Election 2020: Eric Turer challenging District 33 state Rep. Josh Yokela – News – seacoastonline.com

Second Amendment

The race for the state representative seat representing District 33 pits incumbent Republican Josh Yokela against Democratic challenger Eric Turer.

District 33 consists of the communities of Brentwood, Danville and Fremont.

Eric Turer

Party: Democratic Party

Address: 33 Peabody Drive, Brentwood

Age: 54

Occupation: Health systems policy consultant

Civic/Political Experience: Candidate for NH House 2018; Chair Brentwood Democratic Committee; Brentwood Representative on the Exeter Squamscott River Local Advisory Committee; Immediate Past President – New England Rural Health Association

1. Why are you running for state representative?

Simply put, we at a critical moment as a state, and our towns need better representation now more than ever. I’ll be an engaged public servant who makes decisions based on sound policy and experience, over politics and rigid ideology. My career is in public health, as a policy consultant with over 25 years of state and national experience focused on increasing access to health care, built on a background in business administration and including over a decade in senior corporate leadership. My family moved to Brentwood 20 years ago, and we have a deep love for this state and this community. We raised our family here, schooled our children in town, and my wife is an Ob/Gyn in Exeter who served as both a front-line provider and a small business owner through the COVID pandemic. These issues are personal to me. I feel my knowledge and perspective is well matched to the difficult tasks ahead, as we lead our state back to health, civility, and broad-based prosperity. I hope to earn your support.

2. What do you see as the top three local issues facing your district and if elected how do you plan to address them?

Our immediate challenge is, of course, to get through the pandemic and preserve our state’s relative success to date, while supporting the careful reopening of business and schools. We have the tools to halt the spread of this disease if we’re willing to use them effectively. Rather than hurting our economy, it is the key to getting us back on track and I’ll apply my public health knowledge to make sure that happens.

The second priority is fixing our failed education funding system to stop the rapid rise in local taxes that is pitting the needs of young families seeking a good education for their children against the need for our towns’ oldest residents, living on fixed incomes, to stay in their homes. This means finally adopting a new education funding formula and restoring state revenue sharing to towns, as Democrats began notably in the last session. This doesn’t require an income tax, but does need to target those towns and individual struggling the most. Third, we need to fully embrace the use of clean, renewable energy and clean electric technologies that use it. As an electric car owner, I can say that this is not a compromise… it’s a clear step forward that will bring jobs, progress, and a cleaner environment. Raising net metering caps, supporting incentives, and addressing road use fees will all move us in that direction.

3. How would you rate the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? What can the state do to help individuals and businesses still struggling?

Nationally our lack of a coordinated response has left us in a precarious position. It might not feel like it, given all the disruption in our life and the economy, but here in N.H. we are one of the states that has done quite well, and locally we fared better than the rest of our county and nearby Massachusetts. Through a mix of social factors, public health measures, and likely some luck, we have been one of the few states and areas not to see the full measure of the initial “surge” projections, or the rapid rise in cases seen elsewhere over the summer as things began to reopen prematurely. There is a strong temptation to believe all that we have done was for nothing, that the danger is past, and we can/must, return to business as usual. That’s simply not true. Until we have a working vaccine, widely distributed, the virus remains just as contagious and deadly, and we remain as vulnerable as we were initially if we let our guard down. Given what is happening in many other areas of the country, the risk of an outbreak and exponential spread here in our state remains high if we don’t remain vigilant and careful.

We should join other New England states by issuing a mask mandate as we head into the fall and implement strategic surveillance testing/monitoring statewide. All that we’ve suffered are “sunk costs” that can either help to get us through this challenge, or be wasted as we simply delay the rising rates seen elsewhere.

4. How should the state address a projected budget shortfall due to the pandemic? Given the pressure on cities and towns due to the pandemic, do you think the existing revenue models are sufficient and if not, what would you suggest?

