AFSC’s New Hampshire State House Watch newsletter is published weekly during legislative sessions (and occasionally at other times of the year) to bring you information about matters being discussed in Concord including housing, immigration, and labor rights. We also follow the state budget and tax system, voting rights, corrections policy, and more. For an email subscription, visit our main page and click on <SUBSCRIBE>.
We also have a weekly radio show on Mondays from 5 to 6 pm, re-broadcast Tuesdays from 8 to 9 am. You can listen live on WNHN, 94.7 FM in Concord, or over the internet. You can download a podcast of any of our earlier shows.
State House Watch
April 3, 2020
“When people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory.”
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “I See the Promised Land,” April 3, 1968, Memphis TN
State of Suspension Still Running through at least May 4
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, out of an abundance of caution the General Court has suspended all legislative activities through May 4th. During this time, the State House will be closed to legislative members, legislative staff, and visitors.”
That’s still the news from the state legislature, posted in red letters on the General Court website.
We are now past what was the deadline for “crossover” of legislation from House to Senate and Senate to House. But in accord with amended rules adopted in both chambers just before they vacated the State House, the deadlines for the remaining components of the 2020 legislative session will be adjusted.
Listen to our “State House Watch” radio show on Monday for a conversation with Senate President Donna Soucy.
The NH Department of Health and Human Services is posting daily updates at https://www.nh.gov/covid19/.
Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee To Meet April 10
As we reported last week, the Joint Fiscal Committee will meet by audio conference on Friday, April 10. Approval by the committee is needed for the state to accept and spend funds outside the approved budget. Speaker of the House Steve Shurtleff said, “This will be the first time in history that a Fiscal Committee meeting will be held remotely.”
Under state law, RSA 14:30-a, “Any non-state funds in excess of $100,000, whether public or private, including refunds of expenditures, federal aid, local funds, gifts, bequests, grants, and funds from any other non-state source, which under state law require the approval of governor and council for acceptance and expenditure, may be accepted and expended by the proper persons or agencies in the state government only with the prior approval of the fiscal committee of the general court.”
The meeting will begin at 10:00 AM. To listen in:
1. Dial the call in number: 1-800-356-8278
2. Enter the 6 Digit Conference code, followed by the pound sign: 125563#
3. When prompted, clearly state your first and last name as well as your department/agency, or if you are a member of the press/public.
The following email address will be monitored throughout the meeting by someone who can alert the comittee to any issues: email@example.com.
From the Governor
As of Friday morning, Govenor Chris Sununu has issued 19 emergency orders dealing with the coronavirus crisis, the latest of which relieves municipalities of some requirements and allows postponement of town meetings and elections. Other recent orders create an Emergency Domestic and Sexual Violence Services Relief Fund and provide additional resources to protect children from abuse. Find all of the governor’s emergency orders here.
Yesterday, the governor sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin calling for federal funds appropriated in the CARES Act to be released “as expeditiously as possible.”
“Any delay or failure to take quick action can result in serious consequences,” the governor charged. “New Hampshire is ready to be responsible stewards (sic) of CARES Act funding to effectively keep Granite Staters safe and preserve our state’s economy.”
Economic Shock Waves
The shock waves rolling through the economy are already being felt by the state government, reports Gary Rayno in InDepthNH. “The closing of most non-essential businesses because of the virus means owners are reassessing their financial outlooks for the remainder of the year and lowering their estimated state tax liabilities for the business enterprise and business profits taxes,” he writes. The Department of Administrative Services has reported that business tax returns for March were $17.5 million below the amount which had been expected. (NHFPI has more here.)
“Minimizing interactions between individuals and limiting travel outside of home except for essentials, like groceries, has prompted the downsizing and contraction of many industries in the services sector that cannot easily adjust to a work model that minimizes physical interaction,” adds the NH Fiscal Policy Institute. According to their report posted yesterday, “The effects of the COVID-19 crisis place concentrated financial strains on individuals and families with lower incomes, particularly those who work in industries such as retail, food services, and hospitality.”
