We are all neighbors; we are stronger when we work together

Originally published in the Laconia Daily Sun on 07/21/20

To The Daily Sun,

I am running for state representative as the Democratic candidate from Alton, Barnstead, and Gilmanton (Belknap District 8). These are difficult times for many in our state and our nation. News on the national front is chaotic and disheartening, and many among us are suffering from repercussions of COVID-19, with the end not yet in sight. We also face enormous challenges from the toxic political climate promoted by the Trump administration, setting one group against another and encouraging the most divisive elements of our society. We seem to have lost sight of the wise counsel of Patrick Henry in the early days of our republic: “United we stand; divided we fall.”

Nevertheless, I see cause for optimism: the way in which our area communities have come together and rallied around local businesses and food banks, with people offering to help others with their shopping and errands, and others standing up for justice for all, including marginalized groups among us. The true spirit of community is alive and well in the Lakes Region.

Some of you may have seen people with signs on some Saturdays at the Alton circle, participating in a “Visibility for Love Not Hate.” I participate in these events, usually holding a sign that reads “Love Not Hate.” It has been truly uplifting to see passing motorists wave or honk or give a thumbs up, and I believe that a lot of people are tired of the divisiveness and want to see us come together.

Nevertheless, a couple of weeks ago a truck stopped and the driver began shouting, demanding to know where we came from (all local) and who was paying us (no one). He referred to himself as a red-blooded patriotic American, and I responded that we were also. He then attacked Black Lives Matter, which I also support. Afterwards, I wrote to him, confident that if he thought about our message a little more, he might even consider joining us in the future at these non-partisan events aimed at spreading a message of kindness and inclusion. I hope to hear from him and anyone else interested in having a civil discussion about this or any other issue.

My campaign is one of hope and unity, and I welcome input from all voters, of any or no party. My vision for our community is for all of us working together to make it a place where young people want to stay, and where young families want to settle. This will provide our community with the workforce necessary to support the vibrant economy we need. Let’s use our natural resources wisely, protecting them for future generations, and support our public schools, as the backbone of our democracy. We are all neighbors, and we are stronger when we work together.

I want to hear from you and earn your support. To learn more about my candidacy, visit my website RuthLarson4NHRep.com and my Facebook page @RuthLarsonNH.

Ruth Larson

Alton

Ruth on the Issues: Reproductive Rights

In 1973, in the landmark decision Roe v. Wade, the US Supreme Court ruled that there was a right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, and that this right extended to a woman seeking an abortion. That right was balanced against the state’s interest in regulating abortion, with the interest in regulation viewed as increasing throughout the pregnancy. In that case an in subsequent cases, a woman generally had a right to terminate a pregnancy until viability of the fetus. It should be noted that the only Democratic appointee on the US Supreme Court at the time of Roe v. Wade voted against it.

It is my view that a woman’s choice to use birth control, to have a child, to terminate a pregnancy before viability or to carry a fetus to term are decisions that she should be able to make without interference from the state.  In New Hampshire, where the state motto is “Live Free or Die”, a woman’s reproductive freedom should be protected.

In my view, every attempt to reach common ground should be made between those opposing abortion rights and those wanting to protect them.  In particular, the emphasis should be placed on sex education for both males and females, and access to birth control.  No one likes abortion, and we should all seek ways to make abortion unnecessary.

I would also like to see the term “pro-life” be used to support and nurture children after their birth, with emphasis on health, education, clean air and water, and safety from violence.  In my view, people opposed to abortion and those who want to keep it legal should join forces to promote truly pro-life measures, making our world a better place with good opportunities for all children.

Ruth on the Issues: 2nd Amendment and Guns

The US Supreme Court in the Heller decision ruled that individuals have a Second Amendment right to possess a firearm in the home for self-defense,  and struck down the District of Columbia ban on handgun possession.  The Court made it clear that the right has limits, and certain restrictions are constitutional.  For example, prohibitions against felons and the mentally ill possessing guns, laws imposing conditions and qualification on sales, laws barring guns in sensitive places like schools and government buildings, and prohibitions against “dangerous and unusual weapons”.  The Court even stated it would “consider … prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons.” As of 2016, only 9% of cases (state and federal) with Second Amendment challenges were successful.

