Railing About Rail

By Ian Aikens | July 31, 2019

The last public hearing I attended in the legislative session in Concord that ended on June 30, 2019 was anything but encouraging. It was regarding SB241, which would authorize funding for the “project development phase” of the capital rail project and extend commuter rail from Boston to either Nashua, Manchester, or Concord (or all 3 cities). For hours I listened to one proponent after another urge the committee members to approve the bill, and I ended up being the sole member of the public to speak in opposition to the bill.

One proponent called it a “no brainer” since 80% of the funding would come from the federal government. Just how a government that is $22,000,000,000,000 (and counting) in the hole has “free” money to dispense was never clarified to the committee members. One committee member asked one of the proponents if inserting the project into the 2019-2028 Ten Year Transportation Improvement Plan (a big black hole) meant that the remaining 20% needed would already be funded. In other words, the money’s already there, so why not spend it? Indeed, placing a costly project in a big black hole with little visibility for the taxpaying public would be great for special interest groups, and that’s how government boondoggles are born. Many of the speakers touted how rail would create jobs and revitalize towns, cut down on traffic congestion, increase business at Manchester Airport, improve the environment, bring tourists to New Hampshire, and keep the young from leaving the state. The only benefit I didn’t hear mentioned was that it would spur the return of the Messiah.

Now let’s take a quick look at the history of rail in this country. It served a practical purpose as the country was developing and spreading across the continent transitioning from horse and buggy and water transportation, but once automobiles and air travel become affordable to the masses, rail transport became outmoded and impractical. Passenger rail was always used more by the elite, and ridership peaked around 1920 and never recovered. Despite the rosy claims of its proponents, virtually every rail project in the country features overestimates of ridership, underestimates of the building costs involved, constant and ongoing taxpayer subsidies, deferred maintenance with incredible backlogs—and a band of highly paid consultants served well by the perpetuation of the myths of rail. Outside of a very densely populated city like New York, and possibly Chicago and San Francisco, rail transit in this day and age is not economically feasible. Planes are faster and less expensive for long distances, and cars and buses are more convenient and less expensive for short distances. A few examples of the dismal record of rail projects from around the country: 1) Nashville’s Music City Star, which began operating in 2006, was requiring a taxpayer subsidy of $28 per ride by 2016; 2) Orlando, Florida’s SunRail, a 32-mile commuter rail line, opened in 2014 to such low ridership that by 2016 the government agency running the line admitted that the fare revenues weren’t enough to even cover the costs of operating and maintaining the ticket machines used to sell tickets to riders; 3) Salt Lake City opened up a commute line north to Ogden in 2008 and another line south to Provo in 2012. Through 2015, the Utah Transit Authority had already spent $2 billion on capital improvements and maintenance of rail lines that carried only 8,330 roundtrips per weekday. That’s a cost of $1,000 per resident, and the actual fares collected covered only 18% of the total transit costs. At losses of $35 million per year, it would actually have been cheaper for the taxpayers to buy every daily roundtrip rider a new Toyota Prius every two years.

Rail doesn’t fare much better when you look elsewhere in the world. France’s first high-speed rail train, which ran from Paris to Lyon, did earn enough operating profits to repay its construction costs by 1992, but later lines built all lost money, and by 2013 the country’s rail program had accumulated debts of over $50 billion. While most people are aware of Japan’s “bullet train,” did you know that the Tokyo-Osaka rail corridor is the only line that has ever been profitable in Japan? The reason for this rare rail success story is because the corridor is extremely high density (about 50 million people) and automobile ownership is low. As the government built new rail lines in lower-density corridors where car ownership was higher, those rail lines were all big money losers for the taxpayers.

Closer to home, the Downeaster provides good historical data to see how rail has worked out locally. The Downeaster, which has been running ten trains daily between Boston and Maine since 2001, makes stops in Exeter, Durham, and Dover. The first thing rail proponents always tout is that rail creates jobs and spurs economic development. A study looking at job growth paired similar cities, as far as access to infrastructure, to see how they fared since the Downeaster started running. Epping was paired with Exeter and Dover with Rochester. After 12 years, the results showed that Exeter had lost 300 jobs, Durham’s total number of jobs was virtually unchanged, and Dover had added just over 1,000 new jobs. The study’s conclusion that having a rail stop in Exeter did nothing to stop the job loss there pointed more to general economic conditions in the area and the nature of local economies (more manufacturing-oriented or service-oriented). The study found that Dover’s impressive job growth had more to do with being a large service center than trains having a stop there because Epping and Concord also saw greater job growth over the same period, and neither city had passenger rail service. The study concurred with what the director of Harvard’s Rappaport Institute had to say in the summary of a study of the MBTA commuter rail system: “The history of commuter rail in Massachusetts suggests that while commuter rail can be helpful, it generally has not revitalized communities or reduced sprawl.”

