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Ruais Goes to Concord Seeking Bail Reform

Less than 24 hours after being sworn in, Manchester Mayor Jay Ruais was already at work on one of his top priorities: reducing crime on his city’s streets by fixing the state’s broken bail system.

Ruais led a bipartisan coalition of Manchester officials to the capitol Wednesday morning, where he laid out what he sees as the brutal math from lax bail rules.

“The reason I made this one of my first official acts is to highlight the importance of this issue to our city,” Ruais said. “In 2023, 813 criminals were arrested, released, and rearrested. Many of these criminals were not just arrested for petty crimes but violent assaults, robberies, and other serious offenses.

“There is nothing, and I mean nothing, that would have a more transformative effect on the city of Manchester than reforming our state’s bail laws,” Ruais added.

Since 2018’s controversial bail reform law, thousands of alleged Manchester criminals charged with violent crimes have been released without bail only to get arrested on new charges. Rep. Ross Berry (R-Manchester) said some of those suspects have been charged with murder.

“Eight is the number of times my constituent was stabbed to death by somebody already out on double-PR bail,” Berry said.

Ruais, a Republican, scored his upset victory over Democrat Kevin Cavanaugh in last year’s election by running on issues like crime, homelessness, and the city’s lack of order. The word is out on the street in Manchester that criminals get a free pass, Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long warned.

“I recall being in a (homeless) encampment in Manchester and overhearing the residents in that encampment talking about no concern with breaking into cars, trespassing. There was no concern (because) they would be back out on the street in a couple of hours,” Long said.

Long is also a Democratic state representative.

The original bail reform bill passed in 2018 was aimed at keeping poor people who are charged with non-violent crimes from getting locked up because they could not afford a $100 or $200 cash bail, according to Sen. Donna Soucy (D-Manchester). Soucy said even in 2018, she and other lawmakers were worried about the unintended consequences.

“This has been an issue for a long time,” Soucy said. “I was in the Senate when we initially enacted bail reform, and although well-intentioned, I think we all recognized this law needs fine-tuning.”

Ruais promised in Tuesday’s inaugural address he would champion bail reform and lobby lawmakers until they got it right.

“The fight for our security will continue today, it will continue tomorrow, and it will continue until everyone in our community feels safe,” Ruais said Tuesday.

Ruais made sure to get to Concord Wednesday, on his first full day on the job, to put friendly pressure on lawmakers as they opened their legislative session for the year. Two proposed bail reform bills, one in the House and one in the Senate, have a good chance to pass this session.

Ruais isn’t saying which proposal he prefers, leaving it up to legislators to do their job in crafting a bill that works and will pass.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted to move its bill, SB-249, to the Senate Finance Committee. Sen. Daryl Abbas (R-Salem) said it is past time for a bail reform bill that protects people.

“We have heard testimony for years in both the House and the Senate that we need bail reform. We have dangerous individuals committing crimes, being released on bail, and then immediately reoffending,” Abbas said. “No one should be denied bail solely because they cannot afford it, and this bill will not change that. This bill requires a judge to determine whether a violent offender poses a threat to the public before being released. Senate Republicans have been fighting for years for common sense bail reform, and we will continue to do so to keep our communities safe.”

Problems at Sanborn Casino ‘Off the Charts,’ Auditor Testifies in Hearing

“It was off the charts.”

Leila McDonough, the New Hampshire Lottery Commission auditor, described the volume of issues the state had with Andy Saborn’s Concord Casino.

McDonough made the comments during a Monday hearing over whether the former state senator can keep his casino owner’s license despite accusations of fraud, including using COVID relief money to buy sports cars. While Sanborn’s attorneys claimed Sanborn did nothing wrong, McDonough testified Sanborn never cared to follow the rules.

The Department of Safety showdown featured one witness for the state, McDonough, the woman who for years was tasked with trying to get Sanborn to follow state regulations.

McDonough’s testimony painted the picture of Sanborn as entitled and stubborn, a casino operator whose refusal to follow basic accounting procedures created a huge mess — or worse, led to massive fraud.

For instance, when a casino owner claims to have hundreds of thousands in cash, but he won’t let the state auditor in charge of casino financial reports count the money, you have a problem, she said.

“How can you conduct an audit that includes cash when you’re not allowed to count the cash?” McDonough asked. “Eventually, you have to assume the cash doesn’t exist since you’re not allowed to see it or count it.”

She said Sanborn was difficult to deal with since he opened his casino in 2018. Both Sanborn and his wife, state Rep. Laurie Sanborn, would call the commission to complain about audits and regulations they had to follow, McDonough said. The Concord Casino’s record-keeping was sloppy at best, she added, and Sanborn never appeared to take the legal requirement from the commission seriously. 

