NH Governor Vetoes Voter ID Bill

NH Governor John Lynch has vetoed a bill that would force voters to show photo ID at the polls, before being allowed to cast their vote. From Reuters:

“An eligible voter who goes to the polls to vote on Election Day should be able to have his or her vote count on Election Day,” said Lynch, a Democrat, in his veto message.

“SB 129 creates a real risk that New Hampshire voters will be denied their right to vote,” he said, adding the state has consistently high voter turnout, no voter fraud problem and strong election laws already in place.

One of the bill’s sponsors, state Senator Jack Barnes had this to say:

“I feel that there are people up here (in New Hampshire) voting that don’t belong up here,” said Barnes, adding that his phone rang “off the hook” with constituent support for the measure.

Therein lies the problem. Senator Barnes may “feel” that there are people voting in NH who shouldn’t be, but his feelings aren’t facts. The last documented case of voter fraud in NH involved a teenage boy using his father’s ID to vote Republican. Despite the myth of “busloads of people coming to vote in NH elections,” there are no photos of these buses. There are no videos of these voters. There are no complaints to the Secretary of State.

The photo identification must be issued by the United States or by New Hampshire or be a valid state driver’s license, according to the bill.
Voters could get a voucher to cover the $10 cost of a non-drivers identification under the legislation.

No word on who will be paying for these ID vouchers. For some people who live in rural counties, a visit to the DMV for a non-driver ID would mean taking a day off from work, because of the distance.

Voters who did not have proper ID, could cast a provisional ballot, and come back to a government official within 2.5 days to show photo ID. Of course by then, the votes will have been counted and the election decided, so that provisional vote is meaningless.

A rather pointed editorial about what’s behind this legislation, from the Nashua Telegraph:

We should be wary of enacting any law that makes it more difficult for some people to exercise their right to vote. And until we have some actual proof that voter fraud exists at any measurable level in New Hampshire, let’s call this bill what it is: a solution that is far worse than the problem.

and

Either way, we can’t help but wonder: Are some legislators using baseless allegations of fraud to make voting difficult enough that some people won’t even try?

It seems clear that the bill is aimed at disenfranchising low income, student, and elderly voters. NH learned earlier this year what Speaker O’Brien thinks about college students voting.

New Hampshire’s new Republican state House speaker is pretty clear about what he thinks of college kids and how they vote. They’re “foolish,” Speaker William O’Brien said in a recent speech to a tea party group.

‘Foolish’ college kids ‘just vote their feelings,’ New Hampshire speaker says, “Voting as a liberal. That’s what kids do,” he added, his comments taped by a state Democratic Party staffer and posted on YouTube. Students lack “life experience,” and “they just vote their feelings.”

Governor Lynch’s entire statement on the veto makes the case:

Seniors, students, those who are disabled or do not drive, and those who do not already have a state-issued or federal-issued photo ID, may not be able to arrange to obtain a valid photo ID within the tight 2 ½ day timeframe. Many town offices are closed or have only limited hours on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, when those voters who received a provisional ballot would be expected to return to produce a photo ID and have their vote counted. Voters in areas of the state where DMV offices have been consolidated will also be disadvantaged. Traveling to Concord or Manchester is not an option for everyone. These circumstances will present real hardships, especially for our seniors and disabled voters.

The New Hampshire City and Town Clerks Association, AARP, the League of Women Voters, and the Secretary of State have all opposed provisions of this bill. The bill’s provisions for the length of time to produce a valid photo ID after an election and the types of photo IDs allowed are among the most restrictive voter identification provisions in the nation despite any evidence that current law is insufficient protection against voter fraud.

The NH legislature is solving a non-existant problem, in order to ensure fewer voters participate in our elections. The pressure to override the veto is high, but it may not be enough. A number of legislators are quite aware that this will cost their municipalities plenty, and further reduce their chances of reelection.

Pigs at the Trough

Anti-union NH legislators load up their plates at an invitation only BBQ, sponsored by NH unions to thank the legislators who opposed the right to work bill. These freeloaders don’t hesitate to chow down on food bought and cooked by “union thugs.”

Recall Kasich?

Nineteen states allow the recall of elected officials, and Ohio isn’t one of them. But the disastrous reign of Governor John Kasich has prompted some lawmakers to try and change that.

Reps. Mike Foley and Bob Hagan, both Democrats, plan to introduce legislation this week to allow the recall of elected officials in Ohio, and they aren’t coy about why:

“He’s dividing the state,” Hagan said. “He’s hurting the people in this state and we think that this legislation that will be offered will go to the heart of those constituents and voters who have grown disenchanted with this governor.”

