Political Education Committee Considers Candidate Options
In July, the Political Education Committee considered the NH gubernatorial candidates for potential endorsement. With their sights set on the SEA’s electoral vision, Granite Strong, which points to ten issues that are critical for NH families to thrive, they set about the task of figuring out which candidate is most aligned with this vision and deserving of an SEA endorsement. It didn’t take the Committee long to reach its recommendation because the differences between the candidates are significant.
Neither Andrew Hemingway or Walt Havenstein have even bothered to meet with or discuss their visions for NH’s future with the Committee.
Both of them want to further cut state government. The state employee workforce has been reduced 17% through the recession and is now smaller than it was twenty years ago, even though NH’s population has increased twenty percent through these years.
Both of them want to repeal the recent gas tax increase. The gas tax increase was widely supported by SEA members out of concern for our deteriorating roads, bridges and highways throughout NH; the increase isn’t even enough to remove the real risk that approximately 700 Department of Transportation jobs will be eliminated by June 30, 2015 if other funding is not raised.
Both of them believe the government should interfere in employers’ and workers’ rights to collectively bargain provisions of a contract that have been a legal right in NH for several decades. This is the same anti-business, anti-worker position that former NH House Speaker, Bill O’Brien spearheaded and made repeated attempts to pass in the recession.
Both of them support repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The ACA provides health care coverage and essential health care protections for thousands of SEA members today. This is especially true for part-time employees that did not have access to an affordable employer-sponsored health plan and for members that have pre-existing conditions.
Incumbent Governor, Maggie Hassan, is a stark contrast. Her dedication to NH families and creating a brighter future for NH is best aligned with our Granite Strong vision. You can see her video recorded statement about Granite Strong here; the statement was recorded when she was a candidate in 2012. In her first term, Maggie Hassan’s accomplishments include:
Moving forward a better budget. It added state employee jobs back into the budget, restored or improved critical programs and essential services – such as CHINs and mental health services, and brought a uniquely NH version of Medicaid Expansion to life.
Supporting increased wages. Governor Hassan understood that workers needed relief from the recession and the SEA ultimately won the first wage increases – three in a two year period — for state employees since 2009.
Changing the work environment. Meetings with SEA members from the Liquor Commission, the Sununu Youth Services Center, Health and Human Services, New Hampshire Hospital, as well as listening to SEA member concerns about potential agency head appointments all helped improve the way that employees were being treated in the workplace.
Moving justice forward. Governor Hassan inherited four major SEA-State grievances/unfair labor practice cases. Three of which the SEA won in her first year in office. Rather than continue the previous administration’s pattern of utilizing the appellate process to delay resolution of cases, Governor Hassan took the lead on moving resolution to the newest cases so that justice, for the more than 1,000 workers affected, would not be unnecessarily delayed. Potential settlements are under negotiation right now for two cases and within months of SEA’s initial legal victories. A third case was already resolved. The fourth awaits a hopefully final decision.
The Committee also considered those issues that the SEA and incumbent Hassan did not see eye to eye on – such as the Healthy Workplace Bill, HB591 and how budget cuts would be carried out at the Sununu Youth Services Center. In looking at these issues, the Committee discussed the degree to which the Governor remained committed to reach a solution that best meets the needs of NH and its state employee workforce, and although a lot of work remains to be done on resolving these conflicts, the Committee felt that overall Hassan’s efforts to be meaningfully involved with her workforce was quite positive.
For these reasons, the Political Education Committee unanimously recommended endorsement of Maggie Hassan in the gubernatorial race. The Committee’s recommendation was made in July but was not taken up by the SEA Board of Directors immediately.
Governor Hassan’s ultimate action on HB591, and an additional bill SB391 regarding the Sununu Youth Services Center, was a significant disappointment to SEA members. Hassan’s veto of these two important bills is a conflict that is difficult for many SEA members to understand. In the June Council meeting, and again in a special Council meeting held in August – after the vetoes were issued – the Council openly discussed its concerns about the future of these bills and our relationship with Governor Hassan. The Council remained committed to working toward veto override of these bills, of standing by SEA members at the Sununu Youth Services Center, and to work with legislators that originally supported these bills to win the veto override.
Given all of this information about the three gubernatorial candidates, the SEA Board of Directors has accepted the Committee’s recommendations and approved endorsement of Maggie Hassan.
“The outcome of the gubernatorial race is important for all SEA members because of the impact it has on all of our families and communities. But it also has special significance to the SEA members working in the Executive Branch. Governor Hassan has worked hard to make herself available to discuss the difficulties workers experience in the Executive Branch. She has partnered with us to open up a better, stronger and more effective dialogue with the public that we serve, and although we don’t agree on everything – she has remained committed to work together to improve things throughout the Executive Branch,” said SEA President, Diana Lacey.
“The Governor’s leadership in her work with the Executive Council and the NH House, both currently held by democratic majorities, has really moved forward a healthier discussion and more positive attitudes about issues important to working families and retirees,” said Poli-Ed Committee Chair and First Vice President, Ken Roos.
“We are glad that the SEA Board took the additional time to discuss workplace difficulties and the gubernatorial vetoes with the Council prior to voting on the Poli-Ed Committee’s recommendation of endorsement. Much improvement remains to be made in the Executive Branch but in less than two years, Governor Hassan has made progress happen. Agency by agency, policy by policy, the members of the SEA will continue to work together or alone, if need be, to turn things around,” said John Hattan, a Poli-Ed Committee member and SEA Director. “The harm that anti-government, anti-public worker legislators like Bill O’Brien caused in our workplaces will take more than one election cycle to change. This election, SEA members deserve the best governor they can get and this cycle, that’s Maggie Hassan.”