Thursday, February 18, 2016

Sweeping Up the Elephant Dung

The primary circus has left town. As we sweep up the elephant dung, and move the furniture back into place, we turn our attention to other matters.

The purveyors of elephant dung emboldened some of our excitable state representatives. Earlier in the month, the NH House, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs committee had a hearing on HB 1620, a bill prohibiting any member of a foreign terrorist group from receiving public assistance benefits of any kind. I am certain that a check box on the application will ferret them out. But, just in case, the bill contains a fink provision. Anyone can turn in a person whom they think is a member of a foreign terrorist organization, and collect a reward. All that potential reward money is going to get spent investigating malicious claims made by bigots with axes to grind. The kind of people who share the views of the lead sponsor of the bill.

State Representative Ken Weyler is from Kingston. He’s serving his 14th term in the NH House, so we can’t say that his constituents don’t know what he’s all about. After 14 terms, it’s safe to say that not only do they know, they approve. Weyler’s written testimony submitted to the committee stated “giving public benefits to any person or family that practices Islam is aiding and abetting the enemy. That is treason.”

In 2011, Weyler got some attention for saying that mental health providers encourage people to become “patients for life” to preserve state funding. He claimed that a woman who sought help for postpartum depression would be kept a patient for the rest of her life, even though she might not need services “once her baby became a little more animated.” Representative Weyler is a retired airline pilot, which is apparently where he developed his keen diagnostic skills. There should be no place for this kind of talk in the People’s House, but the NHGOP doesn’t care. They know that the toady media in this state won’t hold them accountable, so they keep on giving this guy committee chair positions. Weyler is currently the Vice Chair of the Finance, Division II committee. In other news, the Statue of Liberty has asked to be deported.

A couple of bills to legalize marijuana were voted down. The heroin epidemic has everyone scared, though not scared enough to vote to extend the NH Health Protection Plan, the expanded Medicaid program that actually gives people insurance that pays for treatment. A lot of pious commentary spoke of keeping marijuana out of the hands of young people. One can only assume that they believe that the guy selling weed on the corner asks for ID. Studies done in states where medical marijuana bills have been enacted show a 25% decrease in opiate overdose deaths. Here in NH we passed a medical marijuana bill that (three years later) still is not functioning. People in our state who are eligible are not able to access medication that the law entitles them to. That big bold state motto of ours is a bunch of hooey.  

Except when it comes to GUNZ! And MOAR GUNZ! Because having some of the weakest gun laws in the nation isn’t enough for our gundamentalist friends, who are lobbying hard against the expanded Medicaid bill because it “could” lead to people losing their firearm rights. So could rain falling from the sky, but (so far) they aren’t out there aiming at clouds. The gun crowd is understandably bitter. For 8 years they’ve been wailing that the black guy in the White House was going to take their guns away, and all he did was let them down. Another bill, HB 1416 would have allowed the Dept. of Safety to set reasonable frees for criminal background checks. The gun nuts decided that was anti-gun legislation, too, and defeated it.

SB 471, the bill to create a $5 fee for a handicapped placard is still languishing in committee. This bill would make NH the only state in New England to charge a fee for a placard. I wrote to three of the senators who are sponsoring the bill. One of them ignored me completely. One blew me off with “ha ha, love your column.” One made some “you don’t understand” protestations and blew me off. These were all Democrats, by the way.

It seems the Dept. of Safety is asking for this fee. Ordinarily our Republican brethren would be howling at the thought of a fee increase, but when it comes to people from marginalized groups (old people, handicapped people) they see dollar signs. They know those disabled people are MOOCHERS. After all, a handicapped placard means free parking! Anyone who thinks that’s a great deal is welcome to trade legs with me.

The Dept. of Safety is underfunded, of course, by our legislature who keeps our state government from running efficiently by ensuring a lack of revenue. The sponsors of the bill claim that MOOCHERS are letting their able bodied relatives steal free parking. This cannot be proven. No one has any idea how often it happens, or how much revenue is lost as a result. They know it happens though, because someone told them a story about it, kinda like the stories of busloads of people from Massachusetts voting in NH elections. This is how we run our state – treating people with disabilities like naughty third graders who have to stay after school because someone broke a rule.

Or they think someone did. After all, Joe’s neighbor told him about his friend’s sister-in-law who uses her mother’s handicapped placard, and there’s nothing wrong with her…except that she might be a member of a foreign terrorist organization.

“Man is the only animal that laughs and has a state legislature.” Samuel Butler

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