“We’re not going to dance around this,” Hagan told reporters at a news conference. “This is in fact about what the governor has done, what the Republicans are doing with one-party rule.”

A spokesman for Governor Kasich called the proposal “gutter politics” and “borderline absurd.” That made me want to make a quick list of other things that are “gutter politics” and “borderline absurd”:

  • Governor Kasich tried to sabotage the repeal of Senate Bill 5 by messing with the ballot questions, an attempt that was rebuffed by his own Secretary of State. (Gutter politics.)
  • Kasich has used “jobs” and “job creation” as his justification for everything from absurd tax cuts for corporations to Senate Bill 5 itself. Yet, in the last three months under his watch, Ohio has lost 18,000 jobs. (Borderline absurd.)
  • In numerous public statements, Kasich has expressed his contempt for public workers. Most notably, he called a police officer who gave him a ticket an “idiot” several times. He followed up with Senate Bill 5, which strips the right to bargain collectively from 350,000 workers, including that police officer he didn’t like so much (Gutter politics and borderline absurd).

In any event, the recall proposal doesn’t have much of a prayer in the GOP-controlled state legislature. There is another option: Ohioans could write the power of recall into the state Constitution by collecting 400,000 signatures from registered voters. With over 714,000 signatures gathered to repeal Kasich’s signature union-busting measure, that might not be much of a stretch.

Welcome to the 2011 Bad Boss Contest

Have you ever worked for an idiot? How about a creep? What about a malicious, power-tripping jerk, someone who would steal your bag lunch or make you work on Saturday just for kicks?

We’ve all had horrible, terrible, no-good bosses. That’s why Working America launched the Bad Boss Contest. We want to hear your story – whether it’s funny, ridiculous, or heart-wrenching, tell us about the worst boss you’ve ever had.

It’s a chance to expose the shenanigans and harmful policies that bosses are getting away with in the American workplace. We encourage everyone to check out the stories, vote for your favorites, and share them with your friends on Facebook.

It’s also a chance to win some incredible prizes.

Each of our three grand prize winners will get a seven-night free stay at a condo of your choice in one of many fabulous locations. They’ll also get $1,000 for airfare and other travel expenses. All prizes are courtesy of UnionPlus.

You can win three different ways:

•  People’s Choice Grand Prize Winner: Anyone can vote on the Bad Boss stories, and the story that gets the most votes wins one of our grand prizes.

•  Staff Pick Grand Prize Winner: The Working America staff will pick one standout story as a grand prize winner.

Most Shared Online Story Grand Prize Winner: The story that is shared most often using the Bad Boss website Facebook sharing tool wins the final grand prize.

So what are you waiting for? You can’t talk back to your bad boss and tell them how you feel, but this is the next best thing.

You know you have a story. Get started now.

(Even if you don’t have a story, vote for your favorites and share the best stories on Facebook.)

Local cuts are hurting the recovery

In 2010, an intense focus on jobs made the campaigns of Republicans like Ohio Governor John Kasich successful. Once in power, their ideological policies like cuts to local government are actually hurting the overall recovery they promised to help.

I use Kasich as an example not only because his contempt for workers is so transparent. I use him because under Kasich’s textbook conservative agenda of slashing state and local government and forking over cash to the super-rich, Ohio has lost 18,000 jobs in the past three months.

Over the course of three months this year – March [22], April [87] and May [63] – Ohio experienced a combined total of 172 mass layoffs, resulting in the loss of 8,600 jobs. Over the same three months, initial claimants for unemployment insurance [not seasonally adjusted] show a grand total of 18,143, now under the leadership of new Republican Gov. John Kasich.

What Kasich and his fellow ideologues don’t seem to get is that private and public sector workers are not different species. It doesn’t matter if someone is a public school teacher or a stockbroker: when that person loses their job, they can’t buy as much, and the whole economy suffers.

In other words, in the real world, the result of firing teachers, firefighters, and sanitation workers is fewer customers for groceries, cars, property, and all those other struggling businesses. Then those private businesses are less likely to hire. This is obvious to any kindergartner with a calculator, but the concept escapes the Ohio GOP.

Ohio isn’t alone. As Daniel Indiviglio at The Atlantic wrote, the recovery would be way more robust if state and local cuts hadn’t occurred – even if those budgets had simply stayed at 2009 levels. We could be seeing 326,000 more Americans working and $8.8 billion added to our GDP.

Despite the numbers, Kasich insists “We’re open for business…We’re winning in Ohio.” If he’s talking about the economy, he is incorrect. If he’s talking about the ideological test that Fox and the Koch Brothers have set out for him, then he’s on the money. But it’s no solace to the thousands that would be working if he was marching to a different tune.

