Representatives Terie Norelli, Steve Shurtleff, Gary Richardson, and Cindy Rosenwald held a press conference today to talk about how Republicans had promised to focus on the economy and jobs but instead they have focused their attention on social issues and a radical agenda.
Thank you all for joining us today. My name is Terie Norelli and I am the Democratic Leader in the New Hampshire House.
With “Crossover” completed, we wanted to recap the highlights and lowlights of the first half of the session.
But before we recap the first half of the session, I feel it is important to address an incident that happened recently in the Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee. Unfortunately, it epitomizes the misplaced priorities and insulting attitude that this Republican majority has demonstrated to people from across New Hampshire.
In discussing a bill that would have updated our rape statutes to remove the term “mentally defective,” Rep. Ken Kreis said of a rape victim with disabilities, “she had her whole life to get used to being called defective.”
Rep. Jason Antosz also supported keeping the phrase, saying “defective” and “retarded” are “just words.”
These were outrageously insensitive insults – to rape victims and to people with disabilities. I don’t believe they represent New Hampshire values. But unfortunately, these words and actions epitomize what we have seen from this Republican majority — insults and attacks for anyone who disagrees with them, and disregard for the needs and rights of women, as well as people with disabilities.
And this bill, which had already been recommended by the Criminal Justice committee, was sent back to committee, reportedly by Republican leadership.
Speaker O’Brien has made it a point to punish legislators who disagree with him — even removing from their committee members who disagree with him and stand up for their constituents and their communities.
Speaker O’Brien should condemn these outrageous comments by Representatives Kreis and Antosz. I am left wondering if the Speaker will remove them from the Criminal Justice committee as it appears that these representatives have no interest in listening to or serving the needs of crime victims.
Finally, I call on the Speaker to support immediate passage of this legislation.
The actions of the Republican majority speak louder than their words. The Republican majority has undermined efforts to bring new jobs to New Hampshire.
Republicans had promised to focus on the economy and jobs. Instead they have focused their attention on social issues and a radical agenda, with multiple bills attacking women’s health care; legislation to upend contracts between workers and their employers; an effort to take over Medicare; even more efforts to dismantle public education; and bills that undermine basic public safety.
Republican leadership moves forward with every bad idea they can find. They have even pushed through multiple bills that their own committee leadership has determined are harmful … like the plan to take over Medicare, defund planned parenthood, repeal workforce housing, and the list goes on and on.
From refusing to give public notice of votes, to taking seats away from disabled legislators for disagreeing with him, to overriding Republican committee recommendations, Bill O’Brien has corrupted the legislative process.
In the past three months alone, this House has passed:
- 7 gun bills
- 8 bills cutting women’s access to health care
- 8 bills undermining the rights and safety of workers
- 5 bills attacking public education
- At least 5 attacks on the judicial branch
- And even one bill planning for a state takeover of Medicare for seniors.
Representatives Shurtleff, Richardson and Rosenwald will address more specifically a few policy areas of particular concern.
House Assistant Deputy Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff:
Good morning. My name is Steve Shurtleff, and I am the House Assistant Deputy Democratic Leader and a retired US Marshall.
Under the House Republican Leadership, working-class families have been called names and their livelihoods have been attacked. This is no way to treat our police officers, firefighters, teachers, and thousands of other workers across our great State.
House Republicans have passed several bills that would upend the contracts between workers and employers, which forces State Government into the employer – employee relationship.
Last week, the Senate Commerce Committee voted to pass an amended version of HB 1677 – turning this year’s version of “right-to-work” into the identical twin of the right-to-work legislation. And today the Senate will vote once again on last year’s so-called right-to-work bill.
Last fall, House Democrats worked with House Republicans to sustain Governor Lynch’s veto on this out-of-state special interest backed bill. After not getting their way last year, Speaker O’Brien just can’t take no for an answer, but I am confident that if the Senate passes this bill, the House will again sustain the Governor’s veto.
When they are not attempting to force “right to work” for less onto New Hampshire, State House Republicans are undermining public safety in pursuit of their guns first agenda.
It began last year, when they voted to allow guns in the State House, and the House chamber, and then passed “Shoot first” legislation opposed by law enforcement and vetoed by Governor Lynch. This dangerous law allows the use of deadly force on street corners, in shopping malls, public parks, and in retail stores.
