Thursday, December 22, 2011

Warning: Lunatic Legislature at Work

The NH legislature is in the national news again. Once again, NH legislators are covering our state with glory. They aren’t content with merely eliminating thousands of jobs, defunding the state university system, and ensuring that the number of bridges on the red list continues to increase. Another group might rest on their laurels after all that – but not these doughty folk. They’ve found a new way to avoid dealing with the actual needs of our state.

The latest boondoggle comes to us from lead sponsor Rep. Jennifer Coffey of Andover. She and a group of other legislators (all from the southern part of the state) have written a bill that, if enacted, would place warning signs at the NH/Massachusetts border. The signs would read, “WARNING: Massachusetts Border, 500 Feet.”

The Reps claim that this wouldn’t cost the taxpayers anything, since businesses would pay for the signs. That is untrue. Taxpayers pay every time a silly bill is introduced by a legislator, at a cost of approximately $1500 to have it written up, go through legislative services, etc. Already we’re paying for this folly. Coffey also points out that the DOT would place the signs. DOT workers are not volunteers; they’re paid by the state of NH.

Since the bill has generated some publicity, the sponsors now claim that these signs are necessary to inform people that they’re leaving NH and entering a state with different laws about seatbelts, motorcycle helmets, guns, and fireworks. It used to be that we residents were expected to be personally responsible for knowing all of that, and acting appropriately. How odd to see the liberty minded Teabaglicans taking such a nanny state action! Could it be that what they REALLY want to warn people of is that they’re entering a state that many of these elected officials deride as being the “Socialist Commonwealth of Taxachusetts” to the south?

This is truly a brilliant plan. Massachusetts residents come to NH to buy our cheap booze and cigarettes. MA residents come here to enjoy the many recreational activities available in our state. They come up to stay in their second homes. They eat in our restaurants, stay in our hotels and inns, and shop in our factory outlets. Massachusetts residents contribute mightily to the economy of our state. What a truly excellent idea it is to offend and alienate them!

The best part? Jennifer Coffey moved to NH in 2005. Guess where she moved here from? The same state that gave us so many of the current crop of legislators, including the Speaker of the NH House: Massachusetts. The warning signs really ought to be on the other side of the border. “Warning: stop sending us these people, or we’ll stop selling cheap booze and butts.”

In other NH gone national news, the Huffington Post covered the desire of Rep. David Bates to turn NH into a referendum state. This would require a constitutional amendment. Funny how these guys swear they love the constitution (either state or US), even as they express the need to change it. Bates is motivated by his obsession with overturning NH’s marriage equality law, a law supported by a majority of NH voters. He’d like to see NH laws subjected to the whim of well funded, out of state, special interest groups, as we’ve seen happen in Maine and California. Another brilliant plan from this legislature. That laser like focus on job creation that these folks campaigned upon has yet to rear its pointy little head.

The House committee on redistricting has also been working on their plan to gerrymander the state’s voting districts. The committee was comprised entirely of representatives from the bottom half of the state, which explains a lot about how the decisions were made about districts in the top half. They gave these guys maps, and armed with absolutely no familiarity with the north, they revved up their chainsaws, and got to work on carving up areas they have no familiarity with. So far, the plan seems unable to pass Constitutional muster, and best of all, they intend to bypass the Governor altogether, by issuing their plan as an “order” to the Secretary of State. The Teabaglicans seem intent on flouting long established tradition, at every part of the redistricting process.

Their goal in many cases seems to be to peel wards off in some cities and combine them with towns that certainly don’t have the same interests or needs. There seems to be an attempt to combine mismatched towns into big districts, which will cost candidates more to run in, and create a number of headaches for those elected, in trying to represent multiple communities with differing school districts. And of course, the goal is also to protect some who are currently serving and eliminate others. Towns that traditionally lean toward the more liberal are being paired with towns that lean far to the fascist right. The lawsuits will be a lot of costly fun for NH taxpayers, but will certainly create jobs for lawyers.

Representative Gregory Sorg’s recent letter to the editor about one of my November columns indicates that he was miffed at being compared to Scrooge. Sorg claims that 30% of our state revenue comes from federal monies, and that 40% of federal monies are borrowed. Sorg calls this unsustainable. Of course, we’re borrowing to fund the Bush tax cuts and wars, something Sorg would surely prefer not to acknowledge. It’s far easier to vilify the poor, which Sorg did, by referring to people needing fuel assistance as “engaging in irresponsible behavior.” Yes, indeed. How irresponsible of people to be under-employed, elderly, or poor!

NH gets back approximately $0.70 cents for every federal tax dollar we send in. We’re subsidizing states like Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alaska. Refusing federal dollars for heating assistance isn’t going to change any of that, it just means that we’ll continue to be a cash register, while refusing to raise sufficient revenue to run our own state with. As one of the wealthiest states in the nation, we could afford to pay our own way. We just don’t want to. Our legislature wants NH to be a poor relation, so that we will continue to be a tax-free haven for our 27,000 millionaires. And if that means that a few people freeze to death, and 15% of our bridges remain structurally deficient, well, that’s the way it was intended it to be, back in the 18th century that Sorg and his ilk intend to return us to.

"Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it."
Charles Dickens

© 2011 sbruce

Published as an op-ed in the December 23, 2011 edition of the Conway Daily Sun Newspaper.

1 comment:

CraftyVeggie said...

The Party of Scrooge has much to celebrate this season. One of which is that Gov. Lynch will no doubt be replaced by a real life right wing Scrooge who doesn't understand government, economics or social issues and doesn't need to. No education/common sense required here, just hate and intolerance. Pres. Obama will also likely be replaced by Romney, whose flip flopping, lack of creative ideas and hypocrisy, sits perfectly with his party of wrong turn Right. As for the signage we may be paying for warning of MA 500 feet ahead, well, it merely gives our tourist population something else to laugh at when dealing with "the mountain folk". The very fabric of this nation is falling to pieces, and the compromise Obama has practised wound up being pure capitulation. Perhaps Minister Louis Farrakhan was correct when he said that no matter who is elected, they are still a piece of the machine, and we are a one party system. We can write in candidates but this really wouldn't change anything. The machinary is broken and it isn't going to get fixed.