Thursday, April 30, 2015

Elections Have Consequences

The priorities of the legislature should reflect the priorities of the state. If that’s the case then obviously NH voters are completely unconcerned about our failing infrastructure, and obsessed with guns, MOAR GUNZ, and completely unrestricted, unregulated gun ownership!

On Wednesday the NH House passed SB 116, the so-called “constitutional carry” bill. Constitutional carry is a cutesy name created by the NRA or the American Legislative Exchange Council (aka ALEC) the special interest groups behind the kind of gun legislation that crops up in a number of states simultaneously. It’s nationally coordinated, then fed to state legislators to make it look “local.” SB 116 removes the requirement for a permit to carry a concealed pistol or revolver. If a gun owner wanted to carry concealed, they applied to their local police chief for a permit. Police chiefs seldom refused, by the way. They did, in some instances; attempt to keep concealed guns out of the hands of known drunks and abusers. Quelle horreur.

The NH statute that required the permit has been in place for over a century. Saint Meldrim Thomson was in favor of the permitting process. All was well until the last few years, when suddenly (with the help of the NRA and ALEC) gundamentalists realized their rights were being infringed upon. Our own Senator Jeb Bradley stepped up and filed this bill to protect “law abiding residents who want 2 protect lives, liberty” as he tweeted out on Wednesday. I tweeted back to ask him why he didn’t file this bill in 1990, when he was serving in the NH House. Poor man – simmering with rage for 25 years over this terrible injustice to our noble gun owners! No wonder he failed to answer my tweet. I’m certain it had nothing to do with his attempts to suck up to the libertea crowd to get their support for his upcoming bid for higher office. It’s worth pointing out that polls showed that NH voters opposed the concealed carry statute change 3 to 1.

Imagine if our legislators were as obsessed with our failing infrastructure as they are with guns.

The other interesting vote this week was SB 113, the bill to allow two casinos in the state of NH. This is the most recent casino bill, and we all know the rationale behind the annual parade of gambling legislation. NH has a structural deficit built into our tax system. Rather than solve the problem and tax our 33,000 millionaires appropriately, we look for outside solutions. The time to bring casinos to NH was at least a decade ago, before the economy fell apart, and before the country was saturated with casinos. (Casinos that are now failing in many places.) Each new casino bill leaves NH with less revenue coming in than the previous bill. This one required a modest licensing fee for a 10-year license that a gaming outfit could sell to another gaming corporation. They would make a profit, but NH would get nothing. If the revenue demands from our legislature continue to decline, in another few years, we’ll be begging to pay a casino to come here so we can give them the entirety of the take. The legislature seems incapable of making a good deal for our state.

There was bipartisan support and opposition to the bill. The libertea crowd did some chest beating from the House floor about monopolies and free markets, and gave that as the reason for their opposition. I suspect that since Governor Hassan supports a casino, the GOP opposition had more to do with thwarting the governor than their concern for the free market.

That isn’t the real reason. The real reason is that NH conservatives don’t want the revenue. If the money came in, it could be spent. That would mean NH could spend on higher education, infrastructure, and safety net programs to help those in need. The agitprop slogan of the NH Republicans would be at risk:  “NH doesn’t have a revenue problem, NH has a spending problem!” The goal of NH conservatives is to continue to run the state in a way that maintains that bit of fiction. We have a problem generating sufficient revenue to run the state properly, and our GOP brethren want to make sure we keep it that way.

NH sure is missing out on a huge revenue opportunity by not selling guns at our highway liquor stores.

The voters of Coos County are getting a lesson in why it is that who they send to represent them in Concord matters. The budget passed by the House closes the DMV stations in Colebrook and Gorham. This would leave the Twin Mountain DMV station as the only one in the county. For some residents in the far northern reaches of Coos, this could be a four hour round trip. Ah, what fun that will be during the long winters. State Senator Jeff Woodburn was quoted in the Berlin Sun as saying, “If this budget cut holds, 72 percent of the residents of Coos County will have to drive over 30 miles for basic motor vehicle services.”

The NH legislature abandoned all pretense of concern for the north country long ago. Remember when one-term GOP Governor Craig Benson wanted to close the notches in the winter to save money? The folks of Coos are learning the hard way that sending ideologues to Concord may come back to bite them in the behind. Coos District One covers the northernmost part of the state: the towns of Pittsburg, Colebrook, Clarksville, Errol, Millsfield, Odell, Stratford, Dixville, and Columbia. District 1 is represented by John Fothergill and Lawrence Rappaport. Both voted for the House budget. Leon Rideout of District 7 represents a big chunk of Coos: Dummer, Stark, Northumberland, Milan, Lancaster, Killkenny, Dalton, Whitefield, Jefferson, Randolph, and Carroll. He voted for the House budget, too. I’m sure their constituents will thank them effusively for their good work as they take a day off to drive to Twin Mountain next February.

