Guest Blogs

Entries in Political Activism (20)

Monday
Nov252013

Zack Deutsch-Gross - Close PSNH Coal Plants

New Hampshire has so much potential for greatness. We live in a democracy where our voices matter. We have 400 state representatives because the people of New Hampshire believe in citizen participation. Our political system is designed to help us build the clean, healthy and prosperous world we all envision. A world where we can open our doors every morning, step outside and breathe clean, crisp air. A world where our friends and family work in a local economy where everyone has jobs that support the natural beauty and uniqueness of New Hampshire. A world where we don’t have to choose between keeping the heat on in the winter and polluting our air and water with toxic chemicals. And right here in New Hampshire we can make that world a reality.

Citizens for Clean and Fair Power works to do just that. Over the past three months, we’ve been talking with elected officials, telling them our stories and enlisting their support to responsibly retire Merrimack Station in Bow, and work for a clean air and a sustainable energy future in New Hampshire. We’ve collected over 1,300 signatures from New Hampshire residents calling on our state legislators to take action. We’ve built a coalition of over 25 state-wide groups to join our call, and had 101 local business sign on their support. Just last week, we held public forums in Concord and Portsmouth where over 100 people, including U.S. Senate Candidate Jim Rubens and State Senator Martha Fuller-Clark, joined us to discuss New Hampshire’s future beyond coal. By having these conversations and enlisting the support of politicians, experts, small business owners and everyday people, we can create a clean, healthy and prosperous New Hampshire we all want and believe in.

New Hampshire yearns for a return to politics of togetherness and the realization of our mutual goals. It’s going to take more than what we’ve done over the past three months to achieve this vision, but with every new person that signs one of our petitions, with every elected official who becomes a champion for the people, with every person who stands up and says ‘I want to live in a healthy, clean and prosperous world,’ we bring that future closer. And that is what Citizens for Clean and Fair Power is all about. 

Zack Deutsch-Gross is an organizer for Toxics Action Center, a New England non-profit that supports local community groups such as Citizens for Clean and Fair Power to clean up pollution in their communities.

Friday
Nov022012

Carolyn McKinney - Liberty will advance with Ovide as Governor

By Carolyn McKinney, chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire

As the leader of a Republican organization focused on liberty in New Hampshire, I often come across people who refuse to go along with the party nominee in higher-end races and vote their conscience instead. 

A vote on principle is certainly something of value and thankfully common among people who truly understand what liberty means. At the same time, it’s important for liberty-minded Republicans and independent-minded voters out there to consider that no person can possibly agree with them on every subject. For that reason, voting on principle sometimes requires a little more deliberation, especially in this election when the momentum of liberty counts so much on the results.

There is no doubt that Gov. John Lynch was a barrier to liberty in the last two years, despite the Republican supermajorities in the House and Senate. Right to Work would be law today, guaranteeing the freedom of individuals to earn money wherever they could find an employer willing to hire them, and they wouldn’t have to share their wealth against their will with a third-party. New Hampshire would no longer be a member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a tax scheme with no real benefit to the environment that has made a few connected businessmen wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

Unfortunately, Maggie Hassan is so much worse than Gov. Lynch on so many issues, as her time in the N.H. Senate should make clear. She was a co-sponsor of the bill to force New Hampshire into the cap and tax scheme, for one thing. She was also largely responsible for the spending and taxing policies that stifled New Hampshire’s economy, destroyed private sector jobs and eventually led to the complete rejection of Democrats during the 2010 election. Those 2010 election results were no mistake. The Republicans we elected did as much as they could to reverse course and advance liberty, and they’ll continue to do that even if we give them only the slightest majority in the Legislature.

But with Maggie as governor, the Legislature will be starting with a budget that drastically increases spending, along with the necessary taxes, fees and borrowing to pay for it. They will face a roadblock to any deregulation, tax or fee cut, or any move to make the government more efficient, and many bills that increase the power and authority of government will sneak through without the threat of a veto. Even with a Republican Legislature, the force of a statist governor who’s never seen a government program she doesn’t like will smother the spark of liberty and prosperity ignited by Speaker O’Brien and the Legislature he led during the past two years. Everything we just accomplished will be stopped dead in its tracks, if we’re lucky, and we could even see many of our accomplishments reversed.

It is for the sake of helping our Republican Legislature continue its good work that the principled vote is in favor of Ovide Lamontagne, the only candidate that can legitimately beat Maggie Hassan. This is not the time for liberty-minded people to work toward any other political goal. Liberty is truly at stake, and Ovide is the only candidate for governor who can and will advance our cause.

