Friday, April 6, 2007

Irena Goddard, opposing CACR18

Irena Goddard, opposing CACR18

Honorable members of the Committee,

As you can tell from my accent, I was not born in the United States. I was born in Communist Czechoslovakia. I went to school in a little town of Ostrava. Ostrava is located in the northeasten part of Czechoslovakia, very close to the Polish and German borders. We would address all of our teachers by Soudruska Ucitelka (which translates into Comrade Teacher). Differentiation and creativity of any kind was discouraged. Economic classlessness and receiving based on “need” was preached. The curriculum that I was taught, in the Czechoslovakian elementary school was centrally controlled from Moscow.

The Soviet Union wanted to ensure that every child in Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and other satellite counties was getting equal and adequate education. This communist flavor education was dictated from Moscow, and since there was little local control, everyone had to adhere to the powerful bureaucrats in power. We know now the terror that was applied to those to were brave enough to question the Communist Party and we all know why the Communist Soviet Union fell – because the central planners, the bureaucrats in power could not “plan” everything. Central planning and central funding and thus “redistribution of wealth” does not work.

The only proven economic political system that works is Capitalistic-democracy. THAT is the reason I ask you to oppose this “seemingly noble” but “extremely dangerous” amendment!

If you think that we are long off from communism or we are doing this for the children or you are thinking that the State needs to fund education somehow. I have this to say back to you:

1) Gaining central state control of the schools is one of the 45 Planks in the Communist Platform that was issued in 1958. Other goals on that platform included: central standardization and control of the curriculum and getting state control of teachers' associations.

2) If you are thinking that this amendment is needed because it is “for the children”. I answer back to you: Parents have the biggest stake, interest and motivation in their children's education. Parents need to have direct voice in schools. If current local control continues, then the “children will continue to benefit”. If you are going to support this amendment, then you are removing parent and local community control and you are hurting the children. Make no mistake: 50% central funding will take away 100% local parental and community control.

3) If you are thinking that “we need to fund education somehow”, then I answer back. There is no mandate to change how schools are funded. Bringing in centrally distributed money will only enlarge the “education machine” just like we had in Czechoslovakia, meaning everything BUT student performance.

I believe by supporting this amendment, that you will be putting into place the infrastructure that will slowly start controlling all aspects of education by one bureaucratic source. Carefully consider how other elected or non-elected officials 5, 10, 20 years from now, can use this amendment, (who may or may not be of different political mindset than yourselves).

I know you intend only the best things, I know that you make think that I am making preposterous comparisons. I ask you: Have you ever lived in a Communist state? Well, I have. And I can see a mile away what you may not recognize right under your nose.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The following was a speech presented at the CACR 18 hearing as to why it should not pass.


In its December 30, 1993 Claremont I decision, the N.H. Supreme court decided to change N.H.’s historic education formula when it ruled, “ ... that [the] encouragement of literature clause of [the] State Constitution imposes duty on [the] state to provide constitutionally adequate education to every educable child in public schools in [the] state and to guarantee adequate funding.” (Emphasis mine).

On December 17, 1997, the Court ruled that local property taxes can’t be used to fund the state’s obligation to pay for adequate education for every educable child. In other words, state funding for adequate education must come from state tax resources and not local tax resources.

When the Court ruled that the state must provide a constitutionally adequate education to every educable child, it asserted, just as it did with funding, that the State of New Hampshire and not the state’s towns, cities or local school districts must provide for all of what comprises an adequate education and that means directing all the physical and human resources required to do the job. The state can’t delegate its administrative, managerial or teaching responsibilities any more than it can delegate its constitutional obligation to guarantee funding so whatever education is provided locally from here on will be under the complete direction and authority of Concord educators and not local school boards.

Since CACR 18 does nothing to interdict the transition from a fundamentally locally driven system of education to one of total state control, the governor should soon arrange to meet with New Hampshire’s mayors, councilmen and selectmen to discuss the implications for all local school districts and for all voters as we transition to what will become a single, state school district. Future school board members will be elected to do the state’s bidding rather implementing and directing educational programs important to local parents.

It’s clear, from two just released studies, that the educational model which the court insists the state adopt will have undeniably and irretrievably grave consequences for the educational future of our children, consequences which no responsible parent or guardian could possibly approve. Any proposed amendment - and particularly, the governor’s amendment - should stop state takeover.

At present, education in New Hampshire is still a local function, driven by parent input and administered through local school boards. The Courts edict has not yet been implemented. The cost is still primarily paid for through local property taxes. Stakeholders are still within shouting distance of those who administer their schools.

