Letter to the Editor: On Attracting New Industry to NH

Click here to view article in the Laconia Daily Sun

Why was Rep. Howard in minority voting no on SB-564? (September 20, 2018)

To The Daily Sun,

This letter is part of a series of letters I am writing to the local papers in connection with my campaign for N.H. House District 8 in Belknap County (Alton, Barnstead, and Gilmanton), with the purpose being to inform the voters of the differences between my positions on issues and those of my opponent, Rep. Raymond Howard Jr.

In my view, not enough attention is being paid to the economic future of our state and the dual problems of attracting new businesses and maintaining a skilled work force. To maintain a work force sufficient to support our business community, we need to retain our talented young people and families, and we also need to attract qualified and skilled workers from other states.

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Senate Bill 564, which passed into law earlier this year, was a bold bipartisan measure aimed at both problems, with a goal of creating a specialized Silicon Valley right here in New Hampshire. SB-564 exempts “Regenerative manufacturing” businesses located in New Hampshire from the Business Enterprise Tax and the Business Profits tax for 10 years. It also sets up a procedure under which people who live in the state for five years and work for such businesses can have their student loans paid off by a state authority. Although this is a very small step towards alleviating the crushing burden of student loan debt, it is a start in the right direction.

Maybe the term “regenerative manufacturing” is as foreign to you as it was to me before I read about this law. “Regenerative manufacturing” is the production of blood, tissue, or organs for medical purposes, a world that we are all going to be hearing more about going forward. New Hampshire is the home of the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI), a consortium of academics, industry representatives, governmental organizations, and nonprofit agencies aimed at developing technology for the manufacture of cells, tissues, and organs. ARMI has already generated $294 million in public and private funding, with $80 million coming from the U.S. Department of Defense.

Some companies are already using 3D bioprinting to print cell systems and experimental tissues for reconstructive and cosmetic surgery. There are approximately 120,000 people on organ donation waiting lists, with the average wait time for a heart being four months and for a kidney being almost five years. Developing the ability to manufacture these organs would revolutionize health care and save thousands of lives. In addition, this development would produce an important new industry and would make New Hampshire a leader in medical technology.

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Upon passage of SB-564, Governor Sununu stated, “New Hampshire has signaled to the rest of the country that we are in the forefront of innovative life-saving technological developments. We have along history of making smart long-term investments in New Hampshire. We are poised to become the global hub of regenerative medicine continuing our long history on the forefront of science and technology.”

The N.H. House voted 241 to 50 in favor of this bill. Representative Howard was one of the 50 nay votes. I would have voted in favor of it, along with the great majority of House members from both parties.

Ruth Larson

Alton

Letter to the Editor: On Effort to Control Prescription Drug Prices

Click here to view article in Laconia Daily Sun

Ray Howard way out of touch with constituents on Rx prices (August 29, 2018)

To The Daily Sun,

This letter is one of a series I am writing to contrast my views with those of Rep. Raymond Howard, Jr., whom I am opposing in the upcoming election for a N.H. House seat in District 8, including Alton, Barnstead, and Gilmanton. Many of you find it hard to follow the voting records of your representatives, so these letters are one way to assist you in deciding whether Rep. Howard’s views or mine more closely match yours.

Many of us remember the shocking news from 2015 when Martin Shkreli, the chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals, raised the price of an anti-parasitic drug (Daraprim) from $13.50 a pill to $750 a pill. Although that example was extreme, skyrocketing prescription drug prices have reached a crisis level. Consumer spending on drugs doubled between the 1990’s and 2017, and not surprisingly, drug company sales revenue also increased (Nov 2017 report of the U.S. Government Accountability Office). A recent study found that the average annual cost for a brand name prescription drug to treat a chronic health condition in the U.S. was over $5,800 in 2017, up from less than $1,800 ten years earlier. The increase between 2016 and 2017 was 15.5 percent, the fourth straight year with a double digit increase.

