Capital Comments: Senate colleauges applaud Matt Houde

From State Senator Bob Odell

In the State Senate your age or length of service are not measures of the respect your colleagues have for you. Matt Houde (Plainfield) has proven that.

The Senate will meet in regular session just one more time, on June 6, so tradition calls for departing Senators to make some farewell remarks leading up to our final day in Concord. That started last week when Senator Ray White (Bedford) did a roll call of departing Senators with some special and often humorous comments. Senator White is leaving the Senate himself after just one term.

When he came to Matt Houde, Senator White called him a “class act” and noted that as one of the five members of the minority in the Senate, he has often been on the “losing side” over the past two years. But Senator Houde never lost his patience nor took things personally or even raised his voice in debates.

The week before Senator Houde had received a standing ovation from Senators for his work leading the Senate Judiciary Committee. He is the only member of the minority to have a committee chairmanship and the reward was an avalanche of bills to manage through the legislative process. This year more bills found themselves in Senator Houde’s committee than any other.

In his own farewell comments, Senator Houde noted some of the milestones that have happened during his four years in the Senate. He turned 40 and last year was married. While he “loves the process” in the legislature, his personal and professional life require his attention.

“People make the Senate special,” Senator Houde said. While Senators can be pretty aggressive and tough fighters on legislative matters, between Senators there grows a level of respect for their experience and willingness to work hard. The result, Senator Houde noted, is “genuine friendships.”

I will particularly miss Matt Houde as we both represent parts of the Upper Valley and because of the friendship we have built. But I also will miss Matt’s fair-mindedness and ability and desire to work with others. That includes a Senator who sits behind him who is twice Matt’s age, others who have completely different ideological views of the world than Matt holds, and others who have vastly different styles of legislating.

Matt has helped bring everyone together. That is a good trait in a Senator. And he is always a gentleman.

In December when the new Senate is sworn in, it will be changed without Senator Houde in the chamber. Senators who have served with him will miss him. But given his youth, one hopes that Senator Houde’s talents and dedication will again bring him to public service … to an elected or appointed position. In the meantime, I wish him well.

***

Last year, the family of J. D. Salinger, the renowned author of “The Catcher in the Rye” and a long time resident of Cornish, wanted help with some legislation.

I introduced Senate Bill 175 which deals with the “right to publicity.” The right to publicity provides an individual with the ability to control the commercial use of his or her name and image. The Salinger family had concerns about unauthorized use of their father’s name and image for commercial gain.

There is clear recognition in common law that a person controls the use of their name and image. SB 175 would insure that the same right could go to an heir or be assigned to others through a will, trust or other instrument or contract. New Hampshire is among 30 states that recognize the right to publicity and will become one of 16 states to recognize that a person may pass on that right to his or her children or others. This concept seems to be consistent with New Hampshire’s traditional strong support of individual rights.

This area of law is complicated. Video game producers and professional sports associations, such as the major league baseball players’ association, all felt they had a stake in the outcome of SB 175. A day or so before the Senate voted on the bill last week, a large packet of materials was dropped on the desks of Senators by the lobbyist for the Motion Picture 
Association of America.

When there is this level of activity around a piece of legislation, you know the perceived financial impacts must be substantial. Some joked SB 175 was a mini-economic stimulus program or a full employment project for lobbyists.

Senator Houde helped manage the bill through the Senate. He was especially effective in the Senate Commerce Committee on which he serves and in presenting the case for the bill on the Senate floor. In the House, Representative Jennifer Coffey (Andover) did a remarkable job garnering a strong 17-1 committee vote in favor of a revised version of the Senate bill. Last week the Senate voted to concur with the House version, and the bill is on its way to Governor Lynch.

As a legislator, I find satisfaction in sponsoring and working on legislation that helps others. In this case, it was to help the Salinger family as well as other families in similar situations. While J. D. Salinger quietly lived much of his life in Cornish, his only novel, “The Catcher in the Rye,” made him one of the most well known writers of the 20th century.

Senator Odell represents New Hampshire Senate District 8:  Acworth, Alstead, Charlestown, Claremont, Gilsum, Goshen, Langdon, Lempster, Marlow, New London, Newbury, Newport, Roxbury, Stoddard, Sullivan, Sunapee, Sutton, Unity, Walpole, Washington and Westmoreland.

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