Democrats Lament Repeal of the Job Producing, Environmental Friendly RGGI Program

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Representative Naida Kaen, Democratic Policy Leader on the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee, issued the following statement on the passage of  HB 1490, which repeals New Hampshire’s regional greenhouse gas initiative cap and trade program (RGGI) for controlling carbon dioxide emissions.   

“The repeal of NH’s participation in the RGGI program is foolhardy and rash,” stated Representative Naida Kaen. “Repealing RGGI means that New Hampshire ratepayers will still pay the premium for the program but will receive none of the benefits.”

“This is a job killing bill! In one year, RGGI has created over 70 FTE jobs in the state through the RGGI fund. Withdrawal from the program will harm citizens, businesses and the environment.”

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O’Brien Throws Out New Hampshire Constitution In Unprecedented Power Grab

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Speaker Bill O’Brien today threw out the New Hampshire constitution in an unprecedented power grab aimed at ramming an unpopular redistricting plan down the throats of the people of New Hampshire without warning.

“Bill O’Brien’s actions today are a corruption of our constitution and the legislative process,” Representative Terie Norelli, Democratic House Leader, said. “The House is scheduled to meet tomorrow. Bill O’Brien could have obeyed the constitution and still have had a timely vote on the governor’s veto. This was a tyrannical abuse of power.”

Article 44 of the New Hampshire constitution says that the bills vetoed by the governor should be entered into the body’s journal proceeding an override vote.

O’Brien today interrupted today’s House session – kicking out Democrats and the Public – to hold a last-minute secret caucus to present a legal opinion that he said allowed him to override the New Hampshire constitution and centuries of New Hampshire House tradition.

Democratic Leadership was not even provided with a copy of the legal opinion before the vote.

When Democrats, after learning of the Speaker’s plan, asked for 15 minutes to caucus, O’Brien denied their request.

The House redistricting is widely unpopular and Republican and Democratic leaders in communities across the state called on Gov. John Lynch to veto it. It violates a 2006 amendment to the New Hampshire constitution – overwhelming approved by the people of New Hampshire – that requires communities get their own representatives in the New Hampshire House whenever possible.

Other plans—including plans offered by Republican representatives – have been offered that would have satisfied the New Hampshire constitution.

“Governor Lynch’s veto of this unconstitutional House Redistricting Plan is the right decision. This veto is not partisan; the Republican Mayor of Manchester, the Democratic Mayor of Concord, and numerous Town Selectboards have been outspokenly opposed to this plan. It denies several of our towns and cities the representation to which they are entitled under Part II, Article 11 of the New Hampshire Constitution. And today Speaker Bill O’Brien, with his abuse of power, denied those elected officials a chance to come to Concord and be heard,” Norelli said.

“Several Republican State Representatives have offered plans that would have complied with the New Hampshire Constitution and federal requirements, and House Democrats supported those plans – because this should not be a partisan issue. Inexplicably, Speaker O’Brien does not want to adopt any of those plans, even though his refusal violates our constitution,” Norelli said.

“We remain committed to working with Republicans to pass a compromise plan which follows the will of New Hampshire voters as expressed in the 2006 constitutional amendment. I hope that the Senate votes to sustain the Governor’s veto so we can work out a compromise plan or else this unconstitutional plan will undoubtedly head to the Courts,” Norelli said.

 

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House Democratic Leader’s Comments on Governor Lynch’s Veto of the House Redistricting Plan

Concord, NH – Representative Terie Norelli, Democratic House Leader issued the following statement on Governor Lynch’s veto of House Bill 592, the New Hampshire House Redistricting Plan.

“Governor Lynch’s veto of this unconstitutional House Redistricting Plan is the right decision. This veto is not partisan; the Republican Mayor of Manchester, the Democratic Mayor of Concord, and numerous Town Selectboards have been outspokenly opposed to this plan. It denies several or our towns and cities the representation to which they are entitled under Part II, Article 11 of the New Hampshire Constitution.”

