House Republicans Allow Employer to Make Decisions on Contraception

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli, Policy Leader on Constitutional Review Committee Representative Chris Serlin, and Representative Jennifer Daler issued the following statements on passage of House Bill 1546, that would undermine health care for women and families across our State by putting employers between patients and their doctors.

House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli

“I never thought that in 2012 the New Hampshire Legislature would be debating the use of contraceptives. This issue is settled for Granite Staters. This out of touch agenda only goes to show that House Republicans are focused like a laser on social issues while jobs and the economy are left on the back burner.”

“Unfortunately, this has been the story at the State House for the past fourteen months. Bills that would be laughed out of any living room in New Hampshire have strong support among Republicans in the State House.”

Policy Leader on Constitutional Review Committee Representative Chris Serlin

“My Republicans colleagues are using the banner of religious freedom as a way to mask their blatant attacks on women’s health rights. No entity or individual faces a restriction of their religious liberty under current insurance law. This bill would prevent women from making their own decisions about contraception.”

Representative Jennifer Daler

“This religious argument was absent 12 years ago when a group of bipartisan members of the House and Senate passed Senate Bill 175. When it passed the House more than a decade ago, only 83 members voted against it. In 1999, nearly every member of Republican Leadership voted for this bill and was a part of the bipartisan coalition to pass that common sense bill – a coalition that consisted of 120 Republicans, 121 Democrats and two independents.”

“Contraceptive coverage is a basic part of women’s health care. We must not allow political ideology to be more important than reliable, quality healthcare for women.”

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House Democrats Declare Judicial Review Unrealistic

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Representatives Terie Norelli, House Democratic Leader and Representative Lucy M. Weber, issued the following statements regarding the passage of HB 1718, legislation regarding judicial review of electoral districts.

“In mandating this unnecessary procedure for court review of redistricting plans, the Republican majority imposes an arbitrary and unrealistic time frame on the court’s review process,” stated Representative Terie Norelli.

“The court is well aware of the need to move quickly to address any redistricting question brought to it, but must balance the need for a speedy resolution with the ability to adequately address whatever issues are brought before it,” stated Representative Lucy Weber.

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Video: Press Conference on the Attacks on Women’s Health Care

House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli held a press conference to discuss several bills that would negatively impact women’s health care in New Hampshire. These reckless bills will be coming before the full House for a vote this week.

Below are House Democratic Leader Norelli’s Prepared Remarks:

Concord – Thank you all for joining me today.  My name is Terie Norelli, and I am the Democratic Leader in the New Hampshire House.

The recent attacks on women’s health by New Hampshire House Republicans have been appalling. I never thought in 2012 that women would once again have to fight for access to contraception. This only goes to show that the House Republican focus on jobs is no more than lip service.

The fact of the matter is they have focused like a laser on social issues and put jobs and the economy on the back burner.

This week the Republican Leadership will bring a dangerous and politically motivated bill to floor of the House. I hope the House will reject it. This bill would undermine health care for women and families across our State, putting employers between patients and their doctors. Do we really want a woman’s employer making a decision on contraceptives for her? Not in the New Hampshire I know and love!

Now, my Republicans colleagues are using the banner of religious freedom as a way to mask their blatant attacks on women’s health rights. But make no mistake – this bill would prevent women from making their own decisions about contraception.

This religious argument was absent 12 years ago when a group of bipartisan members of the House and Senate passed Senate Bill 175.

When it passed the House more than a decade ago, only 83 members voted against it. At that time the Republican Deputy Speaker, Speaker Pro Tempore, Majority Leader, Deputy Majority Leader, and Majority Whip all were a part of the bipartisan coalition to pass that common sense bill – a coalition that consisted of 120 Republicans, 121 Democrats and two independents.

But today, where are those reasonable voices? 24 of those Republicans still serve in the House, and Six of them are members of the current Speaker’s Leadership Team. I call on them to work with their colleagues to ensure the defeat of this reckless bill.

During the last House session in February a Republican member said on the floor that employers do not need to offer insurance policies that cover contraception because women can go to Planned Parenthood.

