Guest Blogs

Thursday
Nov012012

Rep. Manuse: We’re all Free Staters Now!

As the election approaches on Tuesday, you’ll hear many folks who love big government talk about their favorite bogeyman: The Free Stater.

You may recall SEIU President Diane Lacey called House Speaker William O’Brien a “Free Stater” on WMUR during his effort to pass a balanced budget that lowered the spending, taxes, fees and regulations that were stifling job creation. How dare she! Now, so many Republicans (and Democrats) running for office are “Free Staters,” even gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne. Oh no! They’re coming to give you your freedom, ha ha. They’re going to let you keep your money, ha ha, hee hee, ho ho.

Folks, don’t let this type of “name calling” scare you–not even today, because if you love limited government, individual liberty, personal responsibility and free markets, you’re a Free Stater, too. That’s right, folks. We’re all Free Staters now!

Who wouldn’t want to be a Free Stater, after all? And, what are the alternatives of those applying that label to Speaker O’Brien and many of the candidates running for a seat in our next Legislature? These are two very important questions to answer before considering whether the label should be taken as an insult or as a badge of honor.

But let’s back up a bit and focus on New Hampshire, a state made up of Yankee Republicans, Blue Dog Democrats and Independents whohave always been tight with their money, self reliant and carefree about what other people do with their own property, so long as there’s a fence in between that clearly marks the boundaries. New Hampshire is a state without an income tax and general sales tax, and yet citizens here think people should pay their fair share toward our mutual protection based on the amount of land they have taken for themselves. We treasure our small businesses, our innovators and our adventurers, and we long to live deliberately, using our days to do the things we want to do, for better or for worse. What’s better outside of heaven?

Now enter the Free Staters, a group of people born in more intrusive states who wanted to move to New Hampshire so we could live our lives the New Hampshire way. After all, New Hampshire was already a state that more closely reflected our political attitudes. Free Staters abandoned the politics of their former states when they came here with a promise to restore New Hampshire to the New Hampshire way. In other words, they left their former states to come home. We know that many New Hampshire residents came here from other states for the same reasons, even though they weren’t officially part of the Free State Project. That’s why it was just plain common sense for Free Staters to pick New Hampshire. That’s why we’d like to welcome Bill O’Brien and others like him to join our ranks.

Unfortunately, a different group of out-of-staters now wants to make New Hampshire into the places they all left behind. You see, the politicos using “Free Stater” as a derogatory term are a group of people who simply don’t like the New Hampshire way. Many of these folks, such as the Democratic Minority Leader and former Speaker Terri Norelli, who is from New Jersey, brought her New Jersey politics with her to the “Live Free or Die” state. As Speaker, Norelli passed many of the Nanny State laws that assume government knows better than you do, whether you’re trying to start a business, get a job, raise and educate your children or take care of your own property. Consider Maggie Hassan, who brought her Massachusetts spending and taxing habits with her to the New Hampshire Senate. God forbid we let her do it to us again as governor.

Norelli and Hassan want to take more of your money and give it to their friends who work for the government, until they make more than the rest of us who work for ourselves and want to build our own future. Not only that, former Speaker Norelli and former Senate President Hassan want more people to work for the government, and they want these new officials to use their newly created positions to tell the rest of us how to live our lives. In these out-of-staters’ New Hampshire, the government knows best and the rest of us simply need to fall into line.

Voters rightly rejected this snake oil in 2010, and they shouldn’t want to take another taste. To this writer, the name callers’ New Hampshire looks a lot more like New Jersey or Massachusetts, and a lot less like the traditional New Hampshire that has always been a bit of an island of common sense in a sea of big government waste and centralized control.

Free Staters believe in New Hampshire, because we believe in the New Hampshire way of trusting each individual to be an adult who can make his or her own decisions, and then make the best life possible with the consequences. We believe in New Hampshire, because we believe in helping our neighbors through private charity and acts of compassion of our own choosing. We believe in New Hampshire because we don’t believe government is the answer to our problems, but rather a problem itself when it gets too big. We believe in New Hampshire because we know that “low taxes are the result of low spending.” We believe in New Hampshire, because we believe limited government governs best, and that the people are perfectly capable of governing their own lives when they are afforded their natural liberties and personal responsibility to pursue their own idea of happiness.

I have to think that everyone, except those who personally benefit from government control, would agree with what I’ve written here. And that’s why I will assert once more: “We are all Free Staters now!”

