Rep Steve Vaillancourt



Saturday
Mar172012

Government By Nonbinding Referendum? I Think Not

In his unending quest to convince New Hampshire Representatives that gay marriage is the greatest scourge ever to be visited upon our society, Windham Rep David Bates has amended his bill to repeal gay marriage to include a non-binding referendum which would be placed on November's ballot.

Speaker Bill O'Brien agrees with Bates that denying two human beings the right to express their love in a formal fashion is--stop the presses--what he and 297 other Republicans were elected to do.  Word has leaked that O'Brien plans to throw the House rule book aside, and bring up the Bates amendment prior to an amendment from the Judiciary Committee.  Committee amendments have always been the first to be considered and then and only then are bill open to further amendment, but O’Brien and Bates clearly are willing to break any rules or traditions to foist this insane notion of a non-biding referendum onto the Legislature.

No, you just can't make this stuff up. 

The New Hampshire Constitution does not allow for initiative petitions.  Whether or not you think such petitions are a good idea, they are simply not allowed here.  In fact, maybe we should have a nonbinding referendum to get a sense of the people as to whether or not we should amend the Constitution to provide an initiative petition process.

Referendum on Referendums?--Maybe we should have a nonbinding referendum to decide whether we should have a non-binding referendum on gay marriage.

I say this only in jest of course.  The main point is deadly serious.  How could anyone be so vain as to think this issue and nothing else merits the status of a nonbinding referendum?  There’s a Yiddish word I’m searching for here, one I probably can’t spell.  No, not verklempt.  The word is chutzpah.  He may not speak Yiddish, but Rep. Bates has plenty of good old-fashioned chutzpah to think his issue and his issue alone merits a special vote.

At least a dozen issues of much more importance to all New Hampshire voters come to mind, and yet Bates is not asking we put them to a public vote.  Here are a few.

Referendum on Gambling?  Why not?  Most polls seem to show support for it, but no one is asking for a nonbinding referendum.  Better yet, why not make it two referendums, one for the D’Allesandro gambling plan which makes a few out of state casino owners rich and the Gatsas plan which gets more money back into state coffers?  As long as we’re asking voters to decide, we may as well clutter the ballot with as many decisions as possible.

Referendum on An Income Tax or Sales Tax?  Larger minorities support them both than support a repeal of gay marriage, yet Bates isn't asking that the issue be put to a non-binding vote.

Referendum on The Speed Limit?  All surveys show that 85 percent of us speed every day, yet the New Hampshire House, just voted against raising it.  Why not let the people decided whether laws should reflect the consent of the governed?

That's an issue I could get behind.

A Trapping Referendum?  Since first elected in 1996, I've been trying to ban the cruel and inhumane practice of trapping.  The legislature has always said no, but when the people of Massachusetts were allowed to vote on it, they said yes. 

Let's let the people vote on that here.

A Dog Racing Referendum?  Last year, the New Hampshire legislature decided to end dog racing, the same decision Massachusetts’ voters reached through the referendum process a few years back.  But wait.  Maybe we should let New Hampshire voters weight in on the subject, and while we’re at it…maybe we should ask voters if they think these now defunct dog racing tracks should have a monopoly on simulcasting races from other venues.  Why not open the televised races up to others or bar it for everyone?

A Seat Belt Referendum?  New Hampshire is the only state not to force people top buckle up when they get in their cars.  I firmly believe it’s a mater of individual choice, but it we’re going to start asking the voting public to weigh in on issues, why not this one?  Gay marriage affects very few people (a couple thousand so far), but this would affect us all.

A Death Penalty Referendum?   Gay marriage is certainly not a matter of life and death, but there’s one issue which is.  Yes, that would be the death penalty.  A few years back, the New Hampshire House voted to get rid of it.  A few years before that, both the House and Senate voted to get rid of it (Governor Jeanne Shaheen vetoed it).  Most polls show people favor the death penalty, but some polls show that people would favor doing away with it if we included the option of replacing it with life in prison with no chance of parole.  Certainly if Bates and Joe McQuaid think we should let the people decide on gay marriage, the people have a right to weigh in on death.

