Op-ed published 7/8/2016, Conway Daily Sun and on the blog susanthebruce
The Governor and the Executive Council comprise the executive branch of our state government. The Council has veto power over pardons, contracts with a value greater than $10,000, and nominations. Executive Councilors earn a yearly salary of $12,354 plus an additional $4000 per year for expenses, in Districts 2-5. The District 1 Councilor gets $5800 per year for expenses. It should come as no surprise that NH is the only state that does the executive branch this way. We’re the only state with a ridiculously large House full of unpaid legislators. Neither one of these things actually works all that well anymore, but that does not deter us.
The Executive Council was intended to be a check on the governor’s power. Instead, it’s become a home for some angry men who don’t give a fig about what’s right for the state. Their figs are reserved for what is far right, as in their ideology. The Executive Council has become just another parade ground for ideological posturing by the members of the GOP as they use the position as a springboard to higher office.
Last summer the Executive Council voted against funding Planned Parenthood on the basis of the bogus videos that have since been discredited. Republicans seized on those videos as a way to play politics with women’s health and bodily autonomy, while pretending to have great concern for life. That Planned Parenthood saves lives didn’t factor into their grandstanding.
Planned Parenthood saved my daughter’s life twenty some years ago. Low wage working women in the north country didn’t have many choices when it came to their health care back then. The choices haven’t expanded all that much in the ensuing years, though the ACA has improved access for some. My daughter could afford Planned Parenthood, thanks to their sliding fee scale. An annual pap smear came back showing precancerous cells in her cervix. They were removed. She didn’t get cervical cancer. About 15 years later, she had a baby, because she didn’t get cancer and die, thanks to Planned Parenthood.
It is worth pointing out that Planned Parenthood is not just a provider of birth control. Planned Parenthood also provides STD testing and treatment, breast exams, and cancer screenings.
When Executive Councilors Joe Kenney and David Wheeler start grandstanding about Planned Parenthood, I take it personally. Women’s lives and women’s health are of no concern to these men. Women are just pawns to be used for grandstanding purposes.
Last week the Executive Council voted to restore funding to Planned Parenthood. Republican Chris Sununu was the swing vote this time. He’s supported Planned Parenthood in the past, and after a foray into political expedience last summer, he’s returned to his original stance. His own political party has already begun to excoriate him. There is no room for differences of opinion in today’s Republican Party.
David Wheeler brayed about “Planned Parenthood selling baby parts.” This has been disproven (at the same time the videos were debunked) but in the fact free age we live in, that is unimportant. He knows that the NH media won’t hold him accountable for his lies. Only two states (California and Washington) had fetal tissue donation programs. The program was completely voluntary. The tissue wasn’t sold – it was donated. Some (not all) of the clinics were reimbursed for the cost of shipping and handling. The tissue went on to be used for scientific research.
Joe Kenney put on his sad face to declare that the money for Planned Parenthood should be spent on the opioid crisis. Family planning is not a crisis, he opined, in the way that one might if they had zero chance of ever becoming pregnant. Women’s lives don’t matter in Joeworld, but suddenly, addicts lives matter? Try as I might, I can’t ever remember Joe having any concern for them in the past.
At the Executive Council meeting, Kenney said that there is never an unwanted child. There are orphanages and adoption agencies, he said. Does he even know what an orphanage is? (Spoiler Alert: warehouse for unwanted children.) Fauxlifers love to pretend concern for children, while begrudging every dime spent on their education, and doing nothing about child poverty and homelessness.
The 2015 data from NH Kids Count shows that in Carroll County, 10.5% of families with children under the age of 18 live below the federal poverty level. In Coos County it’s 19.2% of families, and in Grafton it’s 11.8%. Given that NH is the seventh wealthiest state in the nation, those numbers are shocking. Joe Kenney has yet to put on his sad public face to discuss the need to do anything about the increasing percentage of child poverty in his district.
According to the nhgov website, “The Executive Council plays a vital role in improving the state’s infrastructure, especially roads and bridges, via management and oversight of the state’s 10 year Highway Plan.” The website does not list “overseeing women’s reproductive parts” as one of the EC responsibilities. Ponder that next time you drive on East Conway Road.
NH typically has about 500 bridges on the state’s red list for structural impairments. We have 1,2000 bridges that are over 75 years old. New bridges are added to the red list every year. We add more bridges than we take off, though one way to remove a bridge from the red list is just to close it. The wait list for new municipal bridge projects is about 17 years. Our 10 year transportation plan is a farce. But hey, that’s not sexy. Talking about bridges doesn’t get your face on WMUR or get you written up in Breitbart. Doing your damn job doesn’t get your name up in lights.
According to the Executive Council website, Council members are supposed to be advocates for the people. Check out their responsibilities at
https://www.nh.gov/council/about-us/index.htm , then ask questions of your local EC candidates accordingly. You might ask about that “vital” role they play in improving our infrastructure. Ask the incumbent what he’s done in that regard. Be sure to ask which people they intend to advocate for.
Published as an op-ed in the July 8 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper.