2012 Election brings dramatic changes to Concord

Capital Comments from State Senator Bob Odell

The voters spoke last week and brought dramatic changes to Concord.

Most attention was focused on the election of a new Governor, former State Senator Maggie Hassan, and the reversal of a three to one Republican majority in the House to a 222 to 178 Democrat majority.  There is much less attention on the changes in the makeup of the State Senate.

Broadly speaking, the Republicans retained a narrow majority of 13 to 11 but that is down from 19 to 5.  Given the wholesale GOP losses in House contests, it is surprising only one Republican incumbent, Jim Luther (Hollis), lost.  And he lost to Peggy Gilmour, also of Hollis, who he defeated two years ago.

The 24 newly elected Senators will be sworn in by Governor Lynch on December 5 as required by the state constitution.  There are 14 Senators who were re-elected last week and three who are returning after being out one term having been defeated two years ago.  And there will be seven new members with four of them moving from the House to the Senate including David Pierce (Lebanon).

In 2006, history was made when the New Hampshire Senate became the first state legislative body in the country to have women make up a majority of its membership.  There were 13 women Senators between 2006 and 2010.  There will be nine women in the new Senate.

Republicans and Democrats moved quickly to choose their respective leaders.  Senator Sylvia Larsen (Concord) is the senior Senator in terms of service with ten terms and she was chosen by her Democrat caucus to lead the Senate Democrats.  Senator Peter Bragdon (Milford) was selected to lead the Republicans and with their majority he will be formally elected Senate President for a second term when the Senators gather on December 5.

The Senate President appoints members to committees.  With increased numbers, Democrats will receive more seats on each committee.   Committees of five members today, for example, have four Republicans and one Democrat.  I anticipate that for the next two years, the minority will have two seats on five member committees, possibly three seats on seven member committees.

Governor-elect Hassan served four years in the State Senate and 12 of the 24 newly elected Senators served in the Senate with her.  Half of them are Republicans and half are Democrats.  Senator Russell Prescott (Kingston) has an interesting history with the soon to be Governor.  Maggie Hassan ran against Senator Prescott in 2004 and lost; ran again in 2006 and won; and was ousted from the Senate in 2010 by Senator Prescott.

It is my guess that Governor-elect Hassan’s experience in the Senate and her friendship with many senior members, Republicans and Democrats alike, will bode well for a good working relationship over the next two years.  With the slimmest of margins, 13 seats to 11 seats, Republicans appreciate the new landscape.  Over the last two years, with more than a super majority, Republicans voting together could easily overturn vetoes by Governor Lynch.  To pass bills in 2011 and 2012, Republicans could have six GOP members oppose a bill and still have the 13 votes to pass it.  It will be much different in the next two years.

Donna Soucy (Manchester), returns to the Senate in a change of roles.  From 2006 through 2010 under Democrat majorities, Donna Soucy was chief-of-staff for the Senate.  Now she will be a Senator herself having won election on Tuesday.

New Hampshire voters for well over 200 years have gone to the polls and decided who would represent them in the State Senate.  There has been more volatility in recent elections starting in 2006 when Governor Lynch swept the state and straight ticket voting allowed voters to vote for candidates of one party by simply checking a circle at the top of the ballot.

Then, Democrats kept their majority in the election of 2008 but lost it in the Republican wave in 2010 giving the GOP 19 Senate seats and just five for the Democrats,  Now the Republican majority has been reduced to one seat and both parties will have to work together to get things done.  I think we can do that.

***

The Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee had its final meeting for this legislature on Thursday.  The committee, with five House members and five Senate members, usually meets monthly to handle some financial matters that have been assigned to it.  The meeting was also one of the last duties for long serving Representative Beverly Rodeschin (Newport) who will not be returning for the next term.  She has ably served as clerk of the committee for the last two years.  Representative Randy Foose (New London) has been an active committee member but chose not to run for re-election.  Both will be missed.

One item of local interest was the Fiscal Committee’s authorization for the Department of Transportation to “accept and expend Federal Highway funds in the amount of $1,266,067” to reconstruct a street in Berlin and “rehabilitate approximately 2,700 feet of two-lane roadway including sidewalk upgrades on Main Street in Claremont.”  Typically matters like this do not come before the Fiscal Committee but because these funds had not been part of an earlier Federal Highway construction program calculation, DOT brought the request forward to insure that there is transparency in their acceptance and spending of federal highway dollars.

Sen. Bob Odell (R-Lempster) was re-elected on November 6th to his sixth term representing District 8:  Acworth, Antrim, Bennington, Bradford, Croydon, Deering, Francestown, Grantham, Goshen, Langdon, Lempster, New London, Newbury, Newport, Springfield, Stoddard, Sunapee, Sutton, Unity, Washington, Weare and Windsor.

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