Roundup: notes and photos from Executive Council meeting, part 1

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.)

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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.

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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.

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I stood behind the Governors seat during the meeting, and the crowd around me was comparable to the one at the other end of the room.

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.

Ray Wieczorek
Ray Wieczorek (facing camera) awaits start of the meeting.

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.

Each Councilor received a copy. I chose to obscure the name on the attached sticky note.
Each Councilor received a copy. I chose to obscure the name on the attached sticky note.

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’s statement is 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.

Carson says remarks re Schiavo taken “out of context”

Dr. Ben Carson (photo by Ellen Kolb)
Dr. Ben Carson (photo by Ellen Kolb)

I wasn’t the only voter whose eyebrows went way up after Dr. Ben Carson’s made his recent remarks regarding Terri Schiavo. He gave an exclusive interview to LifeSiteNews earlier this week to address the furor.

“I am steadfastly opposed to euthanasia. I have spent my entire career protecting life, especially the life of children….I regret that my recent comments about Terri Schiavo have been taken out of context and misinterpreted. When I used the term ‘much ado about nothing,’ my point was that the media tried to create the impression that the pro-life community was nutty and going way overboard with the support of the patient.”

The article continued, “[Dr. Carson] told LifeSiteNews that his off-the-cuff remarks to a reporter from the Tampa Bay Times meant that doctors should allow terminally ill patients to refuse heroic medical treatment, not to deny food and water to someone diagnosed in a persistent vegetative state (PVS).”

I’m pleased that the good doctor acknowledged the concerns raised by his earlier remarks. My particular concerns expressed in an earlier post persist. If what he means is that he flat-out refuses to tolerate starvation for patients with brain damage, that’s good news.

 

Program note: I’ll be contributing to a thepulse2016.com liveblog for this evening’s portion of the GOP presidential candidate debate. The liveblog is hosted by the American Principles Project, and one of the other guests will be Shane Vander Hart of Iowa, whose blog Caffeinated Thoughts is a favorite of mine. I hope you’ll tune in at 9 p.m. EDT:

 http://thepulse2016.com/thepulse2016/2015/08/06/live-coverage-of-the-fox-news-gop-debate/

#FITN: how about asking about the mandate?

#FITN: that means First in the Nation, as in first-in-the-nation Presidential primary. We use the hashtag with pride here in New Hampshire. Potential candidates are already swarming, including some Democrats (rumors of Secretary Clinton’s inevitable nomination are a tad premature). I attend candidate events when I can.

At five events recently, during Q&A, I heard the same question asked in almost the same words. A different person asked the question each time; two of them actually read it off a card. Coincidence? Nah. The cards were a giveaway. The well-organized questioners all wanted to know what the candidates would do to stop “the corrupting influence of money in politics” that is wielded by corporations. What that means is “are you willing to overturn the First Amendment in order to get rid of the Citizens United decision?” But this isn’t the forum for that discussion. I’m simply noting the coordinated questioning.

One other thing is brought up at every candidate Q&A I’ve attended, although in a less-scripted manner, and that’s Common Core. The candidates know they have to have some kind of response ready.

So where’s the demand for an answer to any of these question?

  • What are you going to do about the Obamacare contraceptive mandate and its threat to religious liberty?
  • What’s your take on the Hobby Lobby decision?
  • What do you think of last week’s Supreme Court ruling in favor of Notre Dame University, which is seeking exemption from the mandate? As a Catholic institution, the University wants no role in providing benefits like contraception and abortion-inducing drugs through health insurance policies for students and employees.
  • Do you even know what the mandate is? Do you understand it’s not just a Catholic thing? The owners of Hobby Lobby identify as Pentecostals, for example, and the owners of Conestoga Wood Products (whose case was decided with Hobby Lobby) are Mennonites.
  • Must a business owner give up religious liberty rights under the First Amendment in order to offer Obamacare-compliant health insurance?
  • For any candidate who’s a fan of the Obamacare contraceptive mandate, here’s another one: where in the Constitution is there a right for a woman to have birth control paid for by someone else? How does that supercede the First Amendment?

I’m also listening for any candidate who says that by choosing not to be involved in employees’ birth control decisions, an employer is “making health care decisions for employees.” That’ll help me narrow down my list of candidates to consider.

So where are the half-dozen or so voters – that’s all it would take – willing to follow the candidates around New Hampshire and ask about the mandate? Catholics who take Church teaching seriously have the most at stake, given their numbers and the number of health care ministries they administer. Or are we (yes, I’m Catholic) going to stay under the radar and just hope that we’ll get a President who’ll fix the mess?

As the saying goes, hope is not a method.

Will first-in-the-nation voters ask the right questions about the mandate, or will they let candidates get away with avoiding the issue?