Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Jackie Cilley's Legislative Action Alert, Week of June 27, 2011

Legislative Action Alert
Week of June 27, 2011
Jackie Cilley

“You Got to Know When to Hold ‘em, Know When to Fold ‘em”
The trip to the Bangor casino was out of compassion, at least that’s how I sold it to my very gambling-averse husband. My friend Norma, a decidedly down Maine gal complete with the accent and derisive tone reserved for out-of-staters, had been hospitalized and home-bound for the past couple of weeks. Her favorite pastime is slots so it was a natural way for me to cheer her up.

The hour long ride to and fro is always filled with chatter about the happenings of South China. I don’t know any of the people mentioned, but I’m beginning to feel as though I do. The conversation moves beyond news of the day and onto flora and fauna and a host of other topics.

For someone lacking a formal education, Norma’s one of the sharpest folks I know. There simply doesn’t seem to be anything for which she fails to know something about and have an opinion on. In the early days of our friendship I thought she delighted in pulling my leg about her “data” and information. I’ve checked up on her facts and she’s generally dead on. (Damned if it didn’t turn out that she was right on such an esoteric fact as mosquitoes are attracted to blue! Who knows that kind of stuff??)

On this particular trip, she talked of more pressing concerns -- her stay in the hospital, the treatment plan for the lung infection and out-of-pocket costs of the illness. They were substantial. Norma is on one of those very limited insurance plans due to age and previous illness. She manages by doing everything in her control to stay healthy and by going to the doctors only when absolutely necessary. That might have been what landed her in the hospital. The doctor said she had waited too long before seeing him and the result was full blown respiratory distress that was more dangerous and difficult to treat.

Thankfully, she was considerably better by the time we got together and she was definitely more cheerful to be on her way to pursue her hobby. I suspect she may enjoy gambling a bit because she’s actually lucky at it, something I am most assuredly not. She plays a bit, loses a bit, wins a bit. A day’s entertainment is often less than the price of the one egg and dry toast she sometimes splurges on for a breakfast out.

This occasion went considerably better than that for Norma. At the end of the afternoon she was several thousand dollars up and I was just envious. All the way back to the camp she ticked off the co-pays that were about to be dispatched. Of course, there was also a discussion about the taxes on the winnings which suddenly seemed steep to her. (Honestly, this is the part I never understand. A few thousand minus a few hundred still puts one up rather nicely. But that’s never quite the way it is viewed.) She asked me how I had handled this. I told her I’d never had the occasion to worry about it.

Later that evening I reflected on the trip and what singularly good timing her win had been. I also thought about the fact that at the beginning of the day we were both certain we would be winners. Only one of us was. And, the odds against even that were very high. Depending upon the type of slot machine either one of us played at any given time the odds could be as high as thousands to one that either of us would hit a jackpot. Nonetheless, and despite knowing that, we both entered the casino in the secure belief that we would each be winners. We humans can be odd creatures.

Speaking of which reminds me of the extreme libertarians who are now in control of our state. It seems to me that the world they are shaping for the rest of us will be a bit like waking up in a casino every day – without the entertaining bells and sirens of the slot machines.

The luck of the draw will either place us with parents competent at homeschooling or with sufficient resources to send us to a private school -- or not. If we hit the jackpot, we will have parents able to afford college for us or we’ll be sufficiently brilliant enough to attract full boat scholarships -- or not. The hand we’re dealt and our ability to negotiate a good deal with a prospective employer will either provide us with a livable wage and decent benefits to carry us into a ripe old age – or not. If Lady Luck smiles on us we’ll be safe in our place of employment and our schools, we won’t be hit by a speeding car, our property won’t be polluted by a bad corporate citizen, the air we breathe won’t harm us and the food we eat at our favorite restaurant won’t poison us. We’re going to need luck because many of the government regulations that seek to help in those ways are targeted for elimination.

We can’t eradicate misfortune. We can’t (or at least I hope we don’t want to try) engineer Mensa candidates. We can’t stop the devastation of an earthquake or a hurricane or a tornado. There are lots of things we can’t prevent and that lead to awful consequences to those who are impacted. But it does seem to me that an enlightened, compassionate society creates conditions for all of its citizens that offer better odds than the pull on a one-armed bandit. Some bills passed this year, coupled with those on the docket for the upcoming year, suggest we are being governed by folks who are just fine with casino odds.

