Gov. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, has every reason to want the Planned Parenthood of Northern New England controversy to return to the Executive Council table next week.

Jun 24, 2016 6:18 PM

Landrigan: NH Political Report - Planned Parenthood controversy is back next week

The Legislature has gone home for the foreseeable future, Gov. Maggie Hassan has finished with all the bills from the 2016, now what?

Hassan’s US Senate campaign is in full mode so after a pretty good week for Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, it’s time to change the subject and turn the heat up on the popular, Republican incumbent.

That’s in part why the controversial, rejected contracts for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England will return to the Executive Council for its meeting next Wednesday.

Sure this also puts on the defensive one Councilor Chris Sununu, R-Newfields, who a year ago became the man in the middle as the third, decisive vote against the contracts.

Van Ostern didn’t waste an opportunity.

“For nearly a year, New Hampshire women and families have been deprived of significant funding for critical medical care for birth control, cancer screenings, and annual exams when the Executive Council voted to restrict funding for Planned Parenthood,” Van Ostern said in a statement.

“It’s well past time to vote yes, and approve these funds, and stop playing politics with women’s health. I will vote to approve funding for women’s health care on Wednesday and I encourage Councilor Sununu and his colleagues to vote yes, as well."

Sununu’s campaign staff made it clear the GOP candidate for governor would have no comment over the weekend about the controversy.

And Van Ostern started an e-mail petition drive to underscore the point.

Van Ostern: "Join me in telling Chris Sununu to vote for women and restore funding to Planned Parenthood or the people of New Hampshire will vote you out of office."

Ten months ago, Chris Sununu and two other Republicans on the Executive Council—all of them men—voted to defund Planned Parenthood.

Their vote restricted access to life-saving health care services to thousands of women across New Hampshire.

Sununu will be hard pressed to have a change of heart.

As someone who cast himself as somewhat ``pro-choice’’ on abortion rights, he sure took plenty of heat when he opposed the contracts citing the video controversy of the national Planned Parenthood and allegations one of its consultants was open to purchasing body parts.

A Texas prosecutor and other state inquiries discredited these charges but Sununu would have GOP primary rivals Ted Gatsas and Jeanie Forrester crawling all over him where he to go from flip-flop-back to-flip again.

Check out how Gatsas reacted to it using the newfound controversy as a reason to regurgitate the Sununu quandary.

“I have consistently opposed public funding for Planned Parenthood and believe that there are many community health organizations that can provide alternate, high quality health care options for women. As governor, I will ensure that Planned Parenthood does not receive tax dollars,’’ Gatsas began.

“Councilor Sununu has repeatedly voted to provide public funding for Planned Parenthood and only decided to flip-flop his position when he began to consider running for governor. Now he is dodging questions about a Planned Parenthood contract on next week’s Executive Council agenda and is refusing to tell his constituents how he will vote on this issue.

“We don’t need timid politicians who need to gauge which way the political winds are blowing before they take positions on important issues. I unequivocally believe that Planned Parenthood should not receive tax dollars, and Councilor Sununu should immediately pledge to vote against this contract.”

But Hassan’s motivation is not about Sununu but to underline the fact Ayotte has supported the federal defunding of Planned Parenthood over her one term in the Senate as well.

That’s the narrative this governor wants right now.


The topic change became important after Ayotte finally was able to go from playing defense to offense on an issue that paralyzed her two years ago [-] gun control.

The Orlando shootings gave the New Hampshire Republican and former state prosecutor the opening she needed to try and create a different profile for herself on preventing terrorists from getting guns.

Ayotte worked with Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins and Virginia Democrat [-] and ex-Democratic National Chairman Tim Kaine [-] to craft an artful bill that denies guns to those on the terrorist watch lists.

Now because the watch list has notorious errors in it and people have no ability to get their names removed from it once they are on it, Ayotte worked to have her bill put the onus on the federal government to prove those denied guns should be on the list.

If someone can show they were put their wrong they are able to recover damages and legal fees for their trouble.

Ayotte’s got some work to do to get her proposal through the Senate; she came eight votes shy on a test vote on Thursday.

But contrast to 2014 when the gun control movement was spending $2 million in attack ads driving up Ayotte’s negatives for her opposition to a Democratic plan to expand background checks.

At that time there did not appear to be any way for Ayotte to change the paradigm.

This week, she found it.


Meanwhile, the Hassan camp wasn’t about to let conservative Super PACs complementing Ayotte on the environment to go unanswered.

"Another dark money Washington Republican group is attempting to paper over Ayotte's record of siding with the Koch Brothers over New Hampshire's environment and beautiful natural resources," said Maggie for NH Press Secretary Meira Bernstein. "But Granite Staters will not be fooled by misleading ads and will hold Ayotte accountable in November for putting her political party and her special interest backers before New Hampshire."

The camp noted Ayotte voted with the Koch Brothers nearly 90 percent of the time during the first four years she was in office and was the only New England senator to vote against some clean water protections.

Ayotte’s spokeswoman said it’s Hassan who is misleading the voters.

"Gov. Hassan's false attacks are yet another sad attempt to distract from the fact that she's not doing her job and not focused on the issues facing New Hampshire,’’ said Liz Johnson, Kelly for NH spokeswoman.

"Kelly has a long record of crossing the aisle to protect our environment, was the first Republican senator to support the Clean Power Plan, led efforts to renew the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and helped pass legislation to boost energy efficiency."


Color Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, some kind of ticked off at the late item given to the Legislative Fiscal Committee at its last meeting before the state budget year ends next Thursday.

