Saturday, January 29, 2005

"Profiles in Courage" this isn't...

From Kevin Landrigan's column in the Nashua Telegraph:

Quote of the week

“I’m the Darth Vader who spoke to the mayor of Manchester.’’
- Verizon lobbyist Erle Pierce playfully confesses he’s the one who last year helped convince Mayor Robert Baines to back off support of legislation to let cities and towns apply the local property tax to telephone poles and wires.

This is pathetic. The mayor never contacted the members of the Manchester legislative delegation to discuss this issue, yet he rolls over like a puppy for a lobbyist looking to preserve special-interest goodies for his client. For this sort of nonsense, Manchester taxpayers are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to a politically-connected law firm to monitor legislation? Where is the disgust?

UPDATE:

From Riley Yate's "City Hall" column in this morning's Union Leader:

"Aldermen are considering a quirky formula for increasing the mayor's pay beyond its current $68,000 a year".

Nice timing, guys.



Friday, January 28, 2005

From the "I'm Not Making This Up" File

It sometimes seems that the Bush Administration's most amazing characteristic is its ability to transform the merely banal into the sublimely riddiculous. Take this little tidbit, courtesy of Salon.com:

"One day after President Bush ordered his Cabinet secretaries to stop hiring commentators to help promote administration initiatives, and one day after the second high-profile conservative pundit was found to be on the federal payroll, a third embarrassing hire has emerged. Salon has confirmed that Michael McManus, a marriage advocate whose syndicated column, "Ethics & Religion," appears in 50 newspapers, was hired as a subcontractor by the Department of Health and Human Services to foster a Bush-approved marriage initiative. McManus championed the plan in his columns without disclosing to readers he was being paid to help it succeed".

Ethics & Religion?

Welcome Home, 172nd!

For ten years, I served as a member of the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard. My final year of service was with the NH National Guard's 172nd Field Artillery. Thus, you can understand why I am breathing a deep sigh of relief now that the 172nd is back on American soil.

Regardless of your feelings about the war in Iraq, I hope that you will recognize that the men and women serving overseas have performed their duties with courage and professionalism.

Many of us in NH have had many a nervous moment over the last year. We have friends, neighbors and family members (in my case, all of the above) serving in a dangerous place. We have prayed for their safe return; now, it appears that we have cause to be relieved and grateful.

I don't know if they will have a chance to read this, but let me offer a salute to SFC David Beecher, PFC Corey Finnigan, and my former partners in crime at the Milford Armory. Well done, and welcome home.

A formal homecoming is being planned for next week; the initial word is that it will occur on Wednesday at the State Armory in Manchester. As soon as I receive concrete info, I will be sure to pass word along.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

NH Says No To Hate

At today's hearing on the far right's effort to repeal NH's hate crimes law, public testimony was overwhelmingly opposed to the initiative.

Citizens from various walks of life, black, white, gay, straight, Republican, Democrat, Sox fans and Yankees fans, all stood together to say that New Hampshire is a place that does not and will not condone hate and violence.

Of course, a few people didn't agree. For the mosrt part, testimony in support of the repeal came from a handful of ultraconservative legislators who are clearly out of tune even with their own party. The only lobbyist to back the repeal was from Gun Owners of New Hampshire, and frankly, he did his organization no favors by associating law-abiding sportsmen with this sort of right-wing nonsense.

On the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the people had a chance to state loudly that hate can never again trump the rule of law. You did just that, and this legislator says thank you.

Punk Donkey?

Ed Kilgore is quoting the Sex Pistols. My reputation as America's most eccentric New Democrat is now in jeopardy.

If Andy Rotherham starts quoting lyrics from X's "Under the Big, Black Sun", then I will really start to worry...

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Evan Bayh Hits The Bullseye

Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh's assessment of Condi Rice is dead-on accurate. From today's Indianapolis Star:

Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana said Tuesday that he would vote against elevating national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to secretary of state because the Bush administration has to be held accountable for mistakes in Iraq.

"I believe that she has been a principal architect of policy errors that have tragically undermined our prospects for success," said Bayh, one of the earliest Democratic supporters for Bush's decision to invade Iraq...

Bayh said the mistakes in Iraq couldn't be ignored. In his view, they include not planning for the aftermath of the war, not having enough U.S. troops, disbanding the Iraqi army and disqualifying members of Saddam Hussein's political party from serving in the new government.

