House Democrats Object to Redistricting of Executive Council Districts Plans Ignore Communities of Interest

CONCORD – Representative Lucy M. Weber issued the following statement regarding the passage of HB 1670, legislation regarding redistricting of Executive Council districts.

“The Republican redistricting plan does nothing to group communities with common interests together.  For example, District 2 stretches from Dublin and Marlborough up to Charlestown over to Franklin and then to New Castle and Portsmouth. The plan shifts significant population centers between districts. This is unnecessary, as the existing Executive Council Districts are already within acceptable deviations, and need not be altered at all. Clearly, the changes in this plan were enacted solely for political purposes,” stated Representative Lucy Weber.

“You have only to look at the map to see what is wrong with this redistricting plan.  District 2 looks like a dragon that swallowed a donkey. The plan is an embarrassment to anyone who voted for it.”

View the map of the Executive Council Districts at: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/committee_websites/h48/exec_councilDistricts/Map_of_Mirski_amendment,_0518h.pdf

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 HB 1354, legislation relative to a person’s residence for voting and all other legal purposes. 

“There will be many unintended consequences from the passage of this bill. The term ‘resident’ appears in hundreds of statutes dealing with far-ranging issues from transportation to taxes and everything in between. The impact this legislation will have on those issues is thus impossible to determine. That is irresponsible legislating.”

“Most importantly, the integrity of the voting system in New Hampshire is compromised. History shows that this law could be used to target voters such as college students, low-income residents and members of our military in order to intimidate them and suppress their 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.”

House GOP Responds to Public Pressure, Postpones Reckless Bills

Concord, NH – New Hampshire House Republicans vainly tried not to take a position on a pair of anti-education bills in the State House today after legislators received a flood of phone calls and emails from concerned taxpayers across the state urging them to defeat the irresponsible proposals.

HB1713 and HB1517 would force New Hampshire to withdraw from the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind program and prevent all New Hampshire school districts from implementing any part of the program.  These bills would slash more than 62 million dollars from the state’s public schools, devastating local education budgets and increasing the burden on local taxpayers. [Nashua Telegraph, 02/07/2012]

“These bills were reckless and irresponsible and unfortunately rather than defeat them outright, House Republicans tried to avoid going on the record,” said Representative Terie Norelli, House Democratic Leader.  “These bills would make devastating cuts to public education in New Hampshire; they put ideology before common sense and should have been killed in committee.

“Unfortunately this has been the story at the State House for the past twelve months.  Bills that would be laughed out of any living room or board room in New Hampshire, have strong support in the State House,” continued Norelli. “As happened with HB474, the Right-to-Work-for-Less bill, Speaker O’Brien is postponing the final vote on a controversial bill until he thinks no one is looking and he can continue to force his agenda on New Hampshire.”

Larger communities across the state would lose more than one million dollars, just from the elimination of Title I funding if the bills were passed.  But Title I funding comprises only about 2/3rds of the No Child Left Behind, and larger cuts would be expected.  Local school officials have called the proposed cuts “devastating.” [Nashua Telegraph, 02/07/2012]

Slew of Bad Legislation

January 08, 2012

While the public’s attention has been distracted by the upcoming primary election, the N.H. Legislature has pursued a dangerous agenda that is the epitome of political overreaching.

We’re confident that, once voters get the full sense of exactly what these lawmakers have been up to, the politicians will be tossed out of office and their reign of terror brought to an end. Why a reign of terror? First, because the laws proposed and passed by Free State Republicans in the House and Senate pose a real danger to law-abiding New Hampshire citizens. Second, because lawmakers who disagree with House Speaker Bill O’Brien and his henchmen are literally terrorized. Things have gotten so bad that Republican lawmaker Susan Emerson of Rindge filed a bill aimed directly at O’Brien’s bullying.

Emerson said, after she spoke against budget cuts in the Senate, O’Brien berated her. “He was like a little child with a tantrum,” she said, adding, “I have never been spoken to in my life like the way that man spoke to me.”

The Bill O’Brien Bullying Bill is co-sponsored by Exeter Republican Matt Quandt and longtime Democratic state Rep. Laura Pantelakos, who said she’s never seen things so hostile in all her years at the Statehouse.

While the House leadership is terrorizing its own membership, it is doing even worse to the public. It is putting us in danger.

This past week saw a slew of even more irrational proposed changes to the state’s gun laws.

Despite the pleading of police and school leaders, the House passed a bill making it legal to carry concealed weapons on any public property, including colleges, any public land or any publicly financed buildings. According to Gov. John Lynch, this means anyone can enter any private business at Pease International Tradeport with a concealed weapon, regardless of the business owners’ feelings about it, because Pease businesses lease their land from the state through the Pease Development Authority.