Among the safety measures I support are: universal background checks and a ban on military-style automatic weapons and bump stocks. I am opposed to allowing the carrying of a concealed weapon without a permit, which is now legal in NH as a result of a recently passed law. Most police chiefs were opposed to eliminating the requirement for a permit to carry concealed.  The term “constitutional carry” is a misnomer, as the US Supreme Court has never rules that there is a Second Amendment right to carry concealed.  Every indication is that the Court would uphold a permit requirement, and I would vote for such a requirement.  I would also vote to prohibit people other than law enforcement from bringing guns into courthouses (which is currently the law) and into the state legislature.

Letter to the Editor: On Gunstock Part 2

Click here to view article in the Laconia Daily Sun

Rep. Howard was wrong about claims of tax spikes due to Gunstock bailout

Oct 26, 2018

To The Daily Sun,

Representative Howard continues to try justifying his “No” vote on the Gunstock line of credit (from a bank, not from taxpayer funds) by claiming that a “spike” in county taxes in 1999 caused him and his family hardship. I had shown from actual data, which he does not dispute, that the county tax rate for Alton did not spike at all during the years in question. His response was that the total valuation of properties also needs to be taken into account. What he is forgetting, apparently, is that the total valuation is already in consideration, as it is one of the two factors determining the tax rate, the other factor being the amount needed to be raised. In other words, you don’t look at the tax rate and then also the valuations, because the valuations are included in the tax rate.

I have previously shown not only that Mr. Howard was wrong regarding his claim, but that the county tax rate remained stable and was not affected by any bailout of Gunstock. When I tried to imagine what led him to his thinking, though, I realized that he was probably thinking of the education taxes during the relevant time period, which were in fact in flux. In 1998 the local education tax was $9.27 per $1,000, producing an annual tax of $1,854 on a $200,000 property. In 1999, the state education tax was started. That year, it was $6.73, combined with $4.52 in local education tax, for a combined rate of $11.25 per $1,000, or a total of $2,250 on a $200,000 home. In 2000, the following year, the combined education taxes had a $11.98 rate, or a tax of $2,396 on the same $200,000 home. That amount represented an increase of $542 over the previous two years. This may be the spike Representative Howard remembered, even though he was incorrect as to its source.

We all make errors, and our memories are all fallible. My concern here is that Representative’s Howard’s incorrect memory about the rise in his taxes in 1999, and his reckless reliance on it, led him to a total misconception about Gunstock and to a very misguided vote. Had his views on Gunstock been shared by the delegation at the time of the August vote, instead of being rejected on a 14 to 2 vote, then maybe we would have no Gunstock. Think of the loss of jobs, the detriment to our area economy, the loss of family recreation, the damage to tourism and the blow to history that could have resulted, not to mention the debt that would have been passed on to the taxpayers. We are all fortunate that Mr. Howard’s misleading and incorrect statements were not adopted.

Ruth Larson

Alton

Letter to the Editor: On Gunstock

Click here to see the article in the Laconia Daily Sun

Rep. Howard’s numbers on Gunstock tax impact are fantasy

Oct 12, 2018

To The Daily Sun,

I consider Rep Norman Silber’s attempted smear campaign against me (see his Oct. 9 letter to The Laconia Daily Sun) a badge of honor almost equal to the endorsements I have received in my run for the N.H. House (Belknap District 8, for Alton, Barnstead, and Gilmanton). It should be noted that Mr. Silber is the same man who equated a game of spin the bottle to attempted rape in his September 18 letter to The Laconia Daily Sun. He had also previously attacked me for using my own name rather than being known as Mrs. Hunter Taylor (see his April 4, 2017 letter to The Sun).

Mr. Silber now makes a crazed attempt to deflect attention from the serious policy issues I have been raising (in my letters differentiating my views from those of my opponent, Rep. Raymond Howard, Jr.). Nowhere does he even mention the actual policies I have been supporting, such as testing of toddlers for lead poisoning, testing high school students on civics, incentives for medical manufacturing, keeping county sheriff dispatch, anti-hate crimes resolution, the jail programs and county conservation and Meals on Wheels and Gunstock and others. If this attack on my campaign is Rep. Silber’s last hurrah before he returns to Florida for good, then he has my thanks for taking time out from packing to lash out.

