Capital Comments: Learning for legislators is on-going

Capital Comments from State Senator Bob Odell

Each week I shuttle between meetings in my office and committee rooms in the State House and the Legislative Office Building across the street.  Every meeting, whether with a constituent, a lobbyist or government official, is a learning experience.

If I were in school, a reader might compare it to moving between classrooms as much of a legislator’s role is being educated.  That means not listening to just one side of the story on legislation … but hearing the other side, too.

Last week I jotted down some information I gained from some of my meetings.

Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee:  As if we needed reminding, state governments have become very dependent upon federal government payments to states.  New Hampshire spent $2.271 billion of money received from the federal government in fiscal year 2011 that ended last June.  Total spending by the state in the same year, depending upon the figure used, was roughly $5 billion.  That means about 45 percent of state spending comes from Washington.

The implications for New Hampshire and other states are serious.  Spending from money we raise in-state  in the current two-year budget is down 11 percent from the prior biennium.  If the federal government, as advocated by leaders of both parties, cuts spending to reduce the national deficit and long term debt, some of those reductions will hit state governments. Continue reading

Proceed with Caution, Says One Budget Hawk | Front Door Politics

How cautious should lawmakers be when crafting the 2011-2013 biennium budget? Plenty cautious, according to one budget watcher who will give a briefing to a legislative committee today.

The third and final full day of economic briefings for a joint House-Senate committee will include presentations from three experts on the state budget and economy. Charlie Arlinghaus, president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, says, “I think this particular Legislature is prone to caution and it is an attitude to encourage.”

Via… Proceed with Caution, Says One Budget Hawk | Front Door Politics.

Photo: Charlie Arlinghaus urges caution in the next budget-writing session.

Capital Comments: First goal, do no damage

By State Senator Bob Odell

After the swearing in of Sunapee resident, Joe Mollica, as Chair of our state Liquor Commission, Governor Lynch came to my new office for an informal and unexpected end of year chat.  It was a slow day at the State House given it was just two days before Christmas and a good opportunity for the two of us to catch up.

The Governor wanted to make sure I had read a recent article in the National Journal magazine about New Hampshire.  The National Journal is a must read, highly respected publication for federal politicians and Washington policy makers.  The article the Governor was referring to is titled “The First State, Presidential hopefuls, take heed:  New Hampshire isn’t just a proving ground; it’s leading the nation out of recession.” Continue reading

Got Love For Your Community?

Sunapee News often writes about community. Now it’s your turn! We invite you to share your ideas about the things that contribute to your sense of community. A Gallup-Knight Foundation study, described below, discovered unexpected factors that cause people to love where they live. It also suggests new approaches to improving communities.

A three-year Gallup study of 26 U.S. cities has found that peoples’ love and passion for their community may be a leading indicator for local economic growth. Surprisingly, social offerings, openness and beauty are far more important than peoples’ perceptions of the economy, jobs or basic services in creating a lasting emotional bond between people and their community.

The 26 cities in the survey with the highest levels of resident love and passion for their community, or resident attachment, also had the highest rates of GDP growth over time.

“This study is important because its findings about emotional attachment to place point to a new perspective that we encourage leaders to consider; it is especially valuable as we aim to strengthen our communities during this tough economic time,” said Paula Ellis, Knight Foundation’s vice president for strategic initiatives.

Despite declines in the economy since the study was begun in 2008, the researchers found some surprising constants:

  • The things that create the greatest emotional connection between people and their community – social offerings, openness and aesthetics – have remained stable for three years.  These three things reliably rated highest among 10 drivers of resident attachment, which also included: civic involvement, social capital, education, perception of the local economy, leadership, safety, emotional well-being and basic services.
  • The link between local GDP and residents’ emotional bonds to a place has remained steady despite declines in the economy over the three years of the study.  Communities with residents who are more attached to a place show stronger growth even in tough economic times.
  • People’s perception of their community’s performance in social offerings, openness and beauty has a greater impact on their emotional bonds to a place than their demographic characteristics.
  • Perception of the local economy is not a leading reason residents create an emotional bond to a place.

For complete survey findings, visit www.soulofthecommunity.org.

Knight Soul of the Community is on Twitter (#SOTC) and Facebook (facebook.com/soulofthecommunity).

Sunapee News welcomes your comments.

