Down in Concord

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.
— Groucho Marx

The House has passed 82 bills and has killed 89. There are about 380 House bills left to consider. March 14 is the last day for the House to act on most bills. Some bills, mostly those that have a fiscal impact, go to a second committee. Those bills have a deadline of March 28. The monster budget bills have a deadline of April 7.

In my last column, I mentioned that it is rare for the House to overturn a committee recommendation. Perhaps that statement jinxed the proceedings because, lo and behold, the House did it again, twice.
HB 325, relative to public employee suggestions for cost-saving measures, would reward state employees with a cash bonus for any cost-saving suggestions they make. The committee recommended Inexpedient to Legislate (ITL) on a split decision. The House vote was a very rare tie vote with the Speaker voting to create the tie. Since a tie vote is not enough for a motion to succeed, there was then a motion to pass the bill, which then passed by a 199-162 vote.
HB 388, provides civil immunity to the owner of a firearm in the event the firearm is stolen and used in the commission of a felony or a misdemeanor. The committee recommended ITL by 12-6 but the House defeated that motion by 167-192, then passed the bill by 211-151.

As I forecast last time, the House killed on a voice vote, HB 330, which would have allowed counties to adopt an income tax. It voted by 201-135 for an increase in the tobacco tax, voted 192-161 against slowly reducing the business enterprise tax, and repealed the education tax credit program by 188-151.

In an earlier column I wrote against HB 148, which proposed to change the way New Hampshire casts its votes for President. Our electoral votes would have been awarded to the winner of the national popular vote, even if New Hampshire voters went overwhelmingly for the other candidate. The House Election Law committee has recommended to kill that awful bill and I trust the full House will go along next Wednesday.

In last week’s column I wrote about four bills with public hearings on 2/19 or 2/21. HB 617, raising the gas tax, not only had a hearing it had a committee recommendation. Sadly, but not terribly surprising, the committee recommended to increase the gas tax – by a whopping 83%! The House will vote on 2/27 so there is time for you to contact your representatives and oppose this tax increase. They likely will respond that our roads and bridges badly need maintenance, but that answer is a non sequitur. It is not necessary to increase taxes; what is needed is to set priorities to use our existing taxes for road maintenance. The new taxes – amounting to $1 billion over the next decade – allow them to spend more money on other programs.

Four gun bills had lengthy – almost all day – hearings in Reps’ Hall. I estimate 80-100 people showed up, overwhelmingly on the side of law-abiding citizens having the right to bear arms in defense of self, family, and community. I spoke in favor of HB 451 and HB 609, and against HB 290 and HB 396. All four bills are scheduled for committee Executive Sessions on 2/28. My guess is that the two bad bills will be recommended ITL unanimously, and the two good bills will be ITL’d on party line votes.

The week of February 26-29, there will be another 26 public hearings, and the House will vote on 103 more bills. Here are some of the more interesting bills to be heard:

HB 544, repealing the prohibition on a state health exchange (part of Obamacare). Almost weekly there is more evidence that we were wise last year to prohibit a health exchange. Obamacare will cost much more than originally promised, it raises taxes on almost everybody (not just the “rich”), and it is costing jobs. Instead of lowering the costs of health care, it is increasing those costs. We should avoid every possible connection with it. But Democrats all too often judge a program by its intentions, not by its results. Obamacare “intends” to reduce health care costs so therefore they think it actually does. HB 544 is a step toward entrapment in the tentacles of the Obamacare monster. It should be defeated but the Democrats are calling for full steam ahead toward government-run health care.

HB 606, relative to community rating, actually would reduce health insurance costs so naturally the Democrats will oppose it. “Community rating” was then-Governor Shaheen’s plan to reform health insurance. It quickly (and predictably) led to the departure of most insurance companies and some of the highest health insurance rates in the country. HB 606 would reverse that bad decision and eventually bring more competition and lower costs back to the New Hampshire insurance market.

We still don’t know much more about Governor Hassan’s proposed budget because she has not delivered her draft of HB 2, which is an essential part of the budget process. By law it was due on February 15.

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Obamacare costs jobs

It’s not just medical device firms that are cutting jobs due to Obamacare. Many small businesses are cutting employees’ hours to less than 30 hours per week, and some states are doing the same.

Obamacare requires businesses with over 50 full-time employees to provide health insurance or to pay a fine. To avoid these costs, many businesses are turning full-time employees back to part-time. A Wendy’s franchisee is cutting 100 employees to 28 hours per week. A Taco Bell and Papa John’s are also limiting workers to 28 hours.

It’s not just small businesses. Governments and universities are cutting back on some employees’ hours. The State of Virginia in an attempt to save $110 million is limiting the hours of thousands of part-time employees.

Ohio’s Youngstown State University is limiting adjunct professors’ hours. The Community College of Allegheny County is cutting 400 employees down to 28 hours in a move to save $6 million. Stark State College, in Ohio is similarly cutting adjuncts to 29 hours.