"This is no ordinary incompetence," Bayh said Tuesday on the Senate floor. "Men and women are dying as a result of these mistakes."



Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Hate Crimes

If you want to take a stand against those who seek to divide rather than unite, and if you want to send a message that New Hampshire is no place for bigotry, intolerance and hate, then come to Concord on Thursday morning.

The House Criminal Justice Committee will be holding a public hearing on House Bill 136, which would repeal NH's existing sentencing enhancements for crimes committed out of hostility to a victim's race, creed, or sexual orientation.

Let's be perfectly frank. This effort has everything to do with gay and lesbian Granite Staters. Too often, people seek scapegoats, and with the often emotional fallout from the Gene Robinson and Mass. gay marriage controversies, many of our gay and lesbian neighbors find themselves being targeted by individuals with a different agenda.

If we repeal our state's hate crimes provision, we are sending a message that we are not serious about standing up to the forces of hate and ignorance. I know that the people of NH are better than that, and I hope that people will let their representatives and senators know that they will not stand for rolling back the clock on matters of tolerance and justice.

The challenges we face in this day and age are tremendous. We will only rise to the challenge when we include everyone as a full and equal member of the American (and New Hampshire) family.

The Absolute Worst "Best Albums" List...Ever.

Apparently, a web site called AskMen.com (which seems to be sort of a vaguely male version of Cosmo) has decided to compile a list of the Top 200 albums of all time. They really should have spared us the effort. Click the topic to see the carnage for yourself.

There are the usual no-brainers on the list. "Exile on Main Street", "Nevermind", "Sgt. Pepper", "Achtung Baby", and "The Wall" show up on these sorts of lists all the time, as do the requisite works by Dylan, Marley and Van Morrisson. After the usual suspects, the list quickly heads off into the realm of the surreal.

Consider this simple fact: the list includes Tesla and Skid Row.

That's right, "The Joshua Tree" didn't pass muster, but Tesla's "The Great Radio Controversy" is deemed a classic.

Other strokes of genius include Foreigner, Temple of the Dog, and Billy Joel's "Piano Man". Meanwhile, there is no sign of REM's enormously influential "Chronic Town", Steve Earle's "Copperhead Road", the Waterboys "Fisherman's Blues" or anything by the Ramones or X.

And don't even ask how they ended up calling Cheap Trick's "Live at Buddokan" a "soft rock" album.

If this is greatness, I will choose to dwell proudly in mediocrity!

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Pigskin Pick

Yeah, I know this is way off-topic, but it's my blog, damn it...

Patriots 20
Steelers 6

Eagles 24
Falcons 10

I predicted Pats-Iggles back in August, and I'm not changing my tune at this point!

Coming Soon to a Legislature Near You

Friday was "Sign-Off Day" at the State House. This is the day when legislators must officially sign the paperwork approving blls for introduction to the House or Senate.

The legislative web site doesn't have the text for most of my bills up yet, but full information shoudld be available within the next few days.

In the meantime, here are the bills I am sponsoring or co-sponsoring, with a quick description of what the legislation seeks to accomplish:

2005-H-0024-R relative to mercury reduction.
Sponsors: (Prime) James G Phinizy
David L Babson
Howard C Dickinson
Peter M Sullivan
Jim Ryan
Sylvia B Larsen
Peter H Burling
Margaret W Hassan

2005-H-0101-R
HB103 making an appropriation to the department of education for charter schools.
Sponsors: (Prime) John B Hunt
John R M Alger
Clair A Snyder
Peter M Sullivan

(This bill had a hearing before the House Finance Committee this past week)

HB76 revising the process of charter school approval by the state board of education.
Sponsors: (Prime) John B Hunt
John R M Alger
Clair A Snyder
Peter M Sullivan

(This bill was heard by the House Education Committee this past week)

2005-H-0149-R establishing a research and development tax credit against the business profits tax.
Sponsors: (Prime) Peter M Sullivan

(Reps. Pete Hinkle and Steve Michon are working on something similar, so the bills might end up being consolidated; stay tuned)

2005-H-0150-R establishing the crime victim employment leave act.
Sponsors: (Prime) Peter M Sullivan

2005-H-0151-R establishing a commission to study the feasibility of establishing a statewide non-emergency 311 telephone system.
Sponsors: (Prime) Peter M Sullivan

2005-H-0152-R establishing a commission on economic independence.
Sponsors: (Prime) Peter M Sullivan

