Democrats Call out House Republicans for Raising Health Care Costs

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Representative Terie Norelli, House Democratic Leader and Representative Cindy Rosenwald issued the following statements on the House passage of House Bill 1617, which repeals the certificate of need law, leading to higher insurance premiums on businesses and families.

“House Republican Leadership, by twisting arms to overturn a thoughtful and unanimous bipartisan committee recommendation, continued with attempts to weaken our hospitals by passing the repeal of the certificate of need law in New Hampshire,” stated Rosenwald. “Without the certificate of need law in place, New Hampshire is likely to see an overcapacity of hospitals and that will raise health care costs, not lower them.”

“Whether passing a new $250 million tax on hospitals in the budget that forced hospitals to lay off over 1,2 00 good paying jobs or now repealing the certificate of need law; Republican actions will mean that Granite State businesses and families will pay higher insurance premiums,” said Norelli. “I urge the Senate to reject the repeal of the certificate of need law. ”

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House Republicans Cede Control to Federal Exchange

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Representative Donna Schlachman, Democratic member on the Commerce Committee, issued the following statements on the House vote of HB 1297, which prohibits the state of New Hampshire from planning, creating, or participating in a state health care exchange or a federal health care exchange.

“New Hampshire Republicans are ceding control to a federal exchange if we don’t prepare now. Rather than make decisions for our state, House Republicans are passing the buck on to the federal government and failing to meet their responsibilities. Businesses and families can’t just assume something is going to happen – they need to be prepared for contingencies.”

“There is bipartisan support for creating a health care exchange in New Hampshire. Besides, the Business and Industry Association, supporters of exchange preparedness include Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in New Hampshire, CGI Employee Benefits Group, City Fuel Co. Inc., Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care of New England, MVP Health Care, New Hampshire Association of Insurance Agents, New Hampshire Automobile Dealers Association, Northeast Delta Dental and Ski NH.

“If Republicans continue to halt the creation of an exchange, control over it and its creation will be turned over to the federal government.  New Hampshire will have no say in how much it costs or who operates it. That is neither fiscally responsible, nor good public policy.”

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House Republicans Spend Even More Time Attacking Health Care for Women

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Representative Sandra Keans issued the following statements on the passage of HCR 41, which would urge the U.S. Congress to find a grant to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England unconstitutional and void.

“Over the last 14 months, State House Republicans have spent an excessive amount of time focusing on defunding health care for 16,000 New Hampshire Women. For over 30 years, Planned Parenthood Health Centers across our state have provided basic health care services such as annual exams and cancer screenings.”

“Earlier this year, the Republican majority in the House passed reckless Legislation that will place many women in jeopardy of losing their health care. House Republicans should be focusing all of their attention to what Granite Staters care about – jobs and the economy.”

“I urge the House Republicans to end their laser like focus on attacking health care for women and spend time on the reason the people of New Hampshire sent us to the State House”

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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.