Too many politicians fail to understand that the law of Unintended Consequences cannot be repealed.

UPDATE: The Obamacare mandates are already reducing full-time employment. The insurance mandate is so onerous for small firms that “Many stores will have to cut worker hours out of necessity. It could be the difference between staying in business or going out of business.”

Obamacare: Nothing to Brag About

Cato notes that in his State of the Union show, Obama barely mentioned Obamacare. Perhaps that is because even Obama realizes that it is an unpopular failure.

Higher insurance premiums:

  • Health insurers are seeking and winning double-digit premium hikes – 20% and more.
  • Young people are especially likely to face higher premiums – an average of 160%.
  • 20- to 29-year-olds on the individual market not eligible for subsidies will see their premiums increase 42 percent.
  • The IRS recently estimated that in 2016, for a family of five, a policy available through the exchange would cost roughly $20,000.

30 million Americans will still be uninsured.

7 million Americans can expect to lose their current insurance.

26 states have refused to set up exchanges.

Here’s why legislators need guns

Mr. Baird asks, “Why do legislators need guns in the State House?” (Feb. 8-21 NHBR) He might just as well ask why does anyone need a gun in a church, a shopping mall, a restaurant, a movie theater, or a school. Mass shootings or would-be shootings have occurred in each of those places.

Why would anyone need a gun in a church? In December 2007, a criminal entered the New Life Church in Colorado Springs with a rifle, two pistols and 1,000 rounds of ammo. He killed two people and clearly could have killed hundreds more. He was stopped by a woman carrying a concealed weapon. In April, 2012, in another Colorado church, a felon killed one person before being killed by a church-goer carrying a gun.

Why would anyone need a gun in a shopping mall? In a Clackamas, Ore., shopping mall, December 2012, a criminal killed two before killing himself. A shopper carrying a concealed weapon may have ended the shooting spree by aiming his own gun at the killer and making eye contact. The only shot fired after that was the killer shooting himself.

Why would anyone need a gun in a restaurant? In Texas, a man crashed his pickup truck into a Luby’s restaurant, then started shooting, killing 23 people and injuring another 20. One of the patrons was Suzanna Hupp, who testified that she normally carried a gun in her purse and could have herself shot the killer before he shot dozens more, including Hupp’s parents — but she had left her gun in her car because the restaurant had a “no guns” policy.

Laws, or rules, or “no guns allowed” signs do not stop killers. Almost every mass shooting in the past 40 years has occurred in a so-called gun-free zone. Killers prefer such areas because they know it is unlikely they will face any armed defenders.

Some legislators know these facts. They prefer to trust their own abilities to defend themselves, their families and their community, rather than trust a rule or a sign to protect them. They carry not because it makes them feel “macho” but because they feel a duty to protect themselves and others from the evildoers that can be anywhere — in a church, a shopping mall, a theater, a school, or in a legislative chamber.

A concealed weapon in the hands of a good person is not the slightest danger to innocent people, but could save dozens of lives in the improbable but all too possible event of a criminal opening fire against unarmed legislators or visitors.

(Published February 22 at http://www.nhbr.com/businessnews/opinion/994599-290/heres-why-legislators-need-guns.html#sthash.dVfUa21G.dpuf

also at http://www.nhbr.com/February-22-2013/Heres-why-legislators-need-guns/)

Obamacare raises taxes, costs jobs

“If you were looking for a textbook example of a blundering government enacting a law that raises health care costs, destroys jobs, curtails innovation and hurts patient care – you’d come up with the medical device tax,” said U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, of [Pennsylvania’s] 15th congressional district.

Are life-saving medical devices some sort of evil that warrants their own tax? Obamacare treats them that way. It imposes a 2.3% tax on revenues – not profits – of companies that make medical devices.

Already medical device firms across the country have begun laying off thousands of workers in anticipation of the added cost of the tax.

Millennials: the most stressed-out generation in America

According to the American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America survey, “Millenials,”  those aged 18-33, are the most stressed-out generation in the country. One factor just might be that half of young college graduates are either jobless or underemployed in positions that don’t fully use their skills and knowledge.

Isn’t that the same age group that voted overwhelmingly for Obama? Perhaps if they had taken the time to learn that Obama has produced the worst recovery of all 10 Presidents in the last 60 years, then maybe they would have voted differently, we would now have a better economy and they would be less stressed.

Reusable shopping bags spread disease

San Francisco, among other places, has placed a ban on plastic grocery bags for flimsy environmental reasons. Well, now it turns out that the substitute, reusable cloth bags, help spread disease. It has been known for some time that these cloth bags can spread norovirus. A recent study indicates that reusable bags are associated with e. coli, salmonella, and other bacterial infections.

It is estimated that the San Francisco ban results in 5 deaths each year. Allowing people to use plastic bags would save lives. If it would save just one life, isn’t it worth it?