One More Day to Press For Overrides

Share, link, re-post, if I may be so bold: One more full day remains in which to email and call New Hampshire state representatives and senators before they take up Governor Lynch’s numerous vetoes on Wednesday morning. The fetal homicide and partial-birth-abortion bills have already made history by getting to the governor’s desk. Overriding his vetoes will put these bills into law, where they belong. Failure to override will mean delay, not defeat, since both bills will surely return in future sessions for however long it takes to enact them.

The outcome remains uncertain, in my estimation. Abortion advocacy groups have mobilized their clients and supporters. Their bitter opposition to these bills is ironic and irrational, since neither bill prevents abortion. (Getting around a partial-birth ban is simply a matter of choosing another abortion method.) I won’t unpack those arguments today, having done so at length in earlier posts.

I’ll be in the House gallery Wednesday at 10 a.m. to listen to the debates, and maybe do some last-minute lobbying. The House and Senate sessions will also be streamed online.  I warn you, though, sometimes the demand gets ahead of the bandwidth, making the feeds somewhat unreliable on busy days. I’ll be on Twitter to comment during the debate, and I’ll post vote results here.

School choice & voter ID will be up as well, and those are both important policy initiatives. First things first, though. Let’s get the life issues in order.

 

This Week’s Court Action is Just a Preview

The current parlor game being played out on my social media feeds is Guess The Decision, with all the players wondering what the Supreme Court will do this week with the PPACA. I’m guessing that the individual mandate will be tossed out but that a 5-4 majority will find a way to keep the rest of the plan going. My fond wish that the Court drive a judicial stake through PPACA’s heart is the least likely of possibilities.

The HHS mandate will not be affected this week, unless the whole PPACA is found unconstitutional.  The dozen or so pending lawsuits against that policy are still in the earliest stages. As important as this week’s Court decision will be, it’s only a preview of what has yet to be argued. We’re not yet going to hear a ruling on the PPACA’s First Amendment implications. Until that happens, I consider nothing about federal health-care policy to be settled.

 

“Fortnight for Freedom” Begins Today

“We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.”

This conclusion to the 2009 Manhattan Declaration is a particularly apt call today, which begins a two-week countdown to Independence Day called “Fortnight for Freedom.” The president and HHS Secretary Sebelius are not backing down from the odious HHS mandate, about which I’ve written many times before. In the best tradition of peaceful protest, the Catholic bishops of the United States have invited not only Catholics but all Americans of good will to join in two weeks of prayer, study, and public action calling for repeal of the mandate. Join as best you can, from wherever you are.

By now, everyone should understand that the mandate threatens ALL churches by allowing the federal government to determine which religious organizations are religious enough to meet exemption requirements. If the Catholic church is in administrative crosshairs today, other churches will be there later. Catholics simply don’t want to be penalized for rejecting the “Affordable” Care Act’s premise that pregnancy is a preventable disease.

Conscience and religious freedom rights are being knocked around locally, not just in Washington. The failure of a conscience clause bill in the most recent New Hampshire legislative session is a startling reminder that acting in defense of human life, even by refusing to participate in the provision of abortion or abortive drugs, can cost you your job. I heard legislators, Democrat and Republican, remark in public sessions that those who have moral objections to certain procedures should just choose other jobs. That means you, Mr. Pharmacist and Ms. Medical Assistant.

And so: the Fortnight. Text “Freedom” to 377377 for information on the event from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Our Lady of the Holy Rosary parish in Rochester will have a program this evening from 6:30-8 p.m. You can participate online in a national “virtual vigil”; see fortnight.catholicadvocate.com. Over the next couple of weeks, re-read the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution’s preamble and Bill of Rights, the Manhattan Declaration, King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail.

Anything going on in your area during the Fortnight? Post a comment about it & I’ll spread the news.

Exec Council District 2: Michael Tierney Enters the Arena

The New Hampshire Democratic Party released a statement today warning of an “anti-women’s health extremist” who is running for Executive Council. Look up “anti-women’s health extremist” in your Orwellian-English-to-standard-English dictionary, and you’ll find “citizen activist who sees no reason why Planned Parenthood should get tax dollars.” What’s not to like?

Introducing Michael Tierney: husband, father, Contoocook resident, Republican, land-use attorney, and candidate for Executive Council district 2. He can do the math on state spending, and he believes that an Executive Councilor should take seriously the responsibility of scrutinizing state contracts and contractors.