Much depends on whether Congress can come together to pass a relief package that includes revenue to states. Reliance on government supports increases in times of hardship and we cannot let our citizens down at their time of greatest need. If needed, I would consider a capital gains tax as a means of diversifying the state’s revenue sources without an income tax. The capital gains tax rate was significantly reduced at the federal level in 2003 and these cuts were supposed to expire in 2008, but remained due to the Great Recession. Such a tax must protect retirees living off of invested savings, through a minimum threshold. The wealth disparity in our country is at historic levels, with many having little to no capital savings to tax the gains on, while some have seen great growth in the value of invested funds while the economy suffers. It would be reasonable for those benefiting from these gains, not tied to jobs or labor, to contribute to the state through taxation when they “cash in” these gains. This can be done without reducing the incentive to invest or causing capital flight from the state.

5. How would you rate the state’s response to the opioid crisis and what else do you think needs to be done to address substance misuse?

Working with the state’s public health system, the impact of the opioid epidemic has been readily apparent and a particular problem in our state. NH’s “Doorway” system implemented a single point of entry that connects those with substance use problems with the services they need. This helped, but the problem remains. Increased services are part of the solution, but so are things like drug courts, recovery housing, and the increased reliance on harm-reduction strategies that bring the link between substance use and mortality, and ultimately between the user and the supplier. We must also protect the Medicaid expansion that provided much of the needed coverage during this crisis.

6. Do you support legalizing gambling or marijuana for recreational use?

I oppose legalized gambling as an irresponsible way to raise state revenue, which is already heavily dependent on excise/sin taxes and fees. Gambling often prays on the hopes of those least able to afford it, and produces no net value. For marijuana, my opinion is informed by my public health background and the “tobacco wars.” I believe that citizens should be able to purchase and possess marijuana with appropriate age and product controls, but I am opposed to the for-profit sale of marijuana as there is no value in having organizations actively promoting initiation or increased use. Once federal banking restrictions on marijuana revenue are lifted, “big marijuana” will supplant local industry. I believe sales and distribution should be restricted to in-state non-profit organizations with a mission to educate users and hold use to a minimum. Taxation/fees should not be viewed as a new general revenue stream as this undermines the government’s role in oversight and control of the product.

7. Do you think the state should implement a paid family medical leave insurance program?

Yes, both parties proposed a version of paid family and medical leave during the last session, so there is broad agreement that we need such a program fostered by the state. COVID has shown that even more clearly. The question is how best to structure and pay for the program – which is truly a form of insurance that you own personally when you pay in – not a government program covering others who don’t pay, as it’s often portrayed. From my 30 years of health policy consulting it is clear that bigger more inclusive insurance risk pools are more stable and less costly overall for many reasons. You can see the convolutions the Sununu/Bradley plan had to go through trying to recreate that stability in the smaller voluntary approach, with taxes on premiums, rebates on premiums paid, and even an attempt to get Vermont to join in. Also, this is not an income tax… it’s tied to your income only because the benefit you get is proportional to your income. It doesn’t fund expansion of any other government programs or services beyond the participant paying in, and it will provide essential relief to many when they most need it.

8. Are New Hampshire gun laws sufficient? If not, what changes would you support and why?

I do support some changes to our gun control laws. We will not solve all issues with gun violence but we can do much better without impinging on anyone’s rights. I believe the second amendment does, as the Supreme Court ruled, provide for the individual right to own firearms, and as a practical matter that will always be the case as well. The second amendment does, however, start with the phrase, “A well-regulated militia…” so I don’t feel it precludes sensible regulations, which should not interfere with a responsible individual’s gun ownership, but which would prevent some of the issues stemming from those that should not have access to a weapon for several reasons. Our community has been touched by gun violence, and I view it as a public health issue. Solutions would be similar to how cars and driving are regulated in terms of registration and licensing, but also to include universal background checks. Even the first amendment has limits based on public safety – you can’t shout “Fire” in a crowded theater. Finally, I would like to assure that our police and military are always the best-armed members of our society, by assuring that there is a clear line between what is civilian weaponry and what is not.

