Republican Controlled House Passes Constitutional Amendment That Will Have Devastating Effects on NH’s Entire Tax System and Downshifts to Municipalities

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Representative Susan Almy, Democratic Policy Leader on the House Ways & Means Committee, and Representative Stephen Shurtleff, Assistant Deputy Democratic Leader, issued the following statements on the passage of CACR 13, a constitutional amendment that will have devastating effects on New Hampshire’s entire tax system.

“This constitutional amendment will freeze our entire tax system with devastating consequences to the state’s economy and government. This constitutional amendment is not about an income tax – it IS an amendment to kill any growth in our depressed state revenues,” stated Representative Almy. “It guarantees ever-increasing property taxes, vanishing businesses, and lost jobs. It guarantees downshifting to our local communities. Republicans have said that they are business friendly. However, their votes today show otherwise.”

“CACR 13 will have a devastating effect on New Hampshire’s economy,” stated Representative Stephen Shurtleff.  “Many of our retired citizens are living on a fixed income and are already crushed by their local property taxes. This constitutional amendment will not provide relief but will devastate them even more.”

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Democrats Applaud the Defeat of CACR 12, the Education Funding Constitutional Amendment

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Representative Gary Richardson, Democratic Floor Leader, issued the following statement on the House’s action today on CACR 12, relating to public education.

“In the Claremont decisions, the Supreme Court ruled that the state has a responsibility to fund the total statewide cost of an adequate education for every student in the public school system. The proposed amendment would have given the legislature “the full power and authority” to determine the amount of state funding for education.  This would allow the state to downshift most, if not all, of the cost of education to the local property tax payer,” stated Representative Gary Richardson.  “The amendment would also have severely limited the ability of anyone to challenge the actions of the legislature by changing the standard of court review from a strict scrutiny to a rational basis test. The House’s vote today was a wise decision.”

CACR 12 was defeated by a vote of 224 to 141, having failed to gain the necessary 2/3rds needed to pass a constitutional amendment.

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Democrats Condemn Republican Vote to Suppress Voter’s Rights

Concord, NH – Representative David Cote, Democratic Policy Leader on the House Election Law Committee, issued the following statement after the Republican majority voted to pass SB 289, the voter ID bill.

“The integrity of the voting system in New Hampshire will be compromised with this legislation. The law could be used to target voters such as college students, low-income residents and our elderly citizens in order to intimidate them and suppress their vote,” stated Representative David Cote.

“Voter fraud is not a problem in NH. Citizens must prove their identity when they register to vote. Voting is the most fundamental constitutional right of our citizens and the legislature should only pass laws that insure that everyone who is qualified to vote is able to vote.”

“I believe that passage of this bill will result in chaos at the polls, and is unnecessary.”

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Democratic Leader Norelli’s Remarks Given at NHDP State Convention

House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli gave the following remarks at the NHDP State Convention, Saturday June 2nd at Manchester Memorial High School in Manchester, NH:

Good morning Democrats!  Could I ask all House members to stand?

After spending the last 16 months in the House chamber with about 300 Republicans, it is great for us to be in a room with over 600 Democrats!

Under a Democratic majority we were the safest in the Nation – the best state to raise a family – the most livable state.  We weathered the economic storm, and on Election Day New Hampshire was leading the way to recovery.

But Republicans and their shady out-of-state groups spent millions against Gov. Lynch and our Democratic congressional candidates, misleading the people of New Hampshire.

The truth is Democrats governed through challenging times, yet during our years we moved New Hampshire forward.

The Republican majority, led by Bill O’Brien and his Tea Party allies, insisted they would focus on jobs and economy.  Instead, they set the tone with guns in the State House, then guns on the House floor, then guns, guns and more guns.

Since then, they have continued to put their radical agenda ahead of the needs of Granite Staters.

Their budget was so draconian it drew over five thousand people to protest outside the State House!

They couldn’t afford to fund the Developmental Disabilities waitlist, but they managed to give away $20M to tobacco companies.

Their budget decimated services for our most vulnerable citizens – and cuts to state programs have forced cities and towns to pick up the tab.

As Democrats we fought for working families – passing the WARN Act, ensuring families have access to affordable workforce housing, and raising the minimum wage.

Republicans, on the other hand, have actually repealed the State’s minimum wage altogether.

And O’Brien’s top priority was to turn NH into a right-to-work-for-less state. I am very proud that all of my House colleagues stood arm in arm to defeat it.

Democrats believe that every child should have access to a quality education, but this Republican leadership has worked to dismantle our public schools by supporting the repeal of Kindergarten, lowering the dropout age, and even ending compulsory education. Now their “Voucher Bill”, dressed up as a “scholarship” will divert funding from our public schools.

