Ink Link Candidate Survey
One of the nice things about running for office in the Internet era is the wealth of voter education platforms that are available online. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to respond to the Manchester Ink Link's candidate guide. I thought their questions were very thoughtful, and I wanted to share my responses here as well:
If elected or re-elected, please describe legislation you expect to sponsor or co-sponsor.
I would like to continue to focus on legislation related to addressing the education funding formula so that we can bring per pupil spending in Manchester more in line with other cities and towns without increasing property taxes. I am planning to remain a cosponsor on several bills from last session that will be resubmitted this session (waiting period for firearms purchases, requiring landlords to provide advance notice for rent increases above a certain level). I am also looking into sponsoring a bill to improve reporting of demographic statistics about arrests, citations, and stops (recommended by the Commission on Law Enforcement Accountability, Community, and Transparency and Seacoast BLM).
What are the most important concerns facing you’ve heard from Manchester residents and how can you address those concerns if elected or re-elected?
Certainly the top issue right now is how to resume some level of normalcy despite being in a pandemic – particularly with regard to schools opening and helping small businesses survive despite lost revenue. I will (continue to) advocate to make more federal funds available for these purposes and to have more oversight of their allocation to ensure they are going to the people and businesses who need them most and provide the most value to our communities. With regard to remote schooling, there are some changes we might make to statute to give teachers more latitude in the online tools that they are able to use with students.
Other issues that I know continue to be concerns are opioid use and mental health access, homelessness, school funding and quality, access to/cost of healthcare, and climate. I expect this year will be challenging, budget-wise, but I will work to ensure that we pursue long-term investments over quick fixes – we know problems only become worse and costlier to address if they are ignored. With climate specifically, there are some good bills we could pass related to renewables that don’t require large state expenditures.
New Hampshire legislators are citizen legislators and being a legislator is a significant time commitment. How much time per week can you spend on legislative duties while the Senate/House is in session?
I consider myself very fortunate to have a flexible job that allows me to take time away to work on legislative duties, as well as family supports that allow me more ‘free time’ than most working parents of 3. Based on last term’s experience, it’s been realistic for me to devote anywhere from 5 to 20 hours/week on legislative duties while we’re in session, and I am proud to have a good record of attendance at House sessions and committee hearings and meetings in my first term. With that said, I hope that with last term’s experience (and some recent adjustments to my work life), I will be able to allocate more time this term to ‘behind the scenes’ work as well as scheduled meetings.
In your view, describe the atmosphere within the legislature over the past two years. Do you believe this atmosphere will continue and how would that affect how you approach this position if elected or re-elected?
I’ve had vastly different experiences at different times in the legislature. In my committee, the atmosphere was largely very collegial, respectful, and productive, despite the expected disagreements that broke along party lines. During the full House sessions (and in some other committees), unfortunately, it was another story. There were some floor speeches that were inappropriate if not outright disrespectful, and a lot of procedural shenanigans and “dilatory tactics” that showed a total disregard for the time and effort that we all put into being present for votes. It’s been frustrating, and it’s made it more difficult to assume positive intent on the part of my colleagues across the aisle. I do think that being seated separately by party contributed to the atmosphere, and I hope the Speaker will decline this request from the GOP leadership next session to help change the tone. A lot too will depend on the size of the majority and whether the governor is in the majority or minority party. I’m always open to listening to and working with any colleague on shared goals, but I will also always prioritize working with people who are operating in good faith.
What is the most significant issue facing Manchester at the municipal level and how can you, as a legislator aid the city government on that issue?
Funding formulas!!! Doing everything by property tax (particularly school funding) hurts Manchester a lot. I also think that being a hub for many social services cuts both ways – it is great that we have substantial services available and accessible, but as people are referred to us from elsewhere, we’ve landed with a greater burden. I will support legislation that strengthens these services throughout the state so that people can get what they need locally.
With the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 in the future, do you support the legislature meeting remotely?
Yes, absolutely. I actually supported some remote meeting (for committee work, etc.) even before the pandemic (to reduce commute time issues as a barrier to service for potential legislators and attendance for citizens), and I believe we should continue exploring our technology options even when public health is back to normal.
In your opinion, what were the five most significant pieces of legislation introduced over the last two years? Please explain what made them significant.
The state budget (HB 3 & 4)!! As our next President often says, “Don't tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value.” The state budget was not perfect, but delivered on many priorities – increasing state-level funding for education, ensuring the continuation of Medicaid expansion, funding additional mobile mental health crisis units and a 25-bed secure psychiatric unit, fully funding the DOT, reforming business taxes, and ensuring state revenue is sustained in lean years so that costs don’t need to be pushed to the municipal level.
Fully funding DCYF to hire additional child protective workers (SB 6) – protecting vulnerable children pays positive dividends for decades (also, it is the right thing to do!)
Raising the minimum wage (SB 10, vetoed by Gov. Sununu) – Unlike our neighboring states, NH does not have our own minimum wage; our minimum is the federal minimum of $7.25 despite high costs of living in the northeast. Morally, it’s the right thing to pay workers for their time; practically, raising the wage would strengthen our economy by putting more money into circulation locally and has also been shown to improve mental health and reduce suicides and generally provide stability to at-risk communities. Establishing an independent commission on redistricting (HB 1665, vetoed by Gov. Sununu) – this bill would have ensured nonpartisan definition of House/Senate/Executive Council districts to prevent gerrymandering and supported the basic premise that our elected officials should be representative of the population as a whole.
Allocating funds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to invest in energy efficiency projects (HB 582 / SB 122; vetoed by Gov. Sununu) – improving energy efficiency is probably the #1 most important step we can take at the state level toward addressing climate change.