An Insurance Referendum?  For years, Manchester Alderman Ed Osborne has been pushing for a law requiring all New Hampshire drivers to be covered by insurance.  The legislature kills the idea every session, but maybe it would be a different story if people were allowed to vote on the idea in a referendum.  Gay marriage affects so few people; an insurance requirement would affect us all.

Bottle Bill Referendum?  The Legislature always votes against a bottle bill, but other states have gone this route.  In the interest of a greener environment, maybe we should pass a bottle bill.  Maybe the people would say yes if provided the option on a referendum.  Gay marriage affects so few people; a bottle bill would affect us all.

Do It For Granny D—The Legislature just voted down a bill providing for public financing of elections, but in honor of Granny D, who made this her number one cause, shouldn’t we let the people decide.  Gay marriage affects so few people; public financing would affect us all.

The number of possibilities for non-binding referendums is limited only by one’s imagination….should we wish to navigate that slippery slope.

I say we don’t.  We have the largest legislative body in the country.  Each of our 400 Reps represents only about 3300 people, so the voice of the people can certainly be heard without subjecting each issue to a non-binding referendum.

Friday
Mar162012

The Reading Room--Mickey Mantle, The Last Boy 

In The Reading Room, a regular feature on this blog and on The Liberty Express which airs on Manchestertv23 Monday at 11, Tuesday at 10, Thursday at 9 and Sunday at noon and is always available at vimeo.com/channels/libertyx, we take a look at recent books of interest.  Although I'm  former sportscaster (Plymouth State College Sports Hall of Fame for broadcasting and reporting) and still enjoy a game occasionally, I've never spent much time reading sports books.  Thus, when I picked up The Last Boy on my way out of the library, I wasn't sure I'd read it, at least all of it.  I did and am glad I did. 

NEW! Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood by Jane Leavy CD

It'll make you laugh.

It'll make you cry.

If you're as old as I am, it'll help you relive cherished moments from childhood (I for example was five weeks away from emerging from the womb on that fateful day in October, 1951 when rookie right fielder Mickey Mantle, in an attempt to avoid a collision with Joe DiMaggio in tracking down a fly ball off the bat of Willie Mays, stepped in a drainage pipe and blew out his knee, leaving him in more or less constant pain for the next 17 years of a brilliant career).

It'll make you think about eras gone by (thus the compelling subtitle "The End of America's Childhood"), times when grown men played children's games for the love of the sport rather than for millions of dollars; and times when the media more often than not covered up the indiscretions of these grown men.

It'll make you sadder than ever about the evils of alcohol, drug addiction, and sexual abuse of children (or anyone); all hallmarks of the life of this most interesting American folk hero.

It'll even provide a lesson on the aerodynamics of doing perhaps the most difficult thing in sports, connecting with a ball traveling 90 miles an hour and propelling it 500 feet or more.

It's The Last Boy, and you don’t need to be a sports fan to appreciate Jane Leavy's look at the life and times of Mickey Mantle.

Having grown up in the Burlington, Vermont area where the Yankees were equally as popular as the Red Sox, I admit to being hooked on Mantle as a teenager.  Unfortunately I was too young to appreciate the greatest part of his career, the 50s (1956 in particular), but I do recall dialing in WCBS out of New York to listen to Mel Allen, Red Barber, and Phil Rizzutto call Yankee games in the sixties.  (Allen was fired for turning Mangle on to a quack doctor, the same one who "treated" JFK, one who did more harm than good for the Mick, what a story.)

They are all part of this book.

The rivalry between Mantle, Mays, and the Duke is there.

The prodigious home runs are there, perhaps a bit too much in fact.  A mere quibble about Leavy's handling of the Mantle story is  that she spends way too many pages tracking down living beings to comment on mighty swats from half a century ago.  What difference does it make if the ball in Washington traveled 500 or 600 feet?

But as I say, that's a mere quibble.

