Capital Comments: Friday’s budget session…

This week the Senate Finance Committee continues to hear from departments and agencies; voting on the budget begins the week of May 9th. This week’s column describes last Friday’s session and two items before the committee: Service Link and a program called Children in Need of Services (CHINS). Both programs were not funded in the budget passed by the House of Representatives.

By State Senator Bob Odell

On Friday as I was driving to Concord, I listened to New Hampshire Public Radio for a few minutes as I often do as I switch between WNTK and NHPR during my morning commute.

Dan Gorenstein, a State House reporter, was telling the story of how lobbyists, not-for-profits as well as individuals are besieging the seven senators who sit on the Finance Committee.  Using interviews with Chuck Morse (Salem), Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and Senate President Bragdon (Milford), Dan related how those who are looking for funding in the budget for the next two years for their favored agencies are chasing down finance committee members to plead their case. Continue reading

Capital Comments: Personal stories put faces to NH budget bills

By Senator Bob Odell

“This is amazing,” Diane Woods of Durham said, as she began her testimony before last Thursday’s Senate Finance Committee public hearing on the budget bills, House Bills 1 and 2.

More than 400 people signed up to speak.  And many of them got to speak during the 8 and 3/4 hours public hearing that was broken up only by a one hour recess for dinner.  Starting at 2 PM and concluding close to 11 PM, any citizen could sign up and when their name was called briefly present their story or background on how the proposed budget from the House would impact them.

For most of the time, six of the seven members of the Senate Finance Committee were at a table in the front of the room.  The hearing room was Representatives Hall with 400 seats and an hundred or so more in the gallery.  Every seat appeared to be taken when the hearing was opened.

Ms. Woods is correct.  It is an amazing process that allows any citizen to come and tell their story.  Many citizens fear and have deep concern that the cuts made by the House will stand.  You wish there could be more calm as the Senate has yet to put its imprint on the budget but if you are hanging by a thread and completely in fear that the House budget will stand and a program you need is being eliminated, you can understand the concern.

In some cases, those presenting were professionals including lobbyists serving the hospital association or Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.  The chief of Healthy Kids, the insurance program for children, warned against moving the program back into the government from her not-for-profit agency. Continue reading

Senate Budget Hearings Today | Front Door Politics

Today’s Daily Dispatch from Front Door Politics reports on today’s budget hearing in Concord. Click on the link below for the entire article.

Today’s Dispatch also mentions that the House budget would abolish the Department of Cultural Resources and defund the New Hampshire State Council of the Arts.

“If passed, that would make New Hampshire the only state in the country without an arts council or commission.”

Amongst those worried about these cuts are small business owners Sue and Steve Russell of Newbury. Sue and Steve are professional potters. You can read their opinion by viewing yesterday’s Sunapee News articles.

Now, back to today’s Dispatch…

Later today, the Senate Finance committee will hear public testimony for the first time on the overall $10.3 billion biennium budget passed by the House last month. Expect a long list of speakers to line up in Representatives Hall to support or oppose the myriad proposals for revenue and spending in 2012-2013. Senate budget writers have until June 2 to complete their version of the budget, at which point the House and Senate will have to hammer out any differences.

via Senate Budget Hearings Today | Front Door Politics.

Opinion: Defunding the Arts is shortsighted

By Sue and Steve Russell

As New Hampshire craftspeople, juried members of League of N.H. Craftsmen, we are very concerned about the New Hampshire House’s decision to defund the New Hampshire State Council for the Arts.

The tradition of supporting the Arts in New Hampshire goes all the way back to 1932 – three years into the Great Depression –  when then Gov. Winnant signed the first bill in the Nation to fund a commission of state Arts & Crafts.

Gov. Winnant saw clearly – even in the depths of the Great Depression – the economic potential of developing a state sponsored craft enterprise. As a result of this the League of N.H. Craftsmen was born.

One of the primary purposes of the League is to foster and encourage the tradition of craft and in this regard the New Hampshire State Council for the Arts has been indispensable in fulfilling this mission.

NHSCA helps provide services to nearly 800 juried members of the League as well as other individuals and organizations involved in the Arts.

Needless to say the state’s involvement in the Arts has helped to place New Hampshire as a destination for those seeking fine art and craft.

To defund the NHSCA would be very shortsighted and have a crippling effect on the Arts which have proven over the years to be an invaluable asset to the State. The League of N.H. Craftmen’s fair generates at least 2 million in sales annually.

On behalf of the many artisan’s throughout the state, I urge the senate to remove this provision from the New Hampshire budget bill. Let us maintain our proud New Hampshire tradition of doing what we can to maintain the vibrant presence of the arts in our social fabric

It’s a challenging budget season

In this week’s Capital Comments, Senator Odell writes about the Senate Finance Committee and its works on the budget; the performance of “Annie” at the Newport Opera House; and Turning Points.

By State Senator Bob Odell

While Mondays and Fridays are usually quiet days in the State House, the Senate Finance Committee is using those days to hear budget presentations from departments and agencies.

Our meetings are held in Room 103 on the first floor of the State House.  On Friday, we could hear voices and cheering from the plaza in front of the State House as Tea Party adherents and others held an anti-tax rally.  On the other side of the State House, protesters in yellow shirts chanted loudly against cuts to higher education funding.

And in the corridor outside Room 103, a dozen men and women, some in religious garb, quietly stood or sat on the floor.  They have steadfastly been there whenever the Senate Finance Committee is in session.  One of their signs identifies them as the Interfaith Voices for a Humane Budget. Continue reading

Capital Comments: Unity school aid bill moves on to finance committee

By State Senator Bob Odell

Some weeks there are single major events at the State House that draw everyone’s attention; other weeks there are interesting bits and pieces picked up from committee sessions and watching other action around the legislature that draw little attention.

