Grading NH's democracy

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Two different organizations released reports in July rating New Hampshire's democracy.

First, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a national issue advocacy organization that describes itself as "progressive," graded New Hampshire as follows:

• D+ for "Accessibility" (for example, the availability of online and early voting)
• B+ for "Representation" (for example, the representation of women and minorities in elected positions)
• D+ for "Influence" (for example, campaign donation limits and campaign finance disclosure laws)

New Hampshire ranked 14th overall compared to the other forty-nine states, indicating a relatively healthy democracy in the Granite State.

However, the report may be criticized for giving states good grades for certain policies favored by the Democratic Party.  For example, the report penalized states with strict voter ID laws and rewarded states that allow early voting.

Open Democracy, a New Hampshire organization that aims to "stop the corrupting influence of special interest money in politics," graded the state on 21 measures of democracy.  Here are some of Open Democracy's grades for New Hampshire:

• B for "Voter Registration"
• C for "Gender Representation"
• F for "Minority Representation"
• D for "Out of State PAC Spending"
• F for "Donor Share of Population"

Open Democracy did not compare New Hampshire to any other state, and said, "The purpose of the report is not to compare New Hampshire to other states, many of which earn similarly low or even lower grades, but to establish straightforward and objective measures of democratic health tailored to the Granite State."

Open Democracy's report may face criticism for grading NH on a scale that has no relation to the norms across the U.S.  For example, the report gave NH a "D" for Presidential Primary turnout, but turnout for NH's 2012 Presidential Primary was roughly double the national average.  New Hampshire's poor grade on voter turnout may therefore be viewed as subjective.

Interestingly, the Center for American Progress Action Fund and Open Democracy used almost none of the same measures.  For example, the Center for American Progress Action Fund did not include voter turnout or overall voter registration.  Open Democracy, in turn, did not consider voter ID laws or campaign contribution limits.

How would you grade the health of New Hampshire's democracy?  CLICK HERE to answer the question on our Facebook page.

CLICK HERE to see the full Center for American Progress Action Fund report.

CLICK HERE to see the full Open Democracy report.

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Stand up for the LFDA mission!
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The nonpartisan, nonprofit Live Free or Die Alliance (LFDA) serves New Hampshire citizens by providing objective information about issues and candidates; promoting the civil exchange of opinions in a variety of forums, online and in person; and connecting citizens with their elected officials.

Show your support for our mission: join the LFDA community today! 

Membership is always free, and gives you posting privileges on our website.

Want to learn more about us first?  Visit our About Page to learn about our mission, our Issue pages to learn about hot topics in New Hampshire government, our Voter Resources section to learn about elected officials, or our Member Posts to see what fellow Granite Staters have to say.  And don't forget to like us on Facebook!

Hearings on Pipeline

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is holding public hearings on a proposed natural gas pipeline in southern New Hampshire this week. The Kinder Morgan pipeline would run eighty miles through New Hampshire, if approved.

According to Kinder Morgan’s website, the pipeline "will generally be adjacent to the ROW of an existing utility corridor in New Hampshire, which would minimize the impacts to the environment and landowners." Furthermore, the pipeline "will provide New Hampshire with additional access to lower cost, clean, abundant and domestic natural gas supplies."

Pipeline opponents, on the other hand, argue that the risks of a natural gas leak are too great a threat to New Hampshire’s environment and property owners.

Other opponents argue New Hampshire should look to expand renewable energy instead of natural gas supplies.

Earlier in July the LFDA asked our community about the proposed pipeline. The majority of commenters opposed the pipeline.

"Why would we allow this extensive and dangerous infrastructure project when this is not a renewable energy source?" said one LFDA commenter.

The next public meeting on the pipeline is July 30 at 6:30pm at the Milford Town Hall.

CLICK HERE to read a full report on the LFDA conversation and add your comments.

CLICK HERE to read coverage from the Union Leader.

Free State churches in court

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At least two New Hampshire groups affiliated with the Free State Project are fighting in state courts to be recognized as tax-exempt churches.