More than a baseball story, which it certainly is, this is the story of a man coming to grips with his inner demons.  Mickey Mantle, son of an Oklahoma miner who died at age 40, was certainly not perfect.  All the stories of drinking and carousing are apparently true, and they are all recounted here.  Leavy quotes Mantle's boast that he led the league in sexually transmitted diseases six seasons (and guess what, David Bates, he wasn't even gay!  Apparently straight people, the best of straight people, can stray from the sexual straight and narrow).

Stray Mantle did.

At the end of these 400 pages, if you're at all like me, you will admire and yes even love Mickey Mantle all the more because of his faults, faults which include turning his four sons onto alcohol and drug abuse. By the end of his life, he managed to turn things around, in a sense to find the grace that we all deserve, to achieve a sense of redemption.  Too bad New Hampshire House members hadn't read the Mantle story of redemption before they shot down the good time bill which would have provided a modicum of redemption for others who have strayed from the straight and narrow and wound up in prison. 

We all deserve a shot a redemption; Mantle got that shot with a trip to the Betty Ford Center and a liver transplant.  Unfortunately, by that time, after a lifetime of abuse, his body was too far gone and like my mother (who used to bet with her brother on those World Series games in which Mantle played), he died a rather horrid death at age 63.

Yes, although a book about baseball, The Last Boy is so much more, and will help you recall both sad and joyous moments from your own life.

If you read it, be prepared to be shocked.  In fact, here's a warning.  Yesterday, I ran into someone who had read the book (he recommended and I have since started Leavy's other baseball biography, on another legend, Sandy Koufax).  During our conversation, I mentioned page 300, and he knew immediately what I was talking about.

If you don't wish to read some raunchy stuff, stop here because I'm about to quote the passage from page 300.  It's a fitting passage because it's part of the life of Mickey Mantle, and as with all fellow human beings, those who can hit a baseball and those who don't even know what a baseball is, we have to take him warts and beauty and all.

Here's the passage, uncensored.  I find it hilarious, and again a heads up to homosexual hunter Representative David Bates, it's about a heterosexual act.

"In 1973, when the Yankees celebrated the 50th anniversary of the House That Ruth built, the public relations department sent a questionnaire to former players.  It read:  I consider the following my outstanding experience at Yankee Stadium.

In the space provided below, Mantle wrote, I got a blow-job under the right field bleachers by the Yankee bull pen...It was the third or fourth inning.  I had a pulled groin and couldn't fuck at the time.  She was a very nice girl and asked me what to do with the cum after I came in her mouth. I said; don't ask me, I'm no cock sucker."

Now, there's a LOL moment.  But get this.  In relating this story to a fellow State Rep who worked at one of the stadiums Mantle visited, I learned that the Mick apparently had women under both the right and the left field stands, and stadium employees were tasked with making sure the two lovelies never met each other.

Warts and all, that's The Last Boy.

It truly was The End of America's Childhood.

This truly is an outstanding book, one which transcends the genre of sports biography.

Be prepared to laugh and cry.

 

Friday
Mar162012

Lebanon Vote Makes Redistricting Plan Even More Illegal

As expected (by everyone except Rep. Paul Mirski, R-Enfield, and a handful or myopic Republican House leaders), voters of Lebanon Tuesday overwhelmingly accepted new ward boundaries which evens out the population in its three wards and mandates that, contrary to the redistricting plan approved by both the House and Seante, each ward must receive one Represenative of its own with the city's fourth Rep "floated".

The vote was 927-127 or 88 percent, in the range I said it would be on the House floor when Mirski and others tried laughingly to argue last fall that we needed to force Lebanon into voting in early January.  In fact, Republican House members passed a bill to do just that, but again as I pointed out would happen, the bill was never passed by the Senate or signed by the governor.  In fact, it's still sitting in a Senate subcommittee, and now if we are to follow the Constitution, we must redo the redistrcting plan.

Constantly having to say "I told you so" is tiring, I report with all due humility.

The Amendment favored by Mirski and most Republicans and approved by voters in 2006 mandates that every town or ward with enough people for its own Rep (3291) must in fact receive its own Rep.  Now that all three Lebanon wards are nearly identical in population (as I said they would be; more than 4100 each), they all must have their own Reps.  Unlike the Pelham and Concord situations which are equally as unconstituitional but with no easy fix, the fix in Lebanon is simplicity itself.