Ovide may not be the perfect Republican candidate for governor, and we’ve had very public policy differences with him in the past. If Ovide is elected, I expect that we will have to fight hard to advance freedom in some of these same policy areas, particularly in the area of education reform and reductions in state spending that go as far as we need them to go. 

Despite these foreseen battles, Ovide Lamontagne instinctively knows that small government and economic freedom are necessary for New Hampshire’s future prosperity. That’s why he would sign a Right to Work bill. He’d repeal the cap-and-tax scheme. His budget would be a reasonable starting point for the House before representatives add further spending cuts. Importantly, the executive bureaucracy would be held in check by his oversight. For these reasons, I am definitively recommending a vote for Ovide Lamontagne as the only gubernatorial option for voters who love liberty.

For anyone who still doubts Ovide is the only choice for governor, please consider that the liberty contingent of Republican and independent voters are the only people who can help him top Maggie. We will not let Gov. Lamontagne forget that once he makes it into office. If led by principled Republicans in the Legislature and advocates of liberty from the outside, we can expect that liberty will not only advance in New Hampshire, it will thrive under Gov. Ovide Lamontagne.

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.)

 

Tuesday
Apr242012

NH Rep Jordan Ulery - Truth About Alec

Recently there has been a spat of hate letters regarding the nation’s oldest and largest public-private discussion group, American Legislative Exchange Council.  This organization allows members of Legislatures from across the nation to gather to discuss common problems and developing issues.  Joining the legislators are various advocacy groups including Amnesty International and various prison ministry groups.  Yes, there are those “evil” business interests present.  You know them, they are the ones that employ you, pay your wages, provide access to group health insurance, pay your vacation, pay for workers’ compensation.  Businesses, the heartbeat of America without which this nation would fold.  As that rather taciturn New England President “Silent Cal” once said; “the business of America is business.”

It is interesting that separate authors in separate newspapers penned exactly the same letter to the editor.  It is almost as if the authors did not do any research, do any analysis and just sent in the letter they were told to send.  Interesting indeed that separate people could present the same mischaracterizations, “less than accurate” statements and plain old lies.  Yet, if you ask any of them they will likely say, ‘oh no, I did it all by myself.’

Let us be absolutely clear.  Bills for introduction in New Hampshire come from New Hampshire, but may be similar to those in other states.  That is the result of open and frank discussion between legislators without partisan bickering.  The ALEC “model” legislation is debated in committee (called a Task Force) and often takes several years to reach a resolution that is acceptable to the broad majority, not an elite select few.  A similar process is used by NCSL which former Speaker Terri Norelli will soon head.  (aside: I wonder if Granite State Progress will attack former Speaker Norelli for proposing model legislation?)

After the idea is vetted by a Task Force it is presented to the Board of Directors and presented as a reference for members.  It is not mandated, the model legislation is just that, a proposal vetted by legislators across the nation to address a common problem.  It is available for any member legislator to modify to her or his state’s needs.  Gee, efficiency, responsiveness and responsibility in the legislative branch to benefit each of us – what an idea!

As for not protecting individual taxpayer rights – that is a complete and total falsehood.  Consider CACR 6 introduced to the House, passed the House, modified by the Senate and awaiting a Committee of Conference.  That bill would modify the New Hampshire Constitution to require modification on spending (the exact wording varies by chamber).  That bill was based upon a distillation of ideas presented at various ALEC conferences.  Seems to me that protects taxpayers.  HCR40 is a US Constitutional Balanced Budget petition to Congress.  That ALEC inspired legislation had strong bi-partisan support in the House and is now before the Senate.  The number of pro-taxpayer ALEC inspired bills is too long for a letter-to-the-editor.  One need only go to www.alec.org and read the press releases on “Obamacare,” tax policy,  over-regulation, energy efficiency (including green jobs) to see the broad scope of ALEC initiatives.  Of course, that would presume the robot letter writers actually were interested in the truth, rather than the pre-fabricated political agenda of their commissars.  

In case the next attack is that I have a vested interest in ALEC, let it be known that all legislators pay a membership fee to join.  All legislators pay registration and room fees to attend conferences.  No legislator member of ALEC receives “pay” or benefits from ALEC or from a corporation as a result of their membership in ALEC or as a result of bills brought forward or supported.  These attacks are simply politically motivated ad hominem attacks designed to deflect attention from the real issues facing New Hampshire.  The business loss because of many factors, including among the highest business taxes in the country, the resolution of a massive budget deficits (NH: est $ 900,000,000.00 – US: est $777,000,000,000.00), the lack of adequate funding because of over taxation and increased fees, the looming transfer of Medicaid costs to the State because of ObamaCare and the continual erosion of personal liberties and freedoms as the result of regulations, rules and federal laws.

