VIDEO: House & Senate Leaders: O’Brien Legislature’s Priorities Wrong for Middle-Class Families

Democratic House and Senate leaders held a press conference to review the recent legislative session and how the Republican Majority’s wrong priorities are hurting New Hampshire’s middle-class families.

Below are the prepared remarks:

 

House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli

Welcome and thank you for joining us this afternoon.  I am Terie Norelli, NH House Democratic Leader.

With Veto Day behind us, the people of New Hampshire can breathe a sigh of relief, because we have hopefully, seen the last session day of Speaker Bill O’Brien and his extreme Republican majority.

This Republican majority has had the wrong priorities for New Hampshire’s middle-class families and the wrong priorities for our economy.

Instead of working to strengthen the economy, they pushed an extreme agenda that was more focused on taking away birth control than on helping our families succeed, an agenda that was more focused on hurting the workers in our state than on building for the future of our state.

For the last two years, Bill O’Brien and his Tea Party allies have advanced a laundry list of out-of-touch legislation that shows just how wrong their priorities are for New Hampshire.

Republicans attempted to raise health care costs for families by eliminating guaranteed insurance coverage for birth control.

They enacted the largest single cut to a public university system in the history of the US, resulting in tuition increases at our state colleges and universities of nearly double digits.

They cut aid to local schools, raising local property taxes, even as they plan to send millions in taxpayer dollars to private and religious schools.

And they cut mental health, developmental disabilities and other services that are critical to the lives of Granite Staters, even as they lined the pockets of big tobacco companies.

As we look back at what this Legislature has done, we must also look forward to what they say they will do next.

The threat of Governor Lynch’s veto pen has helped halt some of the most outrageous plans of this Legislature. But now Bill O’Brien is running a full slate of candidates for the State Senate – and Ovide Lamontagne and Kevin Smith have promised their full support to Bill O’Brien.

Next on their agenda is a state takeover of Medicare, which would allow politicians in the New Hampshire Legislature to cut benefits for seniors, increase premiums, and raise the eligibility age.

If Bill O’Brien gets the gavel again, there will be a renewed effort to criminalize doctors and women for abortions, even when the woman is the victim of rape or incest.  And they’ll try again to raise health care costs on women by allowing employers to deny birth control coverage.

And Speaker O’Brien has already promised more cuts to critical programs.  In fact, they’ve already passed bills this term that will reduce state revenues $150-300M in the next biennium without identifying the services that will be eliminated.

There’s no doubt his cuts will once again target higher education which would put the dream of a college degree out of reach for high school graduates across the state.

These are the wrong priorities for our state’s middle-class families and our economy. New Hampshire can move forward again, if we have common-sense legislators who will focus on seeking middle ground and will work toward solutions that are right for all of our families.

Before I turn it over to Senator Molly Kelly who will begin to review some of the radical and out-of-touch legislation that this Tea Party House has championed over the last year and a half,

I want to talk about the Speaker’s removal of the sole Democratic House Member from a Health Care Panel.

The Speaker has once again moved to limit full public discussion by removing an experienced voice from the table. The Speaker has demonstrated time and time again that he will not tolerate viewpoints that differ from his own opinion, and he dismisses the representative voice of a significant segment of New Hampshire voters.

The Speaker has raised the level of confrontation not only between the Legislature and anyone who does not share his views, but it seems he goes out of his way to create confrontation between the Legislative branch and the Executive branch, between the Legislative branch and the Judicial branch, between the State Legislature and the Federal Government, and even between the Legislature and Local Communities.

Whether he is trying to force the Attorney General to join a lawsuit, superimposing the will of the Legislature on the court’s ability to enact its own administrative rules, refusing to plan for or even participate in the implementation of the constitutional parts of federal healthcare reform, and prohibiting local school districts from offering rigorous programs as part of their school curriculum.

His actions now and over last seventeen months are simple tyranny. I look forward to November when the people will have the last word on Mr. O’Brien.

House Assistant Deputy Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff:

For a group of people who came in to office at the start of 2011 promising to focus on the economy like a laser, we have to ask: Do they really understand how a laser is supposed to work.

The only laser-like focus I’ve seen this legislative session has been in advancing a radical and far-right social agenda.

