Capital Comments: Briefings give budget writers plenty to ponder

Senator Bob OdellCapital Comments from State Senator Bob Odell

One newspaper’s front page headline on Tuesday read, “For NH budget writers, it’s doom and gloom.”

The article was about a long day of briefings for House and Senate Finance and Ways and Means Committee members. Every two years the House and Senate invite in economic experts and analysts to put things in perspective as the budget writing process is beginning.

I remind my colleagues that the Governor will take the first step next month when she announces her budget plan in an address to a joint session of the legislature. That address will set out her spending plans that will tell us her policy goals. And she will explain her predictions on revenue for the next two years beginning on July 1.

Here is some of the news legislators heard.

First, economic growth is anemic. It is taking us longer to recover from the recession which officially ended months ago. And New Hampshire for the first time in memory is recovering more slowly than other states in New England except for Rhode Island. New England is also recovering more slowly than the rest of the country. That’s not good. Continue reading

Capital Comments: Hassan sworn in as governor, sets out priorities

Capital Comments from State Senator Bob Odell

Inaugurations of New Hampshire governors are always exciting and each one ties us to our long history of democracy as a state and nation.

Governor Maggie Hassan, a former State Senate colleague of mine for four years, is the second woman to be governor of New Hampshire and the first Democrat to replace another Democrat since the 19th century. Last Thursday, she was also the first woman sworn in by a female Supreme Court Chief Justice. Continue reading

Sunapee Dems Gottling and Tanner win N.H. House seats

Sunapee, N.H. – 84.6% of Sunapee’s registered voters cast ballots in this year’s General Election on November 6. The local vote counts are available via the town website (homepage) or you can download them here (PDF 279 kb): Sunapee General Election Results 2012

In Sullivan County House District 2 (Sunapee-Croydon), Sue Gottling (D-Sunapee) defeated one-term incumbent Spec Bowers (R-Sunapee). The vote count: 1,343 to 1,003, 57% to 43%, according to NHPR published results. Gottling won Sunapee (1,138 to 798) and split the Croydon vote (205 to 205).

In Sullivan County House District 9 (Plainfield, Grantham, Croydon, Cornish, Newport, Unity, Springfield and Sunapee) Linda Tanner (D-Sunapee) defeated one-term incumbent Tom Howard (R-Croydon). The vote count: 5,525 to 4,759, 54% to 46%. (Unity confirmed Wednesday morning for SunapeeNews.com the District 9 vote count in Unity, the last town in the eight-town district to report, and it showed Tanner edging out Howard, 349 to 323.)

Linda Tanner seeks House seat in District 9 – Sullivan County, N.H.

Sunapee resident Linda Tanner is a candidate for state representative in Sullivan County’s District 9, a floterial district that includes eight New Hampshire towns: Plainfield, Grantham, Croydon, Cornish, Newport, Unity, Springfield and Sunapee.  Tanner is the Democrat on the ballot and lives in the village of Georges Mills.  She is running against one-term incumbent Tom Howard (R-Croydon). SunapeeNews.com asked both candidates in the District 9 race for voter information.

By Linda Tanner

Website: www.lindatanner2012.com
Email: electltanner@gmail.com

I graduated from a small teachers’ college in Pennsylvania and was drawn to New Hampshire because of its natural beauty and recreational opportunities. I ended up staying, coaching and teaching health, health occupations, and physical education for 35 years at Kearsarge Regional High School. I stayed because I fell in love with the New Hampshire culture of rugged individualism, frugality, community, school, and state pride, concern for the common good, and the protection of individual and civil rights.

I appreciate the way democracy is citizen based in this State and want to be your citizen legislator.

Over the past few years, I have become concerned with the radical legislation being considered and passed in our State House along with the lack of civility and consensus.  I feel I need to be part of the solution, not sit on the sidelines and hope for common sense to prevail.

I’m running to restore balance, common sense, and to work for solutions for New Hampshire not create more problems by promoting legislation from a national agenda.  I will vote to represent my constituents.

I will:

  • Promote economic growth by giving incentives for hiring and keeping jobs in N.H.
  • Vote for equal and adequate public education as well as funding for the State university and college system based on reasonable, ear marked revenues.
  • Vote for affordable health care and women’s access to reproductive health services.
  • Vote to support our workers, police, firefighters, public employees, first responders, and teachers.
  • Be vigilant in protecting our lakes, forests, and our precious environment.

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. Continue reading

Capital Comments: N.H. community colleges are “technologically savvy”

Scroll down to read about New Hampshire’s Community College System.

From State Senator Bob Odell

I sent a note of apology for missing a committee meeting of the New Hampshire Humanities Council on Wednesday because our Senate session ran late.  The executive director of the council and the spouse of a State Representative replied that no apologies were necessary given the “bruising” time the legislature was going through last week.

Thursday was the last day for either the House or Senate to act on bills this year.  And that meant it was the final chance to take bills off the table, to amend bills to send to the chamber with policies already defeated there, and to pass bills that will require a committee of conference to sort out the differences between House and Senate positions. Continue reading

Students learn about advanced manufacturing at Whelen

Scroll down to read about a private-public partnership that introduces students to advanced manufacturing at Whelen Engineering in Charlestown, New Hampshire.

