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Sep 6, 2015 7:52 PM

NH1 News Political Report: Sept. 3, 2015 - The must-read, weekly NH political tip sheet


CONCORD - So why would Gov. Maggie Hassan choose to attack Repulican legislative leaders over Meals on Wheels when it comes to the vetoed state budget?

Four months ago it would have made more sense. The state budget plan the House of Representatives approved made significant cuts to the popular meals program for shut-in seniors.

But once the State Senate found it could raise state revenue estimates by more than $110 million, they restored those cuts and earmarked the same amount of money for the program as was contained in the proposed budget Governor Hassan first proposed back in February.

No this was about sending a message and trying to galvanize the base. The message was aimed at Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, since Hassan chose to deliver it in the senior center of Morse's hometown. In truth, Ingram Senior Center in Salem is one of the state's most modern and successful programs in the state and Hassan had been there recently back in June.

The base of senior citizens is generally supportive of more spending on the safety net and would be receptive generally to Hassan's pitch that these programs are more deserving than are small tax cuts that will go in the main to large, profitable corporations in New Hampshire.

If turnabout is fair play than Senate and House Republicans will carry that out when the last working group meets this Thursday about the Sununu Juvenile Justice Center in Manchester.

The vetoed state budget contains a pretty ominous future for this program that for more than two years has been under close scrutiny by Senate budget writers. It gives the program no budget for the second year and instead charges administrators with coming up with a plan for its future use by the end of this calendar year.

The center has enough space to house more than 120 juveniles but a present the census is less than 50.

It does stand to reason that the residency will rise with the new state law that raises from 17 to 18 the age of majority from criminal acts. This move should also qualify the state for more federal grant money to provide services to the criminally deliquent found to be too young to be housed in the state prison system.

The turnout for Nashua's preliminary election should be low and this will clearly benefit Nashua Alderman-at-Large and former Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess, one of six hopefuls trying to replace retiring Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau.


Donchess is the only politically active Democrat in the field which is precisely why state party leaders have stepped in to try and help him raise money and build one of the better political organizations in the race.

Meanwhile the three main challenges to Donchess in this race, Aldermen-at-Large David Deane and Dan Moriarty along with former Nashua Chamber Presaidwent and CEO Chris Williams are all politically active Republicans.

Don't over-analyze the results on Wednesday, however.

Lozeau finished second in the first round of balloting eight years ago only to win by a solid margin in the general election. The same could happen this time.

Deane is the best known of those competing with Donchess but Williams has raised the most money by far of anyone in the field.

Moriarty has been also been working hard door to door and should be a factor.

I see the order as Donchess