It’s not difficult to understand why some members of the House laughed at that suggestion, since just earlier this year House Republicans passed House Bill 228 which would defund organizations like Planned Parenthood.

This ideologically-extreme legislation would completely eliminate all funding for basic, preventive health care services (services such as access to birth control and cancer screenings) received by over 16,000 New Hampshire women, men, and families at Planned Parenthood health centers, some hospitals, and any health facilities that offer full reproductive health care. This policy is bad for our families, bad for our communities, and bad for our state.

When they are not focused on repealing contraception coverage or defunding basic, preventive health care services for thousands of New Hampshire women, House Republicans are spending their time legislating that women be given misinformation when exercising their right to have an abortion.

In House Bill 1659, the so-called “Women’s Right to Know Act,” NH would be passing off propaganda as objective information. This lengthy bill is full of inaccurate information that would be written into our statutes. This disputed science has no place in our RSAs and should not be forced upon our citizens.

Yet this bill would require that doctors give medically unfounded information to patients – a violation of both the woman’s and the physicians’ rights.

A woman’s health must be paramount.  New Hampshire physicians’ should be free of legislative interference when making medical judgments, and legislators have no business inserting themselves in the doctor-patient relationship. This reckless bill seeks to address a non-existent problem. It is unnecessary, and it is dangerous.

House Republicans are out of touch with the public sentiment.  The majority should be focusing on job creation, but instead they are focused on social issues that will set women’s health back decades. We must not allow their political ideology to be more important than reliable, quality healthcare for women.

These bills, backed by House Republican leadership, would let any employer deny women access to contraceptives, interfere in medical decisions, defund basic preventive healthcare and tie the hands of doctors when making decisions regarding the best interest of women and their health would not create a single job.

I truly hope my Republican colleagues will get the message, and work with Governor Lynch and House Democrats on common sense solutions to create jobs and grow our economy.

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A ‘compromise’ plan? Far from it!

March 2, 2012

In their column asking us all to support the state Senate’s version of a constitutional amendment on education funding (“Finally a school amendment everyone should like,” Monitor Opinion page, Feb. 25), Martin Gross and Eugene Van Loan urge us to accept a constitutional amendment that they characterize as a compromise. The so-called “compromise” would give the Legislature “full power and authority to determine the amount of, and the method of raising and distributing, state funding for public education.” This language is not the language of a compromise; it is a wholesale sellout of public education.

There are two components to the Senate amendment. The first is the proper role of the courts in overseeing the responsibility of the Legislature to fund education. There are those who believe that how much money the state provides for education should be a purely legislative decision. They say if the voters are unhappy at the level of state funding for education, the people will elect representatives who will look more favorably on education and who will provide the appropriate level of funding in the future.

Targeting assistance

The second component is the question of whether the state should be able to target money to poorer communities (those that have lower assessed valuation and therefore less ability to raise money for education). Given that the state has limited resources to spend on education, every state dollar sent to a wealthy community is a dollar that can’t be sent to a poor community. We all know that it is harder to raise, say, $12,000 per student, for education in Berlin than it is in Bedford. If we are ever to have an equal opportunity for students in Berlin, we need to give more state aid to Berlin than we give to Bedford. That is why most people, including residents of property wealthy communities, support the concept of targeting money.

These two concepts, the proper role of the courts in overseeing education spending and whether we can target money to property poor communities, are entirely separate concepts. But some political leaders have chosen to combine the concepts into one constitutional amendment. The reason has been that some people on both sides of the first issue have supported targeting as a way to lessen the state’s responsibility to fund education. But targeting does not mean spending less state money on education unless it is coupled with language that allows it.

The decision to couple the authority of the legislature with targeting, whether calculated or not, has prevented us from solving the school funding dilemma.

Simple solution

The solution is relatively simple: Give the people the opportunity to vote on the two concepts independently. Let them decide once and for all what role the courts should play in overseeing the funding of education.