This March, the United States Chamber of Commerce issued the results of a comprehensive study of education in the United States. It should be of no surprise to anyone familiar with our locally driven, locally funded system of education that NH scored #3, of all the states, following Massachusetts and Minnesota. Massachusetts and Minnesota also sport locally driven systems. The Claremont decisions demand that we abandon this exceptionally effective education model.

Where did the court find the its inspiration for top-down education? It found the aspirational language in the 1895 Kentucky constitution. Kentucky scored #38 in the United States Chamber of Commerce study.

What does the language of the Claremont decisions actually require? The answer is a top-down system similar to that of California - with the ideal being Hawaii. California scored #43 in the United States Chamber of Commerce study. Hawaii, an entirely top down and entirely state funded system scored #46. So, where would we be heading with adoption of CACR18? Clearly, there’s no chance of either remaining #3, or of overtaking Minnesota or Massachusetts. We appear headed somewhere between Kentucky and Hawaii - if we’re lucky. If not, the result could be worse. And just how worse?

Another, just issued, March 2007 report, summarized by Vicki Murray of the Pacific Research Institute [summary attached herewith] suggests just how bad complying with the courts vision of education for New Hampshire could get. The $2.6 million report, funded by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation and the Stuart Foundation placed California #48 among states - Lower than the United States Chamber of Commerce study. If we remain on the justice’s education bandwagon, the future for educating New Hampshire’s kids looks terribly grim.

And what of the cost to implement this pending decline? Recently the governor embraced the New Hampshire Department of Education’s specifications for defining adequacy. The NH House recently passed HB927, a holistic model including kindergarten. Estimates of cost per pupil are various at the moment but it seems that the minimum sum necessary to provide for the curriculum and administrative structure we’re creeping up on will be in the neighborhood of $9,000 to $10,000 per student. Given approximately 220,000 students in New Hampshire schools, this means that the state will soon have to annually raise between $2.0 and $2.2 billion in school funds or, in other words, around $1.2 to $1.4 billion dollars more than we’re currently providing schools. The tax implications are enormous and the implications for the state’s economic future are grave.

CACR 18 proposes to target state aid. Targeting has been opposed by House and Senate Democrats until now. Targeting state education funds toward property poor districts has always made sense because the sums involved historically did not comprise so large an amount as to threaten more healthy and wealthy school districts. If targeting however, as CACR 18 provides, applies to the total sum the state will distribute, now projected at billions of dollars - the political reality is that the formula for distributing the entire funding pot will be determined by political coalitions in the House and Senate and not through application of a rational education funding formula based upon need. Lousy education and endless litigation will result.

An example of how just this sort of legislative self-interest works occurred when the recent state wide property tax and distribution formula emerged several speakerships ago. The state wide property tax was eventually passed because it served particular political coalitions in the House and Senate. It was not passed because it was either rational or equitable. The votes were cynically assembled. The formula adopted caused enormous turmoil statewide. The lesson is ageless. Political considerations will always trump need when too much money is involved. The education and education funding plan now emerging from the governor and legislature for New Hampshire is our own bridge to nowhere.

CACR 18 will not prevent state takeover, it will not prevent incipient educational decline. it will not prevent financial hemorrhaging, it will not prevent gut-wrenching new taxes nor will it prevent vicious and contentious legislative wrangling over the distribution of state education funds. In the end, when this plays out, weak communities and constituencies will be forced to subsidize more powerful coalitions of towns and cities. All CACR 18 will do is help facilitate instituting this new, top down education model for which New Hampshire towns cities will be compelled to pay up to half the cost. The privilege for such extortion will be front row seats from which to watch a stellar and nationally admired education system go down the drain.

Every parent and every teacher in New Hampshire should be alarmed at what’s transpiring here and the effect it will have on our children. If you care about quality education for New Hampshire’s kids you should be fighting state takeover to your dying breath. We need to halt this transition. CACR 18 as written will do no more than facilitate a one way trip to the worst of education worlds.


Paul Mirski

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

What you can do to try to stop CACR 18

Your urgent help is needed!
Please attend the senate hearing on Lynch's constitutional amendment, CACR18, on Tuesday, April 3, 2007.
The hearing is at 1:15pm in Room 103 of the State House.
We will meet in the cafeteria at 12:30. We’ll have lapel stickers that will identify you as being opposed to CACR18. Please let me know if you will be able to attend.

