Apr 23, 2015 5:34 PM
NH1 News Political Report: April 23, 2015 - The must-read, weekly NH political tip sheet
How did the casino advocates convince the House Ways and Means Committee to endorse the twin casino bill?
This was the first affirmative vote for the casino on its own.
The only time the panel endorsed it really doesn’t count?
Why? It was in 2011 and casino proceeds were dedicated to cutting business taxes. This concept won the support of conservative Republicans led by then-Chairman Steve Stepanek, R-Amherst.
At any rate, the key was the GOP members on the panel as they broke 9-4 in support of the bill. Only two House Democrats were on board, Concord Rep. Paul Henle and Rindge Rep. Richard Ames, the latter having headed up the authority that created a robust regulatory regime for the casino.
The freshmen on the group in the end didn’t make the difference, they split, 2-2, on the idea.
This 11-10 recommendation hardly ensures the House will go along. It’s also another sign, however, that the casino cause has luck on its side.
For the third time this year, it survived by a single vote. The Senate Ways and Means Committee and full Senate had both endorsed it with only one vote to spare.
But this finding increases the odds of it passing the House to 50-50.
House leaders have agreed to hold the vote in two weeks rather than move it out right now. That’s because next week is school vacation which means attendance will probably be lower than usual.
What are we to make of Gov. Maggie Hassan’s latest comments tossing some cold water on the casino movement?
Hassan chose Wednesday to make her first public comments of any kind on the topic.
"I do not think the market supports a second casino,’’ Hassan said.
This is consistent with Hassan’s longstanding support for ``one high end, highly regulated casino.’’
Will it make any difference in the House? It doesn’t help and casino supporters were scrambling late this week to make sure their backers were not wavering.
It’s important to note that a new change the House committee made may assuage some concerns. Rep. Paul Henle, D-Concord, got Ways and Means to add to the bill a requirement that a performance audit be done on the first licensed casino before any second permit is granted.
A long campaign to have New Hampshire join more than 30 states that recognize the fetus as a person in criminal law has reached a critical stage.
The good news is the strong, 11-5 vote from a House committee to a Senate-passed bill. The amended measure restores the House position that any fetus at least eight weeks old be given this designation.
The Senate chose a far more narrow number of cases by defining the eligible fetus as having to be developed enough to live outside the womb.
This viability standard varies according to scientific studies but is widely seen as being longer than 20 weeks.
State Rep. Leon Rideout, R-Lancaster, has been the prime mover for this legislation in loving memory of Griffin, his unborn grandson who perished when his daughter was a surviving, automobile accident victim.
Senate Republicans reportedly were not happy to learn the House committee was sticking to its own standard.
But Rideout remains optimistic that something can be worked out.
We’ve got to compromise on this and I’m anxious to do that because it’s critical to get something done here,’’ Rideout said.
House and Senate GOP leaders reportedly met earlier this week to begin the discussion about how to reach common ground.
But for this bill to go anywhere it must get the backing of Governor Maggie Hassan who has been mute on the topic to this point.
"I’m hoping to sit down with her and make my case why this is so essential,’’ Rideout added.
In 2011, then-Democratic Gov. John Lynch vetoed a similar, eight-week bill and in his message said he would have gone along with a viable fetus standard.
You can forgive Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, for blowing his top a bit this week.
The longtime lawmaker and expert on science, energy and technology issues wants to find a financial solution for the 9-1-1 system.
As NH1 News first reported, the program faces a multi-million deficit starting next year because so many consumers are dropping their contract cellphone plans for prepaid phones and cards.
The prepaid phones are now exempt from the monthly surcharge on landlines and cellphone contracts that pay for 9-1-1.
Bradley’s ire was over an ongoing, somewhat bitter dispute about who should be collecting the fee for these prepaid phones.
The state’s retailers say the phone companies should be the tax collector; the phone company execs say it should be the retailers because they are the ones who sell the prepaid phone cards.
There are nearly 40 states with this kind of 9-1-1 system financing and 36 of them have retailers pay up.
"I just feel like we can’t bring these parties together behind a plan and I feel bad for Safety Commissioner John Barthlemes,’’ Bradley said. ``This is the most important service we provide as a state and we can’t allow this infighting to imperil the program.”
The House passed the bill to have retailers make the payments; Senate leaders are seriously considering flipping that and making the phone companies do it.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, is in pretty solid shape financially for re-election after a solid first quarter of 2015.
She raised $1.2 million which was nearly identical to the amount that fellow Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, raised during the same three month period in 2013.
Like Shaheen, Ayotte has about $3 million in the bank.
The New Hampshire Political Report finds Congressman Frank Guinta, R-NH, is in similar shape.
According to Federal Election Commission records, Guinta brought in about $317,000 in donations; he has $312,000 left over at the end of March.
About 60 percent of the money coming to Guinta, $182,000, was from political action committees. He also got $5,000 checks from the National Republican Congressional Committee and the PAC that Congressman Greg Walden, R-OR, controls.
The report of Congresswoman Annie Kuster, D-NH, was not available.
The sweeping reform of synthetic drugs or spice hit a pothole in the House this week.
The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee was ready to report out this bill that unanimously cleared the State Senate and has strong support of law enforcement and Gov. Maggie Hassan.
But there was a glitch in an amendment that prevented the House panel from moving forward.
Rep. John Burt, R-Goffstown and a member of the committee, would like the House to change the automatic penalties in the law to a warning for the first offense.
Burt said many of these Mom and Pop stores are unaware that the potpourri they are seeking is being used to get high.
Leading House Republicans tell us they are in no mood to lighten the restrictions on retailers in the bill.
Co-Quotes of the Week:
"It’s time. It’s the last chance dance so I am supporting this bill for the benefit of our state.’’ - Rep. Joseph Lachance, R-Manchester, pushing for the twin casino bill.
"It is a step in the wrong direction and it is a step we can never retake.’’ - Rep. and ex-state prosecutor David Hess, R-Hooksett, who will lead the casino opposition forces when this bill hits the House floor.