Rep Steve Vaillancourt



Wednesday
Feb152012

Redistricting Update--Release The Salamander (aka Gerry) Mr. Speaker!

            Three items on the redistricting front have surfaced since the last time I reported here.

This orginal gerrymander seems tame compared to what the NH House will do today.     

Click on the map to enlarge.

       This afternoon the House presumably will vote to accept a plan for the five executive council districts that would make Elbridge Gerry proud.  He’s the founding father who created such an egregious district in Massachusetts that his name is forever associated with the hanky panky that now bears his name.

            I’ve prepared a handout of two maps—the gerrymandered plan passed by the committee side by side with my plan.  Everyone I ask prefers my plan but don’t bet on it passing because Republicans have once again been coerced into doing the wrong thing.

            If the goal of redistricting is to come as close to “one man one vote” as is possible, my plan is infinitely superior.  Its deviation is less than one percent (0.54 percent to be precise) while the Mirski Committee-approved plan has a deviation nearly seven times that great—3.52 percent.

            Actually since the current map contains districts within ten percent deviation, we don’t need to do anything at all, a position I assume Democrats will support…and perhaps the Senate.

            District two in the committee plan runs from the Vermont border all the way across the state and on down the coast to Portsmouth.  At one point, district two remains contiguous by the narrowest of land bridges, through the town of Barnstead.

            Its such an embarrassment that I plan to offer maps to Representatives with the admonition that they should keep this so they could show their grandchildren what a truly silly thing they voted for back in 2012 with the explanation, “Sonny, you’ll never believe what I did, but I was told to do so by leadership, and back in the day, I did what I was told no matter how little sense it made.”

            Both plans are available on the state web site and I've reproduced them here (thanks to Rep. Cohn).

             The special House Committee on Redistricting voted 11-4 (totally along party lines) to approve the Senate plan as presented yesterday.  Democrats voted against it, and while it’s not the plan I would have drawn up, I could find no reason to vote against it.  The House usually provides deference to the Senate to create its own plans, and there was certainly nothing so egregious in this plan as to defy that tradition.

            Most comment centered on district 13 which has a deviation slightly in excess of five percent.  However, the overall Senate plan is within an acceptable deviation of less than ten percent.  District 13, in order to guarantee an all Nashua district, had to either have five or six Nashua wards. Since the average Nashua ward contains 9500 people and the ideal Senate district should have approximately 55,000 people, five wards would yield a deviation way too low (5 fives 9500 equals only 47,500), so the Senate went with six wards (6 times 9500 equals 57,000, more than ideal but within acceptable limits).

            Senator Jeb Bradley also explained how the Senate, in the wake of a public hearing, moved Holderness from District 3 back into District 2 (along with Plymouth) which makes sense to me (during college, I lived on the banks of the Pemi River—near the flooding area—in Plymouth but within sight of Holderness across the river).

 

            Also yesterday, various and sundry House Republicans received a five page single-spaced unsigned letter, attempting to defend the indefensible, the blatantly unconstitutional House redistricting plan which is now in the Senate.  I haven’t read it yet, but at quick glance, it’s a tissue of half-truths, an indication that Republican leadership plans to double down and continue stonewalling rather than get to the serious business of putting forward an acceptable plan. 

I’m guessing high paid attorney Ed Mosca was the ghost writer of this strange missive.  It’s headed “Dear fellow Republican colleagues” (a classic redundancy in itself) and concludes “Sincerely” then no signature.  Most likely, intent was for neither me nor anyone else from Manchester to see this pack of misinformation.  After all, secrecy has been the order of the day when it comes to redistricting.

The letter lists a series of “claims” with countering arguments, none of which would convince any sentient human being of supporting the plan.

            Right off the top, the letter begins with a mostly false statement, ‘The Redistricting Committee spent considerable time working to thread the needle in crafting a redistricting plan (HB592) that met the requirements of first the federal and then the state constitutions.

That is totally false on so many levels.  The redistricting committee basically rubber stamped a proposal that was put together by non-Representatives behind closed doors with a minimum of any input.  Most members on the committee couldn’t even tell you what they voted for.  Sorry, but that’s the truth. 