One Rep per ward plus one floater will do it.  However, to accomplish that, the House will have to abandon the illegal plan it has already passed.  In other words, this is yet another reason for Governor John Lynch to veto the bill.   In fact, Speaker Bill O'Brien and House leadership should now feel honor-bound to ask to Governor to veto the bill.

Honorbound?

Is there such a thing in the House these days?

At last check, the redistricting bill for the Senate had made it to the Secretary of State's office enroute to the governor, but the House plan had not...leading some to wonder whether in fact O'Brien and his laywer/lobbyist/gendarme Ed Mosca in fact want to create a crisis so they can blame gridlock on others.

As always (sadly) you just can't make this stuff up.

Friday
Mar162012

Reps Jasper, Worsman, and Belanger All Lose Local Races--An Omen?

            With the caveat that reading too much into results from local races can be dangerous, Republicans need to be at least a little alarmed this weekend after seeing what happened at town meetings around the state Tuesday.

            In fact, only a brain dead Republican or one in total denial could help being alarmed.

            Among the losers in local races Wednesday was the Deputy Republican leader Shawn (known in this blog as Your Vileness) of Hudson and Meredith Selectman Colette Worsman who, as a freshman in the House, is one of the best and brightest Reps we have—she sits on Division I of Finance with me and is nearly as conservative fiscally as I am (unfortunately, she’s also extremely conservative socially as well, but I like her).

            The third Republican of note to lose was Ron Belanger of Salem.

            Note well—I did not seek out any of this information, but it was the talk of the State House Wednesday, and I feel duty bound to report here…when I get the chance…all the inside stuff I hear.

            I will also admit to a bit of schadenfreude over the Jasper loss.

            I won’t score any points by saying this, but I truly despise him.  Without even a shred of evidence, he will say anything he thinks will help his cause.  He bragged earlier this year about being a bully.  He quit when he didn’t get his way on the Hillsborough County delegation a few years back, and in reaction to word out of Hudson, all I could think was, “There is a God in heaven after all.”

            To say that Jasper indulges in half truths would be to dishonor that term.  His statements are quarter-truths or eighth-truths at best or to go lower on the musical scale, one sixteenth-truths.

            All right, I’ll come right out and say it.  The man wouldn’t know the truth if it stared him in the face, and he proved in once again Thursday with his “parliamentary inquiry” on the bill which would have raised the speed limit to 70 miles an hour.

            Reams of evidence presented to the Transportation Committee, actual police studies from different states, reveal there is a natural tendency of people to travel in the 70-72 mile an hour range regardless of the speed.  Jasper could or should have known that, but no…he chose to lie to the House by spreading the old canard that if you raise the legal speed limit; people will simply go faster.

            Ignorance is bliss but it’s also a lie as His Vileness proves time and again.          

            Thank you voters of Hudson.

            Jasper lost by a relatively close margin.  Two seats were up.  Ben Nadeau finished first with 1004 votes.  Pro-union Nancy Brucker beat Jasper (the incumbent, on and off the Hudson board for 16 years accordng to the Nashua Telegraph) for second 894-821.  While it’s always problematical doing percentages in multi-member races, the numbers between two and three amount to 52-48 percent, not a landslide but certainly an indication that Republicans will be hard pressed to sweep Hudson this coming November.  No wonder, House Republican leadership wants to flaunt the Constitution and force Pelham (which deserves four Reps of its own) in with Hudson.

            In 2008, Democrats won three of the seats in the Pelham-Hudson-Litchfield district.  It would certainly be asking too much to expect Jasper to lose in November (I’m sure many Republicans feel the same about me—that is their right), but Democrats will certainly pick up seats there.

            I feel much more confident about my prediction of a 78 seat gain for Democrats, and I wasn’t even including Meredith in that tally, but clearly Rep. Worsman will be in trouble.

            She lost to Carla Horne, someone she had beaten for State Representative in 2010, and it wasn’t even close.