2005-H-0153-R requiring disclosure of gifts and campaign contributions by lobbyists.
Sponsors: (Prime) Peter M Sullivan

2005-H-0154-R commending the New Hampshire Fisher Cats on their championship.
Sponsors: (Prime) Peter M Sullivan
Timothy E Easson
(Tim and I disagree on damn near everything, but we are both F-Cats fans)

2005-H-0155-R proclaiming March as New Hampshire Irish American Month.
Sponsors: (Prime) Peter M Sullivan
Martha Fuller Clark

2005-H-0566-R relative to provisions for permissible contact between the agent of a defendant subject to a protective order and a plaintiff.
Sponsors: (Prime) William V Knowles
David A Bickford
Tony F Soltani
Peter M Sullivan
Margaret W Hassan
Peter H Burling
Sheila Roberge

(This has to be the weirdest set of co-sponsors I have ever seen)

Friday, January 21, 2005

A bit of good news for Manchester

Manchester Airport officials announced that the airport enjoyed its tenth consecutive year of growth in passenger boardings. The facility experienced an 11% increase in traffic during 2004.

MHT's continued growth is almost unheard of in the current climate, so kudos are in order. The Manchester airport has succeeded in large part because it has rejected the negative and insular mindset that permeates many of Manchester's municipal institutions. Kevin Dillon and his crew have shown business savvy, marketing smarts, and a committment to keeping their eyes on long-term goals.

Well done, ladies and gentlemen!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

People Unclear On The Concept

From Wednesday's Concord Monitor:

"A possible link between the Lakes Region Greyhound Park and a five-state, $200 million illegal gambling ring has done little to blunt some lawmakers'enthusiasm for legalizing slot machines in New Hampshire".

"Two of the Belmont track's executives were indicted last week on federal money laundering charges that they transferred illegal wagers through a Concord-based business on behalf of a mob operation".

Yes, folks, we now have the Gambino Family mucking around Belmont, yet a handful of legislators still think that gambling is a splendid idea.

Brilliant.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Return of the Smoke Filled Room

Earlier this evening, a group of self-appointed Democratic movers and shakers held a secret meeting at the Manchester law office of attorney John Kacavas. This meeting was supposed to be kept from the public, but sometimes, people have more friends than others suspect.

The convener of the meeting is Rob Werner, a lobbyist for the Lung Association, and an individual who clearly wants to be viewed as a major player in Democratic Party affairs. Evidently, Rob believes that the way to do this is to hold closed-door mettings to annoint chosen candidates without those pesky voters getting involved in the process.

If the last election taught us anything, it is that cronyism and cliqueishness makes for bad politics and bad policy. The Benson Administration's proclivity for engaging in governance-by-golfing partner wreaked havoc on our state. If we Democrats are willing to simply swap one group of backroom politicos for another, we will have ceded the moral high ground.

It is time for NH Democrats to become a party of reform, a party that is open to new faces, new ideas and new approaches to politics. Ours must be a party that embraces Deaniacs and DLCers, Teamsters and software developers. Not everyone will agree on every issue, and believe it or not, that's a good thing. Let's have a spirited debate on the issues.

The days of backroom bullying have passed. I challenge my colleagues in the Democratic Party to wake up to this reality and change their ways.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Charters and Chump Change

The House Finance Committee today heard testimony on legislation to appropriate $1,000,000 towards charter schools. I am a co-sponsor of the measure.

For reasons I have never quite fathomed, the NH political establishment has never quite figured out the whole idea of public charter schools. Too many Democrats base their opinion on questionable data provided by the NEA, while too many Republicans are simply resistant to innovation and change of any sort. Combine paleoliberalism wth paleoconservatism and you have the perfect formula for bad policy.

Fortunately, things are slowly moving in the right direction. Last year's legislation to allow the NH Department of Education to directly authorize charters was a critical step towards breaking the obstructionism of some local school boards. This year, the debate turns to that hardy perennial of NH politics, funding.

Rep. John Hunt has introduced a bill to appropriate funds towards charter schools. Currently, charters are dependent on a combination of federal and state grants, a per-pupil share of state adequacy aid, and whatever private funds a given school can secure. With the high costs associated with the start-up of a school, the per pupil funds aren't really able to cover actual costs. Hopefully, Rep. Hunt's bill (of which I am a co-sponsor) will help alleviate the problem to a certain degree.


