Sununu Urgently Needs to Increase Response to Child Care During Coronavirus Public Health Crisis

Viability of New Hampshire child care centers and the ability for front line workers across the state to go to work is in serious jeopardy without urgent, strong leadership from the top

CONCORD, NH – Governor Chris Sununu urgently needs to improve state response to child care coverage during the coronavirus public health crisis.

On Sunday, Governor Sununu and Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut closed schools statewide, stating they had addressed issues like child care. In multiple press appearances since that time, Sununu has echoed the same message: that child care is under control, that centers need to stay open to provide coverage for critical workers, and that the state is allowing existing daycares to expand and new ones to open within businesses. In response to a reporter question during Thursday afternoon’s press briefing, Governor Sununu maintained his position again.

Sununu’s approach ignores the reality facing Granite State families with children:

  • Across the state, major and home-based child care centers have closed to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of both children and providers.
  • School closures mean that thousands of elementary school-aged children now need *new* child care coverage during school hours.
  • Critical workers in health care, police and fire, long-term care, food distribution, and other front-line coronavirus responders may be without adequate child care coverage.
  • Single-parent or double-critical worker families are especially vulnerable.
  • Grandparents who may usually provide back-up care for certain families are in a high-risk population for COVID-19.
  • It does not make sense to close schools and keep large child care classroom sizes, or shift thousands of additional school-age children into existing child care centers without additional support and modification.

Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins:

“Governor Sununu urgently needs to improve his response to child care supports and infrastructure to ensure our state is in a strong position during and after the coronavirus. Closing schools but keeping children in large child care centers or seeking to expand those centers simply defeats the goal of closing schools. If schools should be closed for social distancing, then we need to look at all spaces where large groups of children and parents congregate. Instead, Governor Sununu continues to ask daycares to stay open and even expand, without any consideration to the health and safety of our children, families, and the staff. We need swift and proactive steps to ensure child care for critical workers who need coverage but without assuming we can or should shift potentially thousands of children into child care right now. This requires a state-led response. These are unprecedented times so there is no expectation that we will get everything right the first time, but it’s been almost a week since these concerns were first raised and the fact that Governor Sununu continues to repeat the same inadequate approach makes us worry he actually does believe this matter is resolved. Essential workers across the state are struggling with how to do their job and keep their children safe at the same time.”

Policy Options for the State

The National Association for the Education of Young Children has important guidance for how we should proceed with child care, and other states such as Massachusetts and North Carolina are implementing parts of that guidance, including coordinating child care coverage for critical workers, sometimes by utilizing closed school buildings and furloughed after-school program coordinators or child care staff from closed daycares. Any State of New Hampshire plan created should be developed in cooperation with public health and child care experts, and include relevant stakeholders to ensure strong insight and collaboration. It also needs to take an expansive look at “critical workers” in the time of coronavirus, which right now include grocery store staff and others.

Short and Long-Term Stability

Governor Sununu also needs to take immediate steps to ensure the stability of our child care centers throughout this crisis. Nationally, 30% of child care providers say they cannot survive a closure of more than two weeks without significant public investment and support that would allow them to compensate and retain staff, pay rent or mortgages, and cover other fixed costs. Without urgent attention, child care coverage in New Hampshire could be decimated in the short and long-term.

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Granite State Progress is a multi-issue advocacy organization that addresses issues of immediate state and local concern.

NH Senate and House Pass Package of Gun Violence Prevention Bills, Next Stop Governor’s Desk

CONCORD, NH – Today the NH Senate and House passed the final piece of legislation in a package of gun safety bills headed for the Governor’s desk. HB 109 requires background checks for firearms sales and completely closes the Charleston loophole; HB 514 creates a waiting period between the purchase and delivery of a firearm and guards against impulsive acts of violence, like suicide; and HB 564 clarifies statewide gun free schools.

March for Our Lives Rally
at the State House

Statement from Zandra Rice Hawkins, director of GunSense NH, a project of Granite State Progress: “We applaud the Senate and House for taking real steps to protect public safety and keep guns out of the hands of felons and domestic abusers. Governor Chris Sununu promised New Hampshire voters that he would support universal background checks, and we urge him to fulfill that campaign promise. Guns do not belong in the hands of felons and domestic abusers, nor do they belong in our schools. The majority of Granite Staters agree with these common sense measures.”

Tracy Hahn-Burkett, Convener of the Kent Street Coalition’s Working Group on Gun Violence Prevention: “These three bills offer an opportunity to actually do something about the gun violence epidemic. People are tired of seeing blood-soaked massacres on television, appalled that their kids are afraid to go to school, and feel helpless in the face of suicide being the second-leading cause of death for young people in New Hampshire. Background checks, gun-free schools and waiting periods offer real tools for addressing these concerns, and will help keep New Hampshire citizens safe, and we urge Governor Sununu to sign them into law.”