See what the New Hampshire Advantage Coalition is doing to stop the loss of local control and stop an income tax. Visit our website at and watch our newest TV commercial.

Why this Constitutional Amendment is a Bad Idea:
The Lynch amendment, CACR18, does nothing to get the courts out of education policy and funding. Unless the Governor is planning on handing out blank checks to the school districts, count on the lawsuits continuing. His amendment allows anyone so inclined to sue the State on the grounds it hasn’t properly defined an adequate education, determined the cost, created appropriate standards of accountability, or all three. Then some unelected judges who know next to nothing about public education will have the final say.

What’s even worse is that CACR18 writes the Claremont decisions into the Constitution. So forget about a future Supreme Court made up of judges that respect the difference between adjudicating and legislating overruling Claremont. And forget about a future Legislature that understands the separation of powers standing up to the Supreme Court’s brazen power grab. New Hampshire henceforth will be government of the lawyers, by the lawyers and for the lawyers.

- If the Lynch amendment passes, kiss local control goodbye.
- Lynch’s amendment also adds the requirement that the State pay for fifty percent of the cost of an adequate education.
- Lynch's definition of an adequate education costs around $2.5 billion dollars.

We are not limited to choosing between the lesser of two evils when it comes to public education. We need to tell the them that the choice between the income tax and the Lynch amendment is a false choice. The message should be that we are going to target aid for public education and we are going to pay for it without a broad-based tax. If the black-robed busybodies on the Supreme Court don’t like that, too bad. The targeted-aid money is going to be sent out anyway.

What you can do to help:
1. Email your senator and tell them that you do not support this constitutional amendment, that you do not want them to support this constitutional amendment, and that you will not vote for them in the November 2008 election if they do support any amendment that writes into law any part of the Claremont decision(s).

You can find out who your senator is here:

Or, you could just email them all. Their email addresses are:;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

2. Attend the senate hearing on CACR18 on Tuesday, April 3, 2007, Room 103, State House, 1:15 pm. We will meet in the cafeteria at 12:30.

3. Call your senator and reiterate that you do not support CACR18. You can find their phone number here:

4. If you are a Republican, contact the NHGOP Chair, Fergus Cullen, and tell him that the NHGOP needs to take a strong, vocal position against this amendment. His email address is and the NHGOP office number is 225-9341.

5. Write letters to the editor to your local newspaper explaining why a constitutional amendment is a bad idea. If you’re stuck on what to write, email me and let me know and I will send you some suggestions. I can also email you with a list of all of the email addresses for papers across the state – you don’t have to submit to just your local paper.

6. Contact Governor Lynch and tell him that you do not support this constitutional amendment and that you do not want him to support any amendment that writes into law any part of the Claremont decision(s). His office number is 271-2121.

7. Contact your senator again, and remind them that you do not support this constitutional amendment, that you do not want them to support this constitutional amendment, and that you will not vote for them in the November 2008 election if they do support any amendment that writes into law any part of the Claremont decision(s).

8. Become a NHAC supporter by visiting and adding your information to our list. We can't do this alone!

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thanks for your help.

Tammy Simmons
Executive Director

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Three articles as to why we should not pass CACR 18.

I sent the following to our Senators and Representatives regarding CACR 18.

My name is Catherine Peschke, I am a parent and I am asking you not to support CACR18. Research shows that adequacy lawsuits do not improve educational outcomes.

Court-Ordered Funding Increases Are No Remedy for Ailing Schools

Written By: Matt Warner
Published In: School Reform News
Publication Date: March 1, 2007
Publisher: The Heartland Institute

State courts have taken an increasingly active role in addressing the failures of America's public schools--a role education reformers say is not best for students.

In December, New York Supreme Court Justice Leland DeGrasse ordered the state legislature to increase education funding by $2 billion. According to a November 22, 2006 New York Times editorial, "the dollar figure was a disappointment to teachers who wanted more than twice that amount."

The plaintiff, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE), was likewise hoping for more money--closer to $6 billion. New York already spends almost $14,000 per student, making it the third-biggest spender nationwide. Education reformers cite that fact when explaining why court-mandated funding increases are the wrong approach to improving educational opportunities for K-12 students.

"One of the underlying problems with the New York legal battle is money may not be the answer to the achievement problems we face," said Andrew LeFevre, executive director of REACH Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Pennsylvania that promotes school choice reforms.