So, if government is going to be involved in the transportation business, wouldn’t it make more sense to put those tax dollars to better use? And, if the goal is to get more folks to their destinations faster and cheaper, buses are a much better bang for our bucks. The express buses that run along the I-93 corridor move 550,000 people per year for $750,000. Compare that to the Downeaster, which, mind you, is considered a “successful” rail project, and moves 530,000 riders per year for a government subsidy of $8.4 million. Furthermore, with bus lines, changes in employment and development patterns can be adapted to much quicker and economically by adding or subtracting bus lines as needed (or not). The same flexibility will never be there with rail transit.

Looking to the future, rail makes even less sense with the imminent arrival of driverless cars. The new technology will allow elderly and disabled folks to get around so much easier. While this might add to congested highways, the new technology will be able to handle the additional traffic safer and more efficiently due to the reduction of human error. Furthermore, cars are getting cleaner and more environmentally-friendly every year, so we should applaud technology that makes life easier for more folks. Clearly driverless technology will mean even less people will choose to use rail transit.

One would think with the well-publicized rail disaster in California that was supposed to link San Francisco and Los Angeles in two hours that has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars and will never be finished, that should have quelled any enthusiasm for such a project in New Hampshire. But no, I heard at least one rail advocate at the SB241 hearing mention a possible future high-speed rail line between Montreal and Boston as a goal to strive for. With estimated subsidies of $10 per rider to maintain rail service from Boston to Manchester and $60 per rider from Boston to Concord—a price tag of $5.5 million per year—why would anyone think a Montreal to Boston project would turn out any better than the California debacle? I caution readers to consider the words of Willie Brown, the former Speaker of the California State Assembly and former Mayor of San Francisco (a politician I never cared for, but one who occasionally would cut loose with an unusually frank statement of political reality): “News that the Transbay Terminal is something like $300 million over budget should not come as a shock to anyone. We always knew the initial estimate was way under the real cost. Just like we never had a real cost for the Central Subway or the Bay Bridge or any other massive construction project. So get off it. In the world of civic projects, the first budget is really just a down payment. If people knew the real cost from the start, nothing would ever be approved. The idea is to get going. Start digging a hole and make it so big, there’s no alternative to coming up with the money to fill it in.”

Finally, to end on a positive note, even though SB241 became law on June 6 without the governor’s signature and millions of “free” taxpayer dollars will be spent to study the feasibility of the capital rail project, at least all three of Milton’s state legislators (Abigail Rooney, Peter Hayward, and Jeb Bradley) voted NAY on the upcoming boondoggle. A small glimmer of hope for fiscal sanity!


LegiScan. (2019). NH Legislation | 2019 | Regular Session. Retrieved from legiscan.com/NH/rollcall/SB241/id/805575

O’Toole, Randal. (2018, October). Romance of the Rails: Why the Passenger Trains We Love Are Not the Transportation We Need. Retrieved from www.cato.org/events/romance-rails-why-passenger-trains-we-love-are-not-transportation-we-need

Eliott-Trafficante, Josh. (2015, May). Does Commuter Rail Create Jobs? Retrieved from jbartlett.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Does-Commuter-Rail-Create-Jobs

San Francisco Chronicle column, July 28, 2013

Not the Fourth of July

By Ian Aikens | July 8, 2019

Isn’t it strange how even the name of the holiday being celebrated last week with parades, barbeques, flag-waving, and fireworks has morphed from “Independence Day” to the “Fourth of July”?  It almost seems like an intentional purpose to make people forget what the Declaration of Independence was all about and why it came into being.

Though the general population’s knowledge of civics and the most basics of American history is severely lacking these days — close to 40% of the American public cannot name even one of the freedoms listed in the First Amendment — at least most folks know there was a war when the 13 colonies broke away from England sometime in the late 1700’s, the Founding Fathers conjured up some historical documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and our country was formed.  Most folks will recall there was some type of uproar over taxes or some such grievance, but that’s about it.  Shamefully, despite the massive amounts of taxpayer money spent on education these days — in most states, close to 50% of taxes collected go to schools — much collective memory has been lost.  When I was in junior high school, studying the Constitution was one of the major hurdles of getting through the eighth grade.  When I ask young folks these days about it, they all say that it’s not even taught at all — at least not in government schools.

How convenient to forget the past.  In fact, the Declaration of Independence was a radical proclamation by rebel British subjects that the purpose of government is to protect and uphold individual rights.  After 250 years, we take that as a given, but at the time, that was truly a remarkable revelation.  Government was created to serve the people, not the other way around.  In fact, the rebel colonists were so distrustful of government from their experience with the British government that the Articles of Confederation created such a weak federal government that it didn’t even have the power to tax.  (In retrospect, perhaps a good thing?)  The Founding Fathers were on to something new and profound, and it’s no accident that Americans experienced an incredible growth in prosperity after the signing of the Declaration of Independence (which was approved by Congress on July 4, 1776 but wasn’t actually signed until August 2, 1776) to be followed by the Constitution and Bill of Rights in 1787 and 1789 respectively.  A lot of thought went into designing a government that would be limited in scope and concentration of authority to prevent the abuse of power.  They very purposely came up with a government based on the rule of law, rather than the rule of man.

Sadly, if the Founding Fathers were here today to see what the limited government they created has become, they would faint.  Endless wars and Congress completely abdicating its responsibility and allowing the president to commit US troops abroad without congressional approval goes completely against the intent of the Founding Fathers.  And this is nothing new:  the last time Congress authorized and declared war was World War II.  The Founding Fathers specifically did not want a standing army because they knew it would lead to military adventures overseas — which is has — and felt a navy would be sufficient for defensive purposes.  They would be appalled at American presidents with the power to assassinate “our enemies” with drones without due process of law.  The surveillance state and rampant abuses by the NSA, CIA, FBI, IRS, FDA, and TSA would be another whopper for the Founding Fathers to grasp.  The utter lack of economic freedom, where every branch of government has passed a myriad of laws governing every aspect of running any business these days, would also have the Founding Fathers aghast.  If you ever take a look at bills that push for more controls with licensing and fee extractions, they often literally say “for the privilege (my emphasis) of operating a business in …”  The signers of the Declaration of Independence knew from experience that government itself is the greatest threat to liberty and designed a system to prevent such tyranny.  The welfare state and calls for more government guaranteed jobs, housing, education, healthcare, and just about every other need would be completely incomprehensible to the Founding Fathers as they intended the “pursuit of happiness” to be critical for human beings to thrive, not the “guarantee of happiness.”

In my travels to Concord earlier this year to give testimony in committee public hearings, it was disheartening to listen to person after person from vested special interest groups urge our elected representatives for more control over our lives with more laws, regulations, and taxes.  Of course, as long as they received the largesse for their particular group, that’s all they really cared about.  The fact that they were basically begging for alms from the spoils of mandatory charity didn’t seem to bother anyone, which shows just how far our society has evolved away from the ideals created in the Declaration of Independence.  It has become a largely overlooked and definitely unappreciated gift from those who understood the true meaning of liberty.

See also Milton and the U.S. Constitution


Harrison Elizabeth (History.com). (2012, July 4). 9 Things You May Not Know About the Declaration of Independence. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/news/9-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-declaration-of-independence

Washington Times. (2017, September 13). 37 Percent of Americans Can’t Name Any of the Rights Guaranteed by the First Amendment: Survey. Retrieved from https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/sep/13/37-percent-of-americans-cant-name-any-of-the-right/

Wikipedia. (2019, June 6). Declaration of War by the United States. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declaration_of_war_by_the_United_States


Concord Beat – Early July 2019

By Ian Aikens | July 1, 2019

As promised in my last article, this time I examined Jeb Bradley’s recent legislative record. I culled my impression not only from his voting record but also from the bills he either sponsored or co-sponsored. While Bradley has a tendency to allow individuals and their employers to negotiate voluntarily between themselves on important issues like pay and benefits, sadly, in other areas, he shows no reluctance to give government bureaucrats the power to mandate all sorts of things.