Forum on NH Broadband Invites Public Participation

Enfield, New Hampshire

Public and private sector community leaders and interested citizens are invited to a forum that will discuss regional broadband activities and initiatives including those that affect the towns, citizens and businesses of the Upper Valley-Lake Sunapee and Southwest regions of New Hampshire. The program will be held on Monday, March 15 at the Enfield Community Building, 308 US Route 4 in Enfield at 2 p.m. The sponsors are WCNH.net, the Upper Valley-Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission and Southwest Regional Planning Commission. Discussion topics will include the New Hampshire Broadband Mapping Program, broadband grant applications and the Google “Fiber to the Home” Request for Information.

The program announcement encourages attendance by:
• Town officials (selectmen, managers/administrators, planners)
• School officials (board members, superintendents, business administrators)
• Chambers of Commerce members
• Business and civic leaders
• Economic development councils/Industrial development authorities
• Interested citizens

(Directions to Enfield Community Building: The community building is located at 308 US Route 4 in Enfield, NH. From I-89: Take Exit 17 and bear right onto Route 4 East into Enfield. Community Building is 100’ past intersection of Route 4 and Main St. Take a right into parking lot. From Lebanon: Route 4 East. Community Building is 100’ past intersection of Route 4 and Main St. Take a right into parking lot.)

For related information, visit www.broadbandnh.org or the University of New Hampshire website.

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Capital Comments: Stark Reminders of a Changing World

By State Senator Bob Odell

Last week was our annual legislative break.  It gave me the opportunity for a short trip to Portland, Oregon to spend a few days with a couple of grandsons.  Those two boys, seven and five years old, certainly helped take a lawmaker’s mind pretty much away from legislative issues and the state budget.

There are, of course, many stark reminders of how the world has been changing.   How about a $25 per charge for your bag when you check in at the airport?  And if overweight, the fee could be over $100. Continue reading

Sunapee Restaurant Owner Tapped for NH Liquor Commission

Gov. John Lynch today announced he will nominate Joseph Mollica of Sunapee to serve on the NH Liquor Commission at Wednesday’s Governor and Council meeting. Mollica is the owner of One Mile West Restaurant in Sunapee.

“Joseph Mollica has an exceptional business background and his expertise in the restaurant industry will be an asset to the commission,” Gov. Lynch said. “I know he will bring a valuable perspective to the Liquor Commission.”

The legislature is currently studying various ideas to re-structure the Liquor Commission, including moving from a full-time three-member commission to an executive director model.

If confirmed, Mollica would finish the term of former Commissioner Pat Russell, who retired earlier this year. The term will expire July 1, 2011.

Mollica has more than 20 years experience as a business owner in the restaurant industry, having owned and operated establishments in New Jersey, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. He graduated from the Johnson and Wales University in 1982 with a degree in culinary arts and food service management, according to the governor’s press release.

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Capital Comments: The economic outlook for NH

By State Senator Bob Odell

The economy is on everyone’s mind.  Legislators earlier this month were offered a high profile briefing on the national, regional and state economic outlook.

David Wyss, the chief economist for Standard and Poor’s led off the presentations.  He pulled no punches.  We have been in the longest and deepest recession since the 1930’s and he expects it will take four to five years to see our employment levels back to where they were before the recession.  That is terrible news for those unemployed or newly entering the workforce. Continue reading

Capital Comments: BIA Tour Focuses on NH’s Advanced Manufacturing

By State Senator Bob Odell

The weekly House and Senate calendars list dozens of public hearings and meetings that will be coming up in the next few weeks.  Nearly all of them will be held in Concord.  And those hearings in Concord have a proven record of generating public input and information for legislators.

But from time to time there are issues best addressed at the local level.  I found that particularly true with the work of the study commission I chaired that looked into the operations of the state park system a few years ago.  It is now a regular procedure of the House and Senate Finance Committees to hold public hearings outside of Concord as they work on the biennial budget every other year.

The value of hearings in the communities impacted by legislation has been demonstrated again with the three public meetings held by the committee studying the closing of district courts in Claremont, Milford and Colebrook.   While only two or three committee members were able to be at each hearing, the input from residents will have a significant impact on the recommendations of the full committee.

In the case of the discussion over court closings, it was helpful to actually see the facilities that are being proposed to be shut down.  Walking around a court, having court personnel tell how the court functions and what are the pluses and minuses of the court facility, all have an impact on a visiting legislator.