Friday
Oct262012

Carol Shea-Porter - For the Rest of Us 

The 2012 campaign season is rapidly coming to a close. The commercials are as thick and dark and biting as black flies, and mailers warn voters to beware of Candidate X or Y. Just this week, one special interest group bought $2 million dollars of ads against me, which is more than I will spend for my whole campaign. Voters will have to wade through it all and make a decision. I hope they will vote for me for Congress because I care deeply about our state and our country and I will serve the good people of New Hampshire, not special interests.

I am a proud direct descendent of General John Stark, whose words “Live Free or Die” are frequently quoted. My roots are deep, and I know, love, and respect this great little state of ours. I grew up in a Republican family and I remember how New Hampshire Republicans and Democrats could disagree about policy but still come together to serve our communities. I believe we must do that again—walk away from the tea party agenda that divides us and join together with a renewed sense of purpose and unity to tackle our problems. During my four years in Congress, I was known for my advocacy for the middle class, for small businesses, and for the American dream. As the Seacoast Media Group and the Portsmouth Herald said, “Our interests were her interests.” I never accepted corporate PAC or DC lobbyist money. I cosponsored the Fair Elections Now Act and the DISCLOSE Act, because without campaign finance reform, we cannot tame the extraordinary influences of special interests that hurt ordinary Americans. I want to continue my efforts for campaign finance reform in Congress.

I served our military and veterans on the Armed Services Committee. As a former military spouse and proud wife of a veteran, I was especially happy to pass the new GI Bill of Rights that thanks our combat veterans with great education benefits. I introduced the bill to get a full-service VA Hospital or equal access to in-state care, and succeeded in getting more clinics and an acute care contract with Concord Hospital. Right now, New Hampshire does not have a Representative on the House Armed Services Committee, which is especially unfortunate because the current Congress’ vote for the Sequester has put New Hampshire defense jobs and jobs at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in jeopardy. I want to return to the House Armed Services Committee to advocate for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, its defense mission, and their incredible workforce.

Serving on the Education and Labor Committee, I cosponsored legislation that cut student loan interest rates in half and increased Pell grants for students. I cosponsored the minimum wage increase, which became law, and cosponsored the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restores a woman’s right to challenge unfair pay, also now the law of the land. I want to serve New Hampshire workers, small businesses, and families again in Congress.

I stood up for the New Hampshire environment. From the Ossipee Pine Barrens to land preservation around Great Bay, from the Presidential Range to clean water, I worked for funding to study and protect our environment.

I held seminars and workshops to help small businesses, including one in Manchester in 2010 to help small defense contractors compete for federal contracts that drew more than 150 people. I voted for the Small Business Jobs Act and eight small-business tax cuts. The Seacoast Media Group and the Portsmouth Herald wrote in their endorsement, “Voters who value bipartisanship will remember Shea-Porter’s outstanding work with her Republican colleagues from Maine and New Hampshire to safeguard funding for the new Memorial Bridge and much needed upgrades at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.”

We passed the health care law, saved the American auto industry and all of its jobs, and prevented a Depression. All of these were great accomplishments. But now we need to grow the economy, reduce the debt, protect Medicare from being changed to a voucher program, and help young people get an education and their piece of the American dream. I know we can do it—it is in the American DNA to tackle problems and succeed. I want to work on these issues for the rest of us.  I would be honored to receive your vote on November 6th.

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Former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter represented New Hampshire’s First District from 2007-2011, she is seeking a third term in the November, 2012 election.  She wrote the proposal for and established a non-profit, social service agency, which continues to serve all ages.  She taught politics and history and is a strong supporter of Medicare and Social Security.

Wednesday
Oct242012

Bob Burns - Of Course I have a Litmus Test

Feel-good political buzz words such as “compromise” really have no place in an Executive Council race, which is why it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I’ve said the constitution and the law are straightforward and I’d strictly uphold them upon election to the District 4 Executive Council seat.

My opponent for the seat shows his lack of knowledge of the position he’s running for—or perhaps his lack of faith in voters’ understanding—by trying to play around with the word and somehow insinuate that he’d be the great compromiser on the Executive Council. I think he should explain to voters exactly how he intends to do that.

Compromise is something that the legislative branch does when interested parties get together and try to work out their differences on a bill before they pass it into law. Executive Councilors are nothing like state representatives and they’re not like senators, either. In fact, they don’t even really deal much with the Legislature or legislation for that matter—that’s the governor’s job.

And further, the council is not some round table of five noble men sitting around making deals or trades with each other all day. If this describes my opponent’s vision for the Executive Council, then electing him would initiate a new era of some pretty dangerous corruption in our state’s executive branch. To be clear: our Executive Council doesn’t come close to that description.