First a little background on Bradley himself. He has been active in New Hampshire politics since 1986, when he was first elected to the Wolfeboro Planning Board. He was elected to the New Hampshire House in 1990 and re-elected five times. He was elected to Congress in 2002, but in an upset he lost his seat to Carol Shea-Porter, an anti-war activist, in 2006. He was elected to the New Hampshire Senate in 2010 and served as the Majority Leader from 2010-2018. He currently serves as District 3 Senator, representing 19 towns in Carroll County, Waterville Valley in Grafton County, and Middleton and Milton in Strafford County. Outside of the political sphere, he ran an organic bakery, a painting business, a real estate office, and even worked as a street magician in Switzerland at one time.

Now down to business:

HB1319 – Prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in housing, employment, and public accommodations. Bradley co-sponsored the bill and it was signed by the governor. While it is proper to prohibit all discrimination on government property and for all government services, since “the commons” are owned by all taxpayers, is it really the proper role of government to dictate to private (voluntarily-run) businesses who they must serve? In the olden days, the argument that a traveler had few, if any, choices when traveling, so it would have been uncivil to allow a private business to deny lodging to a traveler may have been plausible, but in this day and age with most businesses scrambling for more customers, it makes little sense to mandate fairness. Besides, the biggest obstacles to more choices for consumers these days are government regulations and occupational licensing.

SB1 – Granite Caregiving Act of 2019. This bill was vetoed by the governor, and Bradley had the good sense to vote NO on it. This would have actually been a tax on earned income—which in any other state is called an income tax—but politicians produce flowery-named titles for bills that might not otherwise be well-received when they are trying to pull the wool over voters’ eyes. This TAX would have been deducted out of all employees’ wages at the rate of .5%. While it would have been a nice fringe benefit for employees, and there is broad-based support for “Family Leave,” once you inform folks that they have to pay for it themselves, support for the program drops dramatically. This would have a mandate too—and the only opt-out would have been for companies that already offer the benefit.

SB10 – Minimum wage up to $12.00 per hour. Bradley voted NO on this one. Another mandate forcing businesses to pay employees more than their skills are worth on the open market. There’s been plenty written about minimum wages and their consequences over the years, so it should come as no surprise that those on the bottom of the economic ladder are hurt the most by these mandates. Those with the lowest skills just starting out lose out on the opportunities to advance their skills. It should also come as no surprise that minimum wage laws were originally pushed by union workers to keep non-Caucasians from competing for their jobs. The racism continues today, but they call it a “Living Wage.”

SB148 – Notification to public employees of right to join or not join a union. Bradley was a co-sponsor on this bill. While one part of this bill that requires new employees’ personal information to be released to unions is alarming, overall this was a net good bill because of the requirement that new employees be informed that they have a choice of joining a union or not. No mandatory forced extortion to join the union or lose your job.

SB255 – Dementia training for direct care staff in residential facilities and community-based services. Co-sponsored by Bradley, this bill demonstrates that he believes that those who choose a residential home for their loved ones don’t have sense enough to choose a facility where the health care workers have adequate training for the jobs they perform. It also assumes the residential facilities have no business interest in maintaining properly trained employees and need to be nudged by a mandate. What business can survive if its reputation is marred by poor care of its customers?

SB270 – Establish tax credit against business profits tax for donations to career and technical schools. Another bill co-sponsored by Bradley, this one would serve to help finance apprenticeships and training programs at technical schools that teach their students actual job skills for the real world, rather than traditional schools supported by tax dollars that do little to prepare students for the working world. An added plus is the tax credit serves to deprive government bureaucrats of more money to waste.

SB272 – Enforce the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. Bradley co-sponsored this bill, which would force health insurers to treat mental illness as seriously as physical illnesses. Of course, we all want extra goodies we don’t have to pay for, but all these extra services increasingly mandated by politicians and bureaucrats—that’s why the cost of medical insurance and services continue to increase dramatically. Besides, I’m not so sure all this obsession with mental health is so healthy. With the ever-increasing number of new laws, bans, and mandates—that’s enough to increase mental illness in itself.

SB274 – Mothers with newborns on Medicaid entitled to “free” home visits. Another bill co-sponsored by Bradley, this is a new, small entitlement program. I have nothing against mothers—either with newborns or older children—but who will pay for these special home visits? After all, they’re not free. If Bradley and the other co-sponsors were to personally pay for these home visits themselves, that would be highly commendable, but forcing everyone else to pay—that’s forced giving.

