Op-Ed: House GOP moving forward, despite Democratic opposition

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The following op-ed by Majority Leader Dick Hinch was published Tuesday, April 25th in the Union Leader.

Constituents of New Hampshire, the reports of the demise of the Republican Caucus in the New Hampshire House of Representatives are greatly exaggerated.

If you were to believe the political gossip as of late, you might think that the failure of House of Representatives to pass a budget lies solely on the shoulders of House Republicans. But let’s be clear — a strong majority of Republicans supported both budget bills.

Why wouldn’t the majority of Republicans support a budget proposal that met a number of goals set forth in the Republican Party platform, and the House Republican agenda? These items included no new or increased taxes or fees, limiting total fund spending to no more than the rate of inflation, reform and reorganization of government agencies to be more efficient and responsive, and eliminated downshifting by proposing to send $50 million in additional aid to cities and towns and an additional $45 million in local infrastructure aid.

There is no budget that will be 100 percent favorable to any individual legislator. It isn’t easy finding the perfect balance with legislation as complex as the state budget. In the end, we are confident that with a Republican Legislature and a Republican governor, the final product will achieve many of the points the House budget sought to achieve.

There are few things that we can be certain of in the New Hampshire Legislature. The final outcome of the legislative process may not be known until the time the votes are cast in Representatives Hall. One thing we can be sure of this term is House Democrats’ ability to vote together to oppose most anything proposed by Republicans.

Ninety-six percent of House Democrats opposed the responsible House budget proposal in HB 1, and 90 percent opposed the related policy bill, HB 2. This means all but a small percentage of Democrats in the House opposed the budget approved by a bipartisan majority of the House Finance committee that included property tax relief, increased resources for alcohol and drug abuse, increased funding for services for the developmentally disabled, and increased funding for the Community College System.

Moving forward, the Republican Caucus has many important initiatives we plan on uniting behind. These include reforming our election laws to prevent drive-by voting and preserve the integrity of our elections, finding ways to reduce the cost of electricity, retaining and attracting workers to the state, expanding school choice, and making our state more competitive, helping to grow, attract and retain more jobs.

We have already had several major Republican initiatives pass the House. These include Constitutional Carry, more oversight over the University System budget, several reforms to election laws, and passing the “Croydon Bill,” which would permit school boards to assign a child to an approved nonsectarian private school if there is no public school for the child’s grade in the child’s resident district.

We have also rallied against Democrat-sponsored legislation that was contrary to our agenda, and that we believe would be wrong for New Hampshire. These include mandating a spike in the state minimum wage, repealing the education tax credit scholarship program, requiring background checks for lawful transfer of firearms, establishing an income tax, and extending the interest and dividends tax to capital gains, among many others. These are measures that many Democrats campaign on, and failed to win them a majority in the House.

We are elected by the voters of our districts to act in their best interests. We are a party with a full spectrum of positions and opinions on fiscal and social policy. Despite our variances in views, and local concerns shaping individual votes, Republicans vote together the vast majority of the time based on our belief that common sense and pragmatism are what our constituents want and deserve.

There is a lot of work left to do, and the House Republican Majority in Concord is committed to building a coalition that will ensure that our Republican principles are represented in the legislation that we pass, and the people of New Hampshire have confidence in the Legislature and their state government.

House Approves “Croydon Bill”

3 Democrats joined with 98% of House Republicans to pass HB557, relative to school attendance in towns with no public schools, by a vote of 186-163.

House Education Committee Chair Rick Ladd (R-Haverhill): “There is no provision in our constitution or on the long line of Claremont cases that only public schools are constitutionally adequate. Private schools which are one of the options that a school district such as Croydon could send their students to are also adequate schools.  Private schools provide an opportunity for many students that they have not been able to find in the public schools. But more than that, private schools are supported adamantly by parents, if parents weren’t sending their kids to a private school that would me it’s not a good school. A lot of public schools that are noted as adequate but are failing as well as private schools and this presents the choice the choice of the school district that doesn’t have certain grade to tuition their students to a school that provides a great education, not just an adequate one. It may be a private school but it may also be a public one. Addressing the issue of access cost, the contract between the sending school and the receiving school is established by the school board. They negotiate the contract for the tuition of the student. That’s the amount of money that is paid to the receiving school by the school district. Parents don’t have to pay for anything.” (more…)

Dick Hinch: House GOP proud of what we’ve done for NH

In November of 2014, New Hampshire voters elected Republican majorities to the House of Representatives and the state Senate. For the last 20 months, our citizen Legislature has been working to produce results, and govern in a responsible manner that our state and its citizens can be proud of.

At the time of the last election, our state’s economy was still emerging from recession. We heard from business owners and employees that in order to shift New Hampshire’s economy into the 21st century, we needed to stop claiming we were business friendly, and start acting like we actually mean business.

Study after study placed our state in among the highest in the nation for our corporate tax rates, and we knew this demanded action. We are proud to say that the Republican Legislature passed the first business tax relief in 20 years. These cuts reduce the burden on businesses that employ the majority of New Hampshire workers, enabling them to grow, invest, and create more jobs. We did this despite Gov. Maggie Hassan’s ill-informed veto, and her claims that our state budget revenues would be irreparably damaged. In fact, we’ve seen growth in business tax revenue.

Despite our low unemployment rate, more than 100,000 of our residents still commute out-of-state for their jobs. We need to foster a competitive tax and regulatory environment to bring those jobs here and make New Hampshire a magnet for economic opportunity.

Over the last two years, the Republican Legislature has passed an array of legislation that protects businesses from unfair tax treatment when they go public or acquire new investment capital, expanded the Research and Development Tax Credit, reformed Workers’ Compensation laws, simplified the tax-filing process for businesses, and increased deductions for purchases of capital and equipment, among many other pro-business bills.

Regulation and tax reform is only part of the solution. A modernized economy requires an educated workforce and lower energy costs. We increased funding to our university and community college systems, ensuring they have resources to produce affordable education options for the next generation of our workforce, and ensuring we have the skilled workers needed to attract and retain businesses and jobs.

We realized that action was necessary to address the many facets of our state’s drug and opioid addiction epidemic. Included in the Republican Legislature’s state budget proposal, was a substantial increase in funding to programs dealing with addiction treatment and recovery. In total, we included $42 million in our state budget, a 75 percent increase, to ensure our state agencies and providers had access to more resources. The governor vetoed the budget bills with this additional funding, but we were relieved when Democrats joined with us to overturn her veto, and move forward with our proposals.

We didn’t stop once the budget was passed. In late 2015, the Republican Legislature formed the Joint Legislative Task Force on the Heroin and Opioid Epidemic, comprised of legislative leaders from the House and Senate with policy expertise and personal or professional backgrounds in the fields associated with the many aspects of this crisis. We reviewed dozens of proposals, enabled a fast-track legislative process, and focused our collective attention through the legislative session on additional bills. This year alone we’ve passed legislation that touches all three major areas of the crisis, including education and prevention, treatment and recovery, and law enforcement and interdiction.

In 2015, 439 New Hampshire citizens lost their lives because of illicit drug use. If there has ever been such compelling evidence that the Legislature must address this crisis by whatever means we can, I’m not aware of it. The package of legislation we passed this year may not be the solution to permanently end the crisis. But if we can save lives, if we can take drugs off of our streets, and if we can expand access to treatment and recovery, we believe it is of paramount importance to our state.

When it comes to addressing the problems voters send us here to solve, I believe we’ve demonstrated an ability to overcome partisan rhetoric and deliver meaningful results. We look forward to continuing our conversation with voters in the coming months to ensure we continue to be responsive to their concerns, act as responsible stewards of their tax dollars, and as responsible representatives of their state government.

Rep. Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack, is the New Hampshire House Majority Leader.

Flanagan: A Legislative Agenda Republicans Can Be Proud Of

Every two years,  the people of New Hampshire turns their attention to the new legislature and its majority party.  What policy initiatives and campaign promises will likely  be carried forward as part of the legislative agenda of that majority party?

Many of us campaigned on the simple, overarching goal of making New Hampshire an even better place to live, work, raise a family, and do business. But achieving  this goal requires careful work in a multitude of complex policy areas.

In December, the House Republican Caucus gathered for the purpose of discussing problems facing NH and to set goals on how to best address these problems through good legislation.. This collaborative discussion allowed the caucus members to voice their thoughts, suggestions, and proposals based on the concerns they’ve heard from their constituents.

Through this discussion, the Republican Caucus developed an agenda  that covers several distinct policy areas, carefully prioritized in order to develop common sense  legislation that will address each of these areas.

The Republican Majority intends to produce and support a fiscally responsible, balanced state budget without new taxes or fees. It will be a budget  based on realistic revenue estimates, without any bonding or accounting gimmicks, and will not downshift costs to property taxpayers or raid dedicated funds.

We are committed to improving our state’s business climate by reducing and reforming our business taxes, which remain among the highest in the nation, and reducing burdensome regulations. We will promote policies to retain existing businesses and help them grow, as well as attract new businesses, thus helping our private sector create new and better paying jobs.

We will work to find efficiencies throughout state government that will save taxpayer dollars, while working to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse. We will fight to increase accountability and transparency of all state agencies, programs, and departments to ensure they are good stewards of taxpayer dollars.

We are committed to reducing our public employee pension system’s $4.6 billion unfunded liability and reform the system in a way that protects current retirees, taxpayers, and ensures we have  a solvent retirement system for future generations.

New Hampshire’s Rainy Day fund has a balance of just $9.3 million, which is not enough to run our state government for more than 2 days. House Republicans will continue to identify ways to increase the fund balance, which, in turn,  will bolster our State’s financial security and credit rating.