On the contrary, the Executive Council’s work is clear-cut. Is it a good contract or a bad contract? Is it a good lease or a bad lease? Most of an executive councilor’s work is reading over state contracts and leases and then answering those questions. The result is an up or down vote and it’s often bi-partisan.

When it comes to judicial appointments, I’ve been quite clear: I will only support the governor’s judicial, department head or agency appointments if I know the candidate understands and respects the U.S. Constitution, the N.H. Constitution and state and federal law. For anyone under consideration for these positions, his or her record in this regard will be apparent, and I will vote accordingly.

Is there room for compromise in my opponent’s Executive Council in this area? If so, we’ll get more executive officials who believe there’s “precedent” to divert gas tax or toll revenue into general expenses, even though the N.H. Constitution in Part 2, Article 6-a says that such a diversion is specifically prohibited. The executive officials I confirm will never make this argument. They’d never even consider a contract that used gas tax or toll revenue unconstitutionally.

In the case of department head or agency appointments, I’d also want to verify that they’re qualified to do their job. Again, it won’t take much effort to determine whether a person is just a friend of the governor or someone truly qualified to do the appointed job, but that effort is the job of an executive councilor. I will be committed to making sure we only approve a nominee from the governor if it’s clear the person will perform to the best of his or her ability within the confines of the law and constitution.

What would my opponent do? Would he advise the governor to pick his friends to do the work of the people, even if they completely lacked the skillset required for the job? What will our roads and bridges look like under the leadership of one of my opponent’s friends? Will they be safe to drive on?

It’s not that someone we know shouldn’t get a government job, because sometimes the people we know to be the best, are simply the best in their field. But when confirming such appointments, the people need an executive councilor who will not compromise on the competency of the appointees. The people need to know that their government is doing the best job they can at the lowest cost. Voters should know that they deserve no less than this, without compromise.

Bob Burns of Bedford, who is currently serving as Hillsborough County Treasurer, is running for the District 4 Executive Council seat.

Wednesday
Oct172012

Chris Dornin: State should lock door on for-profit prison plans

Nashua Telegraph, Sunday, October 14, 2012

By CHRIS DORNIN

Guest Commentary

A consulting report is due Oct. 15 on four competing offers to build and manage a for-profit, co-ed prison or rent it back to the state.

Linda Hodgdon, the commissioner of administrative services, promised July 11 to release this study. If one of the vendors wins a contract, this state would be the first to substantially privatize its corrections system. That would be a tragic mistake.

Gov. John Lynch vowed to withhold the consulting report during a recent meeting with opponents of privatization. Officials would present their own review next month, he said, based in part on the secret advice of the MGT consulting firm. It was the sole bidder on a $171,000 contract to compare the for-profit prison proposals on an apples-to-apples basis.

I’d like to read that report by outside experts, led by George Vose, the former commissioner of corrections for Massachusetts and Rhode Island. There is reason to fear it will slant in favor of the private prison industry. Vose sits on the board of one of the worst prison vendors, Community Education Centers.

That firm manages 5,000 halfway house offenders at any given time in New Jersey and allowed an astonishing 452 escapes in 2011. The New York Times published a recent expose on CEC as a crowded, violent gulag that profits from warehousing people with unmet constitutional rights.

The Times said most inmates test positive for substance abuse, and most officers are undertrained, overworked, underpaid, inexperienced short-timers.

I spoke with Vose this summer, and he downplayed his clout at Community Education Centers and in New Hampshire corrections.

“We’re not being asked to evaluate if prison privatization would be good policy for New Hampshire,” he explained. “We’re not a political advocacy group for anybody. Our role is to evaluate proposals based on specific criteria. And I’m only one member of a team with five people on this project.”

Vose was vice president of operations at the for-profit prison vendor CiviGenics from 2002 to 2009, which agreed to repay $3.4 million in overcharges to Massachusetts in 2007. Former state auditor Joseph DeNucci had sought $10.2 million in excessive management fees and collected $3.5 million of it from Spectrum Health Systems, the company CiviGenics did its disputed subcontracting for.

Under Vose, CiviGenics compiled its own sorry record of warehousing not unlike the company it merged with, yes, Community Education Centers.

The bidders to take over most of the New Hampshire prison system include the GEO Group, Management & Training Corp., Corrections Corporation of America and the New Hampshire Hunt Justice Group. According to the New Hampshire Union Leader, they had spent $130,000 on New Hampshire lobbyists as of mid-August.

