Here are a few observations from the June 29th meeting at which Executive Councilors sent public funds to two abortion providers, including one that spent over a million bucks on public policy in 2014 while warning that thousands of people were at risk of losing health care if a $500k+ contract were to be denied. (Photo credits [or blame]: me.)
Yellow “Life” stickers and the usual pink t-shirts gathered early at the State House the day of the vote. I was surprised to see a heavy state police presence. I thought to myself Isn’t this a bit much? Then I learned that the police had nothing to do with competing rallies over the Council vote. Instead, there had been a scare over an unattended package that reportedly turned out to be a bag of clothing. The police response that I saw was thorough and courteous, and the rallies went on without incident.
Campaign material lined the walkways on State House Plaza before the meeting. These pro-Clinton bags set up the morning of the vote outnumbered the actual number of pro-PP people who rallied before the Council meeting.
The meeting began late, and after the usual preliminary business (Pledge of Allegiance, musical interlude, confirmations and appointments to state boards), Governor Hassan and the Councilors swiftly agreed to take up the Planned Parenthood/Lovering contract immediately. Stuffy though beautiful room plus many standees made that a welcome decision.
Seen in the crowd: retired Councilors Ray Wieczorek and Dan St. Hilaire, who were among the three Councilors who voted to deny a PP contract in 2011. The third of those Councilors, Dave Wheeler, is an incumbent, and he held firm to his position from 2011.
Noted on Councilors’ desks before the meeting: a bound volume from Planned Parenthood, declaring on the cover that 12,000 people depend on PP for basic health care. I obtained a copy after the meeting and found that the thick volume was not full of statistics or client stories, but instead lists of I-Stand-With-PP names, organized by Council district. Interesting numbers, considering that the districts are roughly equal in population: Joe Kenney’s district one (North Country) had 162 names; Colin Van Ostern’s district two (a sprawling gerrymander that includes Concord and Durham) had 661; Chris Sununu’s district 3 (Seacoast and much of Rockingham County) had 193; Chris Pappas’s district 4 (whose main municipality is Manchester) had 309; David Wheeler’s district 5 (main municipality: Nashua) had 184.
Councilor Sununu’s formal statement about his vote noted that PP was no longer under investigation. That is not accurate, and he knew it if he read material made available to all the Councilors by Councilor Wheeler. Part two of this post will include a transcript of Wheeler’s comments and questions during the meeting.
I saw these incumbents and candidates in the crowd, opposing the contracts and determined to watch the Councilors cast their votes: State representatives Frank Edelblut (now running for Governor), Ralph Boehm (now running for State Senate district 18), Jeanine Notter, Josh Moore, Gary Hopper, Victoria Sullivan, J.R. Hoell, Max Abramson, Kurt Wuelper, Mark McLean, Katherine Prudhomme-O’Brien; candidates Jim Adams (Executive Council District 4) and David Love (state rep, Rockingham 6). I may have missed a few.
The Governor sensibly called a recess after the PP/Lovering contract vote, knowing that most people weren’t planning to stay for the rest of the meeting at which dozens of other contracts were up for a vote. This also gave Councilor Sununu and Governor Hassan (or their staffers) a chance to tweet out their prefabricated statements, obviously prepared before the vote. Sununu statement here; Hassan statement here.
Part 2, to be posted later: transcript of the questions and concerns expressed by Councilors Wheeler and Kenney; brief remarks from Executive Council candidate Jim Adams; a link to an audio recording of the meeting.