We will work to increase local control of education curriculum and testing, and promote policies that increase parental involvement in their children’s education. We will also continue to support policies that promote school choice and maintain funding for charter schools.

We are committed to controlling the cost of higher education by working with our university and community college system to ensure that  taxpayer dollars are applied in a manner that directly affects the quality and affordability of education for in-state students. A well educated workforce will help attract new industry and help New Hampshire retain its college graduates and young professionals.

New Hampshire’s high energy costs hurt family budgets, increase the costs of goods and services, and impede economic growth.  We intend to support legislation that eliminates unnecessary mandates that increase the cost of energy production, and work with local communities and utilities to find the best way to increase the supply and delivery of low cost energy options.

House Republicans are also proud to fight for preserving and increasing personal rights and liberties, and reducing government overreach. We will ensure that the 2nd amendment rights of our citizens are not infringed upon, we  will strive to preserve and protect the integrity of our elections and increase privacy protections for all citizens.

We are committed to supporting health care policies rooted in free market principles that will increase freedom in health care decisions and lower insurance premiums for individuals and businesses.  We will take steps to end our involvement in Obamacare Medicaid Expansion and continue to find ways to enable the best health care access possible without unnecessary or unfunded state and federal mandates.

We believe this agenda accurately reflects many of the positions that Republicans campaigned on throughout 2014.   We have listened to our constituents and they have expressed what they believe should be our priorities over the next two years.   We look forward continued input from the people who sent us to the State House  as we work to apply common sense, fiscally responsible solutions to our State’s evolving needs.

Chandler: Rebuilding New Hampshire’s Rainy Day Fund Should be a Priority

by House Republican Leader Rep. Gene Chandler (R-Bartlett)

New Hampshire’s Rainy Day Fund – sometimes called the Revenue Stabilization Account  – was drained of $80 million by the Democrat controlled legislature to maintain or increase spending levels, rather than making spending cuts, during the recent recession.

Under the 2012-2013 Republican budget, New Hampshire was left with a surplus. While most of the money in the surplus was used to help fund the 2014-2015 budget, there is about $15 million left over. The debate in the legislature this year has been whether or not we should spend some of it, or save all of it.

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Op-Ed: Birdsell & Sanborn: It’s a job gap, not a wage gap

By Representative Regina Birdsell (R – Hampstead) & Representative Laurie Sanborn (R – Bedford)

As women and as Human Resources professionals, we believe the national and state-wide Democrat agenda surrounding Paycheck Equity is unnecessary and misleading.

It is against the law to pay women differently than men based on their gender.  This law has been in effect for over 50 years, under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963, and also under New Hampshire’s own Equal Pay legislation going back to 1947.

We would know personally, because we have over 40 years of combined experience overseeing Human Resources, recruitment and compensation activities in New Hampshire companies.  We take these laws very seriously and have not seen wage discrimination in our professional careers.  Employers know – not only is it against the law, but it also is bad policy when you are trying to attract and retain the very best employees for an organization.

We have learned there have been very little complaints in New Hampshire.  In fact, there have been no charges under our state Equal Pay statute over the last 20 years.  The NH Labor Department knows of only three investigations, all of which were dismissed when employers showed legitimate reasons for disparity in pay between employees.  The Attorney General’s office and the Human Rights Commission haven’t tracked complaints or violations under the law, but knew of only two cases ever being opened when asked.

Bills such as HB1188 and SB207, currently in the state legislature, do little to fix a real problem or help women; instead they advance the notion that the workplace is hostile to women and reinforce the idea that women are in need of protection.

The Democrat talking point – as heard from President Obama, Governor Hassan, Speaker Norelli and Senate Minority Leader Larsen – is that women are paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men.  These statistics represent an average of ALL men and women in ALL full-time jobs across the country. Making such a broad brush statement without understanding the basis behind it shows how some don’t want to discuss the facts and instead are looking to create a false hysteria.

There have been countless reports and studies to prove this position.  For example, according to a survey done by Payscale in May 2013, the survey find the so-called wage gap nearly evaporates when you control for occupation and experience.  It finds “women are not starting off behind their male counterparts, so much as they’re choosing different jobs.”  It also finds that women are more likely to negotiate, so the popular belief that women don’t know how to ask for a raise is false.  When they compare men and women who have the same education, the same management responsibilities, and similar employers with similar number of employees, the wage gap disappears.  They found the gap isn’t between men and women doing the same job so much as the different choices people make in their career paths.

Women have earned the majority of bachelor degrees for the last few years.  They are well positioned to benefit from a growing professional service economy, and working moms are already the breadwinners in 40% of households with kids.  However, if women continue to go into healthcare rather than manufacturing, human resources rather than engineering, we will continue to see the job gap, not the wage gap.  It is a personal decision women make for themselves.

Fabricating a crisis in order to enact additional laws and regulations on our state’s employers is not solving any problems.  Instead, doing so continues to make our state less friendly, especially to the small businesses that make up our state, and who are overwhelmingly already complying with existing law.