As national politics pivot from the Mueller report to dominant themes that could move swing voters in 2020, Democratic hopefuls are putting meat on those policy bones as they campaign here in New Hampshire.
Sen. Kamala Harris of California hasn’t been to the first-in-the-nation primary state since her initial two-day visit last month.
But her state campaign made sure to produce New Hampshire-centric data about Harris’ plan earlier this week to offer all public school teachers a $13,500 pay raise.
The Harris team said its analysis found 18 percent of teachers in the Granite State work a second job and the average teacher is paid $57,250, significantly below what similar professionals make here.
The pay raise would raise the average teacher’s pay 23 percent for nearly all of the state’s near-15,000 teachers, according to the Harris camp.
The plan also calls for increasing teacher pay even higher in income-neediest school districts.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. John Delaney of Maryland returns for a two-day visit that puts over 60 the number of stops he’s made in New Hampshire since becoming a candidate.
This trip is on the heels of Delaney’s new plan to lower prescription drug prices for consumers through a 100 percent excise tax.
The tax would be imposed on drug companies on the difference between the cost charged in the United States and the average cost charged to developed nations.
“American people are paying too much for prescription drugs, period. This is a major health care issue and a major economic issue and we have an obligation to act. The drug companies allow the citizens of other wealthy nations to free-ride on the backs of US citizens,” Delaney said.
Delaney starts his trip today with a roundtable on the opioid epidemic at the NH Hope for Recovery offices in Manchester.
The visit includes a town hall forum Friday morning at New England College along with other events in Durham, Dover, Hooksett, Epping and Peterborough.
Sununu slams capital gains tax
Gov. Chris Sununu didn’t use the V (for veto) word but he might as well when asked about the House-endorsed proposal to impose a capital gains tax to generate an $80 million-a-year increase in education aid grants for needy school districts.
While two school districts have already sued the state over education funding, Sununu pushed back on the idea the state needs a new revenue source to target more money to school districts above the per-pupil adequacy grant.
“That’s a terrible idea. At the end of the day, we are a top-10 state in the country for funding our schools; we have a great system,” Sununu told reporters Wednesday.
The two-term governor hasn’t offered any specifics on how to increase education aid grants but maintains there’s enough room in his proposed two-year state budget plan to include some if that’s what lawmakers want to do.
“We are spending over $13 billion without a single tax. There is a lot of flexibility in my budget,” Sununu said.
“Given the flexibility, the Legislature can respond to some of the outcries in other parts of the state.”
Who has co-sponsored the capital gains tax? That would be Senate Majority Leader and potential Democratic candidate for governor Dan Feltes of Concord.
Feltes pointed out the bill raised the current exemption under the state's tax on interest and dividends, which will be a tax cut for lower income residents and small firms.
"Governor Sununu opposes this bill that cuts taxes for tens of thousands of Granite State seniors, for hundreds of our smaller businesses (and) helps all property taxpayers with education funding simply because it closes a loophole that benefits the wealthiest 1 percent," Feltes said in a statement.
Sununu also criticized the lawsuit approach of achieving education finance reform.
“I don’t care about lawsuits. You know who only benefits from lawsuits? Lawyers,” Sununu said.
Who might Sununu be referring to with that shot? That would be Executive Councilor and potential 2020 Democratic candidate for governor Andru Volinsky of Concord, one of the lead lawyers in the original Claremont lawsuit that caused the NH Supreme Court to decide the reliance on the local property tax was unconstitutional.
Sununu’s response also follows a New Hampshire Democratic Party campaign in several parts of the state to criticize the governor for failing to earmark in his spending plan any additional education aid for poor school districts.
Senate approves bipartisan right to sue
There have been plenty of partisan battles already this year over access to the state court system.
But the Senate came together as one at least on one proposal, the bill of Sen. Harold French, R-Franklin, to give any citizen the right to bring suit against any state or government entity that violates a person’s rights under the state Constitution. French said his New Hampshire Civil Rights Act would give citizens the rights in state and federal courts the power they now have to challenge in federal court an action that violates the U.S. Constitution.
“This legislation will fix that and give every Granite Stater the constitutional protections they deserve,” French said.
The bill (SB 36) now moves on the House of Representatives for its review.
The Senate also endorsed on a bipartisan vote adjustments to the 2018 bail reform law on Wednesday.
(For more Granite Status, go to www.unionleader.com.)
Hassan keynotes health care panel
U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, will open a timely panel on the nation’s health care system April 5 at the Warren B. Rudman Center at the University of New Hampshire School of Law in Concord.
The Concord Coalition is sponsoring the event, which is free and open to the public.