No Returns

LeFevre is the author of a report published last November by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the nation's largest nonpartisan group of state legislators, examining the effect of funding increases on student achievement. The 2006 Report Card on American Education concludes, "despite substantial increases in resources being spent on primary and secondary education over the past two decades--per-pupil expenditures have increased by 77.4 percent (after adjusting for inflation)--student performance has improved only slightly."

CFE says Americans need to shell out billions more than the nearly $500 billion currently spent, to reduce class sizes and raise teacher salaries. But classrooms nationwide have been shrinking over the past two decades. On average, today's classes are close to 11 percent smaller than they were in 1983, the year the Reagan administration issued its education report A Nation at Risk, calling for serious education reform.

Since then, every state has increased its education spending, with Georgia, Maine, and South Carolina topping the charts for largest increases. According to the 2006 Report Card's state academic achievement rankings, these three states were not in the top 10 for test scores.

Only Maine ranked in the top 20, at 18, while South Carolina and Georgia ranked 40 and 45, respectively. Of the 10 states that increased their spending the most, only two were ranked in the top 10 in academic achievement, and three ranked among the worst 10.

The December report from the Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, Tough Choices or Tough Times, also casts doubt on the usefulness of funding increases. The report calls for a major overhaul of the way public schools are managed and funded. It warns, "There is not enough money available at any level of our intergovernmental system to fix th[e] problem by spending more on the system we have. We can get where we must go only by changing the system itself."

Bypassing Lawmakers

The CFE lawsuit is the latest in a stream of adequacy suits--appeals for courts to step in to remedy schools' inadequate performance.

In "Courtroom Alchemy," a feature article in the winter 2007 issue of Education Next, authors James Guthrie and Matthew Springer write, "plaintiffs have filed more than 125 court cases questioning the constitutionality of school district and school spending levels. In 2005 alone, high court decisions were handed down in eight states."

Opponents of court-ordered funding increases also point out that tackling student achievement deficiencies is a public policy matter best reserved for state legislatures' deliberation.

In another article in the Winter 2007 issue of Education Next, Josh Dunn and Martha Derthick explain why this kind of judicial intervention ought to be left to legislative bodies: "Adequacy lawsuits have proved a serious threat to the right of citizens to have their taxes determined by elected officials who are in a position to weigh competing claims for public support and to judge the relative efficacy of spending for particular purposes."

Free Interpretation, Fuzzy Math

In addition to those concerns, judicial decisions depend too heavily on interpretation of vague and often brief state constitutional provisions, Dunn and Merthick note, citing DeGrasse's decision.

According to the authors, the judge "without apology explained that in education litigation courts 'are called on to give content to Education Clauses that are composed of terse generalities,' which in New York's case is 'The legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a system of free common schools, wherein all the children of this state may be educated.' From that clause, DeGrasse determined that the New York City schools were unconstitutional in everything from library expenditures to arts courses."

Adequacy lawsuits not only ask judges to take license with state constitutions, but once inadequacy is thought to be established, call on the court to determine how much money is necessary to achieve adequacy. For this, spending advocates have produced "costing out" studies that Guthrie and Springer say may represent more guesswork than reliable figures. The two most common approaches for conducting such studies often produce outcomes representing several billion dollars' worth of differences in recommended spending increases.

Matt Warner ( is executive director of the American Legislative Exchange Council's Education Task Force.

For more information ...

"A Nation at Risk," National Commission on Excellence in Education, April 1983,

The 2006 Report Card on American Education

Judging Money

When courts decide how to spend taxpayer dollars
Written By: Josh Dunn and Martha Derthick
Published In:
Publication Date: January 1, 2007
Publisher: Education Next

Since the 1970s, proponents of greater spending in disadvantaged school districts have pursued their goal through litigation in state courts. They have brought suits in 45 of the 50 states. These suits began with claims of equity,which sought to redistribute revenues from rich to poor districts.Disappointed with the results,within a decade the plaintiffs substituted “adequacy” for “equity”—and have had more success.
Often the victories for adequacy are only the beginning of prolonged and inconclusive struggles within the ruling courts and between the courts and legislatures or governors. But sometimes the outcomes are radical. In a pathbreaking suit in Kentucky, the state supreme court in 1989 found virtually everything about that state’s schools to be unconstitutional, and the legislature responded with major reforms.More recently, in March 2006, an appellate court in New York State ordered its elected officials to increase operating aid for New York City schools by between $4.7 and $5.63 billion a year and by $9.2 billion over five years for capital improvements. Adequacy lawsuits have proved a serious threat to the right of citizens to have their taxes determined by elected officials who are in a position to weigh competing claims for public support and to judge the relative efficacy of spending for particular purposes.