And higher education was not spared either.  Under the Republicans, cuts to higher education were the greatest of any state in the nation.  Their claim to focus on growing our economy does not square with college that is unaffordable for young people.

And Democrats believe that women should have the right to make our own healthcare decisions.

The so-called “woman’s right to know bill” would have required doctors to provide inaccurate information to patients or face felony charges.

And the speaker’s attempt to defund Planned Parenthood would have put basic preventive healthcare out of reach for 16,000 Granite State women.

And who would have thought, in 2012 we’d be fighting efforts to allow employers to decide whether or not we could have access to contraception!

Well, not in NH, and not in 2012.

We WILL fight against their continued attacks on women.

We need to bring common sense back to Concord.  We need to make Bill O’Brien a one-term speaker.

To do that, we need your help to elect Democrats to the NH House.  I’d like to ask all candidates for the House to please stand.

Get to know your state rep candidates, offer to make calls, put up signs, knock on doors, write letters.

The House session ends in another week.  People will tune out for the summer. Our job between now and the election is to make sure every last voter knows what O’Brien and his Tea Party Republicans have done to our great state.

Two years ago, Republicans went up and down the State telling lies about Democrats.  I have no doubt that, if we spend the next 5 months telling the truth about Republicans, we will, once again, be able to move our great state forward.

 

Another Deception from House Republicans

Norelli and Wallner Call on House Republicans to Repay Taxpayers for Political Work; Reiterates Call for Independent Investigation

CONCORD – Decrying Republican deceptions to the people of New Hampshire, House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli and Deputy Democratic Leader Mary Jane Wallner today called on Bill O’Brien and the House Republican Political Committee to immediately repay taxpayers for the costs of Bob Mead’s salary and benefits and to begin an independent investigation of both the Mead and Bettencourt scandals.

“First, House Republicans lied to the people of New Hampshire and said Bob Mead repaid taxpayers for the cost of his political trips. Now we learned that didn’t happen and that Mead believed he was instructed to recruit candidates on the taxpayers’ dime,” Norelli said. “Bill O’Brien should stop stonewalling questions about this serious breach of public trust.”

“Bill O’Brien and the House Republican political committee should immediately repay taxpayers the costs of Bob Mead’s salary and benefits for working on Republican political activities. And Bill O’Brien should support an independent investigation into both the Bettencourt and Mead scandals, clearly there are a number of unanswered questions,” Rep. Mary Jane Wallner said.

The Concord Monitor reported today that Mead refused to repay the mileage funds because he was doing the tasks that he was assigned. O’Brien and his chief of staff Greg Moore have refused to answer questions about who assigned Mead to perform political activities, as well as questions about whether Mead received taxpayer-funded comp time off for the time he spent on Republican recruiting.

O’Brien’s chief of staff, Greg Moore, approved Mead’s mileage requests – knowing that they were for “Republican outreach.” Moore has refused to answer questions. He told the Monitor yesterday that the question of whether Mead had repaid the funds was a “personnel question.”

“Bill O’Brien has fostered a culture of corruption in the State House. This is a question about the inappropriate use of public funds for Republican political activities. The people of New Hampshire deserve transparency and answers from Speaker Bill O’Brien and his chief of staff,” Norelli said.

In addition to the issues with Mead, O’Brien has also stonewalled questions about his role in attempting to cover up the alleged fraud of his second-in-command, DJ Bettencourt. Bettencourt has falsely representing to the University of New Hampshire Law School that he had completed a legal internship.

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Letter to Speaker O’Brien from Democratic Leadership

Speaker William O’Brien
New Hampshire House of Representatives
State House
107 N. Main St.
Concord, NH 03301

Monday, May 30, 2012

Dear Mr. Speaker:

As you know, the image of the New Hampshire House has been tarnished by recent events.  Our legislative ethics guidelines state that legislators should treat their office as a public trust, acting “openly, equitably and honorably in a manner that permits the citizenry…to hold government officials accountable.”  Furthermore, as you wrote to the Republican caucus, you insisted on “honesty, integrity and ethical behavior” from your leadership team and said you would have “no tolerance for any leader who departs from that foundational standard.”

Surely the public has a right to expect those standards would also apply to the Speaker. Answers to legitimate questions raised by members of the public and state-wide media surrounding the resignation of Bob Mead should have been a priority.  Instead you proclaimed House leadership is “too busy” to discuss the extent to which taxpayer money was funding a staff person to primarily perform Republican political activities. While Bob Mead may have re-paid mileage costs after the Concord Monitor reported on this, we still do not know whether he was charging taxpayers for his time on these Republican political activities; whether he received comp time, as well as mileage, for recruiting Republican candidates on nights and weekends; or whether he was specifically directed to perform political duties and by whom.

