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Jun 14, 2016 11:14 PM

Hassan signs expansion of drug courts; calls Sununu's comments 'inappropriate'

NH1 News Political Director

MANCHESTER – Saying that “drug courts have proven to be successful helping those battling addiction access treatment and recovery services,” Gov. Maggie Hassan on Tuesday signed a bill into law that takes the program statewide.

In a ceremony at Hillsborough County Superior Court in Manchester, the governor signed Senate bill 464 into law, which will provide more than $2 million to put drug courts in all of the state’s ten counties, including two in Hillsborough. Currently six counties have drug courts, with the 11-year old program in Strafford County the oldest in New Hampshire.

In praising the program, Hassan said that “it also helps reduce crime and it saves taxpayers money. Drug courts help people return to their communities as contributing members of society.”

New Hampshire Superior Court Chief Justice Tina Nadeau pointed out that “offenders who leave jail or prison after one year have a 70% chance of re-offending. Drug court graduates, 22%.”

And Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley said that “the reason that I think drug courts work is that it involves personal responsibility. People have to accept the intervention in their life the drug courts mean.”

Hassan said that the new law also “provides for the transfer of $40 million into our state’s rainy day fund which is critical as well to promoting the fiscal stability and strength of our state and helps us to be in a position to attack issues like this one.”

And while she praised the new measure, she added that “we know we have more work to do to give patients, providers, educators parents, and law enforcement better tools to combat the heroin and opioid crisis.”

Hassan calls Sununu’s comments ‘inappropriate’

Later, speaking one-on-one with NH1 News, the Democratic governor criticized recent comments by Republican Executive Councilor Chris Sununu as “inappropriate.”

With Hassan running for the U.S. Senate against GOP incumbent Kelly Ayotte, Sununu is one of seven major candidates bidding for the Corner Office. Sununu, talking about the response to the drug crisis while talking with reporters last Wednesday after filing his candidacy for governor, said “we’ve had no leadership in Concord, no leadership at the local level.”

After Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard took to Twitter to call the comments “idiotic,” Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, a rival for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, demanded that Sununu apologize to the police and firefighters of New Hampshire’s largest city.

Speaking with NH1 News on Sunday, Sununu said "I stand behind my statement 100%. My statement was very clear. I called for better leadership both on the state and local level.”

"I wouldn't apologize for something I didn't say. If you read the statement it clearly had nothing to do with fire fighters or police of first responders. That was a complete misrepresentation of what I said. The statement was very clear. I was talking about the local officials,” Sununu added. There are those who want to politicize and misrepresent what I said.”

On Tuesday, Hassan told NH1 News “what I think you heard last week after Councilor Sununu’s comments was members of both parties, law enforcement, local leaders, state leaders, talk about how inappropriate it was of him to politicize the issue and talk about what we’ve been doing together. We will continue to work each and every day on this particularly challenging crisis. But we will make progress on it. First we’ll stem the tide of the epidemic, and then we will turn it and we will reverse it. But we will do it working together and it’s very important that all of us in public life keep very focused on that goal and not play politics with it.”

READ: New outside group ad defends Hassan on drug crisis; slams pro-GOP ad that attacks Hassan

From left to right: New Hampshire Superior Court Chief Justice Tina Nadeau, state Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, state Sen. Donna Soucy, New Hampshire Attorney General Joe Foster, Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, and state Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley applause Gov. Maggie Hassan as she signs the statewide expansion of the drug courts into law

Gov. Hassan speaks to the audience before signing the drug court expansion bill into law

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