“For example, the Town of Pelham should have their own four State Representatives.  Instead, this plan forces Pelham into a district with the Town of Hudson, denying Pelham representation. The voters were clear when they overwhelmingly passed an amendment to the New Hampshire Constitution in 2006: every town and ward that has the population to support one or more representatives must have those representatives. Unfortunately for the people of Pelham and other communities, Republican House Speaker Bill O’Brien and his leadership team are refusing to conform to New Hampshire’s Constitution.”

“Several Republican State Representatives have offered plans that would have complied with the New Hampshire Constitution and federal requirements, and House Democrats supported those plans – because this should not be a partisan issue. Inexplicably, Speaker O’Brien does not want to adopt any of those plans, even though his refusal violates our constitution.  We remain committed to working with Republicans to pass a compromise plan which follows the will of New Hampshire voters as expressed in the 2006 constitutional amendment.”

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Democrats Praise House Vote to Recognize Marriage Equality

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Representative Terie Norelli, House Democratic Leader, issued the following statement regarding today’s House vote on marriage equality.

“I would like to praise the NH House for recognizing that in NH, marriage equality is for all NH citizens. The vote today solidifies what the majority of NH citizens believe – that marriage equality is about the people of this great state. I am very proud of the House vote today to uphold our marriage laws and to be a leader in our nation.”

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Republicans Give Unfair Advantage to Specialty Hospitals and Driving Up Health Costs

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Representative Terie Norelli, House Democratic Leader and Representative James MacKay, Democratic Policy Leader on Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs issued the following statements on the passage of House Bill 1642, which exempts destination specialty hospitals from the certificate of need process and from the Medicaid Enhanced Tax by a vote of 198 to 161.

“Exempting specialty hospitals from the certificate of need process and from the Medicaid Enhanced Tax gives them an unfair competitive advantage over existing health care facilities in New Hampshire.” said MacKay. “Specialty hospitals will not take Medicaid patients which will leave our community hospitals with the care of Medicaid patients and patients who have no insurance, which drives up the health care costs for the rest of us.”

“Why would we give an out-of-state company an unfair advantage that we do not provide for our health care facilities in New Hampshire? The Legislature should not be picking winners and losers” said Norelli. “I am also concerned that the House Republicans would offer a floor amendment that would likely have a significant fiscal impact without sending it to the proper committee to examine the costs to our State.”

“House Democrats agree with the Business and Industry Association in their opposition to this bill, because Granite State businesses and families will pay higher insurance premiums as a result,” concluded Norelli.

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Democrats Denounce Change to House Rules

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Representative Gary Richardson, Democratic Floor Leader and Representative Stephen Shurtleff, Assistant Deputy Democratic Leader, issued the following statements regarding a change to House Rules that would give subpoena power to a small number of members.

“This change to House Rules gives the Speaker the authority to issue subpoenas, subject only to the approval of committees that are appointed by the Speaker,” stated Representative Gary Richardson. “This will totally change the way the House operates. It makes the committees into vehicles to conduct inquisitions. This change in Rules delegates our responsibility and authority to subpoena as elected members of the House of Representatives to a small number of members of a committee. This is a constitutional crisis waiting to happen and is a dangerous shift of power to the NH Speaker.”

“This change to House Rules was brought in to the Rules Committee on Friday and then placed in an Addendum to the current House Calendar yesterday afternoon to be voted on first item this morning,” said Representative Stephen Shurtleff. “There has been little time to discuss or analyze this change. Is this how Republican leadership defines open and transparent government?”

Women’s Place

At the corner of South Street and Middle Road in Portsmouth lie buried beneath the road the bodies of Sarah Simpson, a widow about twenty-seven years old, and Penelope Kenney, a servant girl. They were buried in December of 1739, after their deaths by hanging. Across town in South Cemetery lies Ruth Blay, buried at the bottom of Gallows Hill. According to Carolyn Marvin, in the Hanging of Ruth Blay, Ruth, a thirty-one-year-old schoolteacher, screamed in terror as she was drawn by cart through the streets of Portsmouth to her death by hanging in 1768. What “women’s crimes” were committed by these young women? They had become pregnant.

A ghastly story from the past?

One has only to visit today’s House of Representatives to hear some chilling testimony by some of the current Republican representatives to realize that the attack on women and women’s health care is alive in this century.