SB279 – Requires health insurers to cover fertility treatment on all policies. Another bill co-sponsored by Bradley. Not everyone is interested in having every sort of medical option (that they will have to pay for), so forcing all insurers to cover more and more expenses drives up the costs for most people (and employers who could otherwise pay their employees more). Health insurance—like all other services that folks (and their employers) pay for—should have as much variety as possible to suit individual needs of consumers, but mandating more and more services results in less choices for all.

SB282 – Requires school districts and chartered government schools to provide suicide prevention training. Bradley was the primary sponsor on this one. Suicide, especially by a young person, is always a tragic event, but is mandating all teachers to attend two hours of suicide training annually going to actually save lives? I doubt it. More likely, it will be yet another administrative burden for teachers to fulfill in an ever-increasing list of required non-teaching duties. If politicians were really serious about suicide prevention among youth, perhaps they should consider making school attendance non-compulsory. First, there would be the obvious savings to taxpayers of not chasing down kids who hate being in school and often cause the most disruption. More important, forcing all kids to attend government schools—and face it, unless the family is well-off, the option of a private (voluntary) school is very limited—which are often dangerous (bullying, gangs, drugs) may actually increase suicides. One-size-fits-all doesn’t work for everyone.

SB290 – Changes to New Hampshire Granite Advantage Health Care Program. This bill has several parts to it, but the main thrust is to reduce work requirements for those who qualify for what is essentially totally free health care—no deductibles, premiums, or co-pays. We’re talking about able-bodied adults here, not the disabled or pregnant women. Encouraging people away from self-sufficiency leads to dependence on others and ill will from tax-weary taxpayers. Fortunately, Bradley voted against the bill.

All in all, Bradley at best has a spotty record in Concord. His view of what government should be doing borders on paternalism at best and authoritarianism at worst.

[Editor’s note: see also NH SB 154 Amended and SB 154 on the House Floor].

Previous in sequence: Concord Beat – May 2019


LegiScan. (2019). NH Legislation | 2018 | Regular Session. Retrieved from  legiscan.com/NH/bill/HB1319/2018

LegiScan. (2019). NH Legislation | 2019 | Regular Session. Retrieved from legiscan.com/NH/bill/SB1/2019

LegiScan. (2019). NH Legislation | 2019 | Regular Session. Retrieved from legiscan.com/NH/bill/SB10/2019

LegiScan. (2019). NH Legislation | 2019 | Regular Session. Retrieved from legiscan.com/NH/bill/SB148/2019

LegiScan. (2019). NH Legislation | 2019 | Regular Session. Retrieved from legiscan.com/NH/bill/SB255/2019

LegiScan. (2019). NH Legislation | 2019 | Regular Session. Retrieved from legiscan.com/NH/bill/SB270/2019

LegiScan. (2019). NH Legislation | 2019 | Regular Session. Retrieved from legiscan.com/NH/bill/SB272/2019

LegiScan. (2019). NH Legislation | 2019 | Regular Session. Retrieved from legiscan.com/NH/bill/SB274/2019

LegiScan. (2019). NH Legislation | 2019 | Regular Session. Retrieved from legiscan.com/NH/bill/SB279/2019

LegiScan. (2019). NH Legislation | 2019 | Regular Session. Retrieved from legiscan.com/NH/bill/SB282/2019

LegiScan. (2019). NH Legislation | 2019 | Regular Session. Retrieved from legiscan.com/NH/bill/SB290/2019

Wikipedia. (2019, April 15). Jeb Bradley. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeb_Bradley

Concord Beat – May 2019

By Ian Aikens | May 21, 2019

I’ve been going to Concord almost every week for the last two months to give my two cents worth in public hearings on various bills making the rounds in the state legislature, I thought it might be interesting to see how Milton’s representatives measure up.  Forget the grandstanding and rhetoric one normally hears before elections – it’s only their actual votes on actual bills that count in assessing their records.

When I look at legislators’ voting records, I’m looking to see if they respect individual rights and if they treat their constituents like adults or children.  Are they voting for bills that put ever more laws on the books?  Are they voting for bills that make goods and services more expensive?  Are they voting for bills that make it harder to start a new business due to onerous regulation and fees?  Do their votes reflect that their constituents can decide how to conduct their own lives or do they need supervision from politicians to make the “right” decisions?  Do their votes reflect “Live and let live” or “There ought to be a law …”?

