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Them's fighting words, for sure.  Although I'm not sure I'd go so far as to support a revolution, I agree that my hopes for democratic reform lie at the state level - and particularly in NH, since as a small state with a relatively small government we citizens have much more potential to influence state policy.
- Anna Brown   Mar 05, 2012
Thursday night in the Great Room of Hampton's One Liberty Lane, the unthinkable happened: Republican presidential hopefuls gathered -- irrespective of their fundraising totals and place in the polls -- for the opportunity to answer questions from a moderator, ordinary New Hampshire citizens and one another. And the responses generally lasted more than 30 seconds. In many cases, much more than 30 seconds. Yet the tone remained civil, like the civil tone the Live Free or Die Alliance strives for and insists on in our Virtual Town Hall and Facebook discussions. Billing the evening as a "Constitutional Conversation," the Granite State Patriots Liberty PAC hosted former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, past two-term New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, former Louisiana congressman and governor Buddy Roemer and ex-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in a candidates forum before 200 people. Among the highlights: Johnson would effectively abolish the IRS via the so-called fair tax, an idea to scrap the current tax code in favor of national sales tax. Roemer said he prefers a flat tax. Santorum and Gingrich, while both calling for a shrinkage in the tax-collection bureaucracy, said any plan to get rid of the IRS is doomed, if not "delusional." "We've had a revenue service since the beginning of time," Gingrich said. "They're in the New Testament." Johnson, when asked what part of the Constitution he would like to see amended, favored repeal of the 17th Amendment, the 1913 provision that enacted the direct election of U.S. senators, rather than their selection by the various state legislatures. Roemer drew significant applause with an evening-long cri de coeur about the corruption of big money in elections, pointing to his own practice of limiting donations to $100 apiece as a way to mitigate the influence of political action committees and SuperPACs, which aren't even subject to the scrutiny of traditional PACs. He also said the small donations are in line with his view of America as a "bottom-up country" rather than one that is dictated by the whims of Washington, which he calls the "capital of corruption." And, on this night anyway, America showed it is a nation where rivals can disagree without being disagreeable. After criticizing Johnson for accepting PAC money, Roemer said, "If I don't make it, I'm going to vote for Gary." While Gingrich and Santorum didn't explicitly endorse one another when it was their turn to take the stage, they joshed about the fact that -- for the first time in the presidential campaign season -- Santorum was given the opportunity to answer first. "I'm used to being at the end, where I'm not given the chance to answer the questions," Santorum said, marveling at his change of fortune. However, Gingrich japed that he relished the opportunity to formulate his own responses while Santorum answered first. The mood was less jocular, however, when it came to criticizing President Obama's handling of the military, the economy and, well ... just about everything. When asked about Obama's largest failure from a constitutional standpoint, Gingrich deadpanned: "Not understanding which country he's president of."
- John Sullivan   Nov 10, 2011
Over the past few months, you’ve probably seen news stories from Concord about how the extreme agenda in the State House is already doing real damage to our state, our economy and our communities.   I was particularly troubled when New Hampshire recently became one of the first states in the country to cut off all funds for the breast cancer screenings, annual exams, birth control, and other non-controversial health care provided at Planned Parenthood health centers. This was a big win for the far-right, but it was a real loss for our communities. And it came at the hands of the our state’s five-person Executive Council, whose job is supposed to be keeping an eye on spending and key state appointments – not pushing a radical social agenda.   So today, I’m writing to share the news that I am planning to run for Executive Council in 2012, to be a check on Concord and to bring back smart management that puts our state economy first. (District 2)   Please join our growing team in this effort.   In just the two months since the Executive Council defunded this preventative health care, 3,718 New Hampshire men and women have already had their access restricted.  But sadly, the all-Republican Executive Council is taking this same out-of-the-mainstream approach to governing across the board.  This spring, they put state tax dollars at risk by refusing to coordinate local health regulations with the federal government, simply in order to score political points against the current administration.   And more recently, they are playing politics with government appointments — even refusing to appoint fellow Republicans to state boards if the candidates are too bipartisan.   This isn’t the “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire that I love.   We need a check on this  polarizing agenda in Concord, and instead we need to replace it with a new focus on growing the economy and keeping the government out of our personal lives.   This election will come down to our values: do we want an Executive Council that is willing to damage our state in order to amplify the partisan extremism in Concord, or do we want to moderate it with smart, and jobs-focused management instead?  Frankly, I’m embarrassed by the antics we’ve seen lately in the State House.  Putting a fringe ideology ahead of what’s best for New Hampshire families and our state economy would never fly in the private sector where I work as a business manager today, it would never be accepted at the New Hampshire nonprofits I’ve helped grow over the past decade, and it would never be tolerated by the elected leaders to whom I’ve served as senior adviser. We must do better.   Dozens of New Hampshire community leaders are already standing with me in this effort – please consider joining us today, sharing this effort with your friends by Facebook, Twitter, or Email, and making a donation to fund our campaign. We’ll have a more formal announcement next year, but I need your help now, from day one.   Talk with you soon,         PS – The measure to stop preventative health care for thousands of women across the state passed by just one vote: that of our current Executive Councilor here in central New Hampshire.   We will need to reach out to 263,294 voters in the sixty-seven towns of this district to get our state back on track– so please consider making a contribution today.