McDonough is the Lottery Commission auditor who spotted enough red flags to go to the commission’s enforcement officials. who then brought in New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella. Formella has said a criminal probe by his office is also underway.

At one point, McDonough said, she found a statement of cash flows for July 2021 through to July 2020.

“This is actually the document that made me very concerned,” McDonough said.

That document showed Sanborn’s casino ran a $29,000 operating loss in that year and had no cash. This was at the time Sanborn claimed to have $200,000 in cash in secure locations McDonough was not allowed to see.

The statement also showed a large amount of cash invested in large equipment that had little to do with the business, like two Porsches and a Ferrari. The Ferarri was reportedly a gift for Laurie Sanborn. 

Sanborn still managed to report $23,000 in cash for owner’s equity, McDonough testified. According to the records, Sanborn reported taking $5,700 in cash out of a bank and putting that into the equity cash amount.

“I’ve never seen this done with any other entity,” she said. “That was very odd.”

The financial statement McDonough revised seemed to show the whole operation was being funded with $844,000 in COVID relief loan money. The records also repeatedly showed large ticket purchases like the sports cars and tens of thousands in car parts charged business expenses.

McDonough reportedly uncovered Sanborn was also paying himself rent for the casino. The casino is owned through Sanborn’s LLC called Win, Win, Win LLC, but the Main Street property in Concord, where the casino is housed, is owned by another Sanborn LLC, The Best Revenge LLC.

The lease agreement between Best Revenge and Win, Win, Win has the casino pay the property $6,000 a year in rent, paid at $500 a month. According to the audit, Sanborn wired $163,500 from Win, Win, Win to Best Revenge between January and August 2022 to cover the rent. 

That was more than $20,000 a month for the $500 a month rent.

McDonough said the records had a lot of large, round numbers for expenses that lacked detail and supporting documentation.

Sanborn was not at the hearing. One of his attorneys,  Zachary Hafer, said Sanborn is in Boston receiving medical treatment. His legal team includes attorney Mark Knights, who argued the state’s case simply does not stand up to scrutiny.

“It is an incomplete story that has yawning gaps in the evidence,” Knights said.

Packard: Merner Lied About Residency

House Speaker Sherman Packard (R-Londonderry) said Republican Rep. Troy Merner lied to him when confronted about his residency last year.

Feeling heat from Democrats after state Attorney General John Formella announced voter fraud and theft charges on Tuesday against Merner, Packard issued a statement Wednesday laying out his version of the controversy.

Packard acknowledged the Department of Justice told his office last December that Merner was accused of living outside his Lancaster, N.H. district. But Packard said he did not have verified information and could not take action. According to Packard’s statement, the Speaker’s Office conducted an investigation that stalled when Merner continued to lie about his residence.

“Upon being informed of the DOJ communication, the Speaker’s Office initiated a review of the matter, which included calling and interviewing Merner to confront him about the allegations in the Department of Justice communication,” Packard said.

“At that time, Merner continued to attest that his domicile was in Lancaster at the apartment he rented on Elm Street. The review did not obtain any new information other than what was contained in the information the Department of Justice provided; therefore, the matter was considered inconclusive pending further investigation/findings by the Department of Justice or other findings that may come through other processes or sources.”

Democrats said House Republican leaders, clinging to a 201-198 majority, didn’t want to know the truth about Merner.

“Given the closely divided partisan makeup of the House this term, it is of grave concern that Rep. Merner’s residency violations were overlooked both in Lancaster and in Concord while he continued to hold elected office,” House Democratic Leader Rep. Matt Wilhelm (D-Manchester) said in a statement.

Merner was elected to represent Lancaster, Dalton, North Umberland, and Stratford in November, months after he moved out of the district and sold his Lancaster home. The Attorney General’s Office received a complaint about Merner from a Lancaster resident a week after the November election and sent an investigator to speak to the representative.

Investigator Anna Brewer-Croteau found Merner living in a home in the town of Carroll, well outside his district. Wearing boxers and a t-shirt and eating cereal, Merner acknowledged to the investigator that he lived outside the district.

In the affidavit released Tuesday by Formella’s office, Merner maintained an office in town and slept there “multiple nights a week.” He followed that up by claiming other people do the same thing.

“(Merner) told (Brewer-Croteau) that he knows of other people who vote in Lancaster and are not domiciled there. (Merner) denied to identify these people,” the affidavit states.

As well as being Lancaster’s state representative, Merner also served on the town’s Board of Selectmen. He told Brewer-Croteau he had no plans to run for reelection.