I looked at a varied range of current 2019 bills to get a rounded, comprehensive picture of Milton’s representatives’ records.  Milton’s House representatives are Abigail Rooney and Peter Hayward, and both were elected for the first time last November.  I am pleased to report that their records are quite good.  Generally, they have been mindful of their constituents’ pocketbooks and not into micromanaging their lives with meddlesome “feel good” laws that create more problems than they solve.  Both Rooney and Hayward have tended to vote the same way on almost all of the bills.  Here’s a sampling of their actual votes.


CACR11 – This bill would have prohibited a sales tax, but it was tabled in the House.  Both Rooney and Hayward voted against the tabling, so presumably that means they supported the bill.

CACR12 – This bill would have prohibited an income tax on earned income, but it was voted down by the House.  Both Rooney and Hayward voted against “Inexpedient to Legislate,” so presumably that means they supported the bill.

HB680 – This bill would have enacted a 65.03% tax – yes, you read that right – on vaping products, but I was at the committee hearing on this one, and there was a lot of pushback, so the bill was retained in a committee.  Both Rooney and Hayward voted against this bill.

HB686 – This bill would have added a capital gains tax to the interest and dividends tax that the politicians are still saying is not an income tax.  Both Rooney and Hayward voted against it.

HB2 – The House-passed budget of $12.9 billion, which includes $417 million of new taxes more than the governor’s budget, garnered a NO vote from both Rooney and Hayward.


HB564 – This bill passed in the House already and will make it against the law to carry a firearm on school grounds, unless school authorities give one permission to carry a firearm.  (Will the deranged who perpetuate school shootings be requesting permission as required?)  As you might expect, of all the hearings I testified at, this one attracted the most attention, and the room was filled to the gills.  Both Rooney and Hayward voted against the bill.

HB109 – This bill passed in the House already and mandates background checks for commercial sales of firearms.  (Will background checks nab the criminals who get their firearms from the black market?)  Both Rooney and Hayward voted against this bill.

HB514 – This bill, which passed in the House already, mandates a 7-day waiting period between the purchase and delivery of firearms.  Again, I doubt the crazies and criminals will bother following the law on this one either.  Both Rooney and Hayward voted NO on this one.


HB186 – This bill, which passed in the House, will increase the minimum wage in stages, up from the current $7.25/hour to $12.00/hour by the beginning of 2022.  Most economists say minimum wages hurt those on the bottom of the economic scale the most because it denies the unskilled the opportunity to gain marketable skills, but evidently many politicians like to feel that they’re “doing something” to help the downtrodden.  Also, minimum wage mandates do nothing to increase the purchasing power of the downtrodden because the cost increases make goods and services more expensive.  Both Rooney and Hayward voted NO on this one.

HB211 – This bill would prohibit employers from inquiring about salary history prior to an offer of employment.  The House approved the bill, and it is now in a Senate committee.  This bill treats employees like children who need protection from Big Bad Employers – shouldn’t it be between the employee and employer to figure out how much information each wants to share?  Hayward voted against this bill, and Rooney did not vote on this one for some reason.

HB253 – This bill would have made it against the law to inquire about a potential employee’s criminal background prior to an interview.  It also passed in the House and is now in a Senate committee.  The obvious goal here is to give felons a better chance to become gainfully employed after incarceration – a worthwhile goal – but wouldn’t it be better to have less laws on the books so there would be less felons struggling to rebuild their lives?  Especially in the case of victimless crimes.  Hayward voted NO, and Rooney did not vote on this one for some reason.

HB293 – This bill, which would prohibit employers from asking potential employees about their credit history during the hiring process, passed in the house with a voice vote.  There was a motion to table the bill but it failed.  While some people with bad credit still make excellent employees (and others with great credit end up not being such great employees), it might still be another helpful tool for an employer to determine if the employee is right for the company.  More important, it should be up to the employee to decide if he/she wants to consent to releasing their credit info, not busybody politicians with threats of civil penalties sticking their noses where they don’t belong. Hayward voted to table the bill, and Rooney was absent on that vote.


HB558 – This bill, which passed in the House but fortunately died in the Senate, would have made it against the law to give a customer a plastic straw unless he/she requested it.  The state would have been authorized to hire a “straw cop” to “provide enforcement, outreach and education” to the tune of around $100K per year.  Both Rooney and Hayward voted against this nonsense.

