Thursday, February 20, 2014

Our Citizen Legislature

Our state’s august legislative body finally wrapped up the voting on 2013 bills about 2 weeks ago. They should have been done much sooner, but the liberty crowd did their very best to obstruct and needlessly bog down the process. There were endless roll call votes on issues that didn’t merit such attention. They didn’t win anything; they just wasted taxpayer dollars and the time of their colleagues. Their war cry is “gummint is broken” and so they’re doing their level best to break it so they can say neener neener. The lesson? Do not elect people who hate government to be the government.

All the delay and obstruction means that the 2014 bills are behind, and the weather has conspired to put the legislature even more behind. After next week, legislators can count on two session days each week for most of March. It’s unfortunate that leadership (minority or majority) can’t seem to do anything about the obstructionist cabal.

The committee process is where one can still find representatives actually working together and listening to new information. At a recent executive session on HB 1170, the bill to repeal NH’s death penalty, 4 legislators came forward and said that because of all they had learned, they’d changed their minds about the death penalty. They’d come into the process as supporters. They cast their committee votes to recommend that the full House repeal the death penalty. This is what we always hope we will see: our citizen legislature working together for the good of our state.

We don’t always. At a hearing of SB 319, a bill to establish a 25-foot buffer zone around women’s health clinics, Senator Sam Cataldo was far more interested in airing a grievance about a union work site that he’s been nursing since 1966. He brought it up at least half a dozen times to women who testified in support of the bill. It was so disrespectful. One of the men who came to testify in opposition to the bill is affiliated with a terrorist group, the Army of God. Remember them? Eric Robert Rudolph, Clayton Waagner, and James Kopp are some of the more famous bombers and murderers. In no other aspect of our society would protestors and self-styled “sidewalk counselors” be allowed to harass people.

Just imagine the outcome if a group of earnest sober people started counseling patrons at our highway liquor stores. Or if a group committed to nonviolence began counseling about anger management in front of a gun shop. This harassment is allowed to continue because after all, this only affects women. We turn a blind eye to enabling terrorists because after all, it’s only women. If we were attempting to legislate MALE reproductive systems, all protests in front of all medical facilities would end forthwith. Fortunately, the Senate voted to pass the bill, so now it moves on to the House.

The Senate also voted to pass SB 318, a bill to establish the crime of domestic violence. It’s always been prosecuted under other statutes. At the hearing for this bill, Senator Boutin suggested strengthening the bill by adding stalking to the statute, a suggestion everyone applauded. It was added to the bill as an amendment.

As always, there are endless gun bills, and other bills aimed at eliminating revenue streams from our state government. Meanwhile, NH has the 11th worst infrastructure in the United States. We have over 300 bridges on the red list for structural impairment. We cannot finish work begun on highways because there is no money – and still we are told that NH has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. We do have a spending problem: we’re averse to raising enough money to spend on fixing our decaying infrastructure. We will firmly bury our heads and pretend that it’s some other guy’s problem for as long as we can. When a dam fails, or a bridge collapses – well then maybe we’ll start thinking about the future.
Meanwhile, companies will continue to relocate to states that have the kind of transportation and telecommunications infrastructure that will support their business needs.

A bill to increase the minimum wage will be coming up soon for a vote. Already Americans for Prosperity and other similar minded special interest groups are howling with outrage about how this will kill jobs. NH has the lowest minimum wage in New England. Massachusetts and Vermont have the highest. Both states are faring far better than NH in adding new jobs. Most people who are paid minimum wage are adults. Most are women, trying to support children. No one works harder than low wage workers.

At the same time, NH has some of the highest housing costs in the nation, and there is great resistance to building multi-unit housing, because THOSE PEOPLE will move to town. We heard it for years in Conway. Welfare recipients from Massachusetts were just waiting to move to affordable housing. All the public transportation and safety net programs we offer here were a veritable beacon to the impoverished.

A new study from the Economic Policy Institute finds that 83% of the income growth in NH between 2009-2011 went to the top 1%. Meanwhile, the jobs that have been created since the recession are mostly low paying service jobs. This is not unique to NH. This is what’s happening all over the country. 

At some point we (the societal we) will have to make some decisions about work, pay, poverty, and the future. If not, we’re likely to hear the sounds of tumbrels rumbling in the distance.

Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind. ~ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

© sbruce 2014
Published in the Conway Daily Sun Newspaper. 


Anonymous said...

Every citizen should be extremely concerned about the nonsense legislation that these elected individuals are bothering with. We have a huge homeless and jobless problem in our state and nation. Panhandling appears to have skyrocketed as have so many other issues. Our infrastructure is dangerously aged and no attention is being paid to it nor all other more pressings problems. We have an abundance of low IQ elected officials who are wasting valuable time on garbage and not on the reality we face in our state and nation. Very frightening.

David said...

The genius of our form of government is that nothing moves fast or unobstructed. It is talked about, thought about by The People and those people have to chance to voice their concerns and support to their representatives. It is when things are pushed through at a high speed that we should be concerned. It also makes me personally question it more when there is a rush.