Brewer-Croteau’s report was conveyed to General Court Chief Operating Officer Terry Pfaff on Dec. 6, 2o22.

Packard insisted he and his fellow GOP leaders in the House didn’t have enough to go on at the time.

“The information was not conclusive in nature and made no final determination about Merner’s domicile. The information also contained Merner’s account that the allegations were unfounded and that the investigation was ongoing,” Packard said.

Packard claimed he never got an official complaint about Merner’s living situation, nor did he get any confirmation from Formella about Merner’s residency until September. Throughout Merner’s time in the House, he submitted mileage reimbursement forms for his Lancaster address and maintained official ties to Lancaster. 

“He continued to serve on the Lancaster Board of Selectmen, which further legitimized his attestations,” Packard said.

After Merner was caught voting in the March 2023 Lancaster election, Formella’s office started asking about Merner’s office. During that investigation, it was learned that Merner did not, in fact, sleep at his Lancaster office multiple times a week. According to the affidavit, neighbors told investigators he did not sleep there at all. 

Packard never got a formal notice about the March voting complaint, nor did he get one about Merner’s admission in May that he did not live in Lancaster. However, once Formella’s investigation wrapped up, Packard said he took immediate steps to deal with Merner.

“When the Speaker’s Office was made aware of the conclusions made by the Department of Justice in September 2023, rapid action was taken to force Merner to vacate his seat,” Packard said.

Merner resigned from the Lancaster Select Board in October. He is charged with wrongful voting, a class B felony carrying a sentence of up to 7 years in prison and a fine of up to $4,000, and multiple other charges.

Merner is due to be arraigned on Dec. 28.

‘Catch-And-Release’ Bail System Frustrating Cops, Endangering Citizens

Hours after Nashua’s James Morris was charged with senselessly assaulting police officers during a traffic stop, he made bail and was back on the streets.

“It’s certainly frustrating for the officers,” said Nashua Sgt. John Cinelli. 

James Morris

Morris, 32, is just one of the alleged violent offenders who have caused mayhem in recent days in incidents throughout the state, incidents abetted by New Hampshire’s reformed bail system. 

The 2018 bail reform was meant to eliminate the unintended consequence of the cash bail system that resulted in cases of poor people charged with relatively minor, nonviolent crimes but who were unable to afford bail.

People like Jeffrey Pendleton, a 26-year-old Nashua panhandler arrested in 2016 on a marijuana possession charge. Pendleton ended up in Valley Street Jail in Manchester when he couldn’t come up with the $100 cash bail. Five days later, he was found dead in his cell from a drug overdose.

But now, instead of protecting poor, nonviolent offenders, bail reform is letting people charged with violent felonies stay on the street.

Police stopped Morris’ car near School Street Friday night, and he refused to give the officers his identity before he decided to start fighting with them, according to Cinelli.

“We have no idea why he did that,” Cinelli said.

On Thursday, Concord homeless man Victor Manns, 23, allegedly stabbed two tourists on South Main Street and led officers on a prolonged manhunt. Manns’ was walking around despite being charged with assault in June and again in August in separate incidents.

Victor Manns

According to police, the couple were in their car parked in front of a business on South Main Street when Manns, wearing a mask and a hood, approached and began hitting the car. The alarmed couple got out of the car. Manns reportedly brandished his knife, threatened the pair, and then stabbed them, according to police.

Manns ran from the scene of the attack, kicking off a two-hour police search of the downtown area before he was captured.

On Friday, Claremont woman Brandie Jones, 33, allegedly hit a Nashua police officer with her car to avoid a felony arrest. At the time of the incident, Jones was wanted in Londonderry on warrants, including a breach of her previous bail in another case.

Brandie Jones

Nashua police had previously stopped Jones but gave a false name to officers as she had been convicted of being a habitual traffic offender by the state. If caught driving, habitual offenders face new felony charges.

After getting stopped for the second time on Friday night, Cinelli said Jones was getting out of her car as instructed by police when she changed her mind. With the door still open, she got back in the driver’s seat and sped off. The open car door hit one officer, Cinelli said.

Jones made it to Londonderry, where she ditched her car and ran. Londonderry Police eventually found her with the help of a police dog and took her into custody. 

Cinelli said that none of the Nashua officers suffered any serious injuries from the incidents involving Jones and Morris. The couple attacked by Manns both suffered lacerations, and one sustained minor injuries, which required a trip to the hospital. 

Cinelli said the 2018 bail reform law makes it easy for people charged with a crime to avoid jail, get back out, and re-offend. 

“When these guys are getting bail and getting out that quickly, what is going to stop (them) from doing it to more officers or civilians who don’t have the ability to defend themselves,” Cinelli said.