If the voters want to give the Legislature full discretion to fund, or not to fund, education, so be it. Let the voters decide. But don’t prevent the voters from also deciding whether to approve the concept of providing additional funding to communities that lack adequate resources to fund education. And most important, don’t call an amendment that gives the legislature “full power and authority” a compromise.

(State Rep. Gary B. Richardson of Hopkinton is the House Democratic floor leader.)

GOP “Jobs” Focus is Simply Lip Service

For the third time in the last month, House Republicans called a press conference to announce “jobs” as their top priority for the upcoming legislative session.  If this prioritization sounds like news to you, it’s because the only time House Republicans actually talk about jobs is at press conferences.

The 2012 legislative session has been dominated by reckless bills, most notably a proposal to allow guns in civic arenas and on college campuses.  House Republicans have issued 18 press releases promoting specific bills since January, covering such important topics as TSA searches, Arizona’s immigration law, and abortion policy.  Jobs have been mentioned only twice, in press releases promoting payday loans and the repeal of insurance mandates.

Republican leadership in the House appears more than willing to take on high-profile social issues instead of concentrating on job creation. Less than a week after trying to downplay their support of a bill repealing New Hampshire’s marriage equality law, House Speaker Bill O’Brien told the Union Leader that “this is the right time” to debate and repeal marriage rights for same-sex couples.  The Speaker’s promotion of this issue not only distracts from Republicans’ self-proclaimed “jobs” agenda; it completely ignores the will of Granite Staters who support marriage equality by a margin of 2 to 1.

When Republican-backed legislation influenced the job market, it had a detrimental effect.  The state budget passed last June was the single biggest job-killer, as nearly 2000 jobs were lost due to new taxes on hospitals and unprecedented cuts to higher education.  New Hampshire’s unemployment rate spiked after the Republican budget became law and it remains higher today than when the budget first took effect.

Hundreds of small business people have also felt it necessary to take time out of their workday to travel to Concord to try to avert the passage of bills seeking to repeal licensing requirements the businesses believe are beneficial to their profession and to the consumer.  And now the Republican leadership is backing a bill that bill that would decrease the availability and affordability of workforce housing.  Understanding the need for employees to access affordable housing, the Business and Industry Association opposes this move.

When Democrats were in the majority, we worked with Governor Lynch to improve the job market in a number of ways.  Programs such as NH Working and the Job Training Fund helped businesses retain and train employees during a time when the recession was forcing record numbers of layoffs across the country.  With the help of these programs, our unemployment rate remained well below the national average throughout the recession, and New Hampshire was widely credited as a leader in the national economic recovery.

Democrats improved educational opportunities for every child in New Hampshire by bringing public kindergarten to every community, defining and fully funding an “adequate education” for the first time since the Claremont ruling, and investing in our university system.  Because an educated workforce is necessary for business to thrive, Democrats made education an integral part of our economic development strategy.

With these accomplishments in mind, Governor Lynch implored legislators to “do no harm” during his recent State of the State address. Progress has been hindered by budget cuts and policy changes enacted by the Republican legislature last year, but further damage can be avoided.  House Republicans would be wise to shift their attention away from guns, gay marriage and press conferences, and onto legislation that provides the educated workforce businesses need to create jobs.

(Representative Terie Norelli is the Democratic Leader in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.)

House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli Mourns Loss of Representative James Powers of Portsmouth

CONCORD, NH – House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli today mourned the passing of Representative James Powers, (D – Portsmouth), who died this morning.

“Jim was the kind of person for whom the word citizen meant everything. At a time when political service brings cynicism from some, Jim saw politics as an honorable pursuit. He approached public service with a determination and thoughtfulness that always put the public interest first. He believed in the people he served. Jim was always proud to be a Democrat,” stated Representative Norelli.

“Like every member of the New Hampshire House Democratic Caucus, I will miss Jim’s counsel and advice. More than that, I will miss his affection, friendship and humor. I know I speak for all the members of the House when I say we have lost a great friend and a valued colleague.

Powers, 73, was in his third term in the House and served on the Environment and Agriculture Committee.

