards of $500,000 a year. There was also the bill to criminalize poverty, by forcing random drug testing on food stamp recipients. This bill would cost NH taxpayers around $7 million a year, while saving us absolutely nothing. The House also voted to withdraw from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, at a cost of $12 million. I thought they were supposed to be cutting costs?
NH GOP Chair Jack Kimball, and Speaker O’Brien were all listed as featured speakers at the “Nullify Now” conference that was held at SNHU. The Koch Brothers and the Free Staters sponsored the conference. Mysteriously neither of them appeared, after receiving some negative media attention.
The so-called “Birther Bill” created so much negative national attention, while also jeopardizing NH’s first in the nation primary status, that it was hastily withdrawn.
The Concord Monitor reported that 12 members of the NH House are also members of the John Birch Society, a group that the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified as an “anti-government” group. One of those legislators is from Carroll County – Norman Tregenza of Silver Lake. One wonders if he mentioned that on his campaign literature.
The House has also passed a bill to lower the dropout age, tried to do away with compulsory school attendance, and cut funding to NH colleges. NH already ranked 50th in the nation for spending on post-secondary education, and thanks to the House budget, we will rank somewhere around 80th place. Out of 50.
There’s also been a lot of ugliness. State Rep. Susan Emerson, a Republican who has been in the House for 10 years, told the Concord Monitor that Speaker O’Brien threatened to kick her out of the GOP caucus, telling her she wasn’t a Republican. Representative Lee Quandt, a Republican from Exeter was kicked off the House Finance Committee after voting against the budget. Republican State Senator Sharon Carson went to the police after being threatened by her GOP/Teanut town chair, Joe Barton. Carson opposes the so-called Right to Work law that was brought to NH by out of state special interest groups.
The jewel in the crown, of course, was House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt referring to Bishop McCormack, of the Manchester Diocese, as a “pimp and a pedophile” after McCormack spoke at a protest against the budget cuts, because he thought they would hurt the poor. Again, NH received national media attention, of the negative kind.
This legislature has made our state a national joke, while failing to do anything that will create a job – unless you work in the Speaker’s office. In fact, cuts in education will work against jobs. Companies want an educated work force. The House is making cuts that will eliminate jobs in both the public and private sector. It’s going to take decades to undo all of this.
I ask again: Is this what you voted for?
© sbruce 2011
This was published as an op-ed in the April 15, 2011 issue of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper.
Posted by susanthe at 4:13 PM