The AFSC has wound up another year of heavy engagement in legislative matters at the New Hampshire State House. “Looking back on six months of public hearings, amendments, conference committees, and votes,” observed Arnie Alpert, AFSC’s NH Program Director, “we can see that most of the legislation we disliked was defeated and that progress was made on some issues we care about.” For example, lawmakers finally approved the expansion of Medicaid coverage to low-income adults who were previously shut out of the system. The annual bid to destroy collective bargaining – known without affection as “right to work for less” – was defeated, as were a package of bills designed to make it easier for more people to have more firearms. Mean-spirited bills to limit purchases made with Electronic Benefit Transfer cards were held back for more examination.
“But we have to acknowledge that results were rather disappointing on the issues to which we devoted the most time,” noted the Program’s Associate Director, Maggie Fogarty. The death penalty was not repealed. Usury is still legal, at least in the "car title lending" business. The state still has no minimum wage, leaving low-wage workers stuck at the inadequate federal level while neighboring states see their wages rising. Immigrants without proper documentation can still be denied "in-state" tuition from the University System even if New Hampshire has been their home since infancy. Landlords can still legally discriminate against tenants who have experienced domestic violence or who have federal housing vouchers.
In addition to meetings with other advocates and lawmakers, attending hearings, and preparing testimony on key issues, Maggie and Arnie also produced the weekly State House Watch newsletter, which went out just about every Friday from the beginning of January to the middle of June. They also hosted the weekly “State House Watch” radio show on WNHN-FM, a community radio station located in Concord. With radio guests including Speaker of the House Terie Norelli, House Majority Leader Steve Shurtleff, and specialists on issues such as taxes, health care, housing, and election reform, the show provided a lively look at what was going on at the legislature.
With the assistance of Susan Bruce, researcher for the “State House Watch” project, Arnie and Maggie have completed a summary of the year’s legislative successes and failures. The report begins with a status report on the bills which AFSC actively supported or opposed. These were the ones, like the death penalty, the minimum wage, and car-title loans, for which Arnie and Maggie paid close attention to details, participated in strategy meetings with legislators and other advocates, and followed the parliamentary ins and outs.
The report also describes what happened to bills which AFSC “generally liked” or “generally disliked,” i.e. ones that they reported on in the weekly State House Watch newsletter or discussed on their radio show but didn’t participate as intensely in campaigns for their passage or defeat.
“With all that did and didn’t happen, we can already see what might be the agenda for next year,” Arnie said.