For More information go to

Spending Increases Don't Improve Student Achievement: Report

Written By: Lori Drummer
Published In: School Reform News
Publication Date: May 1, 2006
Publisher: The Heartland Institute

On February 23, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) released the 12th edition of its annual Report Card on American Education: A State-by-State Analysis, by Andrew T. LeFevre (who also contributes to School Reform News). The handbook assesses the academic achievement rates and public education investments of the 2003-04 school year and measures changes in these indicators over the past two decades.

Minnesota topped ALEC's academic achievement rankings, while the District of Columbia ranked 51st. To calculate the rankings, LeFevre included indicators from the 2003 assessments of the SAT, ACT, and fourth- and eighth-grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests in both reading and math.

The current Report Card varies from previous publications because, for the first time, the author compared educational inputs, such as education spending, teacher salaries, and pupil-teacher ratios, with educational outputs, such as standardized test scores and student achievement rankings, from the same year. The 2003-04 edition assesses both educational inputs and outputs from 2003, whereas the previous edition evaluated 2002 inputs and 2003 outputs.

Dollars Don't Yield Success

As has been the case with previous editions, this version of the Report Card found no evident correlation between improved student achievement and increasing education spending or lowering student-teacher ratios. While education expenditures ballooned by 78 percent after inflation adjustments over 20 years, 73 percent of public school eighth-graders performed below proficiency in math, and 70 percent scored below proficiency in reading, according to the NAEP exam.

"Education policy debates in state capitals around the nation must concentrate on student learning above all else, and state legislators have the power to promote real reform," said Georgia state Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), ALEC 2005 national chairman. "Parents are demanding solutions to these challenges and are looking to legislators to make changes to our public school system."

Only two of the 10 states that increased their per-pupil expenditures the most over the past two decades ranked in the top 10 in academic achievement: New Hampshire increased its per-pupil expenditure by 106.1 percent over the past 20 years and ranked third in academic achievement, while Vermont raised student spending by 100.2 percent and ranked fifth in student assessments.

By contrast, Georgia increased per-pupil expenditures by 139.7 percent--the largest percentage increase of any state over two decades--but ranks 45th in academic achievement. South Carolina increased expenditures by 137.1 percent and ranked 43rd, and the District of Columbia increased student spending by 105.4 percent and ranked 51st.

Reform Essential

Similarly, of the 10 states that experienced the greatest decreases in pupil-teacher ratios over the past two decades, only Vermont--which saw a decrease of 17.6 percent--ranked in the top 10 for student achievement. Tennessee (ranked 40th in overall student achievement) cut its pupil-teacher ratio by 22.6 percent; Hawaii (46th) cut it by 26 percent; Alabama (47th) by 22.7 percent; Louisiana (48th) by 21.5 percent; and New Mexico (49th) by 20.1 percent.

"If pumping more money into schools, providing higher teacher salaries, reducing pupil-per-teacher ratios, building more schools, and spending more federal dollars to bail out public schools have not led to student achievement in the past, how can they be expected to do so in the future?" LeFevre wrote. "Dogged perpetuation of failed policies wastes public dollars; worse, it delays further the implementation of valuable new approaches."

Within its more than 50 tables and figures, which display in various ways more than 100 measures of educational resources and achievement, the report also includes analyses of numerous factors affecting the public education system, including demographics, school choice, and charter school initiatives.

"ALEC has conducted this study for 12 years now, and for 12 years we've witnessed no categorical increase in student achievement," LeFevre said in an interview for this article. "It is high time that education policies focus on student achievement and not on a dollar sign."

Data Should Inform Policies

The data found in the Report Card are meant to provide in a single volume the most basic and customary measures of educational resources and achievement on a state-by-state basis. ALEC notes the publication is neither a policy manual nor an ideological document. Lawmakers and policy experts should use the compilation of educational data and historical perspectives on instructional spending and academic achievement rates as a point of reference for future policies.

"ALEC members agree that Americans demand a first-rate public school system, and we are dedicated to making high student achievement a reality," Ehrhart said. "We must challenge ourselves to question the established thinking about public education and focus our policies on those [approaches] that deliver results."

Lori Drummer ( is education task force director at the American Legislative Exchange Council.

For more information ...