Widespread accounts from around the country suggest they would bring their own set of baggage. Rigorous studies show for-profit prisons are no cheaper than public prisons, and often more expensive, when you count all the hidden costs.

Lynch could lawfully rush a 20-year prison takeover contract to the lame-duck executive councilors before he leaves in January. I hope not. They might approve it in time to hand a mess to the November election winners. Gubernatorial candidates Ovide Lamontagne and Maggie Hassan are on record opposing private prisons.

Lynch has worked for a better idea, downsizing prisons and using the savings for community corrections. That strategy has cut budgets, crime and recidivism rates in a number of states, according to the National Association of the States.

Lynch knows lawmakers would never bond $300 million to build a state-owned co-ed prison, but they might OK $50 million for a women’s prison.

New Hampshire Legal Assistance has filed a very winnable class-action lawsuit against the women’s prison, and the courts in due time will order the state to rehabilitate women aggressively.

Why wait until then? Why bind Lamontagne or Hassan to a lame-duck policy of for-profit prisons they would both have a mandate to veto?

Chris Dornin is a retired Statehouse reporter and a prison reform advocate.

 

(Note: The MGT report was not ready by Oct. 15, and is now expected by mid-November, after the election.)

 

Monday
Oct152012

Carol Shea-Porter - Big Faith in Small Business  

After losing more than eight million jobs during the Great Recession, more than 700,000 of them just in December of 2008, we have gotten more than 4.5 million jobs back. The unemployment rate is now 7.8% across the country, and we've had more than 30 months of private sector job growth. Many Americans are still struggling and too many are suffering, but there is more optimism about our future. The newest Federal Survey of Economic Conditions, "The Beige Book," said New England's economic development "continues to expand at a moderate pace" and that manufacturing and business service and real estate sales are up, commercial construction is up, and retail is mixed. It reported that prices are steady, no inflation is expected, and that the mood is "cautiously optimistic" in 2012, and more "bullish" for 2013. While times are still tough and we have a way to travel to return to the "pre-Wall Street crash of 2008" economy, Congress and President Obama were able to avoid another Great Depression and put the country back on the road to full recovery. It's a good time to review what policies helped small business, and what do we need to do next?

 

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the Stimulus) put more than $21 billion in new investment in small businesses. Congress eliminated all fees on SBA-backed loans. It also lifted the ceiling on the loan amount that the SBA would guarantee from 85% to 90%. There were significant small business tax cuts as well.  Congress also passed The Small Business Jobs Act. This was supported by both the Small Business Majority and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the President of the National Small Business Association said at the time that "It doesn't matter what aspect of small business you are in, this bill has something for you." We created a new lending fund for community banks. We encouraged small business investments by cutting the capital gains tax on people who invested in small businesses, and passed legislation allowing businesses to use net operating losses in 2008 and 2009 to offset profits from five previous years, instead of the two years that had been allowed.

 

The positive effects of the 2010 Small Business Jobs Act are still being felt in New Hampshire. The Union Leader wrote an article on July 9, 2012, called "New NH Business Start-Up Fund Will Aid High-Tech Firms", and in it, they discuss how $4.5 million in federal funds is being used to back up a partnership between a private company and the NH Business Finance Authority. This will attract private money to invest in high-tech firms. BFA's Executive Director is quoted as saying, "It's a private market solution. We're backstopping the deal through an innovative guarantee mechanism, but it's largely driven by private capital." To which I say, "Perfect!" This is another success story, creating wealth and business in New Hampshire.

 

There is still so much to be done though. We still need a comprehensive jobs bill, and small businesses still need help. What can we do next?

 

Congress needs to cut through some red tape still. While we all know that there have to be rules of the road, we must do only what is necessary, and eliminate some of the paperwork and provide regulatory relief whenever rules are unnecessary or too heavy-handed.

 

To help entrepreneurs launch new businesses, we should let them set up a tax-preferred account like a Roth IRA, instead of dipping into their retirement savings too much.

It's a good idea to double the small business start-up tax deduction, and we should provide tax credits and deductions to encourage new technologies. I believe that we need to help small businesses get more contracts with the federal government and help them export products. We also need to fully fund the Small Business Administration.

Small businesses are the economic engine of our country. Our nation's full recovery depends on their full recovery and success. We have come so far, and they have worked so hard. We must not fail them now.

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Former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter represented New Hampshire’s First District from 2007-2011, she is seeking a third term in the November, 2012 election.  She wrote the proposal for and established a non-profit, social service agency, which continues to serve all ages.  She taught politics and history and is a strong supporter of Medicare and Social Security.

 

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