It has taken women in this country hundreds of years to attain protections that are inherent in our federal and state constitutions. Now, under the guise of “religious freedom” and “personal liberty,” Republican lawmakers are recklessly determined to take New Hampshire’s women back decades.

In August of 1992, Susan Sarno was hospitalized in Wolfeboro with severe facial injuries requiring 17 stitches to her bloodied and battered face after a beating from her estranged husband. He pled guilty to a misdemeanor and spent only 29 days in jail. After Sarno went public with her story, New Hampshire became a leader in the country enacting laws to protect victims from these heinous crimes.

As if living in a time warp, last year Republican leadership insisted on budget cuts that leave women and children at the hands of their abusers. In recent years, 50 percent of the homicides in New Hampshire were domestic violence related. Our state’s crisis centers are not able to keep pace.

This year, Republicans have filed bills to further erode protection for victims and once again make it easy for abusers to victimize their intimate partners. One bill would prevent police from arresting anyone for spousal battery unless the police saw the assault with their own eyes. Another would make it easier for repeat abusers to violate their restraining orders by limiting police arrest powers.

This week, the House will vote on a bill to repeal the criminal history and protective order check for the sale of firearms. In 2010 NH’s Gun Line law, a program which allows NH to conduct criminal background checks when an individual attempts to purchase a handgun, stopped 370 individuals who could not legally possess a firearm in New Hampshire from making firearm purchases. Once again, repeal of this law is being pushed by a member of Republican leadership and is a real threat to NH women.

This legislative session has seen continued attempts by Republican leadership to defund Planned Parenthood, the only statewide agency capable of delivering necessary health care services to women. At the same time Republican leadership is denying some women contraception coverage.

Under the pretext of religious freedom, Republican legislators are using the Constitution to impose their religious beliefs on citizens. Republican leadership insisted that a House committee pass a resolution urging Congress to reverse the requirement that insurance plans cover contraceptives for women, despite the fact that these drugs are commonly prescribed for the treatment of other health conditions.

The federal policy does not violate any citizen’s basic right to religious freedom. No individual will be forced to buy or use contraception.

Republican leadership shows a complete disrespect for sound public health policy, one that makes contraceptives more affordable and reflects the requirements of the majority of American women regardless of their religious affiliation. Not only have they sent the resolution to Congress, but they also seek to repeal NH’s current law that requires insurance companies that cover prescriptions in health care plans to also provide coverage for contraceptives.

The rights of women today are under attack.  Much like Sarah, Penelope and Ruth were persecuted by the state; today under the pretext of religious freedom Republican legislators are denying the personal liberties of women in New Hampshire. This IS about a woman’s freedom to make her own health care decisions, her individual liberties and her right to live without fear.

(Representative Stephen Shurtleff a Democrat from Penacook is currently serving his fourth term on the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. He was the Committee Chair from 2009-2010.)

Democrats Denounce Efforts to Disenfranchise Voters

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Representative John Cloutier, Democratic Policy Leader on the House Transportation Committee and Representative David Cote, Democratic Policy Leader on the House Election Law Committee issued the following statements on the House passage of House Bill 1478, which disenfranchises New Hampshire voters by amending motor vehicle registration laws.

“House Republicans are attempting to disenfranchise New Hampshire voters through amendments to motor vehicle registration laws,” stated Representative John Cloutier. “As public officials we should be encouraging all New Hampshire citizens to vote and to participate fully in our democracy and not change our election laws to unfairly burden those voters that have recently established a domicile in New Hampshire and are qualified to vote in this state.”

“This bill would make it more difficult for our younger voters and our newest residents to exercise their constitutional right to vote.  House Bill 1478 would prohibit otherwise qualified citizens from registering to vote on election day in New Hampshire if they had registered a motor vehicle in another state, or possessed a driver’s license issued by another state. This bill is also likely to create confusion and new difficulties for senior voters who own second homes in other states and may maintain motor vehicles in other states,” said Representative David Cote.

“Our election laws clearly establish that voters must be domiciled in New Hampshire in order to vote in this state, and that all New Hampshire residents must comply with motor vehicle registration and licensing requirements. This bill is unnecessary; any changes to our election laws should not be placing undue barriers on any citizen’s constitutional right to vote,” concluded Cote.