Those on the panel include Joseph Antos, an expert on health care and retirement at the American Enterprise Institute; Trish Riley, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy; and John McDonough, a health professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
McDonough, a Democrat, was one of the legislative architects of the universal health care law that Massachusetts adopted under then-governor. Mitt Romney.
Lucy Hodder, UNH law professor and director of health law and policy, will moderate the panel.
Abortion gag rule fight
Sununu said he’s keeping an eye on it but it’s too early to conclude federal grants available to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and other providers are at risk while Congress fights with the Trump administration over its so-called domestic gag rule.
Formally proposed March 5, the rule would bar PPNNE and other providers who perform or offer referrals for abortions to receive grants under Title X that pays for birth control and other family planning services for low-income patients.
Abortion opponents have long sought this change, maintaining the groups providing abortion services should not get any federal support.
Advocates for Planned Parenthood warn if enforced this could reduce by $2 million federal grants to the state, which not only go to Planned Parenthood but also to community health centers that make these referrals.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, has been leading the fight against the gag rule in the Senate along with her colleague Sen. Hassan.
An abortion rights supporter, Sununu said this gag rule plan has already led to litigation and it’s still a long way from having any financial impact in New Hampshire.
“I guess I would say we are a ways away from having to understand that and see whether it is truly going to affect us,” Sununu said adding he’d be “shocked” if it led to any cutbacks in federal grants later this spring.
Granite State Taxpayers tap SununuGov. Sununu will head up the lineup of speakers for a “Preserve the New Hampshire Advantage” rally this Saturday on the State House lawn starting at 10 a.m.
”Democrats control the Legislature; only the governor’s veto can deter them,” said
, chairman of GST.
”Rally attendees intend to send a message and support the New Hampshire Advantage.”
The rally comes at an opportune time since the House Finance Committee faces an April 4 deadline to finish work on its proposed two-year state budget.
Eversource hosts clean energy forumAs part of NH Energy Week, Eversource and other leaders in the field will host a panel discussion on how energy users are expanding the use of clean energy while maintaining reliability for consumers.
, Eversource’s director of energy strategy development, will speak on the firm’s work on renewable energy projects along with energy efficiency programs to reduce the carbon footprint.
The panel begins at 8 a.m. today at the Grappone Center in Concord.
Pot legalization bill clears another hurdleThe House Ways and Means Committee endorsed, 14-6, the House-passed bill (HB 481) to legalize marijuana sales. The panel adjusted the proposed tax rates, making it 5 percent on sales from those growing their own and 9 percent for pot purchases at retail stores.
The House has already endorsed this measure and the real fight lies ahead in the atate Senate where the state’s law enforcement community will surely turn up the heat of its opposition to this reform.
Sununu has already said he opposes the measure so advocates know they likely need a veto-proof majority in the Senate if they are going to ultimately succeed this year.
Negron makes official his 2020 congressional bidFormer state representative
of Nashua decided with the coming of spring that he’d confirm a badly kept secret that he’ll be mounting a second challenge to U.S. Rep.
, D-NH, in the 2nd Congressional District.
”Since U.S. Rep. Ann McLane Kuster has taken office, New Hampshire families and taxpayers continue to be underrepresented, undervalued, and voiceless on Washington’s spending craze. Kuster’s allies who now control Congress continue to ignore the plight of fiscal injury at $22 trillion in debt and climbing — this is irresponsible and shows contempt for our future grandchildren.”
An Air Force veteran and founder of his own defense contracting firm, Negron beat five GOP rivals in 2018 to narrowly win the GOP nomination.
Kuster decisively won a fourth two-year term over Negron last November.
A Democratic Party spokesman said Kuster will continue acting on behalf of working families.
Kuster advocates against online sales taxRep. Kuster and a bipartisan team of House members offered legislation Wednesday to protect many New Hampshire businesses from having to collect online sales taxes levied in other states.
The bill would exempt small firms that generate less than $10 million a year in sales from having to collect these taxes since the U.S. Supreme Court last year ordered states must honor with the Wayfair decision from South Dakota.
”Small businesses in New Hampshire should not be forced to collect sales tax for states across the country,” Kuster said. “An online sales tax would subject small businesses in the Granite State to nearly 10,000 taxing jurisdictions across the country, creating burdensome red tape and causing headaches for small business owners.”
Members of the House from Wisconsin, South Carolina and California are on the bill.
Climate change expert speaks in ManchesterAs the Capitol Hill debate over the Green Deal rages on, an author and noted expert on climate change will host a question and answer session today for journalists at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications in Manchester.
is a co-author of the most recent National Climate Assessment and director of climate science for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
She recently testified before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on the climate debate.
Shaheen promotes new press aide
was recently named as Shaheen’s deputy press secretary.
A Dover native, Reid started working for Shaheen as an intern two years ago and is an American University graduate who also did an internship with the Irish embassy in D.C.