Prescription drugs make up approximately 20 percent of the total health care costs in the U.S. This is a topic of great concern to all of our fellow citizens. A 2017 Kaiser Foundation study found that the vast majority of Americans favored greater transparency in how drug prices are set (86 percent), favored allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug companies to lower prices (82 percent), favored limiting the amount drug companies can charge for high-cost drugs to treat illnesses like hepatitis and cancer (78 percent), and favored allowing U.S. citizens to buy prescription drugs from Canada (71 percent). We have the same problem in New Hampshire that the rest of the nation faces. In 2015 Granite State residents spent over $1 billion in prescription drugs, according to the New Hampshire Insurance Dept.

The importance of the issue was not lost on most of our state legislators. In 2018, 13 different bills were introduced in the state Legislature to address the problem. They were a hodge-podge of bills, with many of them focused on a narrow sub issue.

One bill, HB-1418, took a more comprehensive approach, providing for the establishment of a commission to study greater transparency in pharmaceutical costs and drug rebate programs. The commission was charged with proposing “changes to New Hampshire law, as needed to reduce the rising cost of pharmaceuticals.” This legislation contemplates an ongoing body to gather data and recommend action to control the price increases, rather than piecemeal legislation addressing only smaller parts of the problem.

This bill passed in the NH House 312 to 17, and it passed in the N.H. Senate on a voice vote and was then signed into law by Governor Sununu. HB-1418 would have had my enthusiastic support; my opponent, Raymond Howard, Jr., voted against it. Please consider how you would have wanted your representative to vote on this type of legislation.

Ruth Larson

Letter to the Editor: On protecting NH Children from Lead Paint Poisoning

Click here to view article in the Laconia Daily Sun

Rep. Howard voted ‘no’ on lead paint bill; I would vote ‘yes’ (August 9, 2018)

To The Daily Sun,

As I look at the voting record of Rep. Raymond Howard, Jr., I see more and more instances where I would have voted differently. In my opinion, my views on many of these issues are more in line with the values of the residents of District 8 (Alton, Barnstead and Gilmanton), and I am running for N.H. state representative so that these views will be better reflected in votes in Concord and within the county.

Although I am a Democrat, many of these issues are non-partisan and should appeal equally to Republicans, to Democrats, and to independents. In fact, on many of these issues, the Republican-controlled N.H. House passed legislation that I agree with, but that Mr. Howard voted against. I have previously referred to his “no” votes on an anti-hate crimes resolution, and on a requirement that high school students be taught and tested on civics. Another example concerns lead paint. Early in 2018, the N.H. House passed SB-247, which requires blood testing for lead in all children age two and under. The bill also reduces the lead level at which the state is required to test a rental property for lead. In addition, the bill set up a program under which the state guarantees $6 million in loans for lead hazard abatement in rental properties. This bill had considerable bipartisan support, and passed the N.H. House 266 to 87. Rep. Howard voted against it.

The importance of this legislation to the health of our children is underscored by numerous facts. One such fact is that the housing stock in New Hampshire is among the oldest in the nation, much of it dating long before 1978 when lead paint was banned by federal legislation. Recent studies have shown that a high percentage of N.H.children have already been exposed to lead. Studies conducted in 2014 found that 15.2 percent of tested 5-year-olds had significant lead exposure. A group of almost 200,000 children age six through 18 had lead exposure rate of 37 percent.

There is no safe level of lead in the blood. In addition to the need for immediate medical treatment, a victim of lead poisoning is likely to suffer from the effects permanently. Children exposed to lead may require special education as a result of the neurological damage. The additional cost of special education is about $15,000 per year, so a child needing special education from K through 12 would add approximately $195,000 to the costs of that school district.

The impact of lead poisoning extends far beyond a child’s early years. The adult income of a child with lead poisoning is significantly reduced, which in turn reduces the ability of that adult to contribute to the community in numerous ways. There is also a strong correlation between childhood lead exposure and future criminal activity, resulting in other added costs to the community.

In my view, voting for the lead paint bill, SB-247, was the right thing to do. It was right for the children of New Hampshire, who will suffer throughout their lives if they are exposed to lead. And it was right for the taxpayers of New Hampshire, who save money in the long run if problems like lead paint are addressed early.