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House Republicans Pass an Anti-Business and Anti-Economic Development Bill

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – New Hampshire House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli issued the following statement on the passage of House Bill 1282-FN-L, a bill that would decrease the availability and affordability of housing for middle class people in New Hampshire.

“In 2008, the Democratic-controlled Legislature worked hand and hand with the Business and Industry Association to pass workforce housing legislation, which was a key priority for House Democrats and NH’s Business Community. Creating greater opportunities for affordable workforce housing here in New Hampshire is important to our families, our businesses and our economy – the last thing we should be doing is repealing our progress.”

“This is just another example how bill after reckless bill, State House Republicans aren’t focused on jobs and the economy.”

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House misguided on birth control

House misguided on birth control 

March 11, 2012

New Hampshire House Republican leaders have proven yet again they have no peers when it comes to combining ideological excess and shameful public policy. The latest example was the passage Wednesday of a Republican-sponsored measure allowing employers to deny insurance coverage for contraception on religious grounds.

When the current law was approved in 2000 it came after a year of study, numerous hearings and a bipartisan effort to craft a sensible solution. The goal was affordable contraception access for women in health insurance plans — one that combines pregnancy prevention with many other necessary medical uses for contraception drugs. It allowed for at least three exemptions for employers to opt out of the mandate including self-insurance coverage by churches. The mandate only applied if prescription drug coverage was part of a health insurance plan. The bill passed with broad bipartisan support and provoked no controversy the past 12 years.

But late last month, House Republican leaders had a revelation. The contraception coverage law, they decided, was actually a constitutional infringement on employers who have religious objections to providing such coverage. It was also an onerous mandate that caused skyrocketing health insurance premiums. In a normal legislative universe, these false revelations should have required, at a minimum, multiple public hearings to inform lawmakers and the public of issues at hand. If they existed we would have heard from employers who have had their religious liberties curtailed or received financial estimates from insurance providers about how costly the contraception mandate has been. Lawmakers could also have considered public health care risks of such a measure.

Instead, led by House Speaker William O’Brien, these Republican House leaders held one public hearing of less than two hours. In around 13 days, the amended version of House Bill 1546 was rushed to the House floor and passed 196-150.

Of course, this exercise was all about national, election-year politics and little about religious liberties and certainly completely failed to take into consideration women’s health. Curiously, after more than a year in power, House Republicans had said nothing about this onerous fiscal and unconstitutional mandate. But it became imperative when conservative Republicans in Washington attacked the Obama administration for a similar contraception mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordability Care Act. Thankfully, the U.S. Senate defeated a measure called the Blunt Amendment that was even more expansive and would have allowed for employers to deny any type of health care coverage on moral grounds.

In their haste to make women’s access to contraception an election year campaign issue, House Republican leaders showed a reckless disregard for the Constitution they claim to revere. Very simply, freedom of religion does not extend to the freedom to impose one’s religious beliefs on others in the public sphere — and more than 100 years of constitutional rulings have reaffirmed that limit. Health care coverage is a business transaction, not a religious service. Do we want employers to have the power to deny coverage on religious grounds? Do employers even want this power? These were unasked questions. Furthermore, expanding the definition of religious liberties into the public sphere opens up a Pandora’s Box on issues such as housing, employment, health care and commerce. It’s an open invitation to widespread religious discrimination from all sides.

Worst of all, this hastily produced legislation showed zero concern for legitimate public health interests of women who need contraception medicines for reasons beyond pregnancy prevention. Sexual activity is a fixation for too many opponents of contraception coverage and perhaps they should get a more informed perspective from their female friends, colleagues and relatives.

On too many issues of public importance, O’Brien & Co. have shown they don’t care what evidence actually exists — see voter fraud hysteria or a needless cut in the cigarette tax among the many examples — because it only matters what they believe to be ideologically true. Opponents of contraception coverage are fighting a battle long decided. This was a needless exercise in political posturing that could undermine the thoughtful work done in 2000 by Republicans and Democrats. We encourage the Senate to show better judgment with HB 1546 and either vote it down or shelve it. We expect Gov. John Lynch to veto this bill if it does get to his desk.