Contraception attacks must be rejected

Monitor editorial

Contraception attacks must be rejected

February 21, 2012
Can the culture wars in Washington and at the State House get any more bizarre?

It is, of course, 2012, but you’d never know it from the public debate among our elected officials. Last week brought us Republican Rep. Lynne Blankenbeker of Concord – a nurse – singing the praises of abstinence as a cost-free alternative to contraception, even for married couples. And Republican Rep. Jeanine Notter of Merrimack warning that birth control pills lead to prostate cancer. And a wealthy backer of Rick Santorum pining for the good old days when, he said, women used aspirin for contraceptives: “The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”

Today will bring a committee vote on a resolution sponsored by the Republican leadership in the New Hampshire House calling on the federal government to rescind its rule requiring that health plans provide coverage for contraception. Coming later this session: a measure undoing the New Hampshire law that includes a similar mandate.

Is this what anyone imagined 21st-century politics would be about? Do Republicans really believe that debating the value of birth control will win them many votes?

For New Hampshire lawmakers who haven’t given the matter much thought – the ones hoping to focus like a laser on the economy – here’s a gentle reminder: The insurance mandates on birth control at the federal level and the one that has existed in New Hampshire for more than a decade with no controversy are good for women, good for families, good for your constituents, good for the community.

The new federal law requires insurers to provide birth control to women without a co-payment. The rules also eliminate the co-pay for other preventive measures, including prenatal care, counseling and equipment for breast-feeding, and screenings to detect gestational diabetes in pregnant women, HIV or signs of domestic violence. The state law requires insurers who provide prescription drug coverage to also cover birth control.

These are significant improvements in women’s reproductive health. They are also financially prudent.

On average, women pay up to $600 a year for birth control pills, the most popular form of contraception. Compare that with the federal government’s estimated cost of an uncomplicated pregnancy and childbirth: $7,600. And that’s just the starting point when it comes to raising kids.

In other words, there is a serious financial saving to be had by helping women avoid unintended pregnancies. And when you consider that nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned, according to the Centers for Disease Control, this is no trifling issue.

When this debate erupted earlier this month, President Obama’s critics accused him of trampling on the freedom of employers who had religious objections to birth control. The compromise he struck – forcing the insurers, rather than employers, to pay – hasn’t quieted the opposition. Suddenly, strangely, the debate was about birth control itself.

Insurance mandates are nothing new. In New Hampshire, state law requires health insurance plans to cover a wide variety of procedures and services – everything from hearing aids to chiropractic care to treatment for autism to artificial limbs to (at least for now) midwifery. Surely basic reproductive health services belong on this list.

We urge state lawmakers to reject the resolution aimed at the federal government. If and when GOP leaders introduce their bill to undo the New Hampshire contraceptive mandate, legislators must reject that one too.

Anti-evolution bills should be defeated

Anti-evolution bills should be defeated

February 20, 2012

It’s been a century and a half since the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and 87 years since the Scopes trial produced a backlash that led to the end of state bans on the teaching of evolution. But in 2012, to the amusement of much of the nation, the New Hampshire Legislature is considering two bills aimed at giving equal time to the theory of evolution and hokum. The House will vote on them Wednesday.

One bill, sponsored by first-time Manchester Republican Rep. Jerry Bergevin, requires that evolution be taught as a theory. It is, after all, despite its overwhelming acceptance by the vast majority of the world’s scientists, still called the theory of evolution, so that part of Bergevin’s bill is pointless. Frighteningly, the bill goes on to require that the teaching of evolution in public schools “include the theorist’s political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism.”

Darwin was raised and schooled in the Church of England, set out to be a minister, came to see evolution as the hand of God working through the laws of nature, and in later life described himself not as an atheist but an agnostic, one who doesn’t know. But we fear that Bergevin is not referring to Darwin with his use of the words “the theorist” in his bill but to today’s science teachers. If so, it is a McCarthy-esque proposition that’s odious on multiple levels. It’s also unconstitutional.

Government cannot demand that someone explain their religious beliefs or lack thereof.