HB560 – This bill, which passed in the House and looks like it will make it through the Senate and become a law, will ban single-use plastic bags and mandate no less than a dime charge for each recycled plastic or paper bag stores give their customers.  I hail from California, where most of this silliness comes from, and I can assure you that it’s just a big nuisance for consumers and does nothing to make this a cleaner world.  First of all, it starts with a dime per bag, but believe me, that can and does increase.  Some counties in California are now charging a quarter per bag, and I’m sure that will increase, like everything else in California.  Second, people still like to use plastic bags because they are convenient, so banning stores from giving them out free only caused people to buy them in bulk for use at home.  So, plastic bag usage did not go down – the mandate only added an extra cost to consumers.  Then there’s the carbon cost of the reusable bags that people start bringing into stores to avoid the 10 and 25 cent charges – there’s a whole lot of “carbon footprint” that goes into producing those bags, not to mention that they have to be washed periodically.  Both reps voted NO on this bill.

Interestingly, there were three bills where Rooney and Hayward voted differently.  HB628, which would have mandated universal changing stations for people with physical disabilities in all places of public accommodation (constructed after 01-01-2021) that serve 1,500 people or more per day, passed in the House and is currently being considered by the Senate.  It is reasonable to require all government buildings to adhere to such standards, since all taxpayers in one way or another pay for government buildings, but forcing all private businesses to go to this extra expense is unnecessary in most cases, since most businesses already want to attract more customers.  Rooney voted against this mandate, and Hayward voted for it.

HB480, which passed in the House and looks like it will pass in the Senate, would allow legal sports betting.  Another laudable goal, since people should be able to spend their hard-earned money any way they want (and if those few who become addicted and mortgage away the house, let them suffer the consequences, not everyone else who enjoys a harmless pastime without excess), but this bill is a classic example of “crony capitalism.”  It limits the number of places that would be allowed to host such events to 10 and is extremely regulation-heavy, not to mention setting up a new “Council for Responsible Gambling” and hiring 9 new permanent government bureaucrats.  Citizens would be better served by just decriminalizing the activity and letting the market develop freely without all the micromanagement – and not limiting the competition.  Rooney opposed it, and Hayward voted for the bill.

Lastly, HB632, which would have eliminated the educational tax credit program, was tabled in the House overwhelmingly by members of both parties.  The program currently serves hundreds of low- and middle-income families who are able to choose non-government schools that better serve their children with voluntary contributions from individuals and businesses allowed to deduct the contributions as a credit on their BPT, BET, and I&D tax returns.  Keeping the current program in place seems like a win-win-win situation to me – better schools for those unable to afford private schools, less students for government schools to educate poorly, and less money for the government to waste—but perhaps Hayward viewed the situation differently, as Rooney voted to table the bill and Hayward voted not to table the bill.

All in all, I think both representatives have done a reasonable job so far in keeping the heavy hand of government on the lighter side.  Next time, I’ll take a look at Jeb Bradley, Milton’s State Senator, and see what his voting record looks like.

Next in sequence: Concord Beat – Early July 2019


Legiscan. (2019). NH Legislation | 2019 | Regular Session. Retrieved from  legiscan.com/NH

The Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy. (2019). Budget Visions:  2020-21. Retrieved from jbartlett.org/wp-content/uploads/Budget-Visions-2020-21-4.pdf

Reflection on Notre Dame

By John S. Frum (Transcriber) | April 19, 2019

One of our writers has a French acquaintance, whom we will call Romain. When asked what the Cathedral of Notre Dame meant to him, he replied:

Regarding Notre Dame per se … it was something always in the landscape. That could not change. That was permanent. Immutable. Something that could only last forever. Just like the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of New York City (and the United States in general), the Eiffel Tower is a symbol of Paris (and France in general) (both engineered by Gustave Eiffel).

But, to French people, the symbol of France was Notre Dame. Should the Eiffel Tower burn tomorrow, well, people would be sad. But nothing comparable as Notre Dame. Nobody would have given any money to rebuild it. Whereas there is money and help coming spontaneously and grassrootsly from everywhere. When a fare was set up to get into Notre Dame, the French people were shocked. French people would rather live close to Notre Dame than to the Eiffel Tower. A small coffee is better enjoyed on a terrace with Notre-Dame in sight.

Notre Dame is part of the identity of the French people. It has been there for the past 800 years. It will be there as long as there is a French people.

A Reply to Chairman Thibeault’s Rube Goldberg Machine

By Lynette McDougall | March 20, 2019

I have never replied to the Milton Observer because I have felt it entertaining to a degree plus well written. I am afraid I am disappointed in this review, it is so easy to shame, and make those who we have voted in office look bad when they too are citizens. They are in the constant hot seat taking hits.

