Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Crime Victim Leave Moves Forward

The Crime Victim Employment Leave Act is one step closer to becoming law. Yesterday, the House Labor Committee voted to reccomend passage of the bill by a resounding 15-1 margin.

Thank you to the members of the Committee, to the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, the NH Police Association, the Department of Labor, and the Attorney General's Office of Victim-Witness Assistance for their help and input in crafting the legislation.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Martel's voting roadblock

There's a nice op/ed piece by NH Young Democrats president Amanda Grady over at NH Insider. Amanda takes Sen. Andy Martel to task for his bill requiring photo identification before being allowed to cast a vote on election day. This is one of those ideas that sounds good at first, but falls to pieces on closer examination.

Click above for a link to the article...

Monday, March 21, 2005

Of Cockroaches and Orange Badges

Antone who has spent time in the subtropical latitudes of Louisiana or Florida has at some point experienced the joys of flicking on a light and seeing our friend the cockroach scurry out of harm's way. It isn't pleasant, but at some level you are glad you at least know the nasty suckers are there.

Not to compare Concord's orange-badged lobbyist corps to cockroaches, but the same dynamic applies in the legislative process. It's probably impossible to completely eradicate the problem of special interest influence, but to the degree that we can shine some light on the process, there is at least some hope of managing the situation.

The House Election Law Committee is still pondering HB 621. HB 621 would require lobbyists to dosclose any gifts or campaign contributions they make to political candidates, while simultaneously requiring the candidates to provide an itemized listing of these donations. As you might have figured out, the double-disclosure requirement forces lobbyists and candidates to hold each other accountable.

If you'd like to move this bill along towards passage, shoot an e-mail to these folks:

Rep. Mike Whalley, Chairman, House Election Law Committee:
michael.whalley@leg.state.nh.us

Rep. Richard Drisko, Committee vice chairman:
driskorb@aol.com

Rep. Jim Splaine, Ranking Democrat:
jimsplaine@aol.com

"Education on the Q.T."

The Concord Monitor has a very thoughtful editorial on the state of charter schools in New Hampshire (link above). Since the ConMon has not heretofore been a big charter advocate, this just might get some of my Democratic friends to provide charter schools with the resources they need to thrive. If anti-charter education officials decide that making an ideological statement is more important than helping kids already in alternative schools, then something is dramatically amiss.

Money quote:

"Clearly there is room for any lawmakers and state education officials inclined to give charter schools a real try to step up and provide leadership. It's too soon to cast judgment on the fledgling enterprises under way. But it's safe to say their chances of success will increase if the state embraces the experiment wholeheartedly".

Amen...

Friday, March 18, 2005

George Kennan

George Kennan, one of the prime architects of the containment policy, has died at the age of 101.

Kennan understood the need to be tough yet smart, to be strong yet willing to talk. In a day when foreign policy debates too often generate into "yee-hah" versus "not our problem", we would be wise to remember the legacy of Kennan and his colleagues.

Attaboy, Governor!

Congratulations are in order for Governor Lynch. The Governor has been named "New Democrat of the Week" by the Democratic Leadership Council.

The DLC cites Gov. Lynch's efforts to enhance workforce development and to strengthen New Hampshire's manufacturing sector.

Combine this with a creative approach to the school funding situation, and it is becoming apparent that we have a governor who "gets it", who understands the need to develop new ways of conducting business in a thoughtful manner. After two years of non-stop scandals and political grandstanding, this is a refreshing change.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh!

Happy St. Patrick's Day, or as my cousins in Roscommon would say, Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh.

As someone who is 100% second generation Irish-American, I really don't have a lot of patience for the whole green beer and plastic leprechaun hat routine. Too often, it obscures much of the real beauty and dignity of Irish culture, and warps it into a marketing gimmick for a few stateside breweries.

Nonetheless, I want to welcome everyone who chooses to be Irish, if only for a day...cead mille failte! I have just one request. Please, for the love of god, don't play "Danny Boy" or "The Unicorn Song". Remember, there is a reason God created the Dropkick Murphys and The Pogues.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Ethics, Post-Chandler

If any good came out of the fall of former House Speaker Gene Chandler, it is a renewed focus on ethical standards of conduct in the legislature. For too long, the relationship between legislators and lobbyists has been distressingle informal, and standards of conduct disturbingly lax.

The Election Law Committee held hearings on a number of proposals yesterday, including my bill, HB 621. This bill would require candidates to itemize contributions from registered lobbyists on their campaign finance reports, and would require lobbyists to file an itemized statements of all gifts and contributions with the Secretary of State's office.

The purpose of this measure is to bring some transparency and accountability to the process. The average citizen does not know the names of the lobbyists who patrol the halls of the State House. The campaign finance reports are currently of little help; it is easy to disguise a lobbyist's donation by listing their occupation as "lawyer" or "consultant", thus raising no red flags. If a candidate is willing to accept money from someone with a vested interest in the outcome of specific legislation, then they should be willing to let their constituents know the facts. By providing this information, we can make it possible for people to learn if their elected officials are representing the public interest or some special interest.

Happy St. Patty's Day to you, too, damn it!

From the "Nice timing, guys" department:

The House Executive Departments and Administration Committee has voted to kill my bill to establish March as Irish-American Heritage Month. Apparently, the Yankees and French-Canadians aren't too keen on we sons of the ould sod staking such a claim.

I hereby order that all members of the ED&A Committee be barred from every watering hole in the western hemisphere tomorrow...

Let the frivolity commence

It appears that Andrew Cline, the editorial page editor at the Union-Leader, either suffers from a severe case of cranial-rectal inversion or was born without a sense of fun.

In this morning's UL, I was taken to task for my sponsorship of a resolution honoring Manchester's minor league baseball team, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. The Fisher Cats, a class AA affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, won the 2004 Eastern League championship.

Mr. Cline believes that those of us who support a resolution recognizing the team's accomplishments are not taking our legislative duties setiously. This is rather interesting, since I am usually accused of taking these responibilities too seriously and too wonkishly. Accusations of frivolity are something new. I suppose I must be lightening up in my old age.

At any rate, for Mr. Cline's edification, I have sponsored legislation to:

Revise the charter school approval process
Provide employment leave for crime victims
Establish a research and development tax credit
Study the feasibility of a non-emergency 311 system
Reduce mercury in landfills
Establish a commission on economic independence
Provide free admission to state parks for members of the National Guard
Provide economic incentives for businesses to utilize alternative fuel vehicles
Modify the scope of injuries admissible in a victim impact statement

Frivolous, huh?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

More Mush From The Wimps

There are only about a dozen school districts in the United States that do not provide public kindergarten. All of them are in New Hampshire. Curiously, several of the districts are not impoverished mill towns, but leafy, middle-class suburbs.

For years, fitful efforts have been made to expand kindergarten statewide; former Gov. Shaheen managed to greatly increase the number of districts providing kindergarten, an achievement for which she deserves considerable praise. Unfortunately, the political culture of New Hampshire is such that the final hurdles may be the highest.

The Concord Monitor reports that the state Board of Education is backing away fom its policy of support for universal kindergarten. Now, doing the wrong thing is nothing new in the halls of NH government, but what is disturbing about this development is the Board's rationale.

Board member David Ruedig didn't mention substantive problems with universal kindergarten; he didn't cite a study analyzing the cost-effectiveness of such programs; he didn't even mention the usual problem, funding. No, he had a new excuse.

JLCAR.

JLCAR (pronounced "JELL-car") is the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules. JLCAR is the quintessential inside-baseball panel. The committee's function is to serve provide oversight over administrative rulemaking by state agencies, covering areas ranging from education to the sale of Jack Daniels at the state-owned liquor stores.

Evidently, the old-line conservatives on JLCAR are fussing about the Board's policy, claiming that it amounts to a backdoor attempt to circumvent the legislative process. The fingerprints of Sen. Bob Clegg, the senate majority leader and determined foe of all that is in the state's best interest, are all over this mess.

It should be noted that it is the refusal of characters like Clegg to support a workable school funding system that creates the lion's share of the problem for local districts that are attempting to get kindergarten off the ground. Perhaps this is inadvertent; more likely, it is a state level version of Grover Norquist's cryptolibertarian "drown the baby" campaign to eliminate any useful role for government.

With a few exceptions, the Board members are rolling over and backing off from support for universal kindergarten. Score this one a victory for the "don't just do something, stand there" crowd that still holds too much influence in Concord.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Standards? We neeed stinkin' standards!

One encouraging development from this past weekend's meeting of the nation's governors is a multi-state initiative to raise high school academic standards.

Gov. Lynch states in this morning's Union Leader that New Hampshire will not participate in the existing 13 state project, citing his desire to seek local input first. While I am glad that the governor seems to be moving in the right direction, I hope that his approach does not lead to "paralysis by analysis". As the seven year effort to get a charter school off the ground demonstrates, NH's educational establishment views change about as enthusiastically as it views a head cold.

Still, the issue of tough standards is back on the table, and that is a critical development.

Let the debate commence.