Jay Ruais, the Republican running to replace Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, has been demanding changes to the state’s bail system as crime becomes a bigger problem in the Queen City. In recent weeks, two men charged in an Elm Street shooting got released on relatively low cash bail. In another incident, 10 people were arrested for being part of a street fight in the area of Auburn and Cedar Streets, where two men were stabbed. Most of those suspects were quickly released on bail.

“Violent, dangerous, and repeat offenders should never be on our streets,” Ruais said. “As mayor, I will make sure our police have the resources and tools they need to make our community more safe.”

NHDem’s COVID Accommodations Case (Finally) Comes to an End

Despite years of trying to push remote legislating, Granite State Democratic lawmakers must show up to do their jobs.

United States District Court Judge Landya McCafferty this week dismissed the long-running lawsuit against Speaker Sherman Packard (R-Londonderry) over House rules requiring in-person attendance for representatives.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, New Hampshire Democrats have aggressively pursued policies to both mandate behavior in the cause of public health and to rewrite rules to accommodate those in fear of the virus. Mask mandates have proven to be largely ineffective in stopping the spread of COVID, and there is little evidence that restricting the behavior of healthy Americans had any benefit on health outcomes.

But that hasn’t stopped Granite State Democrats, who have past three years in court pushing to override House rules requiring in-person attendance to conduct the people’s business.

Packard has maintained the ultimate authority to set the rules lies with the House and not the courts. Judge McCafferty agreed.

“The order speaks for itself,” Packard said in response to the ruling. “It reaffirms our belief there is a democratic process by which the House adopts its rules, and that process is not subject to court intervention.

“Over the last two terms under my administration, we have worked tirelessly to keep legislative business moving forward. My hope is that we continue to work together and make some positive changes to benefit all New Hampshire citizens.”

McCafferty showed deference to Packard’s legal position, which was bolstered by a First Circuit Court of Appeals ruling issued last year. The authority to set attendance rules belongs to the House.

“The court is not unsympathetic to plaintiffs’ legitimate concerns. But it cannot base its decision on whether it agrees with the procedures voted upon by the New Hampshire House of Representatives,” McCafferty said.

Lawmakers have been meeting in person since the start of the 2022 House session, and all votes are done in person. There are remote options to participate in hearings, but that does not include the ability to cast votes remotely.

Democrats sued Packard, claiming he used the attendance rules in order to gain a partisan advantage during the pandemic. Several Democratic lawmakers, like Rep. David Cote (D-Nashua), simply refused to attend House sessions out of fear of the virus. But because Cote continued to run for reelection — and the voters of Nashua reelected him — he “served” without casting a single vote on behalf of his constituents for three years. In fact, he was never even sworn into office after his 2022 reelection. 

Cote eventually resigned in July.

Lawsuit: State Broke Rules Removing Communist ‘Rebel Girl’ Marker

Progressive activists who pushed for a state marker honoring a Granite State Stalinist are suing, claiming the Sununu administration did not follow procedure when it took down the historic plaque.

State officials changed the rules, then broke them, in the scramble to remove the sign honoring notorious Communist Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, according to the lawsuit filed this week.

The Historic Highways marker for Flynn, the former U.S. Communist Party Chair convicted of advocating the violent overthrow of the U.S. government, was removed from its Concord location on May 15, less than two weeks after it was unveiled. The marker is currently in the possession of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.

Now, liberal activists Arnie Alpert and Mary Lee Sargent, represented by lawyer and former Executive Counselor Andru Volinsky, accuse Gov. Chris Sununu and others of breaking the law to get rid of the Flynn marker in the face of community backlash.

‘The State has the unequivocal legal duty to follow its own duly adopted laws and not to act by the fiat of the Governor and members of the Executive Council,” Volinsky wrote.

Alpert and Sarget want a judge to order the marker to be erected once again at its original Concord location.

The marker was unveiled on May 1, and the state’s Department of Natural and Cultural Resources promoted Flynn’s tribute. That did not sit well with Executive Councilor Joe Kenney, who lodged a complaint at the May 3 Executive Council meeting.

“Well, I’m going to say that this particular person has no historic value here in Concord. And this person, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, was a profound Communist who died a Soviet, who was anti-American,” Kenney said. “I am dead set against this. And I think it’s an embarrassment that we have a program that allows us to put Communists on historical markers and then say, ‘Oh, that’s part of our history.’ It’s not part of my history.”

In the days that followed, Flynn’s record as an unrepentant Stalinist who supported the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War and received a Red Square burial came to light. As members of the public began to speak out,  Sununu vowed to get rid of the marker and blamed Concord City Council members for approving its placement.