As DJ Bettencourt resigned last Friday, he announced he was leaving to move into a position in your foundation. Given recent revelations, including your participation in a meeting on these serious issues prior to Bettencourt’s announcement, the people of New Hampshire deserve to know whether the Speaker’s office collaborated in efforts to cover up, conceal and excuse the former Majority Leader’s alleged fraud.

In your email to your caucus, you stated that you met with Rep. Bettencourt and Rep. Guida on Friday morning and that you found Rep. Guida’s claims had substance.  You stated, “it was agreed that DJ would immediately announce his resignation as Majority Leader and House member effective at the end of the June 6 session and he would cite personal problems as the reason for his resignation.”

This statement and your continued refusal to answer questions regarding Mr. Mead raise the following additional questions:

  1. Why did you agree to allow Rep. Bettencourt to cover up the reasons for his resignation?
  2. Why, if you felt his actions required him to resign, did you not request his resignation immediately instead of allowing him to serve through the end of the session?
  3. Why didn’t you take action when you heard Rep. Bettencourt’s original explanation for his resignation, stating that he was resigning because he was getting married and taking a job working for you?
  4. Was Rep. Bettencourt’s job with your legal advocacy group arranged before or after you learned of Rep. Guida’s claims?
  5. Prior to the disclosure by the Concord Monitor that Bob Mead was charging mileage for campaign activities, did you or anyone on your staff or your leadership team know that Bob Mead was being paid a salary by the state for the same hours that he was performing campaign activities for the Republican Party?

The people of New Hampshire deserve answers to legitimate questions – questions asked not only by the minority in this body, but by the media, by members of the Republican caucus, and members of the public. This is not the time to “close ranks.” This is the time to come clean with the people of this great state.

Given the refusal of the Speaker’s office to deal with these issues forthrightly, for the sake of the House’s reputation, we have no choice but to urgently request an independent review that will provide to the public a full accounting of both of these scandals.

We take great pride in the reputation for doing the people’s business with the highest ethical standards. That reputation stands tarnished today. Only an independent, full, and honest accounting can help the House regain the trust of New Hampshire’s citizens.

Sincerely,

Representative Terie Norelli               Representative Mary Jane Wallner

Representative Gary Richardson        Representative Stephen Shurtleff

Representative Cindy Rosenwald      Representative Lucy Weber

Representative Benjamin Baroody     Representative Bernard Benn

Representative David Cote                 Representative Sharon Nordgren

O’Brien Should Answer Questions About Bettencourt/Mead Scandals

CONCORD – Speaker Bill O’Brien must give a full accounting of his participation in the DJ Bettencourt and Bob Mead scandals, Democratic House leaders said.

“Speaker Bill O’Brien is a public official and he owes the public answers. The Speaker’s administration apparently misused public funds for political purposes and attempted to cover up a major deception by his second-in-command,” said Rep. Terie Norelli, House Democratic Leader. “These are not issues that can be just swept aside for political purposes. Speaker O’Brien must give the people of New Hampshire, and the members of the House, a full and clear accounting of his role in both of these scandals.”

The media has reported that an aide in the majority office, Bob Mead – who is also a close associate of Speaker O’Brien’s – billed taxpayers for mileage on trips to recruit Republican House candidates, and apparently spent taxpayer-funded time on “Republican outreach.” O’Brien’s office said they were too busy to answer questions about what Mead was doing for his taxpayer-funded salary.

Then this weekend, O’Brien’s second-in-command, D.J. Bettencourt abruptly resigned when it was discovered that he had apparently falsified internship reports to the University of New Hampshire Law School. Bettencourt at first claimed he was resigning to take a new job – with a foundation created by O’Brien.

In today’s Foster’s Daily Democrat, Republican Representative Julie Brown, said she believed there should be an investigation into the Speaker’s role in attempting to cover up Bettencourt’s alleged frauds. The Concord Monitor today called on Speaker Bill O’Brien to answer a number of questions about his role in the Bettencourt scandal. And today’s Union Leader blasted O’Brien for being unclear about the Mead scandal – and said of the Bettencourt scandal, “While it is unclear just what the Speaker knew about this fiasco and when, he might do his party and the House a favor by reflecting on his own future as a leader.

In response to questions, O’Brien sent around an email to Republican representatives calling on them to close ranks and stonewall questions.

Democratic Rep. Steve Shurtleff of Concord said, “In his pursuit of his extreme, far-right agenda, Bill O’Brien has created a culture of corruption in the New Hampshire. O’Brien, Bettencourt and their team have stomped on anything that gets in their way, including House rules, the New Hampshire Constitution, and the people of New Hampshire. It’s time Bill O’Brien face the music and tell the people of New Hampshire the full story behind both these scandals.”