Speaking of Gunstock, that is another area on which Rep. Howard and I totally disagree. When the county delegation voted on August 29 for the Gunstock line of credit (Revenue Anticipation Note, or RAN), the result was 14 to 2 in favor, with Rep. Howard and Rep. Silber being the two voting no. In an attempt to explain his negative vote, Rep. Howard made an extraordinary statement that I had to review afterwards on the video to confirm that I heard him accurately. Mr. Howard first insulted the citizens who attended the hearing as “groupies for Gunstock.” He then went on to claim that in 1999, or 20 years ago, the county bailed out Gunstock to the tune of $8 million, which resulted in such a spike in county taxes that he could not put food on the table for his family or clothe his children. (Anyone wishing to view this brief video can go to the Belknap County website and go to Watch Belknap County Meetings, then click on the video for the 8/29 delegation meeting; Rep. Howard’s remarks appear just after the 1 hour mark).

Suspecting that Rep. Howard’s claims were not based on fact, I obtained actual tax records to see what property owners in Alton (where Mr. Howard lives) paid in county taxes during the period in question.  As it turns out, the county portion of Alton’s property tax rate went from $2.04 in 1997 (meaning that for every $1,000 of assessed value, the taxpayer owed $2.04 for the county portion of the property tax bill) to $1.92 in 1998 to $1.98 in 1999 to $2.07 in 2000 to $1.62 in 2001. What those rates mean are that a person with a $200,000 house (an average price) would have paid annual county taxes on it of $408 in 1997, $384 in 1998, $396 in 1999, $414 in 2000, and $324 in 2001.

Where is the spike Rep. Howard referred to in his comments at the August meeting? It didn’t exist. It is clear that Mr. Howard’s statements about Belknap County taxes in the 1998–1999 period were completely without factual basis. No wonder that the person who comes to his rescue is a man who can’t distinguish between an innocent game and a sexual assault.

Ruth Larson

Alton

Letter to the Editor: On the Need for County Sheriff Dispatch

Click here to view article in the Laconia Daily Sun

Howard refused to pay for costs he approved in first place

Sep 27, 2018 Updated Oct 1, 2018

To The Daily Sun,

Most of my recent letters have focused on the differences between the votes of my opponent Rep. Raymond Howard in Concord and how I would have voted; today I turn my attention to a more local, county issue.

Voters should keep in mind the importance of our representatives’ county role, where they control the county budget. Whereas in Concord a representative is one of 400, at the delegation level in Belknap County, a representative is one of 18, with proportionally greater influence. We have recently seen (on the disastrous June vote to deny Gunstock a line of credit) how a measure can pass or fail by just one vote. (That vote, fortunately, was reversed by a later vote in favor of Gunstock, which won 14 to 2).

In 2017, the county delegation slashed the budget recommended by the Belknap commissioners. My opponent, Rep. Howard, was among those who had pledged not to raise county taxes, not by one penny, and not for any reason, despite the fact that he and the rest of the delegation unanimously approved a new union contract for Sheriff’s Department employees in 2016 that added costs. In 2017 the same delegation cut the recommended appropriation for the Sheriff’s Department by $135,881. In other words, they refused to pay for the very cost items they had approved, and they disregarded the fact that the actual 2016 departmental expenditures exceeded the 2017 appropriation.

Rep. Howard had what at first blush sounded like the perfect solution to the problem. Pointing out that dispatch is not a statutorily mandated duty of the sheriff, he recommended having the sheriff’s office curtail “extra activities,” like dispatching, to save money. This would in fact have saved the Sheriff’s Department approximately $500,000.

So what’s the flaw with this logic? If the Sheriff’s office no longer does dispatching for the towns, then the towns have to do it themselves. Rep. Howard made this proposal despite the fact that the three towns he represented (Alton, Barnstead, and Gilmanton) were among the six towns in Belknap County receiving 24/7 dispatch through the Sheriff’s Department. Estimates of what the Howard solution would have cost were as follows: approximately $425,000 per town per year, plus an additional $500,00 for the first year (for the set-up cost of equipment and facilities for the new town dispatch center).

In other words, Alton, Barnstead, and Gilmanton would pay close to $1 million extra the first year, and $500,000 each succeeding year.

Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed, and Rep. Howard’s proposal fell flat. Those involved realized that the proposal was obviously penny-wise, pound-foolish. Why save $500,000 for the county at a cost of millions to the towns?

On occasions like this, the attempt to save the taxpayers a few dollars in the short run can be extremely costly to those same taxpayers in the long run. When I included on my palm cards the pledge to look for “long term solutions, not quick fixes,” this is exactly the type of situation I was talking about. I can assure the voters that, if elected, I will give more thought to any solution I propose.

Ruth Larson

Alton

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