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AFSC-NH State House Watch, November 8
2013 Issue 29
The big State House news this week is about Medicaid expansion and plans for public hearings next Tuesday. But there’s also movement on death penalty repeal, two key bills affecting the lives of New Hampshire immigrants, and a bill that holds promise for reducing prison populations.
Yesterday the House and Senate convened and adopted rules for a Special Session to consider proposals to expand access to Medicaid. The rules were adopted with agreement from leaders of both parties in both chambers. Not content to go along, former Speaker Bill O’Brien called for Representatives to vote against the proposed rules and called on members to vote against every motion that comes up in the Special Session. Only forty Representatives sided with him, a count that gives an indication of his current influence. (To see who voted with Rep. O’Brien, click on the “roll calls” page of the General Court web-site, then on session year 2013, then on session date 11/07/2013, and finally click the “view votes” link for vote 197.)
Proceedings became more contentious when House leadership introduced a bill, Special Session HB 1, based on the October 15 report of the Medicaid Study Commission. Under this proposal, the State would accept federal funds to provide health insurance for low-income adults through Medicaid, but with a provision that eligible workers who have access to health insurance through their employers have to use their workplace plans. But they could get a subsidy for those premiums through a state program. This twist would require the state to get a waiver from the federal government.
Senate President Chuck Morse, however, indicated that the Senate will not go along with the plan outlined in SSHB1. “Expanded Medicaid as they are presenting is not acceptable to the Republicans in the Senate,” he said at an 11 am press conference in the LOB lobby, where he was joined by other Republican Senators. Morse and Senator Jeb Bradley outlined an alternative plan in which federal dollars would be channeled into a trust fund that eligible New Hampshire residents could tap to purchase insurance from the health insurance “exchange.” (Yes, that’s the exchange whose creation was opposed by the same Republican leaders.) Recipients of insurance through this program would have to comply with “personal responsibility” requirements, such as employment training and wellness programs. It would also have mandatory co-pays and would include a “sunset” provision, i.e. the program would automatically expire if it is not renewed by the legislature. This plan, too, would require a federal waiver. The Senate leadership version is SSSB1.
What this means is that another political battle is brewing, with much of the conflict likely to take place behind the scenes. In front of the scenes, the House and Senate will each hold public hearings on Tuesday, November 12. The House hearing will be at 10 am in Representatives Hall. The Senate hearing will be at 1 pm in State House Room 100.
Medicaid expansion supporters will meet before the 10 am hearing at the NH Citizens Alliance office at 4 Park Street, 3rd floor. Please wear blue and ask for a Medicaid expansion sticker.
You are also invited to join a Prayer Vigil at 9:30 am outside Representatives Hall on the 2nd floor of the State House.
The House has already scheduled a vote on Medicaid for November 21. If differences between the perspectives of the two chambers are not resolved before then it is possible that a Committee of Conference will be appointed to look for common ground.
Death Penalty Repeal Advances
The NH Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty held a well-attended press conference October 24 to announce the introduction of a repeal bill that will be considered in 2014, with strong, bi-partisan leadership. Speakers at the press conference included Ray Dodge, former Marlborough Chief of Police; Walter Murphy, the former Chief Justice of the Superior Court system; Bishops Rob Hirschfeld and Peter Libasci; and Representative Renny Cushing.
With the Coalition, we are calling on all of our readers to contact your State Senator and Representatives now to urge them to support repeal in 2014. Click here to find the contact information for your Senator and here for your Representatives.
Please try to reach them by phone if you don’t have the opportunity for an in-person visit.
- When your Legislator answers, say your name, and say that you are a constituent.
- Mention the upcoming bi-partisan repeal bill and briefly state one or two reasons you oppose the death penalty (for helpful information, see http://nodeathpenaltynh.org/death-penalty-issues/).
- Ask the Legislator to consider supporting the repeal bill.
- Finally, ask “May I ask where you stand on the issue?” If they are undecided or leaning against repeal, ask them to keep an open mind. Don’t get pushy or defensive, and thank them for their time.
- IF YOU GET VOICEMAIL: Leave a message covering steps 1-4 above (for #4, leave your phone # and ask them to contact you to share their position).
If you do have a conversation with any of your lawmakers, please describe it to us by posting a report at http://tinyurl.com/NHRepealCalls.
The Coalition also released a statement in response to the NH Supreme Court decision affirming Michael Addison’s conviction and death sentence. Seven years after the killing of Michael Briggs, the State has spent upwards of $5 million on prosecution, defense, and court costs, and the Court has not even finished its mandatory review. The prospect of killing Michael Addison will do nothing for public safety, just add another violent death.
Meanwhile, legislators continue work on bills that were retained or re-referred during the regular 2013 session. Yesterday the House Education Committee gave its approval to a revised version of HB 474, a bill that will allow New Hampshire college students to pay in-state tuition rates regardless of their immigration status. The House Labor Committee held another session on HB 249, which would mandate employer participation in the federal E-Verify program, the purpose of which is to keep unauthorized immigrants out of the formal work force. The Committee is scheduled to “exec” on this controversial bill on Tuesday, November 19 at 10 am in LOB Room 307.
HB 649, a bill that would allow prisoners to reduce their sentences if they complete education, mental health, or parenting programs, won the unanimous approval of the House Criminal Justice Committee and will be placed on the Consent Calendar when the House re-convenes in January. Chris Dornin of Citizens for Criminal Justice Reform called it “a bipartisan victory for supporters of restorative justice.”
Meanwhile in Our Nation’s Capital…
…debate over the federal budget shows no sign of abating. AFSC has joined groups such as the AFL-CIO, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Bread for the World, and the NAACP in a statement calling for an end to sequester cuts; defense of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; supporting programs like food stamps (now called “SNAP”) that aid the most vulnerable people; and closing corporate tax breaks to come up with revenue for essential programs.
Events Coming Up…
Dr. Helen Caldicott will be in Concord tomorrow, November 9, for NH Peace Action’s annual dinner.
The Greater Manchester Black Scholarship Foundation will hold its 39th annual dinner dance tomorrow, November 9, at the Chateau Restaurant in Manchester. If you are unable to attend you can send a donation to: GMBSF P.O. Box 534 Manchester NH 03105 to support provide scholarships for young people to attend college or university.
“State of Arizona,” a documentary about the state’s anti-immigrant atmosphere and laws, will be shown at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, November 12 at the Red River Theatres in Concord. Arnie will moderate a discussion after the film with Eva Castillo, Ron Abramson, and Devon Chaffee. Click here for details.
“In the Light of Reverence,” a documentary that explores American culture and its relationship to nature in three places considered sacred by native peoples, will be shown Monday, November 18 at Temple Beth Jacob, 67 Broadway in Concord, at 7 pm. This is part of the “Building a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence” film series.
Plymouth State University is hosting Shantigarbha, a world-renowned Nonviolent Communications trainer, for a series of lectures and workshops November 15 to 24. Click here for details.
-Arnie and Maggie
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AFSC’s New Hampshire State House Watch newsletter is published to bring you information about matters being discussed in Concord including housing, the death penalty, immigration, and labor rights. We also follow the state budget and tax system, voting rights, corrections policy, and more. The AFSC is a Quaker organization supported by people of many faiths who care about peace, social justice, humanitarian service, and nonviolent change. Arnie Alpert and Maggie Fogarty staff the New Hampshire Program, publish the newsletter, and co-host the “State House Watch” radio show on WNHN-FM.
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