Josh Yokela

Party: Republican

Address: 16 Tibbetts Road, Fremont

Age: 33

Occupation: Accounting Clerk

Civic/Political Experience: State rep 2018-present; Fremont Budget Committee 2017-present; and Fremont Zoning Board of Adjustment 2016-present

1. Why are you running for state representative?

I am running to continue the work I started this term, open N.H. back up, and make sure we don’t raise taxes as we try to get our economy back into gear. One thing I want to push forward is protections for the information you share with people and businesses which the government has been getting access to without a warrant as Snowden revealed. We need to work to update the protections from warrantless searches in the digital age which the government seems to have found a way around.

2. What do you see as the top three local issues facing your district and if elected how do you plan to address them?

New Hampshire is great because it gives power to the towns to address their own issues, so I don’t think a lot of the local issues are solved at the state level which is why I am a part of the local budget and zoning boards to make sure people can do what they want with their land and the taxes are necessary and well spent. The biggest issue for towns is how to control the constant increase in the cost of education and not seeing that increased funding resulting in better educational outcomes for the children. The state can open up options for the towns to choose grant funding which is available for charter schools to innovate ways to get better outcomes and serve the learning needs of those who cannot succeed in the same way education has been taught for decades. Another way is creating Education Savings Accounts for each child to empower parents to have a say in how the education dollars are spent with any savings found to be able to be rolled over to future education opportunities including college.

3. How would you rate the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? What can the state do to help individuals and businesses still struggling?

Governor Sununu took a cautious approach because we didn’t know what we were dealing with, but now we know who is vulnerable and the ways people can protect themselves so the government needs to get out of the way. People need to ask themselves the questions recommended by the infectious disease doctor Amesh Adalja as they are deciding how they move forward.

What is my individual risk tolerance? Am I somebody that’s risk-averse or risk-tolerant?

What are my risk factors for severe disease? Am I somebody that’s more likely to have a severe case of COVID-19 or more likely to have a mild case? Factors to consider here include age and chronic health conditions.

How important is what I want to do? Where does it fit in my hierarchy of values? Is the risk of the virus outweighed by the benefit that I get from this activity?

4. How should the state address a projected budget shortfall due to the pandemic? Given the pressure on cities and towns due to the pandemic, do you think the existing revenue models are sufficient and if not, what would you suggest?

I believe that revenues are not the issue, spending is the issue. Most of the money we spend is locally, so I try to control spending when I serve on the local budget committee. I will also look to control spending in Concord so that we do not have tax increases at the state level either. As little money as possible should be spent at the state level because the people that have to pay that bill have less control over how much tax money is spent and where it goes.

5. How would you rate the state’s response to the opioid crisis and what else do you think needs to be done to address substance misuse?

This is a multifaceted problem including employment opportunities, healthcare, and the failed war on drugs. While N.H. is extremely strong on employment opportunities it is not leading the way on healthcare and drug reform. The healthcare field is trying to churn through patients and prescribe the conditions away. Direct primary care where patients can have hour-long appointments to fully address their issues with the doctor instead of seeing a different nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant with every 15-minute appointment is one innovation I support which is trying to push back on the current model of healthcare.

6. Do you support legalizing gambling or marijuana for recreational use?

I support both because these are examples of “mother government” trying to tell grown adults what they can or cannot do with their money and body. Not only have we found that the laws are not equally applied to the offenders, but it creates a disdain for the law as people who wish to take part in the activities the government’s interference unjust. It also places N.H. at an economic and quality of life disadvantage to the places that have already walked back these restrictions.

7. Do you think the state should implement a paid family medical leave insurance program?

I think this is best handled by the free market with options and price points for people to choose what best suits their situation. I would like New Hampshire to find the ways in which it gets in the way of companies creating those options, but I don’t think the government should create a mandate that people buy it or get into the business of dictating what those plans and prices should be.

8. Are New Hampshire gun laws sufficient? If not, what changes would you support and why?

I support the 2nd Amendment and am endorsed by the NRA and I don’t think that N.H. gun laws are sufficient to ensure 2nd Amendment rights are protected. I think that we can do more to ensure government-funded institutions don’t put rules in place to restrict the 2nd Amendment rights of adults. I also think that N.H. could make it clear that private property designated as a “Gun Free Zone” places a higher responsibility on the owner of the property to protect the people on their property and could open the owner up to liability if the protection is not sufficient.

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