Gov. Walker scheduled budget signing at business of tax evader

Governor Scott Walker originally planned to sign his horrible, no good budget at a closed event Badger Sheet Metal Works in Aushwaubenon, Wisconsin this Sunday. That was until several news sources uncovered that the company’s owner, Greg De Caster, served two years in prison for felony charges of tax evasion.

Remember, everything Gov. Walker has done, from stripping collective bargaining rights from public workers to raising taxes on lower income Wisconsinites, has been justified with his constant refrain that the state is “broke.” While Walker and his conservative ilk tend to ignore the shortfalls on the revenue side of things, certainly tax evasion doesn’t help balance the budget.

De Caster didn’t only try to get out of paying his fair share – his rap sheet has some other highlights:

Mr. De Caster and Badger Sheet Metal Works were more recently defendants in a business dispute with an Arizona company where De Caster was charged with identity theft, breach of contract, and wrongful distribution, among other charges (LONGMARK INDUSTRIES, LLC, versus Badger Sheet Metal Works of Green Bay, et al.No. 07-C-1006 WCG. January 7, 2008.) The case was settled in June of 2009.

Walker previously held a campaign event at Badger Sheet Metal works in 2010. As of this writing, Scott Walker has canceled the signing event.

That’s one part of the story. The other part is the swift work of a collection of labor journalists, bloggers, and average citizens who broke the story, spread it far and wide, and ultimately were able to pressure the governor to move his event – all within a few hours. By their own admission, Walker’s staffers were only aware of the problem when a reporter from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel contacted them just before noon; by that time, the story was widespread on blogs and Twitter feeds everywhere.

Make no mistake: Gov. Walker is still going to sign a budget that will hurt working families in Wisconsin and put the state on a bad path. But this small incident shows that people – combined with tenacious research and the connective power of the Internet – can put bad politicians on notice.

At a time where it feels like anti-worker governors are getting away with everything, it’s important to remember the power we have in our numbers, our tools, and our passion.

Privatizing and/or Arresting Charity

Senator Bernie Sanders, chair of a Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, held a hearing this week on senior hunger. One would think that in a country like the US, our senators would be deeply concerned about hungry senior citizens. One would be wrong. From The Nation/Notion:

Kathy Greenlee, the Assistant Secretary for the Administration on Aging, began by assessing the problem. Of the millions of hungry senior citizens assisted by the federal government, 24 percent simply do not have enough money or food stamps to purchase enough food. Beyond poverty, millions of other seniors have trouble getting meals because they are either functionally impaired or live alone. Seniors in rural areas, far from grocery stores and perhaps family members, are particularly vulnerable. For around 60 percent of the seniors assisted by the government, the meals they are provided make up half or more of their daily food intake.

and

“From a moral perspective, it is clear to me that in this great nation, no one should go hungry, especially those that are old and frail and unable to take care of themselves,” Sanders said.

Thanks Senator. But there’s more:

Mary Jane Koren, a geriatrician and vice-president of the Commonwealth Fund, noted that seniors often suffer health problems and are put in nursing homes after falling down. Poor nutrition leads to decreased muscle strength, meaning a higher chance of falling—and weaker seniors are more likely to be gravely injured in such a fall. Koren noted that by 2020, the annual cost of medical care for seniors who fall is expected to reach $54.9 billion—many magnitudes more than the approximately $2 billion per year the federal government spends on nutrition assistance for senior citizens.

Senator Paul, however, explicitly rejected this logic. “It’s curious that only in Washington can you spend $2 billion and claim that you’re saving money,” he said. “The idea or notion that spending money in Washington somehow is saving money really flies past most of the taxpayers.” Instead, Paul touted the “nobility of private charity” as opposed to government-funded “transfer programs.” He suggested privatizing Meals on Wheels and other government assistance for hungry seniors.

So, poor nutrition for seniors can lead to falls and broken bones which mean increased medical costs. That makes sense to me, and I expect to most of us. It does not make sense to Senator Rand Paul, who believes we should let the seniors eat charity. A privatized Meals on Wheels program will be in it for a profit, which means they’ll be charging for their service, which defeats the entire purpose.

Charities are already stretched to their limits and beyond by the demand created by this economy. Non-profits, churches, and other charities aren’t getting the kind of donations they need to deal with the demands, because people don’t have the money to donate because of the economy. It’s a neat little circle that is easy to understand, unless you’re living in some Dickensian fantasy land. Just don’t ask him for a refill of your bowl of gruel.