Capital Comments from State Senator Bob Odell

The e-mail from a lobbyist’s iPhone read, “The telecom bill just passed STE (House Science and Technology Committee) 17-0 not amended.  Thank you for your help.  This is good legislation.”

That is the kind of message a legislator likes to receive.  I had introduced the bill (SB 48) in the fall of 2010.  Here we were 20 months later in the last week for House committees to act on Senate bills.  Those many months of work in the Senate improving the bill paid off as the House committee saw no need to amend the bill and certainly not to make any policy changes.

The bill will reduce regulation of traditional land line telephone companies such as FairPoint so they can compete more effectively and fairly with Comcast and other communications companies.  In the end, the industry supported the bill as did consumer protection groups.

The fate of the telecommunications bill was far different from what happened to many other high profile bills in the last two weeks.  The House, for example, wants to put $17.7 million surplus from the last biennium into the state’s “rainy day” while the Senate would prefer to wait to see how the finances are when the current biennium ends on June 30 of next year. Continue reading

Capital Comments: Three surprises — redistricting, medical marijuana, biennial sessions

Capital Comments from State Senator Bob Odell

Last Wednesday was cross over day in the State Senate.  And as I drove home late that night, I reflected on three surprises from the day.

First, in the morning, before session or caucuses started, I wrote an email response to a constituent’s request that I vote to uphold the veto by Governor John Lynch of the bill to  change the 400 House districts to match up with 2010 census population numbers.

I told the constituent that Governor Lynch had only vetoed the bill the prior Friday and it would take a week or so for the House to act on the veto.  And if the House overturned the Governor’s veto, I predicted it would be another week before the Senate would likely be able to act.

How wrong could I be?  During our noon break for the caucus of Senators from my party I learned the House had already acted and voted to override the Governor’s veto.  And the Senate President told us the Senate would act on the veto that day, too.

A few hours later, the Senate voted 17-7 to override the Governor’s veto on House redistricting.  The tradition that seems to work well in practice is that each body, the House and Senate, write their redistricting legislation every ten years and the other body rubber-stamps it.

Next stop for House redistricting?  I am sure a lawsuit will be filed soon.

Interestingly, the Governor signed the bill establishing new Senate district boundaries that will be in place effective with the fall elections.

Another surprise was the vote to implement a medical marijuana program in New Hampshire.  If it becomes law, Senate Bill 409 would allow a person credentialed by a doctor, based on the seriousness or disease they suffer from, or their designated care giver to grow up to four marijuana plants.

The marijuana produced could be used for medical treatment to relieve pain, make it possible for a person eat or help them get through their last days.  The arguments mostly came from Senators in favor of medical marijuana who explained their personal knowledge of family members or close friends who benefited from using marijuana.

Opposition was led by Chiefs of Police Association along with others from law enforcement.  It was noted that federal laws, however effectively enforced, would still make marijuana possession illegal.

When the Senate session started, the vote for the new medical marijuana program was thought to be 12 to 12.  A tie vote means the motion, in this case a motion to pass the bill, would fail.  By noon, one Senator was uncertain which direction he would go and by late evening he decided to vote for the bill.  It passed on a vote of 13-11.

Next stop for medical marijuana?  Should the bill pass the House, the Governor has announced he will veto the bill.  In that case, the bill will come back to the Senate where a two-thirds vote or 16 votes out of 24 is required to overturn a gubernatorial veto.  I think proponents will find it tough to get three more votes to do that.

Then there was a debate about annual or biennial sessions.  There are frequent conversations about whether the legislature should meet every year in annual sessions as we do now or return to the “old days” when the House and Senate were required to only meet every other year.

The legislation before the Senate last week, CACR 33, would change the state constitution to have the legislature meet every other year in biennial sessions.  That is the way it was before the 1984 Constitutional Convention recommended that citizens vote for annual legislative sessions.  The voters agreed in the elections that fall.

In the “old days” of biennial sessions, in most years when the legislature was not supposed to be meeting, it was called back for special sessions.  The special sessions became the standard and a substitute for annual sessions.

Senator Lou D’Allesandro (Manchester) is the only Senator to have served under both systems and is a vocal critic of the proposed legislation.  He reminded his colleagues that when he first served in the House of Representatives in the 1970’s the state budget was $200 million.  Today the general fund budget is more than $2 billion each year and total spending with federal funds and other money is over $4 billion annually.

Senator Chuck Morse (Salem) noted that we need to do the state’s legislative business differently.  To that point, several Senators have iPads on their desks instead of stacks of paper.  The new Senate consent calendar on which bills that have general support are put together and voted on as a group at the beginning of each session is working well.

Other Senators said annual sessions kept some people from being able to serve but the Senate’s dean, Senator Jack Barnes (Raymond), who has served for more than two decades, reminded Senators that he has seen “almost perfect attendance” by Senators over the years.

In the end, the proposed constitutional amendment received a vote of 14 to 10.  A constitutional amendment needs 15 votes to go forward.  The debate on annual vs. biennial sessions is over for now.  But the vote was surprisingly close.

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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