I would have voted “yes” on the lead paint bill; Representative Howard voted “no”.

Ruth Larson

Alton

Letter to the Editor: On Requiring NH Students to Study Civics and Be Tested on the Subject

Click here to view the article in the Laconia Daily Sun

Why was Rep. Howard against constitutional competency exam? (July 25 2018)

To The Daily Sun,

As the Democratic candidate running for election to the N.H. House District 8, against Rep. Howard, I will be highlighting some of the differences between our positions on a variety of issues. That way, in my view, the voters of Alton, Barnstead, and Gilmanton will all know where Rep. Howard stands and where I stand, so they can contrast our respective views.

In January of 2016, the N.H. House passed SB-157, a bill that required high school students to take civics and pass a “locally developed competency assessment” test. Passing the test entitles the student to a certificate issued by the school district. The bill further provided that the U.S. citizenship test “may be used” to satisfy the testing requirement. Although use of the citizenship test was optional, it seems to make sense that the knowledge we consider essential for someone wanting to become a U.S. citizen might also be knowledge we want our own students to have.

The vote on this bill was 267 Yea, 65 Nay. The Belknap County delegation, then 100 percent Republican, voted 12 in favor and 4 against, with Rep. Howard voting Nay.

It is hard for me to understand why someone would object to having our students learn about the US and state governments and constitutions and be tested on the subject. Mr. Howard often claims to be a defender of the Constitution, so one might expect him to want students to study the actual text and take the test. In my view, if our students are afforded good educational opportunities, they will prove their excellence. And if the testing shows any deficiency, then we should all want to know about it and learn from it. I would have voted Yea.

Ruth Larson

Alton

Letter to the Editor: Announcement of candidacy letter with discussion of anti-hate crimes resolution

Click here to view article in the Laconia Daily Sun

I will let voters know how I see things differently than my opponent (June 21, 2018)

To The Daily Sun,

I am running for state representative in Belknap County District 8, which includes Alton (where I live), Barnstead, and Gilmanton. In the weeks between now and the general election of November 6, I will be talking with voters and potential voters in these three towns to get input on what issues within the county and at the state level need attention. And I will be offering my views on many of the issues that have arisen in the past few years, to let the people of this district know how my votes would have differed from those of my opponent.

One recent example of our difference is on House Concurrent Resolution 13, a symbolic legislative statement condemning hate crimes and racism. This strong bipartisan resolution, a measure that did not cost the taxpayers a dime, passed the N.H. House on February 15, 2018 by a 234 to 69 vote. In other words, it was supported by the vast majority of both Republicans and Democrats. My opponent voted against it. I would have stood with the majority in voting in favor.

My plan during the election cycle is to keep the tone of my campaign informational and civil, even while pointing out policy differences between myself and my opponent. While I hope to speak with as many of you as I can in person, I will also use social media as a platform for communicating and discussing my positions on issues with all of you. Through this process, I hope to earn your support and the honor of representing you in the N.H. House of Representatives and in the Belknap County Convention.

Ruth Larson

Alton

Letter to the Editor: On Hate Speech in our Community

Click here to view article in the Laconia Daily Sun

As a Jew, I would have been ‘exposed’ & ‘dealt with’ by Nazi Germany – April 6, 2018

To The Daily Sun,

The April 5 letter from Ryan Murdough may be the saddest letter to the editor I have ever read. His hate speech is totally contrary to my values and to the values of everyone I know. I am confident that his views are also inconsistent with the values of our community and our state. To read his views on race, advocating segregation, one day after the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination, is a sickening nightmare.

As a Jew I would have been one of the people from whom “Hitler wanted to preserve German identity” and I would have been “exposed” and “dealt with” by Nazi Germany.

To know that people like Mr. Murdough have a “15+1” (presumably some type of lethal weapon) “ready at all times” should keep sane people awake at night.

Ruth Larson

Alton

Letter to the Editor: Surrealistic 2018 Delegate Budget Process

Click here to view article in the Laconia Daily Sun

Why would Abear propose a motion he was against?