On the topic of hunger, the group known as Food Not Bombs has been in the news lately, because members of their group have been arrested on several occasions for feeding homeless and hungry people at Lake Eola Park in Orlando, FL. The city has a homeless feeding area: a cage under a bridge, that they would prefer the folks of Food Not Bombs use as a location. Nothing says dignity like eating in a cage under a bridge. The city of Orlando would prefer not to afflict the comfortable residents with the sight of homeless and hungry folks eating in the sunlight.

Food Not Bombs has been engaging in peaceful food activism, by feeding vegan meals to the hungry, and handing out literature on the costs of militarism and war, for over 30 years.

Keith McHenry, one of the founders of Food Not Bombs has an essay at the Tikkun Daily website:

The Mayor of Orlando is telling the media that all is under control. Everyone in Orlando has food and Food Not Bombs can move to the feeding cage if we “really want to feed the homeless.” While many of those eating with us are not homeless, they make a mockery of their own arrest warrants which accuse our volunteers of sharing meals with over 24 people. Many of the people that come to Food Not Bombs have jobs but need a free meal so they have enough to pay for their housing. Second Harvest in Orlando reported that over 55,000 people required food through their central Florida program. They also reported that 20.7% of the pantries, 10.1% of the kitchens and 33.0% of the shelters responded that they turned away clients during the past year. Their website also shows that 49% of the Central Florida Second Harvest clients had to choose between paying for food and paying for their rent or mortgage. The Orlando Regional Realtor Association announced that housing sales for May 2011 were 14.99 percent below May 2010. Housing foreclosures are also on the increase. The people eating with Food Not Bombs eat with us because they need food. Many must choose between food or housing. Mayor Buddy Dyer and other officials must come to terms with the fact that we are in a crisis and hiding the problem of hunger is not a solution.

A recent CNN poll reported that nearly half of all Americans they questioned believed the country will collapse into an economic depression within the next twelve months. For many the depression is already here. Nearly 1 billion people go without food every day world wide even though there is enough to feed everyone. Over 25,000 people die each day because they do not have enough to eat. Many of those going hungry live right here in cities like Orlando. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that over 15 percent of Americans were going with out food each month in 2009. That number has increased. Federal authorities also report that 387,849 new recipients were added to the food stamps program in March 2011. Over 44 million Americans rely on food stamps to feed their families and the number continues to grow. Efforts to end hunger and poverty should be supported by the City of Orlando. These staggering and painful statistics reflect the failure of priorities. No one should go hungry in the world’s wealthiest country. Arresting volunteers for doing all they can to encourage solutions to this crisis is criminal.

The whole essay is well worth reading.

The irony, of course, is inescapable. At one end of the spectrum, we have Kentucky Senator Rand Paul suggesting that we should let seniors eat charity, and at the other end, we have folks working for a charity getting arrested for feeding the hungry.

Security officers vote to organize, over 40,000 workers join union

The results are in: Employees of the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) have voted to join a union.

Even as the right to join a union is under attack across the country, more than 40,000 Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees in 450 airports today made a strong statement for workers’ rights by electing AFGE as their exclusive union representative.

After a grueling 10 year process, the TSA officers, also known as TSO’s, have the right to bargain with their employers – and Lord knows they deserve it. They have worked tirelessly since the creation of the TSA in 2001 to keep air travel safe for American families – often thanklessly and sometimes in the face of derision and criticism. As James Parks writes:

For nine years, TSOs have had to deal with issues of dangerous workplaces, discrimination, selective hiring practices, nepotism, management intimidation, and reports of lax oversight at the agency with only AFGE to stand between them and an often arbitrary and capricious management.

Now many issues will be up for negotiations, including seniority, shift biddings, transfers and awards.

While the election between the two unions – AFGE and the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) – was close, it’s worth noting that in the first round of voting, nearly 85 percent of employees chose to be represented by one of the unions, with the scant remainder choosing no union.

Congratulations to all that have worked so hard for this day. Even more so, congratulations to the incredible, hardworking Transportation Security Officers who now have a voice on a job and a seat at the table.

Gov. Kasich trying to “divide and conquer” SB 5 opposition

Governor John Kasich is in a pickle. The groups opposed to his signature achievement, the union-busting Senate Bill 5, have gathered over 714,000 signatures to put the measure on the November ballot, three times the number required. In addition, polling shows a bleak picture for Ohio’s approval of his performance (only 34 percent would vote for him in a 2010 rematch) and SB 5 (a 55 percent majority would vote for repeal, a measly 35 percent would let the law stand).

