Thursday, May 26, 2011
Threats, Bribes - and Still No Override
The battle over the so-called right to work law has been going on for months now. If you read Mark Hounsell’s editorial piece, you know that that right to work legislation has been coming back to haunt NH since the 1980’s when it first appeared. In 1985, Nackey Loeb wrote an editorial opposing RTW, calling it the “right to low pay” bill. It has been voted down every single time, but it keeps on coming back. The out of state special interest group behind the law is relentless and well financed.
Let’s be clear. Right to work is not a NH initiative. Both Governor Lynch and Labor Commissioner George Copadis state emphatically that no business has ever suggested that NH enact right to work legislation. No company interested in locating in NH has ever mentioned it as a concern. So, if business doesn’t want it – what is this all about? Who does want it?
The Teabaglicans want it. That term includes the Teahaddis, Republicans, Free Staters, and John Birchers who are currently the majority in the NH House, as led by Speaker O’Brien. Some of the highlights of the Speaker’s tenure thus far include: trying to oust a state rep. for being a Democrat, failing NOT to oust his second in command for calling Roman Catholic Bishop McCormick a pedophile and a pimp, attempting to change voter laws because student voters are “foolish” and “emotional,” and vote for liberals. The Speaker’s reign thus far has a triumph of ideology over what is actually best for the state, or what voters actually want. Instead of making good on their campaign promises of “balancing the budget, and jobs, jobs, jobs” this majority has concerned itself with overturning nearly every piece of legislature voted in during the last session, no matter how inconsequential. O’Brien has proven to be a vindictive leader who apparently thinks he pulled the sword from the stone. Those who cross him are punished. Representatives Tony Soltani, Susan Emerson, and Lee Quandt were all removed from their committee assignments for voting incorrectly. Only Emerson was reassigned. Soltani and Quandt are still both in punitive legislative limbo.
Nowhere has the ideology and lack of principle been more obvious than in the right to work battle. O’Brien was infuriated by Governor Lynch’s veto of the bill. He complained to the Union Leader that the Republicans were not going to allow the Governor to function as “a third branch of the legislature.” Then the O’Brien junta set about persuading those members of the Republican caucus who voted against right to work to vote to override the Governor’s veto.
The pressure has been fierce. Tom Fahey reported in the Union Leader that members of the caucus who weren’t going to vote to override were being urged to “talk a walk” when that vote game up. That’s right. They were asked to avoid doing their jobs as duly elected representatives of the people. Threats were made. Rep. Susan Emerson reported being “bullied” in a private meeting with the Speaker, where he threatened to kick her out of the caucus. Rep. Steve Vallaincourt (who sits on the House Special Committee on Redistricting) penned a vindictive post on the right wing blog NH Insider, where he wrote: “Maybe if she wants to get re-elected in 2012, she better start thinking of coming back. Hey, who knows what her district will even look like next year.”
The outspoken Lee Quandt mentions threats and bribes on his blog. Apparently some legislators were offered campaign money in exchange for their vote to override this bill. Lee Quandt is what Republicans used to be in our state. He’s conservative but not an ideologue. He’s a reasonable man, and he’s also his own man. No wonder the leadership hates him. This kind of old-school Republican is being purged from their own party for not being willing to march in jackbooted lockstep.
The greatest irony of all is that the mighty override vote was supposed to take place on May 25, this week. Attendance was high, one of the highest rates of attendance in a legislative session this year, yet O’Brien chose not to go forward with the override vote. All of his bluster, threats, and bribes hadn’t been enough to get him the votes he needed. When Rep. Soltani called upon him to put it up for a vote, O’Brien became so enraged he had Soltani escorted to his seat by the House Sergeant-at-Arms.
This means that the vote to override the veto can be held at any time between now and December. A two-thirds majority of those present is the requirement for the override. Given what we’ve seen from the Speaker, it’s likely that there will be some sort of attempt at rigging this vote in the future.
This is not about what is best for NH. Workers in right to work states earn lower pay, especially women – and the pay gap for women in NH is so great that we currently rank 10th in the nation. The poverty rates in right to work states are double those in NH. We have a low unemployment rate as it is – lower than the right to work states. Nevada is a right to work state and has the highest unemployment rate in the country. No one is forced to join a union or pay full union dues. The talking points issued by folks like Frank McCarthy are just not true.
So what’s it really all about? It’s all about the benjamins. In a speech to the Belknap County Republicans, O'Brien told them that the bill “The bill "is good for our party." He claimed that the unions were the biggest donors to Democrats in 2010. He also singled out the State Employees Association: "They're not our friends. They cycle public money to the Democratic Party."
Don’t let all the high-flown rhetoric about job creation, “freedom”, or Frank McCarthy’s bizarre rhetoric about Russia fool you. This group doesn’t care about any of that. This bill is all about consolidating power and money for the Republican Party. If that means they have to stick it to NH workers in the process, well, that’s okay with them.
Once again I ask: is this what you voted for?
© 2011 sbruce
published as an op-ed in the May 27 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper
Posted by susanthe at 5:46 PM