January 26, 2018

To The Daily Sun,

The Jan. 22 budget meeting of the Belknap County Delegation was nothing short of surreal. Rep. Sylvia (R-Belmont) was one of the first to speak, and his remarks consisted of lavishing praise on the three county commissioners for doing such a good job. This from a man who has opposed the commissioners every step of the way, and who was one of the representatives who voted No (on Aug. 8, 2017) to the supplemental appropriation that would allow the new corrections center to open. To describe his remarks this week as disingenuous is an understatement. Later in the meeting, when Rep. Sylvia presented his own scorched-earth budget proposal, his true message was on display.

The delegation then voted in favor of a change to one nursing home revenue line in the proposed budget. After that, Rep. Abear made a motion to approve the budget proposal of the commissioners with no changes. When it was pointed out that this motion was inconsistent with the vote just taken on the revenue line, the chairman decided to ignore the problem and go forward with the vote anyway. The suspense mounted, with many of us wondering if it was possible that the delegation would actually do something as sensible as vote in favor of the recommended budget. It seemed so unlikely, and yet … Then we heard Rep. Abear say that he planned to vote against the motion. The motion that he just made. Rep. Comtois, who had seconded the motion, also stated that she would vote against it. No, these are not typographical errors; this is actually what transpired. A different representative said it best when he expressed being confused.

Ultimately, the delegation voted unanimously against accepting the commissioners’ budget with no changes.

Let us ask ourselves why a representative would propose a motion he was against. Why would another representative second a motion she was against? Perhaps Reps. Abear and Comtois could enlighten us all as to their reasons for playing games with the county taxpayers. Was this some misguided sense of humor? What would they have to gain from these antics? Was this some type of Machiavellian attempt to set up some of their fellow representatives?

Alice in Wonderland Part II will take place on Monday, Jan. 29. At that time, the delegation will consider Rep. Sylvia’s budget proposal, which if approved would jeopardize both the nursing home and the corrections center. It would also threaten the operations of the Sheriff’s Department and the County Attorney. The majority of the Belknap delegation has already shown its unwillingness to invest in the future of the county. Adoption of the Sylvia budget would be a significant step toward dismantling county services as they have historically existed.

Ruth Larson

Alton

Letter to the Editor: Rep. Howard has a very cynical view of his constituents

Click here to view article in the Laconia Daily Sun

January 18, 2018

To The Daily Sun,

During the recent holiday season, our community (including people with very limited resources) repeatedly showed its generosity toward the less fortunate among us, offering assistance in a variety of forms. Some donated their time in the form of volunteer work; others donated money and food and clothing. It was a heartening reminder that care for the needy can cross over partisan divides and can give us all common ground.

In stark contrast with this was a cynical comment made by state Rep. Ray Howard about his constituents at the Dec. 8  Belknap County delegation meeting regarding the budget. His remarks were in response to mine during the public portion of the meeting. I had urged the delegation to fully fund our support agencies, including Community Action Program (that supplies Meals on Wheels), Genesis (that provides mental health treatment), Belknap County Conservation District (protecting the environment and water safety), etc. All of these agencies provide vital support to the citizens of Belknap County and to the future and economy of the region.

In support of my plea to fund these outside agencies, and knowing that many of the representatives, including Ray Howard, are very conservative, I mentioned that in Alton — perhaps the most conservative town within Belknap County — the voters have consistently supported social service agencies by voting in favor of full funding for them in the warrant articles. My point, in other words, was that support for these agencies should cut across political lines and that all representatives should join with their constituents in voting in favor of funding them.

To my surprise and dismay, I heard Rep. Howard express a very disparaging attitude toward his own constituents, viewing them not as caring and generous people who want to do the right thing, but rather people who say they “vote (for) everything” because “the waterfront owners will pay for it.” Many of these waterfront owners, according to him, are seasonal people who do not even get to vote, so my point was not well taken. Thinking later about these negative comments, I thought I must have been mistaken about what I heard, but my review of the video of the meeting (available on the Belknap County website) confirmed Mr. Howard’s expressed scorn toward his constituents, particularly the citizens of Alton.