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Letter to Speaker O’Brien and Majority Leader Bettencourt

Speaker William O’Brien
Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt
New Hampshire House of Representatives
State House
107 N. Main St.
Concord, NH 03301

                                                                                                                                                   Friday, May 25, 2012

Dear Mr. Speaker and Representative Bettencourt:

I write with concern about today’s Union Leader story regarding the taxpayer-funded political work of Bob Mead, and the suggestions by the Majority office and the Speaker’s Office that they were not aware of his activities.

Rep. Bettencourt is quoted as saying: “I have no knowledge of what State House employees do during their off-hours.” The Speaker’s Office Chief of Staff, Greg Moore, is quoted as saying: “I was not aware of any action that took place that violated any state law or legislative ethics guidelines.”

The statements in the Union Leader article seem to contradict the document that I am enclosing – a schedule for a Republican House candidate training showing both of you participating with Mr. Mead. From this document, it appears that it was very clear Mr. Mead had a significant role in candidate recruitment and training. Given your mutual participation in the same training, it is difficult to believe you were unaware of Mr. Mead’s candidate recruitment work.

While each caucus is assigned partisan staff, the duties of those staff members have always been focused on legislative work – not campaign work.

The people of New Hampshire deserve to know whether they were funding a state employee to recruit and train Republican House candidates.  This article again raises the question of what Bob Mead was actually doing for his tax-payer funded salary and whether he received comp time, in addition to his mileage reimbursements, for his attendance at Republican committee events outside the normal work week.

Charging taxpayers for Republican political recruitment is an abuse of the public trust and of taxpayers’ money.  Republican leadership’s attempt to mislead the public about their knowledge of Mr. Mead’s activities is disingenuous at best. The people of New Hampshire deserve a full explanation for these events and leaders who take responsibility for their actions.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I anticipate your prompt reply.

Representative Terie Norelli

Republicans Attach Anti-Choice Language to Tax Credit Bill

Concord – House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli released the following statement on today’s House Session.

“Today, the House Republicans continued to make a mockery of our once respected Legislature. Instead of focusing on economy and jobs, House Leadership attached a number of failed proposals to Senate Bills.”

“Extending the research and development tax credit is supported Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature and the business community. The House attached an amendment establishing a 24-hour waiting period for abortions legislation, already killed by the Senate, to the research and development tax credit bill.”

“This shows the continued trend that Republicans in the Legislature are willing to sacrifice jobs and bipartisan agreement in pursuit of their extreme anti-choice agenda. The Legislature should not be interfering in women’s health care at all and Republicans certainly shouldn’t be holding a jobs bill hostage in pursuit of their anti-choice agenda.”

Letter to Speaker O’Brien regarding Bob Mead

Speaker William O’Brien
New Hampshire House of Representatives
State House
107 N. Main St.
Concord, NH 03301

Monday, May 14, 2012

Dear Mr. Speaker:

It was with great concern when I first learned about Bob Mead, an employee of the House Majority Office, billing taxpayers for Republican recruiting trips – reimbursement requests that were approved by your chief of staff, Greg Moore. The taxpayers of New Hampshire deserve an immediate apology from you for this abuse of their money.

The people of New Hampshire, as well as the members of the House, also deserve answers to questions raised by Mr. Mead’s reimbursement requests:

· Who reviews reimbursement requests for House staff members?

· Who assigned Mr. Mead the responsibility for tracking House Republican recruitment?

· Who requested that Mr. Mead attend local Republican committee meetings to recruit Republican House candidates? Were Mr. Mead’s plans to attend these events approved in advance by the Speaker, Majority Leader or Mr. Moore?

· The Concord Monitor quotes Deputy Majority Leader Shawn Jasper as saying: “To the best of my knowledge, he (Mead) is keeping track of which Republicans are planning on running. Beyond that, I’m really not sure what he’s doing.” Specifically, what other duties does Mr. Mead perform?

· Is Mr. Mead responsible for keeping track of recruitment efforts of the House Republican Caucus or any other electoral work? How much time does he spend per week on this function? Is there another employee of the Republican State Committee or the House Republican Caucus who is responsible for recruitment efforts?

· Did Mr. Mead receive comp time – funded by taxpayers – for his attendance at Republican committee events outside the normal working week?

Charging taxpayers for Republican political recruiting trips is an abuse of the public trust and of taxpayers’ money. While Mr. Mead made the reimbursement request, the responsibility for his actions rests with the Speaker and the Majority Leader. The public deserves an apology for your actions and explanation of who authorized Mr. Mead to recruit Republican candidates on the taxpayers’ dime.

Sincerely,

Representative Terie Norelli