Gov. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, surely happy that House Speaker Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, broke the tie and allowed Medicaid expansion to go forward with or without a work requirement that needs federal approval.

Mar 11, 2016 6:31 PM

Landrigan: NH Political Report. House Speaker Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, does a big solid for Gov. Maggie Hassan on Medicaid expansion.

CONCORD - Who says the House speaker’s vote doesn’t count?

Unlike in the upper chamber where the Senate president routinely votes on all matters, a House rule states the speaker only votes when there is a tie.

It became a devastating defeat for House fiscal conservatives who remain opposed to the expansion of Medicaid - the New Hampshire Health Protection program.

The tie vote was over the severability clause which essentially means Medicaid expansion goes forward whether the federal government approves its future work requirement or not.

While state officials remain optimistic, the federal Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services has not yet approved a work requirement submitted by any state for its Medicaid clients.

Conservative groups said this was the "big test vote" knowing they couldn’t stop Medicaid expansion on their own from passing with Jasper’s support. But as expected, Jasper didn’t bring many votes with him.

In fact, the House GOP split 181-35 on whether to add the severability clause.

The only members of Jasper’s extended leadership team on his side, were Majority Leader Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack, House Ways and Means Chairman Norm Major, R-Plaistow and House Majority Whip Kathleen Hoelzel, R-Raymond.

Only one House Democrat opposed the severability clause - Manchester Rep. Amanda Bouldin. Often when there’s a close vote, each side will park one member on the opposing side, which then permits that person to then move to reconsider the vote.

The State Senate was sure to have put this severability clause onto the bill if the House had not.

This means that in all likelihood there will be no need for negotiation between the House and Senate over competing versions of the same bill.

Senate Democrats are unhappy with the pace and the amount of spending the Republican leadership is willing to support in fighting the drug epidemic, but there’s another dispute that appears to be even more personal.

That dispute is over who has control over the seven public members who sit on the Governor’s Commission on drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Recovery. Right now, the governor and council control who those members are.

Senate Republican leaders put forward an amended drug spending bill (SB 533) that allows the House speaker and Senate president control four of the seven appointments together, leaving the governor with three.

"Does this really seem like the appropriate time that we should be monkeying with the membership of the commission?’’ Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester asked.


The state’s entire congressional delegation joining with Vermont’s, all getting into the act to go after unscrupulous businesses that claim to sell "maple" syrup that has no maple sugar at all in it.

They wrote the US Food and Drug Administration at week’s end uring it to go after these firms for engaging in false labeling products sold in interstate commerce. (D-VT).

"Product after product is cited that touts "maple" boldly on the front of the package, along with iconic images of maple sugaring, but show no maple at all on the ingredients list," they wrote the FDA.

"These practices seem to intentionally mislead consumers who get cheap, industrially produced sweeteners and artificial flavors rather than the pure and genuine natural product they believe they have purchased. At the same time, sugar makers lose markets and income while the premium reputation of genuine maple syrup is damaged as consumers become used to inferior imitations."


The Senate’s 94-1 vote on the CARA Act to fight the nation’s opioid addiction crisis tells you one very important thing: At long last the Congress recognizes this is not a bill to be playing your typical partisan politics with.

"That doesn’t happen very often," said Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, of the near unanimous vote. “It shows there is overwhelming support and focus on addressing the epidemic that is not only affecting New Hampshire but the entire country.’’

CARA alone doesn’t solve the problem but if the US House follows suit then it’s clearly a benefit to Ayotte’s re-election campaign that this important issue is finally one on which Congress can show they are all acting as grownups.


It’s worth noting while New Hampshire Republican incumbents in Washington are toeing the party line when it comes to not having a vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, those not holding office feel no such requirement.

We had both US Senate hopeful Jim Rubens and Second Congressional District Republican hopeful Jack Flanagan this week supporting the notion that the Senate should at least accept Obama’s nomination and hold hearings on the choice.

"We should make it clear to the president if the choice does not support the Constitution then he will be rejected out of hand," Rubens told NH1 News.

"This is all about senators doing their job, taking the tough votes."

At his announcement event, Flanagan said it didn’t matter to him that the Republican National Committee has already decided the Second District is not a targeted seat in 2016.

"This race will be won on the ground," Flanagan said.

This may be true but financially it’s a big hit to the state GOP. Over the past two elections, the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee has spent more than $1.5 million in ads supporting their hopeful.


They didn’t get much fanfare but opponents of the gas pipeline projects had a very good week.

The House of Representatives took this action:

- HB 1148 Relative to pipeline capacity contracts - requires the public utility commission to determine whether any pipeline capacity contract is in the public interest - Passed 208 - 124

- HB 1660 Relative to eminent domain for gas pipelines and relative to assessment of the land use change tax for eminent domain takings for energy infrastructure - allows an owner of land to require a pipeline company to take an entire tract of land under eminent domain, allows for pipeline company eminent domain takings to include public lands with consent of the legislative body, and provides for assessment of the land use change tax for certain eminent domain takings of land for energy infrastructure - Passed 235 – 47.

The House did ship off to oblivion (read interim study which means it starts all over as a new bill in 2017) a bill to ban charging residents for the construction of any high pressure gas pipeline.


Co-Quotes of the Week:

"There’s no silver bullet but no question about it if we don’t put resources behind our investments, we’re not going to solve this problem." - Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn, D-Dalton, on the Senate Democratic desire to spend more money than Senate Republicans to fight the heroin and fentanyl epidemic.

"This is not a disagreement. It’s ensuring we are solving a problem and protecting the precious funds that we have. So let’s work together, take a deep breath." - Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, urging the minority Senate members to chill because there’s likely to be a compromise on anti-drug bill spending later this spring.


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