Rep. Howard thinks the only reason we, his constituents, support social service agencies at the local level is that someone else will pay for it. If his cynical view of his constituents is correct, then logically the same constituents would have him fully fund the support agencies at the county level because, once again, someone else (the waterfront owners) will pay for it. So, Rep. Howard, please support full funding for all of the support agencies because (1) it’s the right thing to do, and (2) “the waterfront people will pay for it.”

In my view, Mr. Howard’s cynical view of his constituents is totally wrong. The citizens of Alton are better than he thinks. We are genuinely concerned about the needy among us, we want to help the elderly and the environment and those needing mental health treatment. And we depend on Rep. Howard and his fellow delegation members, in their votes on the county budget, to fully support the outside agencies that perform important governmental functions, the same as we support them in our local votes. Maybe in the future Mr. Howard should give the people in his district a little more credit for decency rather than belittling us.

Ruth Larson

Alton

Letter to the Editor: Why has Rep. Aldrich refused to recognize harassment policy?

Click here to view  article in the Laconia Daily Sun

December 8, 2017

To The Daily Sun,

In January of 2016 the N.H. Legislature sent out a nine page anti-harassment policy (official title: Policy Against Sexual and Other Harassment and Discrimination) that had been approved by the Joint Committee on Legislative Facilities. A copy of the policy was sent to all members of the N.H. House of Representatives with a request to each member to sign a form acknowledging having received and read the policy. Repeated requests were made of members who had not turned in the forms, but in November of 2017, following one news story after another about sexual harassment, more members of the House turned in the signed forms.

As of Dec. 4, 2017, one member of the Belknap County Delegation had still not acknowledged receipt of the form. This representative is Glen Aldrich, an early member of the Free State Project. (The Free State Project organized in 2001 to entice people to move to New Hampshire to take over and dismantle government). It should be noted here that even Michael Sylvia, another Free Stater in the Belknap delegation, has seen fit to sign the policy in question.

Why does this matter? Signing the form, after all, does not signal agreement with the anti-harassment policy. It does not make the individual representative promise not to sexually harass anyone, or not to discriminate. All it does is acknowledge having received and read the policy. But even that toothless and minuscule request is setting the bar too high for some members of the House, including apparently Mr. Aldrich.

Our Belknap County Delegation has previously brought our county national shame and embarrassment concerning the former member Robert Fisher, who published endless anti-woman and pro-rape screeds under his online forum Red Pill. When that came to light, Gov. Sununu, then House Speaker Shawn Jasper, and state Republican Party Chair Jeanie Forrester all called on him to resign. Our county representatives, on the other hand, with one shining exception, turned a blind eye and made excuses for Fisher. Chairman Vadney: “He’s a thoughtful guy.” Rep. Abear: Fisher “hasn’t broken any laws or violated any ethics laws.” Rep. Spanos would not move to try to get Fisher to resign; and one of the only two women in the delegation, Rep. Fraser, said she had no idea what was going on and dismissed the call for Fisher to resign. Rep. Huot, then the sole Democrat in the delegation, was also the sole profile in courage, stating that Fisher’s views “are misogynistic and he should resign.” (For all of these quotes, see Laconia Daily Sun article of May 2, 2017, by Roger Amsden).

It would give me great pleasure to find out that my information is out of date and Mr. Aldrich has finally seen fit to sign the form. There is no need for Belknap County to again be a laughing-stock, even within the state.

Ruth Larson

Alton

Letter to the Editor: Gunstock commission will be chosen today, I want Sullivan

Click here to view article in the Laconia Daily Sun

(November 9, 2017)

To The Daily Sun,

On Nov. 9, the Belknap County Delegation (all Belknap County members of the NH House of Representatives) will choose between two candidates applying to be a Gunstock Commissioner. The candidates are Sean Sullivan, the current chair of the Gunstock Area Commission, whose five-year term expires this November, and Brian Gallagher, who was a representative from Belknap County until his unsuccessful run for state Senate in 2016. As a member of the Gunstock Area Commission myself, a dedicated supporter of Gunstock, and an enthusiastic (but lousy) skier, I have a strong interest in the upcoming decision as to who will serve the next five-year term. Of equal, or perhaps even greater importance, as a resident and taxpayer of Belknap County, I view the choice of commissioner to be of vital importance to the County. In my view, Sean Sullivan is by far the better candidate.