Then, there is the anecdotal testimony and factual data from attorneys, school administrators, police chiefs, advocates for victims of domestic violence and community leaders that gives legislators a perspective on who uses the local court.  Many of those citizens would find it difficult to get to Concord to offer their testimony but can take an evening to let a visiting study committee have the benefit of their views.

Going out to communities impacted by proposed legislation may be inconvenient for some legislators but the information garnered first hand, on site, has real value as study committee members draft their reports and offer their recommendations for legislation.

*   *   *

Representative Peter Leishman (Peterborough), chair of the court closing study committee, had to make a special effort to be at the Claremont public meeting on Wednesday, October 28.  He has the distinction of being the only legislator who can claim ownership of a railroad.  Representative Leishman owns the Milford-Bennington Railroad and a few days before the Claremont meeting, he was in the control car of the train when it collided with an automobile.

Although suggesting his injuries were not great, he is under doctor’s care, doing physical therapy and on the day of the Claremont hearing rode to and from Concord for  our special legislative “Veto Day” session with another legislator.  Knowing that I would likely be the only committee member at the meeting that night, he made the drive himself to Claremont from Peterborough.

*   *   *

If you think you might qualify for assistance through a federal program that has been helping low income families purchase heating fuel, now is the time to apply.  Assistance is based on income and family size.

The benefit two winters ago was around $600 per family.  It spiked last winter because of a supplemental federal appropriation taking the benefit up to $1,200.  Congress has not appropriated the money for this winter but if the pattern holds from the past three decades, the program will be fully funded.  For now, the disbursing agency, Southwestern Community Services which serves Cheshire and Sullivan Counties, has been approved to distribute $3.668 thousand this winter.

In a briefing by Southwestern Community Services CEO, Bill Marcello and the director of their Energy Services Program, Ann Daniels, I learned that 3,100 applications have already been processed and another 1,200 are being scheduled for appointments.  The agency estimates that it will receive around 8,000 applications for fuel assistance for this winter.

For further information, residents of Cheshire County should call 352-7512 and residents of Sullivan County should call 603-542-9528.

*   *   *

The state’s Business and Industry Association (BIA) has held eleven “Legislative Pant Tours” to help legislators understand that the “advanced manufacturing  high technology sector is the most important component of New Hampshire’s economy.”

Legislators received a briefing on the impact of manufacturing on employment, taxes paid, economic growth and the status of our economy.  Then, there was an hour for a plant tour followed by a discussion of the comparative economics of companies doing business in New Hampshire against other states.

I joined half a dozen area representatives for a meeting and tour of Whelen Engineering in Charlestown.  Starting with a small shop in the April, 1987, Whelen now employs over 500 people.

Although I have toured the plant several times in the last decade, I always learn something new.  My recent tour was no exception.  Most consistent is the fact that change is an accepted part of the manufacturing process at Whelen.  Whether it is changing products, using technology to replace old production techniques or, in contrast to many other companies, moving production of component parts into the company instead of outsourcing to others, the management always emphasizes change is part of being successful in today’s marketplace.  Company publications note that “Whelen is the only US manufacturer of emergency warning equipment to still manufacture its products entirely.  The use of robotics and a motivated workforce allow it to compete with off-shore products.”

NH State Senator Bob Odell (District 8) is chairman of Ways and Means, a member of the Energy, Environment and Economic Development Committee, and the Finance Committee. Senate District 8 comprises: Acworth, Alstead, Charlestown, Claremont, Gilsum, Goshen, Langdon, Lempster, Marlow, New London, Newbury, Newport, Roxbury, Stoddard, Sullivan, Sunapee, Sutton, Unity, Walpole, Washington and Westmoreland.

Money Management Workshop in Claremont Aug 27

ToughtimeslogoManaging Money in Tough Times, a workshop about stretching the dollar and managing  debt, will be held in the community room at Claremont Savings Bank, 154 Broad Street, Claremont on Thursday, August 27 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Sponsored by the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension of Sullivan County, the program is open to the public free of charge, however, pre-registration is required. Space is limited. For more information and to register by August 24, contact Gail Kennedy at gail.kennedy@unh.edu, phone 603-863-9200.

The UNH Cooperative Extension, with offices in each county and the Family Home and Garden Education Center in Manchester, provides services in the broad areas of:

NH’s Bud Fitch Explains Stimulus Program

This week Orville “Bud” Fitch was on The Exchange, NH Pubic Radio. Several months ago, Gov. John Lynch put Deputy Attorney General Fitch in charge of the state’s Office of Economic Stimulus. As a guest of Laura Knoy on Thursday, Fitch gave an over-view of what his work is like heading up the new state office. Hear the  interview on-line (using Windows Player or MP3) via: NHPR – The Exchange.