Monday, January 17, 2005

MLK

Letter from a Birmingham Jail
http://coursesa.matrix.msu.edu/~hst306/documents/letter.html

RFK Indianapolis Speech:
http://members.iquest.net/~reboomer/kensp.htm


Sleep, sleep tonight
And may your dreams be realised.
If the thunder cloud passes rain
So let it rain, rain down on he.
So let it be.
So let it be.

Sleep, sleep tonight
And may your dreams be realised.
If the thunder cloud passes rain
So let it rain, let it rain
Rain down on he.

U2, "MLK" (from the 1984 album The Unforgettable Fire)

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Dirty Money Talks

The Union Leader reports that executives of Lakes Region Greyhound Park have been indicted for running a $200 million illegal gambling operation in cahoots with the Gambino organized crime family.

This is bad enough, but it gets worse. The owners of the track have been sharing the wealth with members of the New Hampshire political community.

According the published reports, the track donated to Tom Colantuono's 1996 congressional campaign. Colantuono is now the US Attorney for New Hampshire. Amazingly, Colantuano will not commit to recusing himself from the case.

In addition, the track bosses have made numerous contributions to the NH Democratic Party over the past decade, and they have "invested" heavily in state senators from both parties.

Some of the recipients of Lakes Region's generosity are the usual suspects (Lou D'Allesandro, Tom Eaton), but others, such as Sen. Iris Estabrook and Sen. Dick Green, generally know better.

So, here is my challenge to the politicos who have taken money from these jokers. Don't give the money back. Give an equivalent amount to a social service agency that treats gambling addiction. Lakes Region's money is dirty money, and it is time to make a statement that we neither want nor need their influence in state government.

Friday, January 14, 2005

More on Noise

HB 68 had its public hearing yesterday. This legislation has two components.

The first part expands the definition of the types of noise for which an individual could be cited for disturbing the peace.

The second section does away with the existing requirement that a third person, i.e., someone other than the police officer and the alleged noisemaker, lodge a complaint. Under the revisions contained in HB 68, a police officer would be considered a reasonable person for purposes of determining whether the noise was problematic.

As someone who has had to endure the "Elm Street Serenade" of throbbing car stereos and Harleys with modified pipes, I welcome anything that helps law enforcement get a better handle on the problem.

My only real misgiving was with language that defined offending noise not only as loud and unreasonable, but "unusual". This is dangerously vague. I own a few albums by Black 47. Black 47 is a band from New York that plays a mix of funk, hip-hop, alt rock and traditional Irish folk. By any fair definition, this is unusual. However, I don't think that playing "Funky Ceili" or "Forty Shades of Blue" should, in and of itself, saddle me with a violation.

I was named to a subcommittee that will work on the bill next week, and it is probably safe to say that this overly vague provision will be removed. There are a few other relatively minor wording changes that the Attorney General's office suggested as well. In all probability, we should have this bill cleaned up and out of committee before the end of January.

Let me extend a word of thanks to Assistant Attorney General Anne Rice, Goffstown Police Chief Mike French and Manchester Police Captain David Mara for their advice and suggestions.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Cum On Feel the Noize

The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee will hear testimony today on a bill addressing the ongoing problem with loud car stereos and straight-pipe motorcycles in residential neighborhoods. As a resident of downtown Manchester, this issue hits close to home, for the obvious reasons.

I'll post a quick summary of the hearing this evening.

Woman of the Week: Deb Pignatelli

Competitive bidding...what a concept!

After two years of frenzied rubber-stamping, it appears that the Executive Council is finally taking its job seriously. The council, whose duties include reviewing and approving all state contracts over $5,000, spent the Benson years largely rolling over and playing dead. By shirking their duties, the councilors contributed to the overall atmosphere of cronyism and corruption that has pervaded the State House.

Thankfully, Councilor Deb Pignatelli is holding everyone accountable. Pignatelli is opposing any sole-source contract and any retroactive contract. Good for her. Someone is finally forcing the council to actually review the cost and competence factors inherent in the contracting process, and that is a development that is long overdue.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Something new to worry about

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- A father and his teenage son were charged Monday with attacking a man with a sword and threatening him with a gun.

Carlos Santiago, 38, and his son, Carlos Santiago Jr., 19, were accused of attacking a 20-year-old man in October. The victim was cut on both arms.