The bad news: the Department of Health and Human Services has a $16 million shortfall that will negatively affect payments to hospitals.

Now this does not affect the $62 million surplus from the previous, two-year budget cycle that Hassan can and will take credit for.

But it surely affects the bottom line for this first year of the current, two-year period and Morse suspects the Hassan team knew about it before now.

“It is unfortunate that the Department of Health and Human Services waited until less than a week before the end of the fiscal year to let the Legislature know about this shortfall, presenting this problem to the fiscal committee with only days to correct it,” Morse said.

“This one time fix means that the Department of Health and Human Services will be unable to meet their lapses for the fiscal year, which is unacceptable.”

“This multi-million dollar problem, dropped into the Legislature’s lap at the last minute, is just another example of the Executive Branch’s poor management of the budget. The people of New Hampshire deserve better.’’

The governor's spokesman, William Hinkle, says the item should be no surprise to Morse.

"Senator Morse knows this was the result of a decision made by the U.S. District Court in a lawsuit brought forward by the hospitals that the state was not a party to, and he should stop making political attacks and work with the Governor to maintain fiscal responsibility and keep our economy moving forward. Thanks to a strengthening economy, the Governor's strong fiscal management and the hard work of our state agencies, the State has seen consistent surpluses over the past few years, revenues are running nearly $80 million ahead of plan for this fiscal year and the Rainy Day Fund could reach more than $90 million by the end of the year as well," he said.


Postpone a second New Hampshire visit in two weeks from presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

He was due to return to the first-in-the-nation primary state next Wednesday for a fund-raiser at the Rye home of WBIN-TV owner Bill Binnie, also president of Carlisle Capital Corp. Trump’s campaign team had been planning to perhaps have a campaign rally to correspond with the visit.

This is the second time the event has been put off but not for good. Originally it was pegged for June 13 but put off at that point due to the Orlando shooting.


Congressman Frank Guinta, R-NH, had a well-timed nice legislative achievement this week with the House Financial Services Committee approving its Financial Choice Act that included two features of Guinta bills.

Rep. Guinta, also a member of the House Budget Committee, had his Credit Union Examination Reform Act that would allow New Hampshire’s credit unions, subject to a laborious 12-month examination cycle, to have six more months for each cycle.

Last year, the House had passed Guinta’s Indirect Auto Financing Guidance Act to insure that federal consumer finance regulations from the Dodd-Frank law did not raise consumer auto loan rates.


The US Department of Agriculture headed north at week’s end to commemorate National Home ownership Month. They went to the home of Stark resident Joy Potter where volunteers performed home improvements along with work by the USDA Rural Development’s Home Repair Program.

“Seniors like Mrs. Potter are mainstays of New Hampshire’s tight-knit communities, however, their ability to continue to play their integral social role is challenged by their changing housing needs,” said Ted Brady, Vermont and New Hampshire Rural Development State Director.

“Thanks to the dedicated efforts of Rural Development’s local staff, Tri- County Cap, and the local partners here in Stark, Mrs. Potter will continue as a member of the Stark community.’’

The 62-year-old Potter purchased her Stark home with her husband decades ago. The house, formerly the old school house, is a historic feature in the town. Since her husband’s death, Potter has lived independently in her home, however a disability has made it difficult for Potter to maintain her independence.


This was a good week for Republican and Democratic political action committees for State Senate elections this fall.

The Senate Democratic Caucus had top honors raising $373,000 so far according to PAC reports filed with Secretary of State Bill Gardner’s office.

But the Senate Majority PAC for Republicans had more cash on hand, a record for the group of $202,674 by the same point after having raised much less, $222,504.

The Committee to Elect House Democrats did pretty well too, collecting $247,000.

The two leading Democratic candidates for governor this week tried to seize the offensive by making an unprecedented, preliminary disclosure.

Colin Van Ostern’s campaign raised $850,000 and had about $500,000 in cash. About $60,000 of that came from Van Ostern’s now-defunct Executive Council campaign account.

Rival, former Deputy Secretary of State Mark Connolly had brought in about $412,000 and had more than $240,000 left over.

Connolly, an ex-securities and regulations director, gave $100,000 to his own campaign.

The third Democratic rival, former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand, did not make the same, voluntary disclosure but said unlike his opponents he will abide by the state’s voluntary campaign spending limit.

Translation: Marchand will be unable to raise nearly as much as either Van Ostern or Connolly.


Quote of the Week:

“I filed this bill, SB 361, on behalf of a constituent who lost her son to a drug overdose. Upon discovering her son, they also found synthetic urine.”

“Synthetic urine is commonly used to defraud drug and alcohol screening tests, has been easy to obtain and has no other foreseeable uses outside of circumventing drug tests. This common-sense legislation addresses the issue of inappropriate use of synthetic urine by banning this product, and will truly have a positive impact in our community by allowing for greater substance abuse detection amidst the horrific heroin and opioid crisis facing our state.’’ [-] Sen. and Republican candidate for governor Jeanie Forrester, R-Meredith, commenting on the bill she authored that bans the sale of synthetic urine in New Hampshire.

Exchange of the Week:

This gem back-and-forth from the Senate’s top Republican and Democratic governor about the fact that Senate Republicans agreed to defer to much of the language House Republicans had written for a business tax cut bill Hassan signed earlier this week.

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley:

"We had a friend who t houg ht it should have been more the Senate way but really, the House way worked.’’

Gov. Maggie Hassan, D-NH:

"You may have not known it here but you just saw a little bit of history. For those of you who don’t follow legislative relationships, you just heard a senator tell the House that they did it better than the Senate.

"That does not happen very often."

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