 

Jordan Ulery

Hillsborough-27

NH State Representative

162nd General Court

Tuesday
Dec272011

Carolyn McKinney - The Tea Party’s Biggest Challenge: Protecting Its Brand

The Tea Party, now a well-known but poorly understood American populist movement, has attracted so much attention because it truly rose from the grassroots passions of Americans who love their country.

To clearly understand the grassroots nature of the Tea Party, it's important to note that the movement has never been controlled by any one central authority―besides, perhaps, the rule of law and the constitution. This decidedly libertarian-conservative political movement has really grown up around a loose network of patriots united around a core set of issues. And around those issues, groups of people act with distinct autonomy based on the will of their members.

Despite this decentralization―or perhaps because of it―the movement has managed to focus the American political conversation on concerns and objectives of lasting importance to the American Republic: overspending, debt, and crony capitalism on the one hand, and government accountability, sound money and national sovereignty, on the other. But more than that, the Tea Party has sought to restore those timeless principles that were once cherished by all Americans: limited government, individual liberty, personal responsibility, free enterprise and equal protection under the law chief among them.

As a populist movement, it is only by remaining decentralized that the Tea Party will continue to unite the passions of Americans and reject the allure of power and influence. Already, it has successfully rebuffed attempts by the Washington and Republican establishments to co-opt the movement for their own purposes. National groups like FreedomWorks, the Tea Party Express, and Tea Party Nation have had limited success tapping the local Tea Party fervor because average Tea Partiers are wary of national groups that compromise principles for power.

This strength, however, is also proving to be its greatest weakness. Without a strong central authority or spokesman, it has been difficult for the Tea Party to maintain the purity of its core principles or to stay on track with its original grassroots agenda. Nowhere is this more evident than in its support of federal candidates.

In 2010, not long after the outset of the movement, the Tea Party successfully coalesced around several candidates for Congress, many of whom now serve in government as reliable limited government reformers. However, as the current session continues and the next election approaches, the Tea Party is having trouble both in articulating the same clear mission with which it began and in identifying that mission in the agendas of the current political candidates. Some candidates now claim association with the movement, but their record shows a clear disparity with the Tea Party. In this way, the decentralized nature of the movement has not been conducive to a critical defense of its brand.

But defense of the brand is critical, and Tea Party patriots must demand that politicians prove themselves worthy of the Tea Party label. That does not mean the candidate can just have a shallow commitment to Tea Party principles, but they must have the political courage to make deep and lasting reforms.

For example, the generic “cut government spending” principle is certainly a Tea Party concept, but by which standards will a candidate cut the size of government? Will he or she simply reduce the percentage of the increase in spending by trimming a few line items here or there, or will he or she reduce the size of the budget by eliminating redundant, unnecessary or unconstitutional programs and departments, and more importantly, will that budget be balanced without new debt?

Likewise, will a candidate eliminate only those deals with lobbyists and corporate entities that the incumbent has cultivated, or will he or she actually eliminate all cronyism in government and restore the free enterprise system where the market―and not government bureaucrats―picks the winners and losers? Does the candidate have a history of promoting free market capitalism or does he or she have a record of making deals for political gain?

Additionally, if a candidate is promoting a “limited government” approach, does he or she truly understand the federalist system that puts political power in the hands of the people―by putting people in control of their own lives and reserving most of the governing to the states―or will the candidate continue to look for federal one-size-fits-all solutions, or worse, global solutions to the problems facing everyday people? How will the restrictions on federal power in the Constitution weigh his or her decisions, and does his or her record support the campaign rhetoric?

There is still a strong core of Tea Party patriots who are committed to the ideas that defined the Tea Party at its inception, but these people must remain proactive to protect the Tea Party brand. They must demand that politicians not merely speak about Tea Party issues, but demonstrate a passionate dedication to the ideals of limited government within the federalist system defined by the Constitution. And they must educate new Tea Party patriots on the movement's core principles; communicate and coordinate with all the local groups identifying with the label; and clearly articulate the original Tea Party agenda to the media and the general public so candidates cannot attach themselves to the label when they clearly should not.

Without an active defense of the movement, there is a strong chance that the movement will slowly disintegrate. For without a strong brand and conviction to principle, populist movements cannot remain passionately united for the common cause―and in these times when America needs the Tea Party more than ever, this would be a tragedy.

Carolyn McKinney is a graduate of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In addition to being a mother of four and small business owner, she is the Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire, an organization dedicated to conservative principles and the cause of liberty.