Gunstock is without doubt a very positive presence in both the economy of Belknap County and its recreational life. With regard to the economic impact, Gunstock is the second-largeest employer in Belknap County. In addition, studies show that the secondary benefit (for example, tourism dollars spent by skiers outside the ski area) is likely to be triple the revenues at the ski area itself (See The New Hampshire Ski Industry, 2012-13; Its Contribution to the State’s Economy, prepared by The Institute for New Hampshire Studies, Plymouth State University, January 2014). Every visitor to Gunstock, whether a winter skier or a summer Mountain Coaster rider, needs to buy gas and food and often lodging; that same visitor also purchases souvenirs and clothing. Although the exact dollar amount of the benefit to the area may be hard to pinpoint, there is no question that the benefit is there and that it is significant.

The dedication of Sean Sullivan to the continued success of Gunstock and its long-term future cannot be doubted. Members of the delegation who have attended GAC meetings have witnessed his hard work, his careful preparation, and his fiscal responsibility. As an accountant, Mr. Sullivan takes a cautious, even conservative approach to management of the economy of Gunstock. This sense of fiscal responsibility at times includes support for major expenditures, whether for maintenance to keep the area safe and attractive, or for capital improvements such as the Mountain Coaster, which has added greatly to the success of Gunstock in the summer. Mr. Sullivan’s approach also recognizes the need to build Gunstock’s reserves to protect it during winters with inadequate snow or summers with excessive rain. Protecting the financial security of Gunstock obviously protects the taxpayers as well; if Gunstock’s reserves are adequate, there is no need for a bailout.

Brian Gallagher, on the other hand, has repeatedly demonstrated a tendency to place immediate, short-term gain (in the form of immediate “tax savings”) over long-term financial sustainability. As a representative, he led the delegation in taking $605,000 from the county fund balance to provide “taxpayer relief.” The connection of this move to Mr. Gallagher’s decision to run for state Senate (supposedly as a fiscal conservative) might be viewed as suspect. That taxpayer relief, by the way, saved the average Belknap County taxpayer approximately $12 a year. The county, on the other hand, was left with a roof replacement that could have been covered by the $600,000, but will now have to be paid for by issuance of a bond that the taxpayers will be paying for over the next 20 years.

Another effect of Mr. Gallagher’s reckless handling of county finances was that depletion of the fund balance created an artificially low tax revenue amount. This created a fiscal monster down the line. When the majority of the delegation subsequently took a pledge to never raise county taxes, this meant never raising an artificially low amount (resulting from the one-time fund transfer). As everyone in Belknap County witnessed, the 2017 county budget process was a nightmare in large part thanks to Mr. Gallagher. The majority of the county delegation insisted that whatever was spent in 2016 was enough for 2017, despite completion of a new corrections center known to require additional staffing, and increased contract and health insurance costs as well as maintenance issues. The nightmare not only continues, but can only get worse. Rep. Marc Abear, the primary architect of the 2017 county budget, has recently declared that a $33 million appropriation will be needed for the 2018 budget. If correct, this will require an additional $5.5 million to be raised in taxes. This all goes to show that short-term gain can have disastrous long-term consequences.

Gunstock would be much better served by a fiscally responsible commissioner such as Sean Sullivan than by someone with the track record of Brian Gallagher.

If a well-run Gunstock is in the best interest of Belknap County, then Sean Sullivan’s proven track record should result in a vote to retain him on the Gunstock Area Commission. If, on the other hand, depletion of Gunstock’s reserves and dilution of its financial status and long-term security (to gain short term tax relief) are the goals, then Brian Gallagher is clearly the right choice.

This letter reflects my own personal views and is not submitted on behalf of the Gunstock Area Commission.

Ruth Larson

Alton