Elections have consequences. Who we send to Concord matters, especially to the north country.

 This was published as an op-ed in the May 1, 2015 edition of the Conway Daily Sun.  

Monday, April 27, 2015

Koch Front Group Wants to Purchase Seat in Rockingham Dist. 13

On Tuesday, April 28, there is a special election for the NH House in Rockingham District 13 (Hampstead and Kingston). 

The candidates are Democrat Carol Croteau of Kingston and Republican Dennis Green of Hampstead. 

Carol has a candidate Facebook page, where she lists her background:

Kingston Municipal Budget Committee-current
Kingston Planning Board-Alternate -current
Kingston Conservation Commission 2010-2013, Alternate- current
30 years Community Service
20 year Business Experience
Co-Founder of Bully Free NH
Board Member of Family Mediation and Juvenile Services

Dennis has a candidate Facebook page too, where he refers to himself as a politician. 
He doesn't list his background, just this:

My name is Dennis Green and I am asking for your support in Hampstead and Kingston's upcoming special election for State Representative. I am a conservative who believes in limited government, prudent spending and local control when it comes to our school districts. My constituents can count on me to support a balanced budget and to oppose any sales or income tax. 

That's just a snippet. The entire "about me" is just as nonspecific and filled with ideological talking points. We don't know if he's ever done any volunteer work in his community. He says he's been self employed, but he doesn't tell us the name of his business. Usually candidates are eager to give voters information. Not this guy. 

A broader search turned up his personal Facebook page. He has privacy controls set so that the casual viewer can't see anything - anything but his friends list. And he has friends! They include: Koch subsidiary Greg Moore - the guy who runs the NH chapter of Americans for Prosperity; Yvonne Dean-Bailey - the young woman who attends Mt. Holyoke in MA, but wants to (with Koch help) be the state rep from Rockingham Dist. 32; John Burt - the legislator who berated 4th graders about hot dogs from the House floor; Free Staters Carol McGuire and Shem Kellog; DJ Bettencourt - disgraced former NH House Majority Leader under Speaker William O'Brien; and the former speaker himself, State Rep. Bill O'Brien. 

Carol has received mostly individual small donations. Her largest donation was $500 from the Rockingham County Democratic Committee. She's raised $4,200.

Dennis has raised $2,050. His biggest donation was $1,000 from O'Brien's House Republican Victory PAC. It's important to note that it's the O'Brien wing of the NH GOP that supports Green. This is the furthest right fringe crowd - those who bray about Agenda 21, Sharia Law, and MOAR GUNZ! 

The Koch Brothers want to see Dennis Green get elected. Americans for Prosperity has been canvassing and making phone calls in this district. The guy doesn't seem to have any local support - but he has the support of outside special interest groups who are willing to spend all kinds of money to buy a seat in the legislature for Mr. Unknown Dennis Green. 

If you have friends in Hampstead or Kingston, urge them to get out and vote tomorrow - and to vote against special interest groups taking control of our legislature. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

NH Republicans in Disarray

We are approximately 10 months away from the NH Primary and the fun has begun. Candidates are visiting the state, some on a fairly consistent basis. They’re confining their energy to the bottom half of the state – as usual. They don’t bother much with the top half until they have to massage us for votes.

The Tea Party sprang into action in 2007. They espoused a sort of glibertarian philosophy; a lot of hard line fringe GOP mixed with some aspects of libertarianism. A lot of this was supported by low information voters who were willing to bellow about taxes, but wanted big gummint to leave their Medicare alone.

Political activists used the Tea Party (and the huge money behind it) to create a schism in the Republican Party, on both the state and national level. The Tea Party has bonded with the liberty crowd. In NH that includes Birchers and Free Staters. We’ve seen the old school Republicans in some areas forced out of office by libertea types. Nowhere is the divide more apparent than in the NH House, where the old school Republicans are in constant conflict with the libertea crowd, led by former Speaker Bill O’Brien. They’ve been a constant and deliberate source of obstruction and delay during House voting sessions. For months the libertea crowd has been carping about how Speaker Shawn Jasper (a conservative Republican) is really a DINO (Democrat in name only) because he was shrewd enough to use Democrats to help him win the speakership. In spite of all the acrimony, somehow Jasper and O’Brien kissed and made up (don’t dwell on the graphics of that) and passed a thoroughly odious budget that reflects the desire of the libertea crowd to “take the state back.” All the way to 1776, it seems.