For example, I showed the map of the executive council plan to a member of the committee who had voted for it last week.  This member told me she didn’t recognize the plan and preferred the one I am offering on the House floor this afternoon.

No friends, “dear fellow Republican colleagues” and others, you just can’t make this stuff up.

            No lawyer whether the House esquire Mosca or someone paid $50,000 from an outside firm could keep a straight face while asserting that the House-passed House plan meets requirements of the federal and state constitutions.

            Apparently, House leadership has spent so much money on outside legal council that it can’t afford to keep the House in order.  Today, the voting system was out of order so we had to do a standing roll call for the first time in years, and the Speaker announced than more quiet than usual is needed since one speaker is inoperative.

            Ah yes, $50,000 to draw up a totally unconstitutional redistricting plan (and who knows how much to draft a five page document only a hack would believe) and no money left for standard maintenance.

            You just can’t make this stuff up.

            Nor should you have to.

Wednesday
Feb152012

Will Republicans Vote For Corporate Welfare?

By late Wednesday afternoon, we should have a good indication of just how serious Republican State Reps are of living up to their pledge not to downshift costs to cities and towns.  If they follow leadership's recommendation on House Bill 1305, the ever-present telephone pole welfare bill, Republicans will disgrace themselves and cost property taxpayers of every community in the state a cumulative total of something like $6 million.

The majority leader, the Finance Chair, Ways and Means and former Ways and Means chair are all sponsors of this bill which amounts to little more than corporate welfare of the worst sort.  Speaker Bill O'Brien, realizing that he couldn't stack the deck enough to pass the bill by sending it to the committee where it belonged and went last year (Municipal and County Government), decided to let the Science and Technology Committee be the arbiters of corporate welfare tax policy this year.

Not surprisingly, committee shopping led to an ought to pass recommendation from the committee, but sources are predicting the 13-1 vote will be overturned on the House floor as well it should be.

This is not a new issue.  For years, at the same time that electric poles were being taxed as property, telephone companies were getting away without having to pay a tax on their poles (and conduits, but let's not go into that).  Year after year, a bill came forward to EXEMPT this property, and extensions were passed.

Two years ago, the Legislature finally decided to treat this property as it does all other property in the state and subject it to local property taxes.

Republican leaders, obviously wedded to the idea of corporate welfare, desperately tried to reinstate the EXEMPTION last year, but at the end of the day, opponents succeeded tabling the bill.  Despite repeated threats to remove the bill from the table in time to pass it and dump an extra $6 million onto property taxpayers in all cities and town, leadership never got its way.  The bill remained on the table.  Cities and towns went forward with assessing the telephone poles and conduits.  In Manchester, for example, the city assessor handled the task himself.  No money was spent on outside assessors, and Fairpoint in fact paid the bill on time, as every other taxpayer is expected to do.

Fast forward to this year and the usual cast of corporate welfare fetishists are back at it again, falsely advertising this EXEMPTION as something that is necessary to prevent double taxation. 

Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Election Law Chair David Bates loves to take to the House floor to complain about false statements in bill descriptions in the House calendar, but it is leadership itself which is guilty of the basest of distortions in this week's calendar.

Rep. Frank Holden, R-Mt. Vernon (Bill O'Brien's home town by chance), begins his blurb by stating falsely that "the extension of the property tax to telecom utility poles is a new tax."  Fairpoint executives make the same erroneous contention, including in an op-ed piece in yesterday's Union Leader.

Notice how three times, I have capitalized the word EXEMPTION in this article.  There's a reason for that.  This is not a new tax.  It would be an exemption to a tax that every other property pays.

We have deemed that blind people, the disabled, veterans, and elderly are eligible for certain exemptions and built the exemption process in property tax law, but we don't call it a new tax.  We call it what it is--EXEMPTIONS.

And that's exactly what telephone companies have been getting, EXEMPTIONS from fair taxation for all these many years.  As with any other exemption, when one taxpayer benefits, the rest of us pay.

That's the case with this exemption, and the only reason it has been around for so long is that the phone companies have paid more to hire better lobbyists throughout the years (Earl Pierce for example, but he's not with Fairpoint).

Proponents of this bill, those supporting a continuation of corporate welfare, claim if telephone companies don't get this EXEMPTION back; it will amount to double taxation because there's a tax on phone bills.

