Issues

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Climate Change

Climate change is perhaps the greatest challenge and the greatest threat that we face.

We have seen that our winters are not as cold, that spring comes earlier, and fall lasts later.

Some may welcome these changes, but there is a cost. Scientists have reported that as the planet warms, the greatest temperature increases will be at the poles. This means melting ice and rising seas. Many of our greatest cities are in danger of being flooded out.

Here in the Northeast, states have taken a modest step called RGGI, or the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. A price on carbon dioxide is included in our electric rates, and the money collected is returned to the states. Originally, those funds were used for energy efficiency projects and for renewable energy. In recent years, the legislature has severely cut the amount of RGGI money used for efficiency and renewables. These cuts need to be reversed.

The Governor's veto of the bill to extend the contracts for five of our biomass generating plants was short-sighted and wrong-headed.  As those plants close, the replacement power will be gas-generated, which means our dollars will be going to Pennsylvania or Ohio, instead of staying here in New Hampshire, to support our forestry industry and our economy as a whole.

The failure of the State to accept $4 million of federal funds to study commuter rail--at zero cost to New Hampshire--is another decision we must reverse next year.

SB446 would have allowed solar projects up to 5MW to net meter (instead of the current limit of 1MW).  The larger limit would have allowed schools, municipalities, and businesses to build larger solar systems, and net meter any excess.  Unfortunately, SB446 was also vetoed.

There is no one magic bullet that will stop global warming. It will be many smaller things that will make the difference: energy efficiency; encouraging renewables; expanded recycling; buying local; and more public transportation.

Each of us can and should do our part. But it would be nice to have a government that listens to the scientists, and takes action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

To read Mark’s op-ed on climate change, click here.

 

Common Sense Gun Laws

The NRA would have us believe that there is no middle ground: we have to choose between no guns, or no gun control.

There is no contradiction in recognizing the constitutional right to bear arms for self-defense, hunting and sporting purposes, while also supporting laws designed to keep military weapons off our streets, and to keep guns out of the hands of children, criminals, and people who are mentally incapacitated.

I support:

  • A state-level requirement for universal background checks for all gun purchases, together with prosecution of those who attempt to buy a gun illegally.
  • Returning to our police chiefs the role of granting concealed carry permits.
  • Banning assault weapons and ammunition clips larger than ten rounds.
  • Banning ‘bump stocks.’
  • Improving the background check system so that all felonies, domestic violence orders, and determinations of mental incompetence are entered in the database.
  • Enacting a ‘red flag’ law that would allow the police to temporarily remove guns when a person appears to be a danger to himself or others.

Will these changes stop all gun crimes? Of course not. But they will work. Connecticut passed a similar list of measures in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, and has experienced a significant drop in gun crime.

To read Mark's op-ed on concealed carry permits, click here.

 

Death Penalty

I voted to repeal the death penalty in 2000 when I was in the State Senate.  I look forward to casting that vote again.

 

Gerrymandering

Gerrymandering is nothing more than a betrayal of the ideals of our democracy. It makes it possible for a minority of the voters to achieve a majority in the legislature, or for a small majority of voters to achieve a huge legislative majority.

There are solutions. The adoption of a redistricting commission in California has been a big success. It can be a success in New Hampshire, too.

Another approach is legislation that requires districts to be compact, and that outlaws the use of voting history and demographic data in the drawing of legislative districts.

I favor the redistricting commission approach, but I will support any approach that will make gerrymandering a thing of the past in New Hampshire.

To read Mark's op-ed on gerrymandering, click here.

 

Higher Education

New Hampshire has the highest in-state tuition rate in the nation.  Our young people have the highest level of student loan debt in the nation.  The culprit is the legislature, which has cut funding for our university system again and again.

Adjusting for inflation and population growth, State funding for the university system is 35% less than it was in 1988.

New Hampshire's population is aging.  We want to retain our talented young people, but many of them realize that they can go to a state school in another state and pay less as an out-of-stater than they would pay at UNH.  When our young people leave our state for college, they often don't come back.

It's time we recognize that proper funding of our university system is an investment in our youth, our economy, and our future.

 

Medicaid Expansion

What’s not to like about Medicaid Expansion?

It has provided health insurance to over 50,000 people in New Hampshire. Most of them are the working poor, who have no health insurance plan at work, and no hope of affording private plans at $600 or more per month per person.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have come into the state from the federal government, reducing the amount of uncompensated care, improving the financial health of our hospitals, and reducing medical bankruptcies.

The amount of new money coming into New Hampshire each year due to Medicaid Expansion is greater than the entire payroll of BEA Systems. This is a big boost to our economy.

The newly insured have access to treatment for opioid addiction. It is the one bright spot in the effort to reduce overdose deaths, as state programs fall short and treatment centers threaten to close.

And yet, there are too many legislators who don’t get it, and vote against renewal of Medicaid Expansion.

In traditional Medicaid, which began in the 1960s, the federal government pays about half of the cost. The states pay the other half. The program was voluntary. Every state bought into Medicaid because they saw that the health and lives of their citizens could be improved with the federal government picking up half the cost.