            I repeat.  Unlike Jasper, I like Rep. Worsman a great deal, and her loss would be a blow to fiscally conservative forces in the House.  Again, I did not seek out this result, but it was sent to me.  In a race for two seats, the top two were close, 619 and 579 votes, but Rep. Worsman received only 371 votes.

            Ouch!

            I close again with the caveat that one must avoid reading too much into local races in which the turnout is low.  For example, in Manchester, both Will Infantine and I (in wards six and eight) tend to lose in city elections but usually top the ticket in State Rep races.  Turnout will be much greater in November, especially since it’s a Presidential year, but only the most myopic Republican would fail to realize that Obama is spending millions on a high-octane get out the base vote effort.

            Tuesday’s results should send shivers down the spines of Republicans…if not everywhere then in most places including Hudson, Meredith, Salem, and yes Manchester, Nashua and even Derry and Londonderry…to name just a few.

Friday
Mar162012

No Democrat Need Apply For Education Talks

            In honor of St. Patrick’s Day and the old admonition “No Irish Need Apply”, New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O’Brien this week sent out the word that no Democrat need apply to committee of conference positions to iron out differences with the Senate over an education funding amendment.

            Despite the fact that everyone agrees that compromise is needed and that Democrats and undeclared voters will need to join Republicans if any type of amendment has a serious chance of passing in November (two-thirds is required), O’Brien stacked the committee of conference of CACR12 with four Republican Representatives.

            Holy hypocrisy Batman!

            This came just after the Clown Prince of the New Hampshire House had drooled all over himself with a speech on how compromise is required.

            When his deputy moved to have D.J. Bettencourt’s remarked printed in the permanent journal, a self-serving move if ever there was one since the motion didn’t include printing anyone else’s remarks, the House voted no (168-175; it was I who insisted on a division vote, so the Speaker could not simply rule the "ayes" had it--does anyone doubt that's what he would have done?).

            The remarks, however, are floating in the ether and the media picked up on a few of them.

            Matt Spolar quoted the Prince in the Monitor, “I want to warn everybody ahead of time that we are not going to accomplish something on educating funding if we’re not willing to keep an open mind and compromise on issues.”

            One would think that keeping an open mind would involve including at least one Democrat in committee of conference discussions.  After all, there are 105 Democrats in the New Hampshire House, and it just could be that a few of their votes might be needed to hit the 239 mark to move the issue on to the voters.

            That apparently would be asking to much from Speaker O’Brien whose “either my way or the highway” mentality was never more clearly manifest than when he announced the four House conferees would be the almighty Hudson Rep Lynn Ober (chair of two powerful committees and vice chair of Finance…while dozens if not hundreds of lesser mortals are left with minimal responsibilities), David Hess, Education Chair Michael Balboni (a Nashua Rep so conservative that he who was voted out of office and then voted back in this past time with the GOP sweep) and Hudson Rep Andy Renzullo.

            Let’s see…that’s two Hudson Reps and no Democrats.

            You just can’t make this stuff up.

            In past years, under both Republican and Democrat administrations, the minority party has been given at least one seat at a committee of conference table.  To be sure, a committee of conference must reach a unanimous decision, but in the past if minority conferees were unable to sign off on a report, they were replaced at the last minute.  At least, the minority had a voice at the table.

            That tradition seems reasonable; that tradition seems the honorable, but clearly both reason and honor are concepts foreign to this Republican leadership.

            It’s oh so sad but true.

            As the conferees were being announced, I was sure Hopkinton Democrat Gary Richardson would be one of them.  He has much to offer and if we are ever to get an amendment passed, ideas from people like Rep. Richardson need to be taken into account.

            But no, that would be asking too much.

            Talk of compromise is only talk.  Bettencourt’s words ring hollow when the Speaker follows an edict, “No Democrats need apply.”

            Rumor is that a Democrat will be offered a non-voting position of alternate on the committee.  Thanks for that crumb dropped from the table as others feast.

            Truth in blogging—I don’t support any amendment (except one striking the work “cherish” from the document) and was one of only 48 Reps to vote NOT to send this to a committee of conference.  We’re doing just fine without an amendment thank you, but you can be sure that if I wanted an amendment, I would have included at least one Democrat at the table.