The illogic of this is mind boggling.  It's like saying that since we all pay the Rooms and Meals tax when we go to McDonalds, the restaurant chain is being double taxed by having to pay property taxes on its buildings...or since we all have to pay the gasoline tax every time we fill up, gas stations are being double taxed by having to pay property taxes on their buildings.

This is clearly absurd.  Passage of this bill would be clearly absurd.

In a civilized society, none of us want to pay taxes but well all agree to do so...with the assumption that everyone else with property will also be taxed.  For Fairpoint and other phone companies to be treated to this special EXEMPTION (as if they are blind or handicapped or elderly) is a perversion of our ability to tax.

The argument that the company will simply pass this cost along to customers may or may not be true (the PUC would have to agree to that), but it is irrelevant.  Does McDonalds pass its property tax along to those who buy Big Macs? Most likely or else it absorbs the cost in hopes of selling more hamburgers.

Who should the phone companies, with cash flow much greater than most other companies, be EXEMPT from taxation?

It shouldn't be.

The more relevant question is why Republican leadership, supposedly dedicated to tax reduction for all, would push so hard to increase property taxes for all by giving an EXEMPTION to a few? 

I suspect the answer to that question will come, as always, by following the money...as in contributions as reported to the Secretary of State's office.  I can't wait to see these filings.  In fact, I've already checked ...but I digress...that's another story...a blog for another day.

Meanwhile, follow closely the debate on House Bill 1305 today.  We're in for a Maggie May moment.  I'm reminded of a line from the great Rod Stewart song, "You stole my soul and that's a pain I can live without."

Telephone companies seem to have stolen the soul of Republican leaders, and that's a pain the party can live without.

Tuesday
Feb142012

House Chief Of Staff Greg Moore Stonewalls Request For Information

               Greg Moore, who at the end of last year replaced Bob Mead as Chief of Staff to House Speaker Bill O'Brien, has decided not to provide information to the public.  In a letter to House researcher Myla Padden, Moore has decided to stonewall.  "Thank you for your letter dated February 9, 2012 regarding a legislator's request regarding staff activities and contract documentation regarding legal consel.  Unfortunately, this information is not publicly available," Moore writes.  After a month of sitting on the request, Moore has apparently decided how the House spends taxpayer's money is no one's business.

               You just can't make this stuff up.

               It should come as no secret that I am the Represenative who requested this information.

               Thanks not at all to the Speaker's office, I have learned from the highest authroity that the outside counsel hired to handle redistricting is David Vicinanzo (see below) of the Nixon Peabody firm.   We have documentation that the House paid that firm $25,000 for legal services on June 21, 2011 and another $25,000 for legal services on January 26, 2012.   Apparently, us lowly legislators aren't entitled to know how the money has been or is being spent, despite the fact that, unlike Greg Moore, we were actually elected to oversee state spending. 

               After getting no response to verbal requests, the House research office sent Moore a lengthy letter seeking the information.  I have a copy of that letter, but out of respect to staff, will hold off publishing at this time.

                At least one member of the media has filed similar information requests and has run into a similar stonewall.

                What is there to fear, Mr. Moore? 

                What is there to fear?

                Maybe an audit of the Speaker's office is the only way to obtain this information, but does anyone really believe anyone on the Fiscal Committee would remain on the Fiscal Committee were such a request to be made?  Maybe some senator will request it.

David A. Vicinanzo :: Government Investigations & White Collar Defense :: Boston :: Nixon Peabody LLP

David A. Vicinanzo
Partner
Co-Practice Group Leader, Government Investigations & White Collar Defense

dvicinanzo@nixonpeabody.com
617-345-1177
Fax: 866-947-0758

Experience

A trial lawyer, David A. Vicinanzo serves a broad array of clients—from Fortune 100 to pro bono—in New England, New York, the Washington, DC, area, and elsewhere. He practices primarily in the area of government investigations and the representation of organizations and individuals in complex civil and criminal matters.