The NHDP doesn’t give a hoot about Tierney’s day job. Their gripe is over his pro bono work as an allied attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund. In that capacity, Tierney has given Planned Parenthood of Northern New England fits. Does he blockade clinic doorways? Does he give fiery speeches threatening hellfire and damnation to all who enter the premises? No, he’s worse: he asks for documentation of PPNNE grants and expenditures, and he doesn’t take no for an answer.

The Executive Council shocked PPNNE by rejecting its Title X contract proposal last year, and the legislature added to PPNNE’s unease by considering a bill to keep state funds away from abortion providers. PP’s New Hampshire PR machine had to go into overdrive, and it squeaked mightily as it cranked out the usual tripe: only 3% of our services are abortion, we don’t use public money for abortion, we help so many people, you’re just antichoice, and so forth. 

Tierney was undeterred. He recognized that a contract going to an abortion provider for other-than-abortion work frees up other funds to use for the abortion part of the enterprise. When the federal government sidestepped the Executive Council and awarded PPNNE a grant, Tierney, representing New Hampshire Right to Life, filed a Freedom of Information Act request for all documentation relating to the grant. This began a long and grinding discovery process that is still ongoing, and it has turned up matters that raise other questions about PPNNE operations. This has earned Tierney the title of “extremist” from the NHDP, and I’m sure worse is coming as the Executive Council campaign moves forward.

Tierney understands the need for accountability for the use of taxpayer dollars, he is politely tenacious, and he doesn’t fold when someone calls him names. In those respects, he’d be a worthy successor to retiring Councilor Dan St. Hilaire (R-Concord), who unexpectedly started all the fuss last year by being the third and deciding vote to reject PPNNE’s Title X proposal. (Ten other Title X contracts went through without a hitch that day – just not the one with northern New England’s chief abortion provider.)

This is a redistricting year, and the New Hampshire House and Senate have agreed on new electoral maps, after the customary decennial wrangling. The Executive Council’s District 2 is now an amazing piece of work. With the addition of Keene and Durham, the seat now seems to be gift-wrapped for presentation to the Democratic nominee. What’s more, the district has been gerrymandered to stretch from Durham in the east to Hinsdale in the far southwestern corner of the state, with towns from six of the state’s ten counties. Campaigning will be a challenge for all the candidates, and winning the district will be a tall order for a Republican.

Thanks to Michael Tierney, PPNNE’s political protectors cannot take district 2 for granted. There’s going to be a real race here. 

Running the Numbers on the Override Votes

Anyone taking results for granted on next week’s override votes in New Hampshire is simply not paying attention.

Two-thirds of members present & voting in each chamber the day of the vote are required for an override. At the moment, even with the departure of Andy Sanborn, that still means 16 votes in the now-23-member Senate, which normally enjoys full attendance on session days. With the recent departures of Laurie Sanborn and D.J. Bettencourt in the House, there are 395 seats occupied, although attendance for floor sessions is usually substantially lower. (Corrections to that figure are welcomed. Resignations have kept the House below 400 members for most of this session.)

HB 1679, the partial-birth-abortion ban, passed the Senate 18-5, with Sen. DeBlois absent. Assuming no changes, even with the loss of Sanborn’s vote, the Senate will override. Ditto for HB 217, fetal homicide, which passed 18-6. That’s the good news.

The House is a different story, and since these override attempts will begin in the House, the Senate might not even get a crack at these bills. The vote hinges on three questions: will the Yea votes hold? Are any of the Nays reversible? Perhaps most significantly, how many reps will show up Wednesday?

HB 1679 passed the House 224-110, with a whopping 36 excused absences and 27 other reps simply choosing not to vote. HB 217 passed 213-125, with 47 excused absences and eleven other reps not voting. That means based on the attendance for these votes, HB 1679 reached a two-thirds majority by two votes. HB 217 was thirteen votes shy of two-thirds.

If everyone shows up for veto day – granted, that’s not likely – 264 votes are needed for override. Most challenging scenario: HB 1679 needs to hold all its previous Yeas, and add 40 more. HB 217 needs to pick up 51 votes on top of the original Yeas. Lower attendance in the House will mean fewer votes needed for override.

One hint to all the Republicans: do not count on any Democrats staying home. The minority party this session has been exemplary in its attendance and its unity. It’s actually remarkable that nine Democrats supported a ban on partial-birth abortion, while four supported the fetal homicide bill. Minority leader Terie Norelli is no doubt working to rope in those few stray votes.  Republicans were sharply fractured, despite leadership’s support for these bills: 27 voted against HB 1679; 42 opposed HB 217.

Phone calls and emails between now and the morning of June 27th could make the difference.