This is the first time a package of gun violence prevention bills has advanced to the Governor’s desk in New Hampshire. Today’s bill passage comes as Giffords Law Center released a new report revealing the cost of gun violence in New Hampshire exceeds $208 million each year.

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GunSense NH, a project of Granite State Progress, works to protect and advance common sense public safety laws. The program convenes the NH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition, members include gun violence prevention advocates, moms, medical professionals, gun owners, veterans, law enforcement, elected officials, school administrators, educators, students, and faith leaders, and organizations representing various constituencies.

GSP Testimony on NH Supreme Court Chief Justice Nominee Gordon MacDonald Raises Questions Around SB 193 Reversal, Affordable Care Act, Reproductive Rights

Concord, NH – Today Granite State Progress testified before the Executive Council during the confirmation hearing for NH Supreme Court Chief Justice nominee Gordon MacDonald. Key highlights from Granite State Progress testimony include:

  • MacDonald lacks judicial experience and previous court decisions, approaches from which to draw conclusions about his suitability for Chief Justice or Supreme Court judge, making scrutiny of his private practice and advocacy more pressing.
  • MacDonald spent most of the last decade – 7 years – as a Board member and officer for the conservative think tank the Josiah Bartlett Center. During that time, the Bartlett Center advocated in opposition of Affordable Care Act implementation, Medicaid expansion, RGGI and renewable energy projects, and in support of school privatization efforts, right to work, and significantly changing public pensions.MacDonald must answer how his views on these subjects have impacted his work at the Attorney General of New Hampshire and how they might impact his decisions as a Supreme Court judge and chief justice.
  • Specifically, as Attorney General, MacDonald reversed the department’s position on the constitutionality of SB 193, a school voucher bill designed to divert public taxpayer dollars to private and religious schools. The Bartlett Center helped draft and lobby for school vouchers, including SB 193, during MacDonald’s time as a Board member and officer yet MacDonald did not recuse himself.
  • MacDonald did not sign onto a state coalition lawsuits to defend the Affordable Care Act and health care for hundreds of thousands of Granite Staters, a law which the Bartlett Center railed against when MacDonald was a board member, or a net neutrality lawsuit, which the Bartlett Center parent network opposes.
  • MacDonald did not join with 44 other states on a landmark drug price-fixing lawsuit that includes over 20 companies and 112 generic drugs treating a large range of diseases. MacDonald is a former lead attorney for opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma, the maker of the drug OxyContin, and argued in the weeks before he became Attorney General that the NH AG’s office should not be able to hire an outside firm to help sift through millions of pages of documents about whether the drug company deceived consumers about the addictiveness of their opioids.
  • MacDonald did not sign onto a state coalition lawsuit to challenge the Trump Administration’s domestic gag rule that affects critical health access for contraception, cancer screenings, exams, and other related health services for women and their families in New Hampshire. MacDonald previously served as legal counsel for the Manchester Diocese, which opposes all abortion and most forms of contraception; as the legislative director for US Senator Gordon Humphrey when Humphrey sponsored a number of anti-abortion bills; and as a delegate to the 2016 RNC National Convention for anti-choice politician Marco Rubio.
  • In contrast, MacDonald has been active around the Wayfair Ruling, participating in a panel hosted by the Josiah Bartlett Center in October 2018 and promising attendees swift legal action and enforcement on the matter.

“Granite State Progress encourages the Executive Council and public to ask Mr. MacDonald how his views and prior advocacy on these subjects have impacted his work as the Attorney General of New Hampshire and how they might impact his future decisions as a Supreme Court judge and chief justice,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress. “The State Supreme Court is too important to rush thru a nomination without doing the due diligence to obtain answers to these questions.”

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Granite State Progress is a progressive advocacy organization that addresses issues of immediate state and local concern. Granite State Progress works as a communications hub for the progressive community to provide a strong, credible voice in advancing progressive solutions to critical community problems.

As a Candidate in 2016, Chris Sununu Promised Voters He’d Support Universal Background Checks, Now Threatens to Side With Corporate Gun Lobby Over Granite Staters

Governor Sununu threatens to veto legislation that would keep guns out of the hands of felons and domestic abusers

Concord, NH –At a final debate as a Gubernatorial candidate in 2016, Chris Sununu promised voters he’d support universal background checks and other measures to protect Granite Staters, especially victims of domestic violence, but now Sununu is siding with the corporate gun lobby instead of standing up for common sense public safety measures –

Candidate Chris Sununu, 2016: “I do also support universal background checks, where appropriate. To the point of the question, it’s a very important question, when you’re dealing with domestic violence issues, we must be standing up. Both at the local level and at the state level to protect those and families who would be held at risk. That’s one of the first and foremost responsibilities of government. It’s health and safety of individuals. For standing up for them, providing support and making sure they know that we will support them at every turn. So whether it’s limiting guns and making sure that those who would commit violence in homes, that we’re providing those correct background checks, that we’re providing those correct checks and balances – that’s important because it’s important to families, it’s important to the victims.” (Video: NH1 Gubernatorial Debate 2016, 10/26/16)