Snow forced postponement of our regular Senate session last Wednesday.  The Senate President, Peter Bragdon (Milford) moved it to a 30 minute window at noon on Thursday.  The five bills before the Senate were routine and came to the floor in each case with unanimous support for passage from the committees where they had been heard.

Key for Unity and area residents was SB 24 which exempts the Unity School District from the current moratorium on school building aid.  The bill passed with no dissenting votes and now moves on to the Senate Finance Committee for review of the bill’s financial implications for the state. Continue reading

Snow Day: Public Hearings Rescheduled | Front Door Politics

Withdrawing state funding for public television and repealing the moratorium on school building aid are among the public hearings that were cancelled today due to the snow.

via Snow Day: Public Hearings Rescheduled | Front Door Politics.

PS: Front Door Politics posted an update on the Republican’s investigation of state Democratic Party leader Rep. Mike Brunelle. “The hearing scheduled for Jan. 13 has been indefinitely postponed. A special hearing is now scheduled for Jan. 27, at which legal experts will be consulted to determine the validity of the Republicans’ case against Brunelle.” Read more via the Daily Dispatch…

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: Inauguration Day in Concord

On January 6, 2011 New Hampshire Governor John Lynch was inaugurated to a historic, fourth consecutive two-year term.

By State Senator Bob Odell

The Senate received a message inviting Senators to join the House in a joint convention for the purposes of swearing in the Governor and the five members of the Executive Council and to hear the Governor’s inaugural address.

Senators joined the House and took their seats in the front of our beautiful Representatives’ Hall around 11 a.m. on Inauguration Day knowing the Governor wasn’t scheduled to make his address until 12:30.  But there were plenty of important ceremonies and a little pageantry that would take up the time before the Governor’s address. Continue reading

Tax Talk | Front Door Politics

Cutting spending was a campaign promise of many Republicans who swept into office this fall. But that’s not stopping some budget hawks from calling for a different approach: raising taxes.

Yesterday, we recapped a conservative study encouraging spending cuts as the mechanism to resolve New Hampshire’s budget deficit, reportedly estimated at anywhere from $200 million to $800 million. In today’s Daily Dispatch, we bookend that consideration with another recent study — this one by the liberal-leaning New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute. Read more via Front Door Politics

Budget trimming starts with State House staff | Front Door Politics

New Hampshire’s new legislative leaders are getting budget cuts started with their own office staff.

Both Senate President Peter Bragdon (R-Milford) and House Speaker William O’Brien (R-Mont Vernon) have made cutting their chambers’ operating and personnel budgets a priority. And we’re not sure if there’s a chicken-egg effect, but a recent study by a Republican-leaning New Hampshire policy center recommends healthy budget cuts for the legislative budget for 2011 and beyond. Read more via today’s Daily Dispatch – Front Door Politics…

Capital Comments: New Hampshire Senate lineup is in place

This week’s column by Senator Odell (R-Lempster) outlines the new committee lineup in the New Hampshire Senate: standing committees and appointments. Odell represents 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.

By State Senator Bob Odell

The New Hampshire Legislature has given substantial powers to the Senate President and Speaker of the House.  In the Senate, for example, the Senate President determines where you park your car, who will be your staff support person, which office you will occupy and possibly, most importantly, he determines which committees Senators will sit on for their two year terms.

Senator Peter Bragdon has been Senate President for less than a month but he has already made his mark on the Senate.  Staff assignments have mostly been made, Senators are in their new offices and everyone has a place to park their car.

Much of the work of the Senate is done by the standing committees so committee assignments are very important. As he was working on committee assignments, Senator Bragdon decided to fold the work of two committees into one committee.  The work of the committee that handled Fish and Game and wildlife issues has been added to the work the Energy, Environment and Economic Development Committee. Continue reading

Can You Fix the Budget?

Talk of deficit reduction is everywhere on the news. Perhaps you have some ideas on the subject that you’d like to test out. This is from the NY Times and it looks at the federal budget. It’s the Budget Puzzle: You Fix the Budget.

Then, at the state level, today’s daily update from Front Door Politics talks about NH’s “Cloudy Budget Crystal Ball.”

Sunapee News welcomes your budget ideas…federal, state, and local. Just post a comment.

Related Article: NY Times: OK, You Fix the Budget (economistmom.com)

Capital Comments: A ‘Thank You’ To Those Who Serve Our Seniors

By State Senator Bob Odell

My mother died in October and she was on my mind during Thanksgiving last week.  She had dementia for more than a decade; she was physically up and around until shortly before her death.  While my sisters and I miss our mother, at 94, her death came quite naturally without pain or being bedridden except for the last couple of days.

I am thankful for the care, support and attention my mother received while living at a local nursing home, Woodlawn Care Center, in Newport. I write to thank the staff there and those that work in other nursing homes in our region. My experience has been that residents receive excellent care because of the individuals who serve them. Continue reading

Opinion: ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’

Opinion

By Mark Fernald

“Justice delayed is justice denied.” This old expression has becoming increasingly true in New Hampshire due to cutbacks in the court system.  Plans by the newly elected Republican majority in the state legislature to cut the state budget by 10% should be of concern to all citizens.

Let me try to put a human face on the cost of court cutbacks.

In the not-so-distant past, Cheshire County Superior Court had two full-time judges, and a full-time marital master (hearing officer.) Now the court has one full-time judge, and a half-time marital master. The delays in scheduling hearings have been significant. Continue reading

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