Dan Feltes: Sununu’s vetoes leave Granite Staters on their own

For the Monitor
Published: 7/22/2020 6:00:28 AM

My dad wasn’t governor, my brother wasn’t a U.S. senator, and I was never gifted a ski resort. My dad worked in a furniture factory for 45 years – the same one, doing roughly the same job in an un-air-conditioned furniture factory for 45 years.

My mom worked part-time jobs while raising four kids, including doing the night shift. Right out of law school, I served as a legal aid attorney at New Hampshire Legal Assistance for about a decade, prior to serving in the state Senate, helping Granite State seniors, veterans, and working families struggling to get by.

There, I worked tirelessly to help folks during the last economic crisis, the Great Recession, helping save people’s homes, including stopping Wall Street banks from foreclosing on homeowners, and helping folks get access to unemployment insurance health care to get by.

Now, in the state Senate, I’ve continued those same fights for everyday folks, fighting to lift up the folks that have slipped through the cracks and carrying the fights central to how we get out of this mess in a way that works for everyone, not just those at the top. When I first ran for the state Senate, I said in order to move New Hampshire forward, we cannot afford to leave anyone behind. It’s even more true today than it was then. Big corporations and big insurance companies are doing fine, even right now. It’s the small-business owners, the working families, and our communities and our schools that have been left fending for themselves.

That’s why I continued the fight for paid family and medical leave insurance, because, in a pandemic, access to paid family and medical leave insurance is even more important, especially for small businesses owners who cannot afford to provide it on their own and for working families who cannot afford to miss work to take care of their health or the health of a family member. The big insurance companies lobbied against it, and Gov. Sununu stopped it for a third straight year, this time with a veto of HB 712.

That’s why I also fought for renters and homeowners to have a fighting shot at saving homes, including from foreclosure from the same Wall Street banks I fought against as a legal aid attorney. With Sununu allowing the moratorium on evictions for nonpayment of rent and on foreclosures to expire, people are now losing their homes all across New Hampshire. I worked to pass HB 1247, which included common-sense legal protections to give people a shot to stay in their homes. Big banks lobbied against it, and Gov. Sununu this month vetoed HB 1247, failing to safeguard against not just the loss of people’s homes, but a pending COVID-19-related housing crisis.

That’s why I also fought for health care and worker safety because we must support small businesses and workers as our economy continues reopening. HB 1166, vetoed by Gov. Sununu this month, would have helped us do just that. HB 1166 was about getting back to work – safely. It fixed a broken unemployment insurance system, it provided free PPE to small businesses, it ensured health care for workers who need COVID-19 testing and treatment (waiving high costs that insurance companies have imposed on folks), and it provided unpaid leave for COVID-19. As Sununu previously vetoed paid leave for workers during this pandemic, I had hoped that Sununu would see this bill for what it is: a compromise to get something done on worker safety and health. But, with big insurance companies lobbying against the health care provisions and big corporations lobbying against worker safety, Gov. Sununu vetoed the bill.

That’s especially troubling since Gov. Sununu just left our teachers, our schools, and our parents to fend for themselves on public health and safety. Gov. Sununu has refused to say state support for school budgets won’t get cut and refused to use unrestricted CARES Act money to support school reopening, including on PPE.

Meanwhile, New Hampshire is falling behind other states in acquiring PPE because Gov. Sununu has refused to enter the Northeast Regional PPE purchasing partnership to leverage buying power and not lose out on PPE, hurting New Hampshire businesses, hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. While there are always uncertainties, what is certain is our need for PPE and what is certain is the need for actual planning and financial support for our schools. Gov. Sununu’s inaction is setting us all up to fail this fall.

Let’s just be clear: Vetoes and inaction are not solutions. Chris Sununu is a good politician from a family of politicians that does a decent job at press conferences, but he isn’t doing a good job solving the problems working families face right now – far from it. To do so requires looking out for housing, for health care, for economic security, and for our schools. It requires that fundamental belief we are all in this together, not the approach that you are on your own. And it requires siding with working families when the chips are down, not siding with big corporations, big banks, or big insurance.

If I have the honor and privilege of serving as governor, I’ll do what I’ve done in every role, whether serving as a legal aid attorney or as a state senator: put working families first, always, all day, every day.

(Dan Feltes lives in the South End of Concord with his wife Erin, their two daughters Iris and Josie, and their two dogs, Franklin and Roosevelt.)

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