May I ask who on the Milton Observer use their real names? – it’s sort of a hit and run. No one can hit back if they don’t know who you are. Yet these people, board members, are our neighbors, and friends putting their time in to do what no one else has stepped up to do. I may make my political thoughts known publicly, but I don’t hide and I do respect our Town Planner, town board for trying their best.

It takes guts to try and help this town who resists so much effort to grow. I don’t agree with Ryan on some things but he’s my neighbor and I respect he is out there doing the best he knows and the same for Andy and many others.

Right now, I believe my remark to the BOS was wrong: “who do they work for?” I should have asked what can be done to work together for a common goal. We have forgotten why public meetings are so important; to exchange ideas, work out problems, and be open to new ideas or respectfully listen. This is town business we pay for.

I took a picture of the audience at last night’s Planning Board, as usual there was no public attendance. But there was plenty to say about Warrant Article 3 but not where citizens could hear the RSA’s, professional definitions, etc., etc. It’s amazing that propaganda can so easily be disguised and manipulated by colored pamphlets. The public missed the main objectives of the article and took the ride of misinformation. That’s ok, it was talked about at last night’s meeting that the public didn’t attend.

You might wonder who I champion … it’s freedom of speech, it’s public involvement, it’s commerce, low taxes with regard to what you have to give up in return, everything comes at a cost.

Freedom comes at a great cost we are all on the hook to pay the toll.

Ms. McDougall is a member of the Milton Planning Board. Her husband is a member the Budget Committee

See also Chairman Thibeault’s Rube Goldberg Machine

Milton Tax Increases on Social Security

We received the following information as a comment from a Social Security recipient and pass it along, as is, for your consideration.

John S. Frum

The Town of Milton’s tax rate has been increasing steadily for over 10 years now at about 5% per year. Has your income increased that amount? One part of the population that definitely has not seen increases anywhere near that is the town’s senior citizens that are on Social Security.

The average Social Security benefit (SSI) was $1,413.37 per month in June 2018. Yes, some get more, but many get less.  Often, that is a senior’s only source of income. From that, $134 is automatically deducted each month to pay for Medicare Part B insurance.  Now let’s look at SSI yearly increases. OOPS, what increases??  Seniors on SSI do not  get a cost of living increase every year. Over the past 10 years since 2009 there were 3 years when no increase was given, one year the increase was only 0.3%, four years showed  increases of just 1.5-2.0% The other 2 years were 2.8% and 3.6%. The greatest increase of 3.6%  was back in 2011. Think about Milton’s tax increases during those same years averaging 5% per year.

If you are employed and receive medical insurance from your employer, you might think seniors have quite the racket at $134/month. Believe me they don’t!!  Medicare does cover  most in-patient (overnight hospitalization) services at a 100% after a small deductible.  Out-patient services are a different story – only covered at 80%. Out-patient services include your doctor visits, lab work, X-rays, MRI’s and CT scans; day surgery procedures (many surgeries now are done in a Day Surgery Center that previously would have been done an in-patient setting); chemotherapy and much more.  Most services in this day and age are done as an out-patient. To cover that 20% you have to buy a Supplement Policy and they vary in price, but to get good coverage many are well over $200 a month. You also need to get a separate plan for prescription medications as Medicare does not cover them. So you buy a Part D plan and pay a co-pay for each prescription. Another cost that varies with each plan. Dental and eye exams are generally not covered on most plans. That $1,400 a month is dwindling fast.

Just imagine if you are single, a widow or widower, or even a couple, on SSI in Milton  and trying to  maintain your home and your health these past 10 years and being presented each year with a higher tax bill then the previous year. Each year you set aside a little more to cover this expense, but it seems it is never enough. So you control what you can … less home repairs, adjust your food budget, lower the heat and AC or use fans in summer. Some even limit medications. You control what you can. Like the Town, seniors have little control over insurance costs so they make major cuts elsewhere. The Town needs to do the same – make major cuts that will lower the tax rate by well more than 7.5% and continue to do it for many years. We all make sacrifices and can live with less if needed. If the Town of Milton does not lower the tax rate now, many seniors and younger residents will either lose their homes or move elsewhere. I know that many residents are hurting with such high taxes not just seniors. For the younger population, those under 65, this might help you to understand the situation from the perspective of  SSI  recipients.

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