Concord officials rejected that argument, pointing out that the marker is a state sign for a state program approved and funded by the state.

The marker was removed on May 15 and is currently in the possession of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.

In a statement regarding the lawsuit, Sununu welcomed Alpert and Sargent’s court case, saying criticizing the government is an important part of the American Way.

“America is a free country, and we appreciate their ability to sue the government for a decision they might disagree with — a privilege not afforded to citizens in communist countries. An avowed Communist who benefited from a state funeral in Moscow’s Red Square should not be celebrated in New Hampshire. All policies were followed when removing this Anti-American sign, and it will not be coming back under my watch,” Sununu said.

The Department of Natural and Cultural Resources changed the rules for removing Historic Highway Markers after that May 3 meeting, allowing for removing markers that could be deemed inappropriate. However, according to the lawsuit, the new rules still required that the decision go to the Historical Resources Council.

According to the lawsuit, Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Commissioner Sarah Stewart ignored the rules and, on May 12, ordered that the sign be removed. 

“Commissioner Stewart did not consult the State Historical Resources Council as required by the newly amended policy,” Volinsky wrote. “Nor was the reason for retirement officially recorded in the minutes of the State Historical Resources Council also as required by the newly amended policy.”

Flynn was born in 1890 in Concord and became a socialist activist in her teens. She was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union and, in 1936, joined the Community Party, becoming the U.S. party chair in 1961.

She joined the Communist Party during Josef Stalin’s deadly purge and high-profile show trials, facts known to the public at the time. When Flynn joined in 1936, the Soviets had already murdered nearly 9 million people in Ukraine and other territories in what is now known as the Holodomor. Another 1.2 million were about to be killed in Stalin’s great purge. 

Her membership in the party got her expelled from the ACLU in 1940 when the civil rights groups formally denounced Communism. A decade later, she was found guilty under the Smith Act of advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government by force and violence. 

The Soviet government gave Flynn a state funeral in Red Square, with more than 25,000 people attending.

Are State House Dems Plotting to Blow Up the Budget?

Guy Fawkes Day could be coming early to Concord as a contingent of House Democrats is reportedly scheming to blow up the proposed budget in a fight over Medicaid expansion.

Multiple sources tell NHJournal Democrats are toying with some radical plans, including the possibility of using a potential future majority in the evenly-split House to “vacate the speaker’s chair,” giving Speaker Sherman Packard (R-Londonderry) the boot.

Another idea: Strip Medicaid expansion from the House budget by voting on it as a standalone bill, then leave the House GOP to attempt to pass a budget — and fail — without Democratic votes. But since the Medicaid expansion bill has already been retained in committee, the Democrats would have to override the committee process and vote to bring it to the House floor.

The conspiracy talk comes at a time of heightened tension in the budget negotiations between legislators and Gov. Chris Sununu, with one source saying no one knows what is going to happen next.

“If they do any of this, it is total Armageddon,” one GOP House member told NHJournal.

Senate President Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) shares a similar view, calling the talk he has heard from the Democratic side of the aisle “Washington-style politics at its worst.”

As for a possible Democratic attempt to pull Medicaid expansion out of budget for its own vote, “I think it’s a very dangerous game,” Bradley said during a podcast interview with NHJournal. “It puts at risk the budget and Medicaid expansion at risk.”

Bradley took the lead in the Senate, spearheading SB 263, the Medicaid expansion bill, which extends the state’s Granite Advantage health insurance program. While low-income families qualify for traditional Medicaid, the Granite Advantage program makes Medicaid available to working families who earn too much for Medicaid but don’t have access to affordable health insurance through their employers. And 90 percent of the funding comes from federal dollars.

“My responsibility as I see it is to get the job done for the 50,000 to 60,000 people now depending on Medicaid expansion,” Bradley said. “To say nothing of the providers, the hospitals, the business community, all of the people that have gotten behind this coalition effort for the last nine years.

“Our responsibility, as adults, is to get the job done.”

The original proposal would have permanently expanded health coverage, while some House GOP members wanted to see just a two-year expansion. Bradley has agreed to a compromise plan that extends the benefit for seven years. That is complicated by the fact the budget, HB2, includes a two-year extension to Medicaid.

Packard is seen as a key opponent to the permanent expansion. Now, sources tell NHJournal some Democrats plan to yank Medicaid expansion away from the House Finance Committee and hold a floor vote on a permanent expansion. At the same time, those Democrats are also gearing up to push Packard out of the speaker’s chair.

House Clerk Paul Smith said motions to vacate the speaker’s chair are rare and typically unsuccessful. Any vote to remove Packard would require “50 percent plus one” of the entire body — not just those present. There are 196 Democrats in the House. With several vacancies, the current House membership is 396, meaning Democrats need 199 votes.