An electronic copy of the Report Card on American Education: A State-by-State Analysis is available online at

If you must support CACR18 I will not be able to support you in the future. If you truly want to support our children, support school choice not special interests groups such as the teachers unions. These lawsuits were about greed not about the best interests of the children of New Hampshire and New Hampshire's future. Show the people of New Hampshire you care about our children and not special interests group please do not support CACR18.

Cathy Peschke

Croydon, NH


Monday, April 2, 2007

Robert Elwell: New Hampshire is being crushed by an 800-pound gorilla

The following piece appeared in the Union Leader.

Robert Elwell: New Hampshire is being crushed by an 800-pound gorilla

13 hours, 7 minutes ago

UNTIL NEW Hampshire and all its people come to grips with the real meaning of the "view tax," there will be no healing of the deep divide which so separates us and brings us into contention with each other, our government and even our own sense of right and wrong.

Our government contends that it needs more of our money to "run the government" and is willing to try just about anything to get it.

That same government has for too long tried to ignore the 800-pound gorilla with a bad attitude that peers over our shoulders at every budget meeting, every town meeting and just about any discussion where the cost of government is the topic.

And that is the cost of education in New Hampshire, which, I hope all taxpayers know, is where most of our tax money goes. I attended the White Mountain Regional School District budget session and was reminded of a couple of things that had kind of stood out in my mind.

The first and the most scary to me, was when one gentleman explained that the school committee is under no obligation to spend moneys on the reasons for which those funds were requested in the first place.

So the school committee can go before the voters and say things such as: "The schools are old, such and such a school was built way back in 1943 and is a fire trap and needs to be replaced, and all the other schools are in need of major repairs, and we need an additional $35 million to fix all those things." And when the voters respond out of concern for the children, much of the money gets spent on other things not mentioned in the submitted budget.

I think most will agree, as was my school experience, that the most precious, most appreciated moments were spent in the presence and under the guidance of that one special teacher who could light the lamp of learning and open minds to the wonders of the world of knowledge in ways that made me want more of the truth, the truth of what makes the world and its people good or bad, noble or small and petty.

I have come to believe that one special teacher whether in the classroom, on the job or as a good friend is what needs to be most cherished for us to become what we were intended to be.

I also can't help but wonder how much of what gets spent for education is directed toward rewarding those teachers who truly love their calling and live just to see that spark of learning kindled and burn brightly in those under their care, and how much gets spent on those who spend no time in the classroom, or even how much is wasted on those who have no business being entrusted with the care of young minds. Even in the dark ages of my education, there seemed to be too many who just put in their time with little or no regard for the uniqueness of their calling.

As I looked over this year's proposed budget, I noticed that out of a total budget of $19 million, over $6 million was for administrative costs. Almost one third of the budget was for administrative costs.

Over in Maine, where they have some of the same problems as here in New Hampshire, the governor had proposed doing away with a whopping 85 percent of school administration across the state.

That seems to ask the question, is the administration of each of our separate school districts in New Hampshire identical enough that this state could, if the Legislature had the courage to do so, create an instant 25 percent savings for New Hampshire property-owning taxpayers?

Even the suggestion of such a measure would be sure to send our courageous legislators, who wish to be called "honorable," diving under their desks to get away from the wrath of that 800-pound gorilla with the bad attitude.

For too many years the Legislature has been more interested in working on such weighty issues as whether or not the pumpkin should be named the state fruit.

Honorable? A person who was considering running for the Legislature made the mistake of asking a sitting legislator, "What would be expected of me if I run and get elected?" The questioner was told, "For the first year, you sit there, keep your mouth shut, and don't even think about speaking to the whole body, and we will tell you when to speak, and what to say"!


Can that be the way it has always been in Concord?

If so, then to me "Live free or die" has been a sham, a bad joke on all of us.

But I don't believe those men from so long ago were joking. I believe that for the most part they had the courage and foresight to not only say but to do the right thing for future generations hundreds of years to come.

I believe many of them were noble people who did the right thing because that's what people do when they care whether they are doing what they should -- to make the world better for all, and not just their friends.

To me that's what "honorable" is all about.

We have, just by trusting people who don't deserve trust, allowed our own government to become the girlfriend of the 800-pound gorilla with the bad attitude.

As long as we refuse to face up to this -- all we will get is more gorillas with bad attitudes -- and they will get all of our money.

"Live free or die!"

Robert Elwell lives in Lancaster.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Winds of change blow briskly - GOP says Democrats going too far, too fast

Did you know the first modern, nationwide tobacco ban was imposed by the Nazi Party in every German university, post office, military hospital and Nazi Party office, under the authority of Dr Karl Astel's Institute for Tobacco Hazards Research, created in 1941 under direct orders from Hitler?