Drug dealers and other felons who brandish weapons will be further emboldened to use their weapons, while prosecution of those criminals will be made more difficult because of this bill’s expansion of the right to use deadly force.
I remember a few weeks before Governor Lynch vetoed that terrible bill, I read that a man was arrested for brandishing a shotgun in a Pembroke park after a drug transaction turned into an argument. Luckily, no one was harmed in that case but what if that drug dealer had felt threated he would be justified in the use of that deadly force.
That’s not right. That’s why the New Hampshire Chiefs of Police, the New Hampshire Sheriffs Association, the New Hampshire State Police, representatives of over 40 local law enforcement departments and the current and former Attorney Generals warned it would jeopardize public safety.
This year, the House Republicans have continued their focus on guns, passing an additional 7 bills – including one that would have mandated guns be allowed in the dorms and classrooms of public colleges.
New Hampshire has always had a tradition of common sense and responsible public safety laws; however, House Republicans have passed rules and laws that jeopardize our safest state in the Nation status.
House Democratic Floor Leader Gary Richardson:
Good morning! My name is Gary Richardson and I am the House Democratic Floor Leader.
In its quest for power, House Republican leadership has repeatedly violated the separation of power between the three co-equal branches of government by passing unconstitutional legislation and corrupting the rule of law in New Hampshire. There has been bill after bill seeking to force the Attorney General to engage in lawsuits against the federal government or preventing cooperation with the federal government. There have been at least 5 bills attacking the independence of the judiciary, including a proposed constitutional amendment to repeal the ability of the judicial branch to make its own rules.
The Speaker has sought and obtained the power to subpoena witnesses as part of his effort to control Health and Human Services, an executive branch agency, and in the process invade the confidentiality of child protection proceedings – a confidentiality based on protecting the rights of children. The Redress of Grievances committee is acting like a grand jury conducting McCarthy style investigations far beyond anything ever contemplated in our constitution.
House Republican leadership likes to claim it is focusing on jobs, but most of its attention this year has been given to a narrow, Tea Party agenda that will undermine our future economic growth.
Last year, at the same time that this legislature cut the tobacco tax and caused the loss of revenue from tax evaders by eliminating state auditors, they cut aid to higher education in half. They passed on to local taxpayers a costly and disruptive bill that forces schools to develop alternative, individual lesson plans for any student at a parent’s demand.
They’ve continued their anti-education crusade this year, passing a bill aimed at overturning the decisions of local school boards who decide to use a particular educational method. Why? – Because it has the word “international” in it.
And they are pushing an expensive school voucher program that will cost local schools millions a year, driving up local property taxes.
Most business leaders say the future of New Hampshire’s economy will depend on its educated workforce. The House Republican leadership seems ideologically committed to undermining our students, our schools and our state government at every turn.
House Deputy Democratic Floor Leader Cindy Rosenwald:
Good morning, my name is Cindy Rosenwald and I am the Deputy Democratic Floor Leader.
Nowhere is the radical agenda of this House more clear than in the war it has waged on women’s access to health care.
This legislature voted to overturn a 12-year-old bipartisan law guaranteeing equity in prescription drug coverage to women. Their goal: to end prescription coverage for contraception. In New Hampshire do we really want the owner of a business to be able to deny contraceptive coverage?
Back in January, the House passed House Bill 228 in order to fulfill their obsession with de-funding 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 bill would also put New Hampshire at risk of losing 1.2 billion in money for Medicaid funds. This policy is bad for our families, bad for our communities, and bad for our state.
In all, this legislature has passed 8 bills directly related to women’s health care. In fact, they even passed a bill that would take away insurance coverage for midwife services.
When House Republicans are not focused on repealing contraception coverage or defunding basic, preventive health care services for thousands of New Hampshire women, they are voting to undermine health care in other ways.
And now they’ve voted to plan for the legislature to take over Medicare for seniors. The State Committee on Aging calls this proposal “potentially disastrous.”
And disastrous is what their other health changes have been.
House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli:
Thank you Steve, Gary, and Cindy! Unfortunately this has been the story at the State House for the past fifteen months. Bills that would be laughed out of any living room or board room in New Hampshire, are being pushed through by a radical Tea Party coalition.
I look forward to when the New Hampshire Legislature is taken seriously again and begins to work with the Governor on common sense solutions to create jobs and grow our economy. Thank you!