This weekend, the Republican Party is having the “First in the Nation Leadership Summit” at the Crowne Plaza in Nashua. Both declared candidates, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio will be present. Also expected are likely candidates Bobby Jindal, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, the Donald, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, and Lindsey Graham.  Other speakers include John Kasich, Joe Scarborough, Frank Lutz, Scott Brown, Fred Barnes, Betsy McCaughey and Kelly Ayotte.

This is a two-day event that is already sold out. They have a slick website, where one can look at the agenda, the speakers, and the various events, including a focus group with Luntz and a media panel that includes Drew Cline of the Union Leader. There was ever any doubt about the Union Leader’s loyalty to the GOP – but it’s nice to see it there in black and white. 

The NH Young Republicans will be having their somewhat controversial convention during this summit. It seems that all of a sudden, at the last minute, applications for 70 new dues paying members of the NH Young Republicans appeared, funded primarily by GOP operative David Chesley, who is going to be Rand Paul’s NH campaign director. This is all about influencing who will become the next chair of the organization.

The day after this Republican shindig is the Summit of Grassroots Activists by the 603 Alliance. It’s at the same venue, and includes at least one of the same speakers, former NY Lieutenant Governor Betsy McCaughey. McCaughey was the lieutenant governor during George Pataki’s first term. He ditched her when he ran for his second term. There are only two female speakers listed at their event, both imported from out of state, McCaughey and Sharron Angle, failed US Senate candidate from Nevada.

From the 603 Alliance website, “A group of conservative activists joined together to create an organization---a movement---an alliance--- of like-minded constitutionalists and conservatives with the goal of impacting who wins the New Hampshire First in the Nation Primary.” That’s exactly how it is written and punctuated.

It’s the libertea crowd. The names of the Steering Committee are listed, but not much else. There’s a press release promising that this event is going to produce a loud bang, much like the shot heard round the world, on the day of their summit. The loud bang potential isn’t obvious from the website, which is dark, unattractive, and rife with florid rhetoric. Given how many Free Staters claim to be in the IT field, one would think they could have come up with something more appealing.

Their speaker list: Betsy McCaughey, Sharron Angle, Andrew Hemingway (former NH gubernatorial candidate), NH State Rep. Bill O’Brien, Aaron Day, who is Chair of the Republican Liberty Alliance and moved to NH as a member of the Free State Project. He’s also the Chairman of the Atlas Society, a group of folks who never grew out of their adolescent obsession with the fiction of Ayn Rand. NH State Rep. Dan Itse who fancies himself a constitutional expert, libertea blogger Mike Rogers, former NH GOP Chair Jack Kimball – businessman and UN conspiracy theorist, and Jason Sorens the founder of the Free State Project.

The Free State Project announced it was moving to NH in 2003, because NH was such a fine, liberty loving small state. They’ve given many reasons over the years, but all are variations on that tune. The tune was meant to distract, something the FSP is very skilled at. They talk about how peaceful and peace loving they are all the time, to distract us from the fact that they’re armed miscreants, coming to NH with the intention of taking over and dismantling our state government. They’ve told us for years that they aren’t political – when the opposite is so obvious. And yes, they told us they chose NH because it was so free. Horse hockey. They chose NH because of the primary. This is their big bid for influencing the primary process. This is the FSP coming out party.

It will be fascinating to see how the schism works this weekend, and how many of the GOP leadership summit speakers and participants hang around to be part of the 603 Alliance Summit. My money is on Rand Paul.

Published as an op-ed in the April 17 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper

Friday, April 10, 2015

Why NH Can't Have Nice Things

From the April 10 NH House Calendar:

SB 101, prohibiting the state from requiring implementation of common core standards. MAJORITY: OUGHT TO PASS. MINORITY: INEXPEDIENT TO LEGISLATE.
Rep. Glenn Cordelli for the Majority of Education. Common core has been a divisive and confusing issue for local districts and in the state. This bill states clearly that the common core standards are not required to be implemented in any school district. 

Vote 11-9.
Rep. Barbara E. Shaw for the Minority of Education. No law in New Hampshire requires school districts to adopt the common core standards, nor has it been mandated by the department of education. Therefore, SB 101 is unnecessary. 