House Finance Committee member Rep. Peter Leishman (D-Peterborough) has heard the rumblings about Medicaid expansion, but he said the House conspirators are all talk. He noted that the Finance Committee voted Thursday to retain the bill, locking it into the committee.

“If the bill’s not reported out, they can’t take it away from the Finance Committee,” Leishman added.

But other House sources said an obscure and rarely-used move could allow Democrats to override the committee’s vote to retain. Smith said it would be a highly unusual move.

“Does it usually happen that the House withdraws a bill from committee? No, not usually,” Smith said.

House Majority Leader Jason Osborne (R-Auburn) conceded that, given the tight margins in the House and attendance issues, it’s very possible Democrats could again find themselves with a majority on the floor. If they do and choose to abandon the norms and traditions of the House, they could wreak havoc.

“But the real result would be total Republican unity,” Osborne added. “These things Democrats are talking about would completely unify my caucus.”

In fact, Deputy Speaker Steve Smith now says House leadership is on board with Bradley’s proposed Medicaid expansion deal.

“We’ve heard from the business community, the health care community, and people across New Hampshire about the importance of reauthorizing Medicaid expansion,” Smith said in a statement. “We all agree that the program needs to be reauthorized, and we’ve had a productive conversation about the appropriate length of time for a sunset provision.

“A seven-year extension of the Granite Advantage Healthcare Program makes logical and fiscal sense. New Hampshire gets the financial benefit of a full contract period, a continued drop in uncompensated care costs – which is a hidden tax, and it stabilizes the market allowing for more competition to help further drive down health care costs in our state. House Republican leadership fully supports the budget compromise of seven years. Let’s get it done,” Smith said.

Regardless of how the Medicaid vote goes, former House Speaker Rep. Steve Shurtleff (D-Penacook) said an attempt to force a vote, or worse, depose Packard, is a mistake.

“What we don’t need right now is this kind of gamesmanship,” Shurtleff said. “There’s no need for these kinds of fights.”

Too many people in the state rely on the budget passing, Shurtleff added, and delaying that makes those people the victims in an unnecessary political fight. “The budget is too important to too many people,” he said.

Then there is the question of motive. Given how relatively apolitical the current budget is — no anti-CRT legislation or late-term abortion bans — why would Democrats contemplate such high-risk actions against it? Particular a budget with hefty pay raises for state workers, who tend to be political allies of the Democratic Party?

Several House Republicans told NHJournal they believe the real target is Sununu. If the governor is tied in an ugly budget battle or trying to corral House chaos, it might stop — or at least slow — his presidential plans.

“Or maybe the Democrats are just [expletives],” one GOP House member said.

Blowing up the budget would hurt state employees, people who need affordable housing, families who need childcare, Granite State communities that need water infrastructure repairs, and every homeowner who needs property tax relief, Bradley said.

“I would just say that is the worst possible case scenario because everything could wind up in the tank,” Bradley said.

Even Democratic stalwart Sen. Lou D’Allesandro (D-Manchester), who voted against the budget last week, wants the spending plan to pass. D’Allesandro and Sen. Cindy Rosenwald (D-Nashua) voted against HB2 in the Senate Finance Committee, saying they want improvements to the final bill before they support it.

“There’s an opportunity to add a couple of things to the budget,” D’Allesandro said.

D’Allesandro wants to see more money for state employee pensions, more money for affordable housing, and no money for northern border security. He said that as long as the bill remains intact and the House remains sane, there will be another opportunity to vote on the budget after more negotiations. That includes negotiating more time for Medicaid expansion.

The specter of a messy fight over Packard’s speakership is a non-starter for D’Allesandro. Packard is doing a solid job leading a closely divided House, he said.

“Sherman Packard was my student when he was in high school. I think the world of Sherman; he’s a fine man.”

Likewise, Leishman does not think Packard should be pushed out.

“I think Sherm’s done a good job trying to hold things together,” Leishman said.

Goodbye Rebel Girl! Concord’s Communist Marker Removed

The historic marker in Concord commemorating unrepentant Communist Elizabeth Gurley Flynn got sent to the ash heap of history as the Sununu administration finally stepped up and removed it from state property.

Now the progressive activists who pushed for the marker are complaining about its removal.

The New Hampshire Historical Highway Marker was unveiled on May 1 (May Day). It celebrated Concord-born Gurley Flynn as an early labor activist, a civil rights pioneer, a supporter of women’s access to birth control, and the former head of the Communist Party in America (CPUSA).

