Mar 26, 2015 9:11 AM

NH1 News Political Report: March 26, 2015 - The must-read, weekly NH political tip sheet

It never came down to a public vote, but clearly former House Speaker Bill O'Brien, R-Mont Vernon, scored his first political win with Republicans rejecting an increase in the gasoline tax to bail out the Department of Transportation's budget.

O'Brien allies in the GOP caucus made it crystal clear to House Speaker Shawn Jasper's leadership team that there wasn't going to be enough GOP support to pass the second gas hike in two years.

Some GOP conservatives also said they would much rather make cuts in other parts of the budget and limit the damage at DOT below the 40 percent reduction that House budget writers had proposed.

Also, many Democrats weren't excited about voting for another gas tax increase, especially since it was far from Gov. Maggie Hassan's preferred way to finance the DOT. Hassan had instead called for a 35 percent increase in auto, truck and boat registration fees.

Some Republicans want to reduce spending for Health and Human Services to make up the difference; others don't support any increase in state aid to the university system and the House budget calls for $14 million more in that area.

The House leadership team also has been thinking about raising the state's registration fees but on a temporary basis - and by a smaller amount than Hassan wants.


Texas Sen. Ted Cruz not only became the first announced GOP candidate, but he's landed a political operative with strong New Hampshire ties.

Ethan Zorfas had served as chief of staff and in campaign roles for Congressman Frank Guinta.

So does this mean Cruz is hoping to use that relationship to parlay it into an endorsement by the 1st District Congressman Guinta - probably the most powerful GOP figure who is likely to take sides in the primary fight?

It surely doesn't hurt, but Guinta has other past staffers already signed up elsewhere.

Mike Biundo goes even further back with Guinta, helping to elect him as Manchester mayor and managing his first election win to Congress back in 2010.

Biundo has a high-ranking role in the presidential exploratory campaign of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul who is expected to make his bid official April 7.

Cruz returns to the state Friday and Saturday and will be the head speaker at the Young America's Foundation Freedom Conference in Nashua on Friday night.


It's been hard to miss Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem; Senate Finance Committee Chairman Jeannie Forrester, R-Moultonborough; and Vice Chairman Jerry Little, R-Weare, sitting in the front row as the House Finance Committee has been finalizing its budget decisions.

By all accounts, the Senate plan is to essentially take whatever the House sends to it and start all over.

The difficulty House budget writers have had in getting their spending plan together threatens to put the lower chamber in a weak bargaining position.

"There's no question the Senate is going to have the upper hand in putting this budget to bed just like they did two years ago,'' said one veteran state budget watcher.


Gov. Maggie Hassan waded carefully into the controversy over the House rejecting the bill a fourth-grade class wanted to name a state raptor.

The always-cautious Hassan refrained from commenting on her own when House comments against the bill went viral.

But she will be visiting the class at Lincoln Akerman Elementary School in Hampton Falls to lend her support and encourage the students to stay involved.

"I also think they need to understand that what the House did last week in response to their bill was not the kind of behavior that we all hope for from our elected representatives,'' Hassan said.


The first family has found a new home.

Maggie and Tom Hassan closed on a new residence in Newfields this week.

They have lived in housing provided by Phillips Exeter Academy as Tom Hassan has served as the school's headmaster.

The move means Hassan will be living in the same town as Executive Councilor Chris Sununu who many Republicans see as the strongest, potential successor to Hassan particularly if she moves on to run for the U.S. Senate.


Another New Hampshire operative got scooped up this week.

Tom Szold, campaign manager for 2nd Congressional District nominee Marilinda Garcia last fall, will be national political director for former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.

While Garcia lost that campaign to Congresswoman Annie Kuster, D-N.H., she did better than expected and many credit Szold with building a pretty good organization.


Quote of the Week:

"I think obviously I am. I requested that he do so but to this point he has declined and I think that is unfortunate.'' - House Speaker Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, speaking on his reaction to Rep. Warren Groen, R-Rochester, declining to apologize for making comments linking the red-tailed hawk to the actions of Planned Parenthood.


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