Before joining the firm, Mr. Vicinanzo was a federal prosecutor in Washington, DC, and New England for thirteen years. He served in Washington, DC, as an Advisor to the U.S. Attorney General, and as Chief Prosecutor in the campaign finance investigation of the 1996 presidential election. In that position he managed a task force of more than one hundred attorneys, agents, and analysts, which interviewed thousands of people, reviewed millions of documents, and obtained the convictions of more than twenty defendants, including John Huang, Yah Lin “Charlie” Trie, and Maria Hsia (organizer of the Buddhist Temple matter).

Mr. Vicinanzo also served as Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey (investigation of U.S. Senator Robert Torricelli), and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in Massachusetts. He was also the First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Hampshire, where he managed an office of sixty lawyers, analysts, and staff. In this position, he was responsible for all aspects of office management including case development, civil enforcement and criminal prosecutions, agency relations, and personnel decisions, as well as a substantial litigation caseload.

David A. Vicinanzo :: Government Investigations & White Collar Defense :: Boston :: Nixon Peabody LLP

Tuesday
Feb142012

The Week In Polls--Feb. 14--Senate Races Tight

            If early polling is any indication, we should expect some close races for U.S. Senate seats come November.  Remember that Democrats must defend 23 of 33 seats, so chances for Republican gains are many including Florida which I thought was a sure bet for the incumbent Democrat (Nelson).  Not so apparently.  Rasmussen has him tied 41-41 with Representative Connie Mack, he of baseball lineage.

            One of the few incumbent Republicans who may be in trouble is Scott Brown who trails Elizabeth Warren 46-43 in Massachusetts.  Unlike when Brown won the “Kennedy seat” in a special election in 2011, coattails will work against him this year.

            I’ve long thought that Sherrod Brown was too liberal for Ohio (shades of Howard Metzenbaum), but he was comfortably ahead until last week when Rasmussen came out with a poll showing him only four points (44-40) ahead of Republican Mandel.  Top of the ticket will matter there as well.

            Popular former Republican Governor Lingle might have a chance for the open seat in Hawaii but not in a year when Obama will win the state big.  She trails Democrat Hirono 57-37 in the latest poll.

            Virginia remains a toss-up with former Democrat Governor Kaine ahead of former Republican Senator Allen 45-44 in a new Quinnipiac poll.  Once again, I suspect top of the ticket will determine that outcome, and most indications are that Obama will not win the state—in fact, he seems to be designing a western strategy to make up for expected losses in Virginia and North Carolina.

            Time will tell, but these Senate races appear more interesting than problematic state polls for the Republican presidential nomination at this time.

            I’ll hold with my prediction that Republicans gain seven seats to take a 54-46 advantage in the Senate.

            As for the Presidency, there are no races for two weeks, so things could change drastically but it appears that Santorum has pulled slightly ahead in Mitt Romney’s home state of Michigan.  PPP has Santorum up 15 points, but that’s undoubtedly an outliar; it’s only six points with ARG (I suspect that’s closer to reality, but don’t be surprised if Romney’s advertising barrage pulls him ahead here). 

            Arizona could prove more interesting.  Romney holds on to a big lead there, and if Santorum makes inroads, that could be the real game changer.

            I suspect it won’t be.

            The Eft continues to lead by double digits in his former home of Georgia, but with such wild swings, do any of these numbers really matter?

            In California, Survey USA has Romney up 33-31 over Santorum with The Eft at 17 and Dr. Paul 9.

            Here’s a trend that might prove more consequential.  Even when the Eft had pulled ahead of Romney for the Republican nomination, he never fared as well in head to head races with Obama.  Santorum, however, is doing just as well as Romney in most surveys.  For example, Rasmussen has Romney trailing Obama by seven and Santorum by only eight.  PPP actually has Santorum down by five (49-44) while Romney trails by seven (49-42).  If these kind of numbers continue to surface, look for Santorum to use them as an argument that he might be more electable than Romney come November.

            He actually led Obama in Ohio in one poll last week while Romney trailed. 

            Obama’s approval rating is positive for the second week in a row, by 1.6 points according to the Real Clear Politics average.  Ironically, Rasmussen has Obama up four points (51-47) while both Gallup (45-47) and PPP (46-50) have him down.

            Rasmussen’s generic Congressional ballot favors Republicans but by only two points (43-41).