The state government website is: http://www.nh.gov/recovery/

The federal government website is: http://www.recovery.gov/

NH Ranks Clean Water Stimulus Projects

Two proposed wastewater projects in Sunapee are listed on the draft priority list to Clean Water funds from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). However, neither are amongst the top-30. The proposed Perkins Pond Sewer Project ($4.37 million) was ranked at 190 out of 207 prioritized applicants. The Waster Water Treatment Facility proposal ($7.6 million) ranked 67. The New London upgrade proposal for the Sunapee wastewater facility ($5.925 million) was ranked at 148.

Amongst the top-ten prioritized applications: The Newport Guild Lagoon Closure ($2.4) ranked 6th and the Newbury Blodgett Landing WWTF upgrade ($1.1 million), 7th. Two smaller projects in New London and Unity were ranked amongst the top-30.

NHDES received hundreds of applications for ARRA funding. The state has listed on-line proposed ARRA projects and the ranking system.

The state also established a comprehensive ARRA website: nh.gov/recovery/

The NH Department of Environmental Services will explain the ranking of projects and seek public in-put at a hearing in Concord on Friday, April 3. That information is also available on-line. Public comment will be accepted until April 10.

Draft NH Clean Water SRF Priority List (pdf file 180 kb)

ARRA Clean Water Hearing Notice (pdf file 36 kb)

Related article: State DES Ranks Stimulus Projects (Union Leader)

Lake Sunapee Region Chocolate Fest is April 4

All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt! – Lucy Van Pelt in Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz

The Chocolate Fest is April 4. Mark you calendar! This year,the Lake Sunapee Region Chamber of Commerce and Colby-Sawyer College are the co-sponsors. This delicious event will be held at the College at Wheeler Hall (Ware Campus Center) from 12 to 3 p.m. For more information and if you want to participate, help the organizing committee or be a sponsor, contact Chamber Executive Director Rob Bryant,603-526-6575,  email: chamberinfo@nhvt.net.

Gov. Lynch Presents Budget to Finance Committee

Gov. John Lynch presented his proposed budget to the House and Senate Finance Committee yesterday. Now legislators begin to work on the state operating budget for 2010-2011.

Gov. Lynch presented a balanced budget that spends $40 million, or 1 percent, less than the current two-year budget. Given the continuing economic turmoil facing the nation, Gov. Lynch’s budget, on average, projects existing revenues will remain flat for the next two years.

“This is a difficult budget, but with challenge also comes opportunity – the opportunity to re-think everything state government does, how we do it and how we can do it better,” Gov. Lynch said.

As we developed this budget, we worked to lower the state’s cost structure, which is absolutely necessary to make sure New Hampshire gets through the next two years of this downturn. Although this recession will not last forever, I believe we must make continuing changes to state government in order to meet our priorities today and into the future. – Gov. Lynch

The proposed budget unfunds 391 vacant positions, and continues the state hiring freeze into 2010-2011. As a result of program eliminations and other efficiencies, there will be approximately 275 to 300 layoffs statewide.

Read the complete release at: http://www.governor.nh.gov/news/2009/021709.html

Workforce Training, Education and the Stimulus Package

Sunapee News publishes weekly “Capital Comments” from State Senator Bob Odell. Click on Columns.

This week, Odell writes about higher education and workforce training, the University System of NH and the Community College System and the federal stimulus package.

Our region is noted for its tradition and dependence on the machine tool industry for a vibrant regional economy.  River Valley is reinvigorating its machine tool technology programs in cooperation with employers in the area.  Time after time, when visiting manufacturing facilities, managers will tell me that the lack of trained machinists hinders the growth of their businesses……There are more partnerships coming along with other businesses.  These collaborations will provide long term employment opportunities for students but also help fuel our regional economy.

Odell, about the federal stimulus package: “There was a letter from the Municipal Association to many towns and cities asking what projects they would like funded through the stimulus package.  That got the attention of municipal officials who put together their ‘wish lists’ for consideration.”

“New Hampshire is looking to receive around $300 million,” says Odell. “The emphasis is on job creation and immediate economic activity….Many people have high hopes for funding for their projects.  My guess is that there will be, even at $300 million, not enough money to handle them all.  Thus, some disappointment lies ahead.”

Read the column in full.

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