The DNC Chair's Race

I am going to step away from legislative matters for a moment to offer my take on the ongoing race for chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

The conventional wisdom is that the race is between former Vermont governor Howard Dean, New Democratic Network president Simon Rosenberg, former Indiana congressman/9-11 Commission member Tim Roemer, and Democratic operative Donny Fowler. Others in the running include former Michigan governor Jim Blanchard, former Denver mayor Wellington Webb, and former Texas congressman Martin Frost.

Dean strikes me as an unsuitable choice for party chair. The job of the DNC chair is to unify the assorted factions within the party, to fund areas of common ground and to craft a message that Democrats can unite behind. While Dean does a good job of firing up the liberal wing of the party, he has been remarkably antagonistic and patronizing towards Democrats who disagree with his ideology. He continues to paint members of the Democratic Leadership Council as "Republican Lite" or "the Republican wing of the Democratic Party". Such characterizations are not only inaccurate, they are childish. The last thing the party needs is a self-righteous, ideologically-driven boss who wants to marginalize Democrats whose views are actually closer to those of the rank and file.

I admire Tim Roemer. He is smart and principled, and has demonstrated an ability to win in a "red state". My only concern is that Roemer would have enormous difficulties dealing with party activists. The qualities that I find appealing (a realistic approach to national security, a moderate approach to abortion issues) could be toxic for many in the party. He could end up antagonizing Deaniacs just as Dean annoys centrist Dems such as myself.

Simon Rosenberg is probably the best option. Rosenberg served as a staffer at the DLC during Joe Lieberman's chairmanship of the group, and later worked with Lieberman to found the New Democrat Network. His New Democrat Network has performed valuable work for the Democratic Party by helping candidates craft an appealing, mainstream message and by launching a smart Hispanic outreach program. He has "street cred" with much of the liberal blogosphere, despite his New Democrat pedigree. He might be the only man in America who can both oe Lieberman and Howard Dean to return his calls. Rosenberg couples a solid New Dem approach to policy with a willingness to utilize creative new approaches to grassroots organizing and fundraising. His skill set is the best match for the job of leading a 21st century political party.


Monday, January 10, 2005

Thanks, Andy!

Let me extend a special welcome to folks who came here via Andrew Rotherham's Eduwonk blog. Eduwonk is a smart, independent-minded and often irreverent source of information about education policy, and is well worth a visit!

http://www.eduwonk.com

A Good Start

It's official. John Lynch is governor.

If you are looking for soaring rhetoric and grand vision, then Lynch probably isn't your guy. But his inaugural address did touch on the crucial issues of public ethics and fiscal responsibility, two things that were in short supply during the Benson administration.

Gov. Lynch's initial steps, such as requiring greater disclosure by executive-level staffers, are worthy and long overdue. Hopefully, they will begin the process of doing away with the insulated "Planet Concord" mindset that too frequently pervades New Hampshire's political culture.

I have filed legislation that would require lobbyists to report not only there direct lobbying expenses, but also any campaign contributions they make to candidates and committees. In addition, candidates would be required to clearly show any donations from lobbyists. Under the current system, it's easy to conceal such special interest goodies as contributions from "attorneys" or "consultants". It's deceptive, and it needs to change.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Gambling in NH?

It seems that every legislative session brings with it a new attempt to bring casino gambling to New Hampshire. This year is no exception, as Sen. Lou D'Allesandro is once again leading the charge for slot machines at the racetracks and North Country hotels.

Casino gambling in NH is a bad idea whose time will hopefully never come. In state after state, the presence of casinos has sparked an increase in crime, in personal bankruptcy filings, and in political corruption. The casino industry is a nasty, Mob-influenced creature, and we don't need it mucking up our state.

Now, I know some folks think that casino revenue is a quick and easy way to fill the state's coffers. I don't buy that argument. If someone honestly believes that gambling meccas like New Jersey and Louisiana are the epitome of responsible budgeting, then they are in for a rude awakening. Casino gambling has never lived up to its hype as a revenue source, and the increased social costs that are inherent in its expansion largely offset any short-term financial gains.

Lynch Inaugurated

Prior work committments kept me from attending Gov. Lynch's swearing-in at the State House yesterday, but once I have had a chance to read his remarks, I'll be back with my take on his address and his agenda.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Welcome!

Welcome to my legislative blog!

Over the coming months, I will use this forum to keep you up to date on the latest news, commentary and occasional pointless gossip from the New Hampshire State House.

I am new to blogging, so please be patient while I learn the ropes...