Gov. Chris Sununu first promised to get the marker removed after learning about it from irate executive councilors Joe Kenney (R-District 1) and Dave Wheeler (R-District 5) during a Governor’s Council meeting two days later.

“This is a devout communist. We are the ‘Live Free or Die’ state,” Kenney said. “How can we possibly promote her propaganda, which still exists now through this sign in downtown Concord?”

Sununu, however, did not immediately take the marker down. Instead, he and his administration blamed Concord city officials for the marker’s placement.

“Why Concord would want to put this in the first place, God knows,” Sununu said on Good Morning NH with Jack Health. “Just tell us to take it down we’ll take it down. I’d love to take it down.”

However, Concord City Attorney James Kennedy responded, making it clear in a letter to Department of Cultural and Natural Resources Commissioner Sarah Stewart that the state could do whatever it wanted with the marker it installed.

“To the extent that the State seeks removal of (the Flynn marker) a marker that it approved (title and text) created and installed, bearing the State seal and located on State property, the City takes no position on this issue,” Kennedy wrote.

On Monday, the Gurley Flynn monument was gone.

“Through their public statements, the City of Concord made clear they were not advocating to keep the marker up,” Ben Vihstadt, Sununu’s spokesman, said Monday. “In their communications with the state, it was learned that the marker was located on state property, not city property as previously believed, and therefore the marker was removed this morning.”

Far-left supporters of the marker and Flynn’s legacy cried foul.

“The policies of the Division of Historical Resources specify the conditions under which markers can be retired,” said Arnie Alpert, who, with Mary Lee Sargent, initiated the proposal for the Flynn marker. “Even under the policy’s latest revision, there is no provision for markers to be retired because of objections to their content.”

The pair continue to defend the marker saying Flynn is a historically significant person born in New Hampshire and should be recognized. “We still say that under the department’s own guidelines, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn’s birthplace in Concord is a fitting location for a historical marker,” Sargent said.

Flynn was an outspoken member of the American left who helped found the American Civil Liberties Union, which she was later kicked out of because she chose to join the Communist Party. In fact, Flynn joined in 1936, during the infamous purges under Soviet leader Josef Stalin that drove many other Westerners out of the party.

Flynn made no apologies for her Communism. In a May 6, 1940 speech, Flynn praised the USSR.

“On May Day, we salute the Soviet Union, land of socialism, land of peace and plenty, the great ideal of labor since time immemorial, the cooperative commonwealth of all who toil,” Flynn said.

Flynn was convicted in 1951 for fomenting the overthrow of the United States, later became head of the Communist Party USA, and was given a state funeral in Moscow’s Red Square by a grateful Soviet Union when she died in 1964.

Alpert and Sargent continue to insist the marker should have remained and that Sununu lacked the authority to remove it as he did. They say that, under the state’s guidelines, markers are only removed if they are in disrepair or contain text with factual errors. The state also requires a public hearing before any marker is removed.

“None of the conditions for the marker’s removal have been met,” Alpert said. 

Vihstadt, however, said the state acted correctly in taking down the sign.

All policies and guidelines were followed in removing this controversial marker,” Vihstadt said.

NH State Website Still Touts Historic Marker Honoring Communist Leader

The “Rebel Girl” is still causing headaches for the Sununu administration a week after the governor said he wanted the state Historical Highway Marker honoring Communist Elizabeth Hurley Flynn removed.

Despite the governor’s complaints, his own New Hampshire Department of Cultural and Natural Resources continues to tout the marker for Flynn, the former head of the American Communist Party, on its website.

“The N.H. Division of Historical Resources is pleased to announce that a New Hampshire Historical Highway Marker honoring Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a well-known labor, women’s rights, and civil liberties activist, has been installed at the corner of Court and Montgomery Streets in downtown Concord, near the site of her birthplace,” reads the press release, which was still online as of Wednesday.

The message on a state-run website adds more weight to the case made by the City of Concord that the marker is a state, not municipal, matter.

Sununu has blamed the marker’s placement on Concord city officials, claiming he wants the marker removed but must wait for the city to act.

“Why Concord would want to put this in the first place, God knows,” Sununu said last week. “Just tell us to take it down, we’ll take it down. I’d love to take it down.”

After Executive Councilors saw red when they learned about the marker for Flynn — who Sununu and other state officials have called anti-American — Sarah Stewart, commissioner for the New Hampshire Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, took less than decisive action. Stewart sent a letter to Concord Mayor James Bouley asking him to ask the state to have the marker removed.

The problem for Stewart, Sununu, and all other anti-Communists in the Granite State is that the city has no control over the marker.

“We did not approve any marker, we don’t have that authority; we don’t approve the marker’s text, we don’t have that authority,” Bouley said this week.

