It looks like Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, will have a primary opponent this fall; will that make her more vulnerable in a general election showdown with Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan?

Mar 4, 2016 7:52 PM

Landrigan: The fight to expand Medicaid continues

CONCORD - The move to expand Medicaid seems to be the single most important issue of the 2016 House session.

It took an incremental but pretty big step this week when the House Finance Committee endorsed the two-year extension by an 18-8 vote.

House Finance Chairman Neal Kurk, R-Weare, said he remains opposed to the program philosophically and earnestly believes that many of these 47,000 low-income adults should be able to get Obama health care coverage and not to be on this program.

"I know the supporters predict there would be some global disaster if this program went away but I beg to differ," Kurk said.

The big fight on this issue remains, however, and it will come on the House floor when it debates the proposal later this month.

That’s on what is known as the severability clause.

It’s not in there and Gov. Maggie Hassan and Democratic legislative leaders desperately want it to be.

And here’s why.

The provision in any bill means if any part of the measure is judged to be illegal or unconstitutional, the rest of it still stands.

Republican legislative leaders do not want this in the bill because they insist that a work requirement must be part of the program.

The problem is the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services has not yet approved any work requirement for as a Medicaid waiver.

Many Democratic legislators don’t want the work requirement in the first place so they would only be too happy to have the federal government play the bad guy and strike if from the law.

That’s going to be the big debate but Democrats have their work cut out for them trying to find enough moderate Republicans to support their position.


How close was the fight over the death penalty in the State Senate this week?

The vote on whether to repeal capital punishment ended up 12-12 and in response Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, convinced the Senate to table the measure.

State Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton and a leader in the repeal movement, agreed there was no likelihood of reviving the measure later this spring.

"We’ll have a debate next week in the House about whether to expand it but I think repeal is effectively done. We’re not going to be changing any minds," Cushing said.

Sources tell the New Hampshire Political Report that those who wanted to do away with the death penalty thought victory was at hand on the eve of the vote Wednesday night.

"We had it by one on Wednesday but woke up the next morning only to find that we had lost it," said one insider.

They finger law enforcement and Senate GOP leaders with providing the necessary political pressure to lock down the opposition and keep capital punishment in place.


It looks like the New Hampshire Legislature is not going to give school districts extra education aid until the courts say they’ve got no choice.

A lower court has already ruled in response to a lawsuit from Dover that the state’s cap on adequate education grants was illegally artificial and could not withstand a constitutional challenge.

State prosecutors are already appealing that outcome.

State Sen. David Watters, D-Dover, is championing legislation to lift the cap and give school districts the roughly $11 million-a-year in additional money they are entitled to.

But the State Senate voted last week to slam that bill back on the table which all but kills it for 2016.

The House still has its own companion measure on the topic and has not taken final action on it yet.


This was a rough week for House Speaker Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson.

First there’s the shocking arrest of Rep. Kyle Tasker, R-Nottingham, for trying to solicit a 14-year-old girl online to have sex with him and for illegally possessing ``massive’’ amounts of drugs.

Jasper repeated publicly what many Tasker colleagues had been saying privately: rumors of his drug use were rampant.

"I could smell weed on him on a regular basis," said one veteran House Republican who asked not to be identified. "It was embarrassing."

Jasper bounced Tasker off the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee; little did he know the worst place he could put Tasker was where he landed on the House Children and Family Law Committee.

Then at week’s end there was the FBI raid and arrest of Jerry Delemus for his involvement in 2014 protests against the federal government in Nevada.

Delemus’ wife, Susan, is a Republican House member from Rochester and he also served in the House of Representatives before.

"What a week. What else is left to happen?" asked an exasperated Jasper supporter.

It’s worth noting that neither Tasker nor Delemus supported Jasper in his bid for speaker; both were on board with returning former House Speaker Bill O’Brien to the dais.

"This sort of thing can happen when you have a 400-person House; you are going to have a few that might behave very badly," Jasper concluded this week.


Will the third time be the charm for Jim Rubens?

It’s not likely.

Rubens confirmed to the Associated Press at week’s end Friday that he’ll launch a primary challenge of Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, this fall.

This will be his third, statewide bid.

He ran for governor in the mid-1990s losing the nomination to a self-funded and establishment choice, businessman Jay Lucas of Bedford.

Then in 2014 he ran for the US Senate finishing a disappointing third in a primary race won by former MA Senator and establishment choice Scott Brown.

Are you detecting a pattern here?

Now he takes on Ayotte who Rubens maintains remains very unpopular among the most conservative wing of the party.

Rubens no doubt views the big win for Donald Trump as another sign that the primary electorate is not going to blindly do what it is told in 2016 and again go with Ayotte as their choice.

It’s true there are some conservatives very disappointed with Ayotte particularly for her support for immigration reform, for trade agreements and on climate change regarding her backing of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

As we’ve documented here before, former House Speaker Bill O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, has been openly courting many conservatives to give this race a look and take Ayotte on.

Rubens may try to appeal to that group for early support.

There’s one big problem with that: Rubens is no social conservative.

He’s pro-choice on abortion, he’s a big believer in climate change and he’s a big booster for campaign finance reform.

One thing in Rubens’ favor is his energy level; he works very hard at everything he does.

So this will be more than a token opponent but it’s near impossible to see a path to victory for him.


Quote of the Week:

"I think we all wish we could just wave a magic wand and that this problem would go away but unfortunately it’s not going to do that. There is no global fix." - State Sen. David Boutin, R-Hooksett, speaking on the legislative effort to curb child fatalities.


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