This is a perfect illustration of the current NH legislature. 

Thursday, April 02, 2015

No Pretense of Compassion

Remember the “compassionate conservatives?” Former President George W. Bush would get that earnest, constipated look on his face as he described himself as one. Early in his administration, he used compassionate conservatism as a basis for his faith based initiative program, which was just a way of shoveling tax dollars at right wing Christian groups. Once Bush got his war, we stopped hearing so much about compassion. He did have boundless compassion for the plight of the wealthy, giving them huge tax cuts while putting the cost of his wars on a credit card, and sending off the children of the far less wealthy to fight and die in the war he was so desperate to start.

The compassionate conservative label was a layer of sugar coating intended to distract us from the fact that what these conservatives were espousing was the same old mean-spirited conservative policies they’d always been in favor of.

Then along came the Tea Party, and sugar coating just washed away. There was no pretense of compassion any longer. That lack of pretense has grown louder and nastier over the years.

There was no pretense of compassion in Indiana, when Governor Pence signed the bill legitimizing discrimination by the religious right. There’s no better way for the religious to show their faith than by refusing to serve gays and lesbians. They tell us that if we don’t allow them to discriminate in the name of their religion that we are discriminating against them!  Of course the same section of their Bible that they point to in order to justify their bigotry also calls for stoning adulterers to death, a practice they don’t seem to have the necessary fortitude to engage in.

A reminder: In 2012, the NH legislature attempted to pass a similar bill. Eighty-five legislators voted for it. Thirty-one of them still serve in the legislature, including Conway’s own Frank McCarthy.

There was no pretense of compassion in the legislature this week while the House was in session, passing their bungled budget. Speaker Jasper and former Speaker (and leader of the rump caucus) O’Brien somehow kissed and made up and worked together to pass this thing. Representatives Neal Kurk and Dan McGuire cackled with glee over the many opportunities they took to gut programs for the most vulnerable among us.

Greg Moore of Americans for Prosperity, a Koch funded special interest group, appears to have had a great deal of influence over the budget, despite the fact that none of us voted for him. Moore was brought in to serve as O’Brien’s policy director in 2011, and then became O’Brien’s chief of staff. Moore wasn’t too principled to refuse a taxpayer-funded paycheck. (The guys who hate gummint never are.) At the end of the O’Brien reign, Moore moved on to AFP, where he has served his new masters (the Kochs) well by putting out political ads last year that were outright lies about the Affordable Care Act. He’s a paid shill who is given a disproportionate level of influence over our legislature and given a disproportionate share of attention by the incurious GOP sycophants who make up the mainstream NH media.

New Futures, a group that works to educate and advocate the reducing of drug addiction in NH staged a “die in” in front of the State House on the day the budget was voted on. Some 300 people lay on the ground, representing the 300 people who died of heroin overdoses in the last year. Some of the participants were family members. Greg Moore was overheard mocking them from inside the State House. Later in the day, a reporter from WMUR tweeted out a statement made by Governor Hassan on the budget. Moore’s tweeted response was “You want fries with that?” Because what is more fun than mocking the plight of those less fortunate! Please ask your elected Republicans why this Koch tool has such sway over House Republicans.

That the GOP has whined for years about the raiding of dedicated funds didn’t stop them from emptying the state’s rainy day fund – a move that would lower NH’s bond rating. Please ask your elected Republicans why they would sanction such an action, knowing how it will impact the future of our state. They claim that hacking apart the governor’s budget was necessary, that we must live within our means. These “means” are an artificial construct. NH is the 7th wealthiest state in the nation. There are plenty of “means” at our disposal, but we refuse to use them. We refuse to raise sufficient revenues to fund our state at a responsible level, so every two years a new budget kicks the can down the road for the next legislature to have to deal with.

The hope now is that the Senate will have a more compassionate take on the budget. Anyone who equates the GOP majority in the NH Senate with compassion hasn’t paid any attention to the legislation they’ve been passing this year. One bill was a direct attack on people receiving benefits via EBT cards. The bill’s sponsor, Jeanne Forrester admitted that the bill’s provisions were impossible to enforce, but it needed to be passed anyway. What could be more important than demonizing the poor? It’s certainly cheaper than bucking up and doing something about the infrastructure. It’s the kind of legislation that appeals to the lowest common denominator of the GOP, something that she can point to with pride when it’s time to pass the hat for campaign contributions.

Today’s GOP no longer requires the veneer of faux compassion. Today’s GOP would mock Jesus for not getting a co-pay from the lepers.