- Colin Van Ostern   Sep 26, 2011
I am writing to initiate a dialogue concerning what I consider a blight upon this State: I am referring to roadside litter. We live in a State which trades upon it's beauty. However, if you bike, walk, run, or drive on roads it is hard to avoid seeing rivers of trash - discarded bottles, cans, paper of various sorts, and other evidence of the detritus of everyday life. I am not referring to urban settings alone, but to so called scenic routes. Take for example route 1A on the Seacoast. The roadside is marred with every imaginable beer bottle and can. One can not walk more than a few yards without encountering such evidence. So what does this mean? What have we become? At the very least it says that we are careless. Possible it says that we don't care about the environment, or that we don't care about each other. Maybe it reflects a larger problem about respect, or the lack thereof : Or even a larger problem about the very fiber of this country. Like many others, I make it my business to pick up trash whenever I can. When I walk I am often seen with several cans or bottles in hand. There are volunteer groups who can be seen on spring days collectively doing the same. However, this does not even get close to remediating the problem. I have written to the Governor, and other State officials concerning this issue and have received sympathetic replies; but sympathy is not enough. I assume that any solution will involve education, penalties, and a permanent and ongoing way of cleaning up the mess. Additionally there needs to be a marketing campaign to reach out all ages in order to help create the Liiter Free State.
- Derek Stern   Dec 20, 2010
The University of New Hampshire recently launched a pilot program that encourages its students to seek medical attention for fellow students suffering an alcohol-related emergency. The concept of “medical amnesty” is part of a national effort being promoted by Students for Sensible Drug Policy, a nonprofit advocacy group that seeks to engage and mobilize students in the political process to address policies and laws pertaining to drugs (including alcohol) that it perceives to be harmful. At UNH the amnesty program can shield students from “punitive” school sanctions for illegal use of alcohol in exchange for a proactive call for medical assistance by the student affected or by a student acting on the affected student’s behalf. Here’s how it will work. If a student has placed a call for medical assistance, both the student offering assistance and the student in need of medical attention have the option of applying for medical amnesty. A campus hearing officer, using information provided by the student(s) as well as emergency responders or medical staff, can make a determination that medical amnesty is appropriate. If so, the student affected is likely to receive “educational sanctions” which could include assessment and alcohol education; however, the student would not be subject to punitive sanctions such as a fine or probation. The policy does not address law enforcement actions, nor does it absolve students of responsibility for other violations of the university’s code of conduct beyond the misuse of alcohol. Additionally, the amnesty applies to sanctions within the university’s conduct system and not to academic opportunities and privileges like study abroad and scholarships. This is not a subject without controversy. There are strong arguments both for and against medical amnesty, and we debated long and hard internally before agreeing to support a pilot program. We rightly resist policies that would in any way contribute to binge drinking. In fact, we stress the legal, academic, social and physical risks of alcohol and drug use even before our students attend their first class or spend their first night in a dorm. College students need to be responsible, and to learn that actions have consequences. But one of the consequences of irresponsible behavior should never be a preventable death. Indeed, one of our greatest duties as educators is to do everything we can to protect the lives of the young people in our charge. University policies should not discourage students from seeking potentially life-saving medical attention, even when the circumstances that give rise to the need for the medical intervention stem from irresponsible behavior or otherwise contravene university policy.