Late Breaking News
The Alert typically stays pretty focused upon legislative antics and activities and sidesteps party politics. However, from time to time something happens that seems to have an obvious connection to what is happening in our Statehouse. An article printed in the NH Journal today was a case in point.
In an article entitled “State GOP in Disarray” author Shawn Millerick notes that the GOP party coffers are down to $1,300 from which to pay its bills and that the situation is “so dire that the party has asked the Strafford County GOP for a loan of $1,000 so it can host a fundraising even with presidential candidate Herman Cain…”

The sad state of GOP financial affairs is being laid right at the feet of the Tea Party-inspired and supported Chairman Jack Kimball. Millerick goes on to say “The New Hampshire Republican State Committee is in disarray and Chairman Jack Kimball is reeling under the strain of a job he thought would be a piece of cake, multiple sources tell NH Journal…” These same sources claim that “…Kimball is now visibly regretful that he ever took the job [sic] of State Party Chairman.”

So, what’s the connection between this and the current legislature? In the GOP-Free Stater sweep of last fall there were far too many who gained the power but failed to grasp the significance of actually governing. They have not listened to constituents who presented expert testimony on numerous bills nor have they spent time assessing the consequences of their actions. Like Kimball, they are “reeling from a job they thought would be a piece of cake…” The difference between the two? When they are done, New Hampshire is going to need a whole lot more than $1,000 loan to correct the damage!

The Week in Brief
Earlier in the legislative sessions there were attempts to defund Planned Parenthood through HB 228. Opponents cited the thousands of NH citizens who receive cancer screenings and reproductive healthcare. Retained by the committee, it was anticipated that the bill would come to the floor next January.
Consequently, it came as a shock last week when the Executive Council suddenly voted to defund Planned Parenthood by withholding a $1,861,116 contract, two-thirds of which are federal dollars, targeted to women’s healthcare by that provider. This puts 15,000 patients who currently receive routine reproductive health services, cancer and STD screenings at risk.

This is a purely ideological attack (also occurring in several states in this country). Supporters of defunding Planned Parenthood have repeatedly cited its abortion services. However, no public dollars are allowed to be expended on abortions. For all of the talk of greater individual freedoms, personal responsibility and patient choice, the extreme ideologues in our legislature and in the Executive Council have denied 15,000 of our New Hampshire citizens the ability to access affordable reproductive healthcare services.

With the Governor declining to veto the budget (either HB 1 or HB 2), Speaker O’Brien notified the troops their services would not be necessary this week. The House calendar for this week listed Thursday, June 30 as a potential session day. The day was reserved for the possibility of a gubernatorial veto of the budget. With that possibility out of the way, the House is “recessed at the call of the Chair.” While most observers anticipate that the next session day will occur in the fall, it is possible for one to be scheduled at any given time.

On June 27 the Governor vetoed yet one more bill, SB 129 the voter ID bill. Assuming the legislature will be called back into session in the fall, this bill along with HB 474 the Right to Work Act will likely be taken up at that time. Several other bills the Governor vetoed were overridden by the legislature before recessing, including the repeal of New Hampshire’s minimum wage, parental notification and the ability of communities to require certain sprinkler systems that best suit the needs of that communities residential and commercial areas. Two other vetoes that have not been dealt with include SB 3, the bill that made substantial changes to the NH Retirement System, and HB 218, legislation that weakened the Rail Authority.

Select List of New Laws
This one is more a new “non” law – After seven decades New Hampshire no longer has a minimum wage law.
Individuals can now use deadly force to protect themselves or a third person in any place s/he is legally entitled to be and has immunity for such use.
There is no longer a minimum mandatory sentencing requirement for felony convictions that include the possession, use or attempted use of a firearm.
By law, NH will not accept the funds to establish nor will it establish a health exchange under the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
New Hampshire is now one of only three states that has privatized weights and measures certification and enforcement (a program that ensures you receive the unit of something you pay for – i.e., a gallon of gasoline). The other states have a public/private partnership for this program. Under the new law, New Hampshire will have essentially privatized the entire function.