In this environment, Kasich is taking a page from the book of the Wisconsin GOP: When it looks like the other team might win, try to change the rules of the game.

From the Columbus Dispatch:

To break what appears to be strong, unified opposition to Senate Bill 5, Gov. John Kasich and his allies might seek to have the umbrella law that would weaken collective bargaining for public employees divided into multiple ballot questions.

In other words, divide and conquer. Since repeal would succeed on an up-or-down vote, Kasich wants to muddy the waters. His representatives are lobbying the Ohio Ballot Board to break down the SB 5 question into its multiple provisions.

His initial attempt, has failed. Ohio Secretary of State John Husted, a fellow Republican, is not playing along (yet):

“The Ballot Board cannot divide a referendum up into multiple issues,” Husted’s spokesman Matt McClellan said in an e-mail. “Only initiated petitions, such as Citizen-proposed Statutes or Citizen-proposed Constitutional Amendments may be divided up by the Ballot Board.”

Here’s the problem: Kasich’s monkeying could ultimately succeed. Under Ohio election law, you can the Ballot Board can split up a ballot initiative or constitutional amendment, but there is no such language permitting – or prohibiting – using a similar process on a referendum.

With all the corporate lobbyists and lawyers in Kasich’s camp, there’s still a chance of them regrouping and finding a loophole or leaning on the right official to prevent the up-or-down vote we want. But while they have the money and the wing-tips, we have the real army on our side – at least 714,137 strong.

Wisconsin Roundup VIII: Don’t stop the music

What’s the world coming to? In Scott Walker’s Wisconsin, it’s harder to sell craft beer, you don’t get your state Earned Income Tax credit, and you can’t sing a song in the Capitol without getting punched in the face.

Going after beer and music in a state that loves both – stay classy, Scott! This is your Wisconsin roundup:

• Bad budget or worst budget? Walker’s budget proposal passed both houses of the legislature on party lines. It includes: cuts on corporate income taxes, weaker tax reporting standards, cuts to the state Earned Income Tax Credit, a $76 million cut to local governments, force new public safety workers to increase contributions to their health care and pensions, and mess with Wisconsin’s prized craft beer industry (more on that later).

If you’re a Middle Class individual and not a corporation, there’s a lot in this budget that makes it harder to work and live in Wisconsin. Nowhere in this budget is a provision that will directly spur job growth or directly put Wisconsinites back to work.

• Peaceful singer punched in the face. During a regularly scheduled Solidarity song session at the Capitol in Madison, a group of men accompanying former-Senator Dave Zien (R-Eau Claire) became violent, and were trying to drape flags over the heads of singers, presumably in order to silence them. One of the singers, Michael J. Dickman of Madison, grabbed a flag, at which point, according to observers, Henry C. Rahr of Green Bay punched him in the face.

Rahr was charged with battery, and both Dickman and another man were charged with disorderly conduct (although I’m not sure how being on the receiving end of a punch is deserving of punishment). While he was not charged, former-Sen. Zien was filmed yelling at protestors and trying to run over their toes with his wheelchair, and songleader Chris Reeder told the Wisconsin State Journal that Mr. Zien was “definitely being very, very aggressive.”

Whatever the specific details of the incident, it is disheartening to see this kind of violence introduced into the already-tense situation in Wisconsin. Hundreds of thousands of people have been involved in protests in Madison, and there have been very few violent outbursts of this manner. Here’s to hoping this isn’t the beginning of a trend.

• Breweries of the world, unite! Governor Walker’s budget proposal was already controversial for its provisions hurting working families, but then the story broke about a provision that would favor huge beer retailers over Wisconsin’s local breweries. Alex Seitz-Wald writes at ThinkProgress:

The new provision treats craft brewers — the 60 of whom make up just 5 percent of the beer market in Wisconsin — like corporate mega-brewers, forcing them to use a wholesale distributor to market their product. Under the provision, it would be illegal, for instance, for a small brewer located near a restaurant to walk next door to deliver a case of beer. They’ll have to hire a middle man to do it instead.

It hits the local brewers hard, but one company will surely benefit: the large international beer behemoth MillerCoors. As Alex points out, MillerCoors gave $22,675 to Walker’s campaign in 2010. Just saying.

While that story is unusual enough on its own, what came next was even more surprising. A bipartisan collection of state legislators is lobbying Gov. Walker to veto the provision. That’s right: they’ve been bitterly divided on partisan lines all year, but that goes out the window when Wisconsin craft beer is threatened.

Got a tip about what to include in our next Wisconsin roundup? Leave a comment below, or shoot a tweet over to @WorkingAmerica. Till next time – On Wisconsin!