How do we know that they favor a far-right social agenda rather than focusing on important issue of jobs and the economy? Their actions speak for them: this far right Republican legislature attached a radical anti-choice amendment requiring a 24 hour waiting period for abortions – which the Senate had already rejected, to an important, bi-partisan research and development tax credit bill.

This far right Republican legislature has voted to defund Planned Parenthood. An action that could put New Hampshire’s entire Medicaid program at risk and more importantly it denies women access to essential health care services such as cancer screenings.

This legislature has fought time and time again to put the state between women and their health care decisions. Bill O’Brien’s Tea Party legislature voted to increase costs on women by repealing coverage of contraception and even mandating that doctors provide false information to patients seeking an abortion.

This legislature has brought guns into the state house, Including the visitor’s gallery where our fourth graders from around the state, studying NH history come to see their government operate.  They’ve tried putting guns in our college dorms and our county nursing homes, as well as the veterans home in Tilton. They’ve tried passing legislation that would let convicted felons carry guns, they passed the NH Version of Florida’s “stand your ground” bill and we’ve already seen the deadly consequences of that law. They have even worked to overturn New Hampshire’s domestic violence protection laws.

This is not the agenda the voters thought they were getting in 2010 and it’s not the agenda that the people of New Hampshire can afford in the future.

House Democratic Floor Leader Gary Richardson:

Good morning, my name is Gary Richardson and I am the Democratic Floor Leader in the House of Representatives.

The past two years have been extraordinary, not just in terms of the radical legislation that has been proposed, some of which was actually passed over the Governor’s veto, but in terms of how members of the House have been treated by the Speaker.  The legislative process should be a collaboration of ideas to come up with the best possible solutions.  The past session has been “my way or the highway”.

My Republican colleagues in the House like to remind us that elections have consequences, and they are correct.   However, it is easy to misinterpret the results of an election, and the majority party does so at its peril.  Certainly there was no mandate for the lack of respect, the lack of civility, in fact, the downright hostility toward opposing viewpoints that has been exhibited during the past two years.

This refusal to reach out to others for ideas or even allow the minority party or Republicans who do not share the Speaker’s ideology to express ideas has resulted in the legislation that you have just heard described.

A prime example was the Committee of Conference on the constitutional amendment on education funding.  No Democrat was appointed as a sitting member of the Committee.  No Democrat in the House was allowed to participate.  The result was an amendment that everyone could hate that prevented passage of an amendment to allow targeting, something that most people could support.  Why? Because the amendment was corrupted with language seeking to expand unlimited authority of the Legislature over education, to give the legislature complete control.

The Speaker removed his own caucus members from committee and even his own Chairs and Vice Chairs whenever they failed to do exactly as told.

The Speaker has even refused to put a Democrat on the Orientation Committee for new members.

These things may seem like inside baseball to the public, but the way you treat other people is a matter of character.  The voters are looking for more from us.  A recent poll in New Hampshire has identified the NH Legislature as being the 2nd biggest problem facing the state after the economy.

Ideology has taken precedence over civility and practical solutions to our problems.

This morning we have heard about legislation eliminating insurance coverage for birth control, cutting aid to UNH and local schools and down shifting costs, while creating tax credits to fund religious schools,  attempting to take over Medicare for our seniors from the federal government, defunding Planned Parenthood, placing limits on a woman’s right to abortion, the list goes on and on.

Unfortunately, the only protection against the Speaker’s extreme agenda is the governor’s office, and the Republican candidates for governor have not only refused to separate themselves from this Speaker, but they have adopted much of his rhetoric.  Ovide Lamontagne has said that taking over Medicare would be a top priority for his administration.  Is this so we can provide less healthcare and spend less money, or does he really think that 50 states running their own healthcare programs can do so more efficiently than the federal government?  Kevin Smith has said that he supports “getting rid” of Planned Parenthood.  Who does he think is going to provide healthcare to women in the North Country?

For our government to function we need leaders who are in the main stream, leaders who are not governed by a slash and burn ideology where the tactics are to refuse to compromise,  to suspend the rules and to  cram through radical legislation written by out of state special interest groups.  The only protection against people like Bill O’Brien is the ballot box.