- Mark Huddleston   Oct 21, 2010
Since the Democrats gained majority control of the legislature in 2007, our core New Hampshire values of fiscal restraint, low taxes, less regulation, private property rights and individual freedoms have been under assault, and that is why I am running for re-election - to fight to restore our core values. Instead of relentless hikes in taxes and fees - 84 since 2007 - and a hostile regulatory environment, we need to reduce taxes and fees, streamline regulations and encourage small businesses to grow and get our 50,000 friends and neighbors back to work. Our state faces an $800 million deficit and the Democrats in charge have refused to make the tough decisions and cut spending. Instead they rely on accounting gimmickry, while our families and small businesses have been tightening their belts in these difficult economic times. The Democratic majority shamelessly introduce new tax proposals - capital gains tax, estate tax, electricity generation tax and local meals and rooms tax. The Democrats in Concord just cannot be trusted with your hard-earned dollars. I worked tirelessly for the repeal the job-killing LLC tax and that ridiculous 9% campsite tax - both were repealed. I will continue to be a strong advocate for working families and small businesses that can't afford a single new tax or fee increase. I have served in the New Hampshire legislature and with each new term I have taken the "Pledge" to oppose any boad base tax - and I do so again. Additionally, I have signed the "Private Property Rights Pledge" to "fight to protect and preserve private property rights for all of our New Hampshire citizens and businesses. I ask for your continued support and your very important vote in this most critical general election on November 2nd. 
- David Boutin   Oct 13, 2010
A blog entry earlier this week discussed ways to reduce public sector salaries. My question is: how many public sector jobs can be outsourced to the private sector? There are a few potential wins here: short term: a) the private sector tends to be more efficient - by bidding out accounting, janitorial, health services, food services at schools, back office services in state and local depts, and many many other areas, can we reduce our public sector costs today? b) private sector companies receiving these contracts would then pay more in business franchise taxes with this increase revenue. Long term: a reduction on the long term cost to the taxpayer with retirement and othe benefits as the jobs are transferred to the private sector using 401(k) type benefits. My guess? Half of the state and local public sector jobs could be outsourced to the private sector. Certainly not local police, state troopers, AG, and Governor's office personnel to name some non-starters. But really, what public service MUST be performed by public employees?
Pew Center on States has published the status report on the pension system of the fifty states. New Hampshire rated as one of the worst with over $3B in unfunded liability, funding ratio at 58% and the state withdrawing its funding to 30% and 25% in the next two years. It is a huge burden on the local taxpayers that hasn't come ashore yet. Group II employees can retire after 20 years (amended to 25 for new employees) with retirement pay formula calculated at 125% of the base pay which can include O/T, sick pay and personal time off. It is based on 2.5% for every year of service. There is no political will to reform the egregious system. The Retirement Board is managed by a select group of 14 with 8 of its members beneficiaries of the system. An attempt to amend that obvious conflict of interest went no where in the legislature last year. How many of the citizens of the state enjoy such a lucrative pension, not to mention the most generous(Cadillac) health insurance plan, all guaranteed by the tax payers? It is a system that reflects why we need organizations such as the Live Free or Die Alliance. The party politicians hand out the unsustainable benefits using the tax payer funds to the unions in return for their block votes. It is a corrupt system with regular people that work and save for their future retirement have no meaningful say in it. You might hear lame excuses for the status as follows: The stock market losses put us in the bind and/or the employers (town taxpayers) haven't been contributing enough into the funds. Both of those are bogus arguments to cover up the total mismanagement. The actuarial requirement had been set at 8.5% for pension annuity funding. In 1983, some politician wanting to get the votes, managed to pass a bill that siphoned off any excess return on investment over 9%. Guess what they did with the excess. They sweetened the benefits so that they could get the votes. If the excess had been left to accumulate, it would have taken care of the lean years such as the past one. It is time to take back the state. The state government is for promotion of general welfare, not sweetheart deals to voting blocks at the expense of the rest. The legislature must get rid of the benefit based pension system for new employees and institute a contribution based system, i.e. 401-K. The board must be totally independent with no employees benefiting from it on the board. The pension system must be the same as enjoyed by the average New Hampshire tax payer. Sunset the Cadillac health insurance largess. We have got to get the legislature to concentrate on such vital issues instead of trying to legislate motor cycle helmets, smoking bans and the myriad of unwanted rules and regulations. It is really scary getting up from the bed in the morning not knowing you have already violated some state/local regulations or ordinances. That is not the lifestyle of people in the Live Free or Die state.
- Ananta Gopalan   Feb 20, 2010

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