“The efforts of state and federal governments, in terms of unemployment insurance and supports to assist those who are financially strained due to job loss or reduced work opportunities from this pandemic, play a key role in helping individuals and families through this crisis,” writes the Institute’s Michael Polizzotti. “However, if negative public health impacts and the steps taken to mitigate the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus continue for an extended period of time, more financial supports may be needed in the near future.”
If you or others you know need information about unemployment compensation, eviction and utility shut-off prevention or other legal issues, visit the NH Legal Assistance resource page.
Trump Administration’s Action on ACA Will Cost Granite State Families
Last Tuesday, the Trump Administration denied the State of New Hampshire’s request for a special open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act amid the COVID-19 public health crisis. “The Trump Administration is playing politics with people’s lives in the middle of a public health crisis,” commented Zandra Rice Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress. “Early detection and access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services is critical for our state and others to mitigate the potential for further outbreak. A special open enrollment period would have allowed more people to obtain health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act so we are all better protected against the threat of COVID-19.”
New Hampshire is one of 32 states with a federally-facilitated health insurance marketplace. Unless a special open enrollment period is granted, New Hampshire residents are only eligible to enroll in health insurance outside of the regularly scheduled Affordable Care Act open enrollment period if they have certain life events, like getting married, having a baby, or losing other health insurance, including employer-based health coverage.
The administration’s rejection of a special request from Governor Sununu means that more families will face steep medical bills or make dangerous decisions about whether to seek life-saving medical care.
Action Needed to Address Crisis Impact on Immigrants
AFSC and others have called on federal and state officials to take action to protect the health of people who are incarcerated, including immigrants detained in federal, state, and for-profit facilities. In addition to calls to ICE, AFSC and allies have appealed to officials of Strafford County, where the county jail houses immigrants, as well as to the governor and the state’s Congressional delegation.
Calls for release of immigrants held at the county jail in Dover have thus far been ignored by ICE and county officials. In a Concord Monitor column published this week, Dr. Larry Brown, a retired public health professor, calls immigrant detention at the Strafford Corrections “a public health disaster waiting to happen.”
“People needlessly held in facilities are much more vulnerable to communicable diseases and are far less likely to receive adequate medical care. Authorities are not only failing to protect them, but by crowding people together DHS is making it even more likely that some will become severely ill from the virus and even die,” Dr. Brown wrote.
The National Immigration Law Center says the CARES Act, the $2 trillion stimulus bill approved by Congress on March 27, 2020, falls short of meeting the most basic health care and economic needs of millions of Americans, including immigrant workers and families who are on the frontlines of caring for our communities during this pandemic, providing crucial services while others are able to shelter at home. Click here for information on the COVID-19 relief package’s impact on low-income immigrants and suggestions for urgently needed improvements in any future relief bills, with a focus on health, public benefits, economic support, and employment protections.
Nuclear Weapons or Emergency Health Care?
Last year, the United States spent $35.1 billion building and maintaining nuclear weapons. What could we have bought instead? asks Alicia Sanders-Zakre in a Concord Monitor column published today. From her desk at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons in Geneva, the Concord native did the math. Her answer: 35,000 ventilators plus 300,000 ICU beds plus 150,000 nurses plus 75,000 doctors is what we don’t get due to a single year of spending on the nuclear arsenal.
Next week’s episode of our radio show will feature an interview with Donna Soucy, President of the NH Senate, and a look at how the Poor People’s Campaign is addressing the COVID-19 crisis.
Last week we featured important interviews with Elissa Margolin, Executive Director of Housing Action NH, on responses to the health threats experienced by people who are homeless, and Eva Castillo of the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, on the experiences of undocumented immigrants and members of linguistic minorities. Find podcasts of all of our shows here.