The following piece appeared in the Concord Monitor.

This week, the Democratic-led House will likely vote to establish civil unions for same-sex couples, increase the minimum wage and end New Hampshire's status as the last state in the country where adults don't have to wear seat belts.
Last week, the House passed a resolution calling on the president and Congress to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq, mandated that children in boats wear life jackets and came close to repealing the death penalty and legalizing medical marijuana. Earlier this year, the House voted to ban releasing helium balloons into the sky, punishable by a $250 fine.

To many Republicans, these votes are tantamount to the apocalypse.

GOP lawmakers, struggling with their new role in the minority, warn that the House has rapidly liberalized on issues big and small. They say Democratic lawmakers are misinterpreting the desires of voters by advancing social change or imposing new government regulations.

Democrats say they have been elected to bring a fresh perspective to issues that have come up repeatedly in the past and failed, such as the minimum wage and the proposed ban on smoking in restaurants and bars. They also say that the Republican argument is built from a few votes among hundreds of bills considered so far, most of which have been dealt with in bipartisan fashion.

The House has rejected a number of proposed regulations, such as a tax on candy and a ban on cell phone use while driving, and kept others in committee - meaning they won't come to the floor until next year - such as a speed limit for boaters. And though Republicans on the campaign trail often equate Democrats with the income tax, the House is likely to reject an income-tax proposal by a wide margin when it comes to the floor this week.
"I would not say we're moving too fast," said House Majority Leader Mary Jane Wallner, a Concord Democrat.

Many Republicans strongly disagree. Democrats are "moving too fast to change the face of New Hampshire," said Rep. Lee Quandt, a fourth-term Exeter Republican, objecting to what he called a raft of "liberal-Democrat crazy bills" that are making the Legislature "an extension of the State Hospital, not the State House."

Watching from the Senate side, longtime Republican lawmaker Bob Clegg warned that New Hampshire's identity is "absolutely at risk." The Senate - with 24 members to the House's 400 - typically moves more cautiously than its legislative counterpart, and fewer bills start out in that body - especially those that go above and beyond general campaign themes.

But even some of the action taken by the Senate so far - to pass the smoking ban and to require health insurers to extend coverage to dependent children through age 25 - strikes Clegg, a Hudson Republican, as anathema to his vision of New Hampshire.

"We're a fiercely independent Yankee-type group of people up here. Now we've become sheeple," said Clegg, fusing the words "people" and "sheep." "It's the government taking away your freedom - your freedom to choose what's right for you."

Sen. Joe Foster, a Nashua Democrat, said not all of the measures passed in the House would survive in the Senate, just as the House may reject some bills passed by the Senate. But he dismissed the idea that New Hampshire must never create new regulations.

"I've heard a lot (from Republicans claiming) the state is no longer a 'Live Free or Die' state," he said. "If that means we are regulating smoking in restaurants, well then I guess that may be so."

Like Clegg, state Republican Party Chairman Fergus Cullen believes the new Democratic majority in the Legislature - where Democrats control the House and Senate simultaneously for the first time since the 19th century - was largely a byproduct of an election in which voters wanted to send an anti-President Bush, anti-Republican message at the federal level.

Democratic legislative candidates also benefited considerably from Democratic Gov. John Lynch's 74 percent-26 percent re-election at the top of the ticket over the lesser known Jim Coburn, who had served one term as a state representative. Lynch is widely viewed as a political moderate.

"I think that the Democrats are over-reading their mandate from last fall, and I think that they are close to going too far too fast on a lot of bills that people didn't have in mind when they voted for the Democrats last November," Cullen said. "The Democrats are very close to overplaying their hand on a lot of these bills, the 'nanny state' bills in particular."

In an interview with the Monitor last week, Lynch said he had thus far largely refrained from weighing in with lawmakers on issues beyond the agenda he set forth on the campaign trail, which included resolving the education-funding issue, raising the high school graduation rate and increasing the minimum wage.

But even if he hasn't taken a position on other legislative matters, he thinks the issues before the Legislature are not surprising. This year's debate is a continuation of discussions from past sessions, he said.

"Many of these issues that are brought up now have also been brought up in the past. They're not new with this session, they (just) have more support in this session," Lynch said, adding, "I think that's what this session should be for - debating these issues."