After expanding where it is legal to carry, the House then passed a bill to eliminate the need to get a license to carry a concealed, loaded weapon. Essentially now, with the exception of convicted felons, anyone can get and carry a loaded concealed weapon anywhere, anytime.

The third gun bill proposes eliminating a 74-year-old ban on people having loaded shotguns and rifles in their vehicles while they’re driving. We can only hope the Senate will stop this madness.

After making sure all our citizens can have unlicensed, loaded, concealed weapons, the House was then joined by the Senate in overriding Gov. Lynch and passing a law that allows the parent of any child in public school to stop a teacher from using any lesson that parent finds “objectionable.” The law doesn’t define what objectionable means, so now any parent could stop any teacher from teaching any lesson without any reason. As if our teachers didn’t have a hard enough job already.

After increasing the likelihood of gun violence and unnecessarily disrupting teachers in the classroom, the House and Senate set out to undermine consumers. Because an annual interest rate of 36 percent wasn’t high enough, our House and Senate have overridden Gov. Lynch’s veto and made it legal for payday lenders to charge 25 percent interest a month. We have seen models where the annual interest rate on these loans could wind up being more than 400 percent.

“You can’t legislate against stupidity,” explained Hampton State Rep. Fred Rice. This was also Rice’s explanation for his role in gutting a law that would have protected pre-buy oil customers.

That bill, sponsored by Rep. Lee Quandt, R-Exeter, was drafted with help from the state Attorney General’s office, after Flynn’s Oil went bankrupt in 2009 and stiffed more than 300 customers out of $500,000 they had paid in advance for oil. The bill would simply have required oil companies to put 75 percent of the money paid for oil in an escrow account for safekeeping.

“If you pay for heating oil to keep your family or small business warm in winter, that fuel should be delivered,” said Rep. Christopher Serlin, D-Portsmouth. “And if for some reason that does not happen, your money should come back to you.”

That seems sensible to us, which is why the nonsensical House leadership vote eviscerated the bill. Apparently, common sense is no longer welcome in the N.H. Legislature. Space prohibits listing the full catalogue of idiocy that took place this past week in the Legislature. For now, we’ll just have to look forward to welcoming common sense back in November 2012.

Guns on Campus

By now many readers have heard about HB 334, which would nullify all existing, and forbid any future, local firearm regulations on property owned by the state of New Hampshire or its political subdivisions (town, city, county, etc.).  The bill, which has been recommended for passage when the House returns in early January, has received significant public attention due to the effect it would have on weapons policies at our public colleges and universities.

All of New Hampshire’s public colleges and universities currently ban guns on campus, and HB 334 would mandate a reversal of that policy. University officials and police, citing the prevalence of alcohol use and the fact that one’s college years are “often among the most volatile periods in a person’s life,” requested an exemption to HB 334 that would retain their authority to regulate the possession of firearms on campus. That request was denied, as supporters of the bill actually argued that allowing everyone to carry guns on campus makes us safer.

The negative consequences of HB 334 unfortunately stretch well beyond the college campus issue, as the bill’s effect is much more widespread than most people realize. By banning firearm regulations on any publically owned property, the bill removes the ability of anyone – even private businesses that lease property from the state – to adopt firearm regulations that fit their specific needs. Were HB 334 to become law, local officials would have no authority to stop individuals from carrying guns into places like the Alzheimer’s unit at county nursing homes or day care operations located on public property.

Ironically, by supporting this bill, Republican leaders have abandoned numerous values they usually purport to embrace. Local control, business rights, opposition to government mandates, and adherence to the constitution have all been tossed aside in exchange for a drastic expansion of gun rights.

A late amendment, likely added because of justified concerns from town officials, allows town selectmen to override the mandate. While beneficial for towns seeking to protect public safety on their property, that provision is a direct violation of the equal protection clauses of both the U.S. and New Hampshire constitutions. Because the override provision applies to towns but not New Hampshire’s 13 cities, one-third of our population is denied the constitutionally-guaranteed equal protection of the laws.

The question becomes, why are Republican lawmakers so focused on an unnecessary pro-gun mandate at the expense of public safety and local control?  Do people really feel that their rights are being violated when they can’t bring their gun into the county-run daycare center or the registrar’s office at UNH?

Regarding colleges specifically, this legislature has already placed an extreme financial burden on our institutions of higher learning by cutting state funding for the university system 50 percent, and the community college system 30 percent, in the budget that became law July 1. This bill would force university officials to completely re-train their security and police forces, using up time and increasingly scarce resources that would be better utilized supporting the education that students pay for.

Our job as elected officials is to listen to our constituents and support commonsense legislation that helps the people of New Hampshire. This bill is staunchly opposed by those who it would most affect. House members should listen to the people we represent, and defeat HB 334 when it comes before us in January.

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