Candidate Chris Sununu, 2016: “I do also support universal background checks, where appropriate. To the point of the question, it’s a very important question, when you’re dealing with domestic violence issues, we must be standing up. Both at the local level and at the state level to protect those and families who would be held at risk. That’s one of the first and foremost responsibilities of government. It’s health and safety of individuals. For standing up for them, providing support and making sure they know that we will support them at every turn. So whether it’s limiting guns and making sure that those who would commit violence in homes, that we’re providing those correct background checks, that we’re providing those correct checks and balances – that’s important because it’s important to families, it’s important to the victims.” (Video: NH1 Gubernatorial Debate 2016, 10/26/16)

Governor Chris Sununu, 2019: “Governor Chris Sununu has for days warned of plans to veto the state budget if it includes a rollback of business tax cuts that took effect in January. But he says more vetoes are coming on other bills prioritized by Democrats, including plans to raise the state minimum wage, tighten gun laws, and loosen or reverse GOP-backed changes to state voting laws. “Those are just political bills, the ones you just mentioned, and most of those will get vetoed, absolutely. That’s just political stuff. I am here to manage the state.” (NHPR, 6/24/19)

Statement from Zandra Rice Hawkins, State Director of GunSenseNH, a project of Granite State Progress:

“Chris Sununu is going back on his promise to New Hampshire voters that he would support universal background checks and other common sense public safety measures to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, like felons and domestic abusers. In 2016, voters rejected Kelly Ayotte for siding with the gun lobby over the 9 out of 10 Granite Staters who support background checks, and we’ll do it again with Sununu. We can’t trust Sununu if he makes campaign promises he isn’t willing to keep. It’s shameful that he is blocking this critical public safety legislation to score points with the corporate gun lobby instead of standing up for the health and safety of his constituents.”

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GunSense NH, a project of Granite State Progress, works to protect and advance common sense public safety laws. The program convenes the NH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition, members include gun violence prevention advocates, moms, medical professionals, gun owners, veterans, law enforcement, elected officials, school administrators, educators, students, and faith leaders, and organizations representing various constituencies.

Statement on House Criminal Justice Committee Passage of HB 109, Closing Background Checks Loopholes to Keep Guns Out of Hands of Dangerous Felons, Domestic Abusers, and Other Prohibited Persons

CONCORD, NH – Today the NH House Criminal Justice Committee passed HB 109, closing background checks loopholes, by a vote of 10-9. Statements from the prime sponsor and advocates:

“The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NCIS) has blocked over 2 million gun sales to people who are prohibited from possessing guns, but the current system’s loophole is exploited by criminals who can avoid background checks by purchasing firearms from unlicensed “private sellers”, often at gun shows or through anonymous online transactions,” said State Representative Katherine Rogers, prime sponsor of HB 109. “While HB 109 won’t prevent every tragedy, it will make a difference, it will save lives, and it will make our communities a safer place to live. Small changes to our gun laws might not prevent criminals from getting a gun, but it will prevent many and that’s worth it.”

“Requiring a background check every time a gun is sold is effective in keeping guns out of the hands of felons, domestic abusers, and other prohibited persons,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, director of GunSense NH, a project of Granite State Progress. “HB 109 requires a background check for all commercially advertised sales and just makes sense –responsible gun owners shouldn’t put guns in the hands of people they don’t know. Closing background checks loopholes has widespread public support and we urge the full legislature to pass this important piece of legislation.”

About HB 109: In 2018, New Hampshire conducted over 120,000 background checks to keep guns out of the hands of felons, domestic abusers, and other prohibited persons. But guns sold in New Hampshire through private sales at gun shows, online, or the classifieds do not currently require a background check. Under this bill, commercially advertised gun sales – a sale, transfer, or exchange of a firearm that takes place at, or on the curtilage of, a gun show or pursuant to an offer to sell or buy a firearm from an advertisement, posting, listing, or display – would require a criminal background check through a federally licensed dealer using the same background check system already used in all dealer sales. Requiring a background check every time a gun is sold is effective in keeping guns out of the hands of those with a criminal record. This just makes sense: responsible gun owners shouldn’t put guns in the hands of people they don’t know. Sales and transfers between family and friends are not subject to a background check, but a penalty applies if an individual transfers or sells a firearm to a prohibited person.

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GunSense NH, a project of Granite State Progress, works to protect and advance common sense public safety laws. The program convenes the NH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition, members include gun violence prevention advocates, moms, medical professionals, gun owners, veterans, law enforcement, elected officials, school administrators, educators, students, and faith leaders, and organizations representing various constituencies.