Cullen claims Democrats are moving too fast with the civil unions bill, on which Lynch has not taken a position. "This is a huge issue that got basically no public discussion in the campaign last year," he said. "New Hampshire has not been known as a lab rat for social policy. There are only three states that have civil unions."

Earlier this year, Democratic Sen. Peter Burling told the Monitor he was a "little startled" by the same-sex marriage and partnership bills proposed in the House, which he said deserve "quieter waters, a calm spell, so that we can really deliberate and think about it and try to do good work." Burling was concerned it wouldn't be possible in a year in which Democrats are learning to operate as a majority while trying to pass a responsible budget and achieve a Supreme Court-ordered definition of an adequate education, among other tasks.

"I don't think it was wrong to say that at the time," Burling said last week, adding that he thinks civil unions will pass the House and Senate. A 15-5 majority on the House Judiciary Committee endorsed civil unions while recommending the Legislature study full marriage for same-sex couples, instead of passing marriage this year. Burling and other lawmakers increasingly see civil unions as a moderate, bipartisan position that will extend legal rights to same-sex couples. "People find (the absence of those rights) a basic violation of New Hampshire's sense of fairness," he said.

As for the election "mandate," Burling said Democrats in the Legislature partly owe their majority status to the Iraq war and the president's "fascination with bad policy." But voters at the state level were also "fed up with Republican just-say-no policies," he said.

Wallner agreed. "I even think at that (state-legislative) level people were looking for change," she said. "I think they were kind of tired of always the naysayers and making New Hampshire always different. I mean, we're different because we don't wear seat belts? Well, that's not the reason we want to be different. . . . That's not something to be proud of."

The debate about the meaning of the 2006 election will likely continue until voters go to the polls next year. After the House voted in favor of the war-withdrawal resolution last week, Rep. Al Baldasaro, a Londonderry Republican, said the House was advancing a "far left" agenda that would not be condoned by a "silent majority" that he believes will restore Republicans to power in 2008.

"The people that didn't come out and vote will vote these people out when they start seeing the gay marriage, when they start seeing the civil union, the parental notification (for abortion) being taken away," Baldasaro said.

Rep. Mike Brunelle, a freshman Democrat, said the claims of a silent majority are spurious.

"You can't just say because we are making demonstrative and very progressive change in the state of New Hampshire that we don't have a mandate to do so," he said. "The fact is, the people of New Hampshire voted overwhelmingly to replace the leadership."

Brunelle, who serves as executive director of the Manchester City Democrats, worked during the election to expand his city's Democratic House delegation, which grew from 17 to 29 seats, out of 35. He agreed that Democrats spoke about broad themes on the trail - such as improving education, expanding health care access and protecting the environment - more than specific bills. But that's no different, he said, from the years in which Republicans campaigned generally about low taxes or limited government and then passed the parental-notification law.

"If I was knocking on a door when I was canvassing and running for state representative and I tried to talk to a voter about 1,300 issues, they would tell me to go home long before I got through 10 of them," Brunelle said.

He said voters wanted a "new and fresh perspective," and Democrats are delivering.

Unlike some rank-and-file party members, House Republican Leader Mike Whalley said he won't be "one of the people that sits there and screams that the sky is falling." For now, he's focused on leading the Republicans as the "conscience of the majority" and trying to prevent "bad things from happening." He said he'll evaluate the legislative year only after it ends, when the House, Senate and governor have all weighed in.

"We don't know what the results are going to be," he said. "But I'm not pleased with what we've done so far. Most Republicans are not pleased with what we've done so far."

Like many Republicans, Whalley remembers Lynch's inaugural address, when the governor noted the "historic change" in the Legislature but seemed to caution against a shakeup. "Our duty to the people has not changed," Lynch said. "Our duty is not to seek Democratic solutions nor Republican solutions. Rather, we must seek New Hampshire solutions."

So far, "that's not happening," Whalley said. What is happening, he said, is that New Hampshire is becoming more like its liberal New England neighbors - above and beyond the will of the voters.

"I don't think the voters went to bed Nov. 6 and said, 'Let's all vote tomorrow so we change this state and it's not at all like it was when we went to bed,'" he said. "Sadly, I think that's what's happening."

Brunelle disagreed. "We are voting our conscience and voting responsibly, and I think the people will appreciate that," he said. "We understand what the people of New Hampshire want."


Quote of the day.

"I don't think the voters went to bed Nov. 6 and said, 'Let's all vote tomorrow so we change this state and it's not at all like it was when we went to bed.'" "Sadly, I think that's what's happening." Mike Whalley