            Rasmussen and Gallup disagree as to Obama’s standing with Catholics.  Gallup has him with 46 percent popularity, about the same as other demographic groups, but Rasmussen has him down 40-59 with Catholics, a group Obama carried with 54 percent in 2008.  Rasmussen has Obama losing Catholics 52-35, but I’m not sure we can trust any of these polls in the current climate.

            So why do I insist on looking at them every week?

            Good question.  Je ne sais pas moi.

            Will the economy be better or worse off a year from now?  Rasmussen finds 37 percent say better, 35 percent worse, 19 percent about the same, a ten point improvement from November. 

            Zogby, which I used to look at each week, seems to only be doing international polling these days.  Any idea why?

Tuesday
Feb142012

Alf Jacobson Speaks To Us Still

Alf E. Jacobson

Former Senate President and State Representative Alf Jacobson died two years ago this April, but this weekend is the time most of us think of Alf who was one the public servants I most admired.  It was on February 19, 1945 that 20 year old Alf Jacobson landed with a contingent of Marines on the island of Iwo Jima for what would be one of the bloodiest engagments of World War II.

Alf used to talk about that experience on the House floor, and in honor of the anniversary this weekend, I dug into my personal archives and am reairing a half hour interview I conducted with Alf for my TV show in Manhcester back in December, 2000.  Alf was running for Speaker at the time, and of course, it was at the height of the Bush v. Gore Florida battle, so we spoke about that.

However, in listening to the interview again, I was amazed at how many other things we spoke about which are still relevant today.  Alf could not be intimidated into voting any party line.  Many considered him a RINO (he proudly supported an income tax and wanted to reduce the rate on the intertest and dividends tax).

He favored annual sessions but expressed the idea that only bills introduced in the first year should be worked on in the second year.

I thought that it would be interesting to ask Alf, as someone who fought for his country's flag, if he favored a flag burning amendment which was making the rounds in 2000.  I'm sure you won't be surprised to learn that he did not, and I suspect it would not support the effort to force students to rise for the pledge of allegiance today.

We spoke of many things, including the Iwo Jima battle. 

He was extremely anti-gambling.

Alf believed the House Speaker should be an administrator and not a partisan advocate.  I trust he would be shocked to learn how the office has become more rather than less partisan in ensuing years.

My only regret is that the interview was not saved by the Manchester station; the only version is one I personally saved on a slow speed on an old tape.  The quality is not quite what I would like, but it's worth the time to replay...the sound alone would be worth the rebroadcast.

The interview with Alf runs as the second half hour of my weekly show, The Liberty Express which runs on Mancheter TV23 Tuesday at 11 p.m., Thursday at 9 p.m., Sunday at noon, and Monday at 10 p.m.  It's also posted at vimeo.com/channels/libertyx.

I've also managed to locate one of his speech's on the Iwo Jima experience.

 

"Rep. Jacobson: Thank you, Madam Speaker. This Saturday marks the 55 th Anniversary of the Battle

of Iwo Jima. Last summer, I attended the 50 th reunion of the survivors of Iwo Jima. They are becoming

a smaller and smaller group. They all have gray hair; many of them have bald heads and

some of them are paunchy. However, their spirit is strong. What they did was to honor and to give

affection of the battle of Iwo Jima, "Uncommon valor was common virtue." At the 5th division cemetery, the

chaplain said, "These Marines have left us but they live within by affection for them and the honor due them to remember

them in this way. They gave their lives and the smallest thing I can do is to come up here and to give those brave Marines

their honor and their due for they helped preserve the liberty and freedom that we all enjoy. I was among the

lucky ones because I spent 35 days there and came away still without a scratch. I must confess that

my commanding officer, the late General Antonelli, said to me, "Jacobson, the only thing you did

on this island was get fat." I gained five pounds eating C-rations. I don't know how many more

times I'm going to do this. I don't know whether I will run again, yet. Furthermore, I've been

targeted. But, it has the opposite effect on me because it stimulates my gung ho Marine spirit to get

in there and fight. Thank you.

Speaker Sytek: I want to give my thanks to Rep. Jacobson, as well, for reminding us every year

that we are privileged to serve with people like you and other members of this House who are

members of the greatest generation. We serve shoulder-to-shoulder with genuine heroes and we are

proud to serve with you.

 

Alf Jacobson is gone but he will never be forgotten.