Sneak Preview:
The list of “legislative service requests” are posted to the General Court website and can be accessed at http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/ols/nhlegislativelsrlisting.pdf. Legislative service requests are the precursor to actual bills. An LSR becomes a bill once it is given a number and assigned to a committee for its first hearing. In each edition of the Alert over the summer I will include some of the more entertaining pieces of legislation.

If Susan Emerson of Rindge (serving Cheshire, District 7) has her way bullying in the Statehouse will be unlawful. After experiencing firsthand the verbal battering of House leadership, Rep. Emerson felt it appropriate to file the first ever bill “prohibiting bullying in the Statehouse and Legislative Office Building.” I can’t wait for this one to make national news!
Robert Kingsbury of Laconia (serving Belknap, District 4) has been a truly busy beaver. You may recall in the last list of bill requests that he was the legislator sponsoring a bill to require the courts to provide a woman who is given a restraining order a gun, a box of ammunition and shooting instructions. One that just might resonate with many folks on the seacoast is a bill “establishing that the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is within the boundaries of New Hampshire.” This has been a contentious issue and one over which there has been longstanding controversy between Maine and New Hampshire. I believe that there was a final court case that settled the dispute, but maybe not. Perhaps our legislators declaring it is ours will simply make it so. This one should be worth watching. I wonder if we can get Maine’s Tea Party governor to come in and break bread with his New Hampshire counterparts? Now that would be worth the price of admission!
Free Stater Jennifer Coffey apparently wants our citizens to know if they inadvertently cross over into Massachusetts because she is sponsoring a bill “requiring the Department of Transportation to post signs on roads that cross the border into Massachusetts.” I just hope that Rep. Coffey of Andover (serving Merrimack, District 6) is going to find a way to include funding for these new signs. Given that our Department of Transportation is losing $90 million just on the loss of vehicle registration monies that will severely impact its ability to maintain our already distressed roads and bridges, it is difficult to see where it will have much excess to spend on signage saying “leaving NH.” Interesting that this is the only border she’s concerned with.
Now here’s one that could really benefit all of us – a bill requiring a course in business or financial literacy as a prerequisite for high school graduation! Just goes to show that every once in a while you can find a diamond in a coal mine. This bill is being supported by Rep. Shaun Doherty of Pelham (representing Hillsborough, District 27). There are MANY things that I could find to disagree with Rep. Doherty about – not the least of which is his support for nullifying any federal law he might not like – but I have certainly found my point of agreement with him on this one. If payday and title loan lending are coming back to our state it would be a particularly good idea for our citizens to have a higher level of financial literacy to determine if these products are a good deal for them.

A Distinction With a Difference
In light of the “thought of the week” that I wrote a few weeks back about NH natives and those who move to our state, the following letter to the editor really resonated with me. This would have made such a fitting ending for that piece as it describes clearly the distinction between….

Carpetbaggers vs. immigrants
For the Monitor
Created 06/17/2011 - 00:00
John R. White, Wolfeboro

A glimmer of hope shines in Concord: The Free State/Tea Party Express seems to have lost a few wheels on the way to the station. Some of the GOP faithful are beginning to doubt the wisdom of Speaker William O'Brien, he who must be obeyed, and his campaign to dismantle the machinery of government in New Hampshire.

Up to now, O'Brien has been able to browbeat his party reluctants into doing things his way. Those who deviated have been summarily relieved of committee assignments, threatened, slandered, verbally abused and libeled. Grudgingly, for the most part, they have sustained the party super-majority.
So who is this William O'Brien who rules the House with an iron fist? And how, in only his second term in the Legislature, is he commander of the House?

He's a carpetbagger from Massachusetts, a Democrat when he was law partner of Tommy Finneran, erstwhile speaker of the Massachusetts House who left that post in disgrace.
In New Hampshire, O'Brien latched on to the Free State movement; in the aftermath of the 2010 election he courted the radicals and won the speaker's chair. He owes his power to a group dedicated to the destruction of state government, reducing the civil obligation to the protection of life and property - nothing more. Strangely, that protection of life and property seems to devolve upon the individual - why else the over-weaning concern that every man carry a gun?

O'Brien is a carpetbagger, as differentiated from an immigrant. Lots of us here in New Hampshire are immigrants. I'm one - moved here in 1991. The difference?

Immigrants come here to change their lives; carpetbaggers come to change your life.

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