The marker is part of a state program, paid for with state funds, and placed on state property. Or, as the state’s press release says, “The New Hampshire Historical Highway Marker program is jointly managed by the N.H. Division of Historical Resources and N.H. Department of Transportation.”

There is a legal way to remove a Historical Highway Marker, which is covered under state law.

Flynn was born in Concord and moved to New York with her family as a child. She became a leading labor and civil rights activist before joining the Communist Party. In fact, Flynn was kicked out of the ACLU, which she helped found, because of her membership in the Community Party during the Stalin regime.

Flynn became a Communist in 1936, three years after the USSR murdered close to 9 million people in a genocidal famine known as the Holodomor and was about to start killing millions more. When she died in 1964, Flynn received a state funeral in Soviet Russia in Moscow’s Red Square with 25,000 people attending.

Concord Officials To Sununu: Stop Pushing Your Marker Mess on Us

If Gov. Chris Sununu wants to do something about the Historical Highway Marker honoring notorious Communist Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, he is free to do it himself, according to the Concord City Council.

Concord Mayor James Bouley said Monday night he was confused by the letter he got last week from Sarah Stewart, commissioner for the New Hampshire Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, asking the city to request that the state remove the Flynn marker.

“We did not approve any marker, we don’t have that authority; we don’t approve the marker’s text, we don’t have that authority; and lastly, we can’t remove something that is not our responsibility from your property,” Bouley said.

The Flynn marker angered Republican members of the state’s Executive Council, prompting Sununu to blame Concord leadership and demand that it be removed. 

“Why Concord would want to put this in the first place, God knows,” Sununu said Friday on WGIR radio. “Just tell us to take it down, and we’ll take it down. I’d love to take it down.”

The problem for Sununu — or perhaps the solution — is that the marker is the state’s responsibility from beginning to end, according to Concord City Attorney James Kennedy. He said the marker was placed in the city by the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and sits on state land. The marker features text about Flynn’s life and Communist affiliation that was approved by the state and additionally includes a seal of the State of New Hampshire. The fact that now Sununu and Stewart are asking the city to request its removal makes little sense, Kennedy said.

“That’s a curious concept to me,” Kennedy said.

According to Kennedy, if the state wants to remove the marker, it is free to follow the state law governing that process. 

Executive Councilor Janet Stevens (R-Rye) also places the responsibility at the feet of state government.

“The disgraceful placement of a historic highway marker in Concord, honoring Communist Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a devout Stalinist and prominent organizer in the Communist Party, has elevated the need for an overhaul of the process for awarding historic markers in our state,” Stevens said in an editorial for NHJournal.

“There was a clear lack of common sense in allowing this new marker to be approved,” Steven added.

The state did seek Concord’s approval to install the sign, which went up on May 1. But Bouley and the councilors said that was a courtesy and had more to do with checking traffic visibility and general construction safety. That has not stopped Sununu from hammering Concord over the state marker.

“I don’t think it should ever have been put up; I don’t think Concord should have been advocating for it,” Sununu said.

According to available public records, the City of Concord never advocated for the Flynn marker. Liberal activists Arnie Alpert and Mary Lee Sargent petitioned the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources for the Flynn maker based on her historical significance. Flynn was an early labor activist, a civil rights pioneer, and a supporter of women’s access to birth control as well as the head of the Communist Party in America. 

Flynn was kicked out of the ACLU, which she helped found, because of her membership in the Community Party. She joined in 1936, three years after the USSR murdered close to 9 million people in a genocidal famine known as the Holodomor, and was about to start killing millions more. When she died in 1964, Flynn received a state funeral in Moscow’s Red Square with 25,000 people attending.

While Sununu has blamed Concord for the whole mess, and Stewart has claimed her department had no input in the text, records obtained Monday by NHJournal show otherwise. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources employee Amy Dixon worked on researching and editing the proposed text for the Flynn marker, even adding that Flynn was a supporter of women’s suffrage. Dixon then presented the marker proposal to Concord officials and explained all expenses would be the state’s responsibility. 

Kennedy said that under U.S. Supreme Court rulings protecting the First Amendment, cities are unable to regulate the content of signs put up in their jurisdictions. 

City Councilor Amanda Grady Sexton said if the state is upset about the sign, it can take it down anytime. “If the state wants to remove the sign, they can do so.”

City Councilor Zandra Rice Hawkins suggested Concord may still put up its own marker to commemorate Flynn, in which case the state would be actually powerless as opposed to engaging in the current game of blame-shifting.

“I’d be disappointed if the state removed the marker and tried to whitewash history,” Hawkins said.