The Shire Free Church in Keene and the Church of the Sword in Westmoreland are both interfaith groups founded by liberty activists. They argue that they qualify as tax-exempt churches because they teach a moral philosophy and give back to the town through community service.

There are no strict rules on what qualifies as a church for local tax purposes. Keene and Westmoreland argue both churches are primarily oriented towards politics, not religion, and therefore should pay taxes.

Ruling in favor of Westmoreland, the Cheshire County Superior Court stated, "The power to make religious based property tax exemptions necessarily includes the power to decide what organizations qualify as 'religious.'"

The Shire Free Church and the Church of the Sword argue the towns ruled against them because of religious discrimination.

Supporters also note that many religious leaders, such as Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (an ordained Baptist minister), have been politically active.

Both churches are still appealing their tax status in the courts.

What do you think qualifies a church for tax-exempt status?  CLICK HERE to post your thoughts on our site.

CLICK HERE to read coverage from the Concord Monitor.

NH students get privacy rights

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Starting this September, state law will prohibit schools from requesting access to students’ social media accounts.

HB 142, the bill behind the change, automatically became law after Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) chose to neither sign nor veto the bill.

"We would never permit school administrators to demand access to a student’s bedroom to sift through their private letters and photo albums," said Devon Chaffee, Executive Director of ACLU of New Hampshire. "HB 142 simply prevents school administrators from doing the electronic equivalent."

However, some opponents argue the law over-reaches by including private schools. "Some private schools and certain parents of homeschoolers have specific policies regarding how their students can use social media. … Non-public education institutions are chosen by parents for the education of their child in part because of these policies," said Rep. Michael Sylvia (R).

Mont Vernon teen Jonathan Petersen also testified at a bill hearing that, "I believe that cases of cyberbullying will only increase in New Hampshire schools due to school administrators and staff having no control over social media and other types of cyberbullying."

HB 142 does allow schools to request a parent give information from a minor’s social media account. The bill also allows schools to request a student "voluntarily share a printed copy of a specific communication from the student’s social media account."

Do you support HB 142?  CLICK HERE to post your thoughts on our site.

CLICK HERE to read what the LFDA community had to say about HB 142.

CLICK HERE to learn more about New Hampshire's bully law.

Update to NH securities regulations

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On Monday, July 27 Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) will sign SB 266, which updates the laws regulating securities in New Hampshire.

Right now New Hampshire securities law is based on the Uniform Securities Act of 1956.

"SB 266 does not add additional regulatory requirements or costs to doing business, and in fact is expected to lower costs by removing complexity, idiosyncrasy, hurdles and traps for the unwary," said Rep. Laurie Sanborn.

Legislators hope the new securities regulations will help New Hampshire startups raise capital.

SB 266 created some controversy when a House amendment reduced some filing fees, potentially lowering state revenue.

"We heard testimony that these costs were already much lower than in other states, so the revenue loss is not necessary to encourage business investment in the state," said Rep. Kermit Williams.

The House and Senate agreed on a final version of the bill that keeps the House amendment but raises some other filing fees, balancing some of the lost revenue.

Do you have any ideas on how to encourage investment in startups in New Hampshire?  CLICK HERE to post your thoughts on our site.

CLICK HERE to read coverage from NHPR.

Grading NH's democracy

Join Our Community

Hearings on Pipeline

Free State churches in court

NH students get privacy rights

Update to NH securities regulations

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Nicholas Lydon
An F but in fairness democracy as a whole gets an F. How people don't realize that democracy is just a fancy name for mob rule is beyond me. Sorry but I just don't like the idea of a brainwashed mass of people deciding how I get to spend my life. If I someone is not hurting anyone else just leave them alone. There is no need for people to create giant governments and control every aspect of other peoples lives.
Stephen D. Clark
A "C." What is essentially a hobby vocation for those people well-off enough to afford the luxury of active participation in state politics means that working people's interests are underrepresented at best when they're not ignored. State representatives should be paid a decent salary of $40 grand a year.
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