Medicaid Expansion makes it possible for the working poor to have health insurance, with the federal government picking up 90% of the cost. This is a great deal for New Hampshire. It makes our state healthier, and that in turn makes us happier, more productive, and more secure.

 

Mental Health

Several decades ago, when New Hampshire replaced most of the State Hospital with a community-based mental health system, we were a model for other states who were going through the same process.

We are not a model any more.  The State's mental health system has been greatly underfunded over the past couple decades.  Now, people in mental health crises pile up in our emergency rooms, waiting for a bed in the mental health system.  Sometimes they wait days, sometimes they wait weeks.  One day recently, there were 43 people in ERs across New Hampshire waiting for a bed.

Every time there is a mass shooting, some say its about mental health, not guns.  Those same people vote against proper funding for our mental health system.  It is time for change.

 

Minimum Wage

The advantages of a higher minimum wage are so many, it is hard to understand why there is opposition:

  • The working poor will get a boost, both financially and personally
  • Dependence on public assistance will be reduced
  • Personal bankruptcies will go down
  • Social ills caused by poverty will decline

It is true that higher wages will increase prices for some products and services. We will pay a few cents more for our coffee and our sandwiches, and a few dollars more for a hotel room, but isn’t that a price worth paying so that our low-wage workers have a decent wage? Are we so attached to low prices, that we place them above the well-being of low-wage workers?

 

Reproductive Rights

I fully support a woman’s right to choose.  During my four years in the New Hampshire Senate (1998-2002), my voting record was 100% pro-choice.

With the retirement of Justice Kennedy, this is no time for complacency. I support putting the right to an abortion into our state laws, as other states have done.

 

School Funding

The State has a constitutional obligation to pay for the cost of an adequate education.  The legislature is shirking that obligation.

The State is paying about $3600 per child in 'adequacy funds.'  The average cost to educate a child in New Hampshire is over $15,000.  The $3600 paid by the State does not pass the "straight face" test.  It is woefully inadequate.  And the legislature knows it is inadequate because the State pays over $7,000 per child to the charter schools.

The property-poor towns in New Hampshire are no better off than they were before the Claremont decision.  They are getting ready to sue the State once again.  We should avoid another loss in court, and do the right thing:  truly fund the cost of an adequate education, and pay for that cost with fair taxation, not the property tax.

To read Mark's op-ed on the impending school funding crisis, click here.

 

The Pledge

New Hampshire's traditional tax "Pledge" is nothing more than a promise to increase your property taxes, year after year.  Since 1999, the total property tax bill in New Hampshire has risen by 132%, far outstripping the growth in our economy and the ability of most people to pay.

The Pledge perpetuates a tax system that makes the wealthy very happy:  for them, it is the next best thing to Monaco.

The victims of the Pledge are many:

  • Retired homeowners, who pay more in state and local tax in New Hampshire than in any other state.
  • Young families who can't find an affordable home because high property taxes disqualify them for a mortgage.
  • Students in underfunded schools in property-poor towns.
  • People whose incomes go down, due to illness, disability, death of a spouse, or layoff, but whose property taxes keep going up.

Nearly everyone in New Hampshire knows someone who has been taxed out of his home.  How can we, in good conscience, allow our unfair and outdated tax system to continue?

To read Mark's op-ed on New Hampshire's tax system, its effect on essential state services, and the need for reform, click here.

 

Unions

The primary purpose of unions is to gain better pay and working conditions for workers.

The primary purpose of so-called ‘right to work’ laws is to destroy unions so that big businesses can reduce wages.

Anyone who claims this debate is about rights, rather than economics, just doesn’t get it.

To read Mark's op-ed, "Right to Work" if Wrong for New Hampshire, click here.

 

Voting Rights

The New Hampshire Constitution guarantees the right to vote to every “inhabitant” over the age of 18. Attempts to deny the right to vote to college students, or to people who have recently moved to New Hampshire are not just wrong, they are unconstitutional. Students attending college in New Hampshire are ‘inhabitants.’ They live here most of the year, and they are counted as New Hampshire residents for census purposes.

In 2017, the legislature and Governor Sununu passed SB3, which makes it a major crime if a person does not present proof of residency within a few weeks after registering to vote on election day. This part of SB3 has been suspended by court order, but we should not rely on the courts to correct the errors of the legislature. Each legislator takes an oath to uphold the constitution of New Hampshire. One way to live up to that oath is to reject laws that seek to put such a burden on voting that people are discouraged from voting.

 

Vouchers

John Adams wrote "there should not be a district of one Mile Square without a school in it, not founded by a Charitable individual but maintained at the expence of the People themselves."

Vouchers are part of a nationwide attempt to destroy Adams' vision of public education, and to subsidize the private schools choices of the well-off.

Vouchers are not about 'competition.'  If that were the case, voucher schools would be subject to the same rules as public schools:  accept all students on a non-selective basis; meet all state regulations; and charge no tuition.

Charter schools do not have to meet the New Hampshire 'minimum standards' for public schools.  Private schools are essentially regulation-free.

Widespread use of vouchers would reduce the public schools to underfunded places populated with those difficult to educate, and the poor.

Our goal should be excellent public schools everywhere--just as Adams intended.

To read Mark's op-ed on vouchers, click here.