Bergevin’s own views on evolution are quite clear. “It is a world view and it is godless. It leads people down a path of devaluing human life, a path that ends in murder,” Bergevin told a Monitor reporter. As evidence, he claimed that the perpetrators of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado were “believers in evolution.” Case closed, at least for Bergevin.

A second bill concerning evolution is sponsored by Weare Republican Rep. Gary Hopper and Goffstown Republican Rep. John Burt. It seeks to mandate that public schools impart to their students the idea that “proper scientific inquiry results not from committing to any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established, and that scientific and technological innovations are based on new evidence (sic) can challenge accepted scientific theories or modes.”

Though we suspect he was unaware of it, Hopper described, minus an explanation of the scientific method of hypothesis, observation, experimentation, verification and challenge, the essential nature of scientific inquiry. It is the opposite of efforts to espouse positions like the creationist theories of life’s origin promoted by an a representative from the Discovery Institute who came to New Hampshire from the state of Washington to testify in favor of the bills.

The institute is a self-described think tank that sponsors intelligent design programs for schools that choose to teach not science but the belief, unsupported by any evidence, that life forms are the work of an intelligent creator, not evolutionary change.

Hopper, like the Discovery Institute, wants schools to teach both evolution and the theories challenging it. It would be irresponsible not to do so if any scientifically credible theory that conflicts with evolution exists. None does. Intelligent design is based in religion, not science.

The real question these bills raise, however, do not concern life’s origins, but voter intent. What were the voters who elected Bergevin, Hopper and Burt thinking, and will they elect them again? The House should spare the state further embarrassment and kill both bills.

House Democrats Condemn Passage of Bill that Would Allow NH To Ignore Federal Medicare & Medicaid Laws

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Representatives Terie Norelli, House Democratic Leader and Gary Richardson, House Democratic Floor Leader, issued the following statements regarding the passage of HB 1560, legislation regarding an interstate Health Care Compact.

“This bill is another attempt by the Republican majority to circumvent the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) by, in theory, creating a multi-state compact to allow states to manage all aspects of healthcare themselves, using federal money, but not obligated to follow federal laws, for example, the Medicare and Medicaid programs,” stated Representative Terie Norelli. “Both programs could become unstable, subject to biennial budget pressures.

“Supporters argue this bill is constitutional. Democrats believe it’s a violation of Part I, Art 37 – Separation of Powers, the United States Supremacy Clause, a Commerce Clause that says that the federal government has authority over interstate commerce, and the United States Due Process and Equal Protection guaranties,” stated Representative Gary Richardson. “New Hampshire could see tax rates increase dramatically as we lose automatic federal funding increases and the Legislature could raise eligibility age or income, cut benefits, and reduce provider rates.  At least 350,000 NH residents could lose the stability of their Medicare and Medicaid coverage. Once again, Republicans are passing a bad policy bill.”

House Democrats Criticize Republican Majority for Anti- Labor Bill Passed in the Dark

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Representatives Terie Norelli, House Democratic Leader and Representative Ben Baroody, who serves on the House Finance Committee, issued the following statements regarding the passage of HB 1666, an anti-labor bill that had no public hearing.

“This bill was amended by the Finance Committee without a public hearing or proper notification. This is a complicated issue that should have been heard first by the policy committee – the Labor Committee,” stated Representative Terie Norelli. “It most certainly should have had a public hearing. What happened to the Republican’s claim of an open and transparent government? Another case of Republicans saying one thing and then acting the complete opposite way.”

“The amendment substantially changes the bill with NO public input. It requires legislative approval of any collective bargaining contract entered into by the state.  There are currently eight collective bargaining agreements associated with employees, all of which can reach agreement on dates independent of each other, the legislative budget cycle and the full legislative session. Most likely, all would have different enactment dates,” stated Representative Ben Baroody.

 

“What happened to the Republican declarations of less government? This bill would add layer upon layer – at the taxpayers expensive – to a collective bargaining process that does not need fixing,” he continued. “Simply put, this is another Republican anti-worker bill and another power-grab by an already power hungry and intoxicated Republican majority.”