“State House Watch Radio” airs Mondays from 5:00 to 6:00 PM and rebroadcasts Tuesdays from 8:00 to 9:00 AM on WNHN-LP, 94.7 FM in Concord and at www.wnhnfm.org.
Concord UUs Support AFSC’s Arnie Alpert Action Fund
We send our deep appreciation to the Concord Unitarian Universalist Church for designating the Arnie Alpert Action Fund as a recipient of its “plate collection” this week. The Rev. Michael Leuchtenberg says, “Our covenant calls us to seek the truth in love. Few in the Concord community embody this aspiration for social justice as consistently and eloquently (and forcefully) as Arnie Alpert. For almost 40 years Arnie led the American Friends Service Committee of NH creating our state’s most potent and visible force for progressive social change. He has been an inspiration to countless UUs and an ally on most of the causes we have pursued over the years.” The service at 10:00 AM on Sunday, April 5 will include comments from Barbara Keshen followed by a conversation between Rev. Leuchtenberg and Arnie. You can attend by clicking here (and you don’t even have to be a card-carrying Unitarian Universalist).
Families in Transition is Hiring Full-Time Short-Term Shelter Staff
Families in Transition-New Horizons is expanding services for people who are homeless. They are looking for staff who have some experience with human services and compassion for vulnerable people. Details here
Saturday, April 4
The 2020 Democracy in Action conference has moved online and will take place from 9:00 AM to noon. The theme is “equipping teams, organizers and activists for success.” Find out more and register for this free conference here.
Sunday, April 5
Virtual Youth Organizing Retreat with 350NH, a chance for NH youth (younger than 22 please!) from across the state to meet and socialize, as well as learn some valuable climate activism skills. If you’ve been too busy to get involved but suddenly have a lot of time on your hands, this is for you!. “We can’t meet in person, but that won’t stop us from organizing to save our planet! 12:30 - 4:30 PM over Zoom. RSVP here.
Civil Rights Sunday at Market Square in Portsmouth is on hold until further notice.
Monday, April 6
COVID-19 Health Insurance webinar with New Futures. Learn about recent changes to health insurance related to COVID-19; what to do if you lose your employer-sponsored insurance; and options if you are uninsured and become ill. RSVP here.
Tuesday, April 7
Immigrant Solidarity Network will meet via Zoom from 10:00 - 11:30 AM. Contact the Granite State Organizing Project for the Zoom link.
"Solve Climate by 2030," the online New Hampshire session of a nationwide, university-hosted, virtual teach-in on climate solutions and justice, hosted by Antioch New England, 5:00 - 6:30 PM. New Hampshire panelists include: Emma Shapiro Weiss, 350NH Field Organizer; Rebecca McWilliams, NH State Representative; Ted Stiles, Energy Auditor/Energy Efficiency Manager at Yankee Thermal Imaging; and Rob Werner, State Director of the League of Conservation Voters. Register here.
Saturday, June 20
The Mass Poor People’s Assembly & Moral March on Washington will not be postponed but will be transformed! It’s going digital! Stay informed!
With best wishes,
Arnie and Maggie
AFSC’s New Hampshire "State House Watch" newsletter is published to bring you information about matters being discussed in Concord including housing, the death penalty, immigration, and labor rights. We also follow the state budget and tax system, voting rights, corrections policy, and more.
The AFSC is a Quaker organization supported by people of many faiths who care about peace, social justice, humanitarian service, and nonviolent change. Arnie Alpert and Maggie Fogarty direct the New Hampshire Program, publish the newsletter, and co-host the “State House Watch” radio show on wnhnfm.org every week while the legislature is in session.
Susan Bruce is State House Watch researcher and writer. Fred Portnoy produces the radio show.
"State House Watch" is made possible in part by a grant from the Anne Slade Frey Charitable Trust. Your donations make our work possible. Click the “DONATE NOW” button on our web page to send a secure donation to support the work of the AFSC’s New Hampshire Program. Thanks.