In November the voters will have a clear choice: do they want a continuation of this legislature’s radical and out of the mainstream ideological agenda, or do they want leaders who will return us to sanity.

 

Speaker O’Brien Removes Democratic Member from Joint Health Care Reform Oversight Committee for No Reason

Committee will make recommendations on Affordable Care Act in New Hampshire

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – New Hampshire House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli and Representative Kathleen Taylor, Democratic Policy Leader on the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee, issued the following statements regarding Representative Taylor’s removal from the Joint Health Care Reform Oversight Committee by Speaker O’Brien. No reason was given for Representative Taylor’s removal, nor did they give her the courtesy of personally informing her of the decision.

“In the past fourteen years that I have served in the legislature, I have never been involved in any controversy of this nature. I have been a full participant of the Joint Health Care Reform Oversight Committee and looked forward to continuing my work with the Committee,” said Representative Kathleen Taylor.  “The Committee will oversee the implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act. The July 25th meeting is to establish the essential benefits of the ACA for New Hampshire citizens. The Committee will make recommendations for healthcare coverage – or not – for citizens with diabetes, heart disease, mental health and many other issues. It is obvious to me that Speaker O’Brien is working hard to not allow New Hampshire to implement an expansion of Medicaid benefits for our vulnerable citizens.”

“Our citizens have told us repeatedly that they want less partisanship and more cooperation from their elected officials. Speaker O’Brien in this legislative session has appointed fewer Democratic members to Statutory and Study Committees than any Speaker in recent history. Now he has removed the only sitting Democratic member from the Joint Health Care Reform Oversight Committee in anticipation of how that member may vote on the committee,” stated Representative Terie Norelli.

“The Speaker has taken an action to limit full public discussion and has removed an experienced voice from the table. Once again the Speaker has demonstrated that he will not tolerate viewpoints that differ from his own opinion and he dismisses the representative voice of a significant segment of New Hampshire voters. I’m sure voters will remember this Speaker’s actions when casting their votes in November.”

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Democrats Condemn Republican Vote to Override Governor’s Veto of Legislation that will Suppress Voter’s Rights

Concord, NH – Representative David Pierce, of Etna and a member of the House Election Law Committee, issued the following statements after the Republican majority voted to override Governor Lynch’s vetoes of SB 289, the voter ID bill, and SB 318, voter registration.

“The integrity of the voting system in New Hampshire will be compromised with this legislation and qualified voters could very well be denied their right to vote,” stated Representative Pierce. “Those voters who do not have photo identification could be disenfranchised at the polls.  This bill will also cost New Hampshire money – money that we do not have – to provide cameras to the city and town clerks so they can take each voters’ mug shot, for education efforts for the voting public, and other costs associated with this legislation.”

“SB 318 also calls our elections into question. It confuses voting rights with motor vehicle law by changing the voter registration form in a way that interchanges the terms ‘domicile’ and ‘resident’ even though these terms have distinct legal meanings and legal implications.”

“Both of these bills seek to address real concerns about our election system, but they will each result in chaos at the polls and deny qualified voters their fundamental, constitutional right to cast a ballot.”

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Democrats Warn of Downshifting to Local Communities

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Representative Randy Foose of New London and Representative Mary Stuart Gile of Concord, issued the following statements on HB 1607 and SB 372, bills which establish an education credit against the business profits tax.

“This bill would implement a tax credit for businesses offering scholarships to students attending private schools.  The program extracts money from New Hampshire’s public schools in favor of funding private, religious and home schools, thus costing the state and school districts important and sparse revenues now used towards public education,” stated Representative Randy Foose.

“This legislation is an experiment using our students and their parents as the subjects. Vouchers used throughout the nation have not been proven to produce consistent data that proves that students have gained improvement in academics or that there is an improvement in public schools,” stated Representative Mary Stuart Gile. “These bills are the wrong policy for New Hampshire students and for taxpayers.”

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House Democrats Call for an End of Abuse of Power by Legislative Committee

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – On June 14th, The House Redress of Grievances Committee voted along party lines to subpoena “sealed records” in a petition currently before the committee. Democrats on the committee voted against allowing the subpoena. The case, Petition 5 on behalf of David Johnson of Londonderry, involves a custody dispute concerning a minor child. The subpoena must still be approved by the House Rules Committee, which is chaired by Speaker O’Brien.

“Petition 5 has been before the committee for the past fifteen months and only now the Republicans on the committee are getting around to requesting more information. This committee is a waste of taxpayers’ money and a waste of state resources,” stated Representative Sandra Keans of Rochester. “The committee is delving into areas that could threaten the safety of at-risk children and could also be in violation of the HIPPA act when health records are used against a former spouse in a case. The legislature should not be going after materials that have been legitimately closed by the courts.”

“This subpoena is an attempt to unseal an envelope which was presumably sealed for good reason. The committee does not need this information to reach a fair decision on the Johnson petition,” stated Representative Tim Horrigan of Durham. “There is abundant documentation related to the Johnson petition already available to us.”

“I call on House Republicans on the Rules Committee to join me in voting against allowing this subpoena to go forward,” said Representative Terie Norelli, House Democratic Leader. “This is a brazen abuse of power which puts law abiding citizens and minor children in jeopardy of having their privacy violated by the state. This exploitation by the legislature must stop immediately before more harm is done.”

The House Redress of Grievances Committee is an archaic committee that was reinstituted by Speaker O’Brien at the beginning of this legislative session. The committee has primarily dealt with complaints from litigants in cases involving child custody and support who were displeased with the court ruling.

The Attorney General’s office has also expressed concerns about child protection issues that are subject to strict confidentiality requirements and about the subpoenas compelling people to testify or produce records before the committee.

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House Democratic Leadership’s Statements on Court Decision Regarding the House Redistricting Plan

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Representative Terie Norelli, Democratic House Leader and Representative Mary Jane Wallner, Deputy Democratic Leader and a petitioner in the case, issued the following statements on the Supreme Court’s Decision regarding the New Hampshire House Redistricting Plan.

“We are certainly disappointed that the Supreme Court declined to overturn the Republican redistricting plan. While the Court stated that the plan does not violate the NH State Constitution, we believe this flawed plan fails to honor the intent of the voters of New Hampshire who clearly expressed their opinion that every town and ward should have its own representative,”   stated Representative Norelli. “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, which over the last decade has resulted in Pelham being significantly underrepresented in the NH Legislature.”

“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,” said Representative Mary Jane Wallner. “The fact remains that there are 62 towns and city wards that deserve their own representative that will not have that representation under the plan. Unfortunately the constitution requires the Supreme Court to give great deference to the legislature’s redistricting plan even when that plan disregards the will of the voters.”

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Representative Weber Expresses Concern about the Passage of CACR 26

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE –Representative Lucy M. Weber, issued the following statement regarding the passage of CACR 26, a constitutional amendment which allows the legislature to replace court rules by passing laws.

“Part I, Article 73 of the New Hampshire Constitution provides for the separation of powers between the legislative, judicial and executive branches. CACR 26 gives the legislature the express power to make or overturn administrative rules of the judicial branch,” stated Representative Lucy Weber. “Can you imagine how outraged the legislature would be if the NH Supreme Court could make rules of procedure for the legislature? This CACR disrupts the balance of power between the legislature and judicial branches which is an essential part of our system of checks and balances.”

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University System of NH Under Attack Again

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Representative Mary Stuart Gile, Democratic Policy Leader on the House Education issued the following statement on the passage of the committee of conference report on HB 1383, which requires every student admitted to the University System of NH (USNH) after December 31, 2012 and receiving the in-state rate of tuition to execute an affidavit attesting he or she is a legal resident of the United States.

“Whether or not a student or anyone is a ‘legal resident of the US’ is a matter of federal law, not state law or University policy,” stated Representative Mary Stuart Gile, Democratic Policy Leader on the House Education Committee.

“HB 1383 is yet another assault on the USNH in this 2011-2012 legislature’s attempt to dismantle NH’s system of public higher education. First, the funding was cut drastically when NH was already last in state support for higher education; second, there was the attempt to eliminate the chancellor’s office making coordination of the system’s four sites next to impossible; and third, HB 1383 which is much more subversive in its intent because it implies ineffective administrative procedures, attacks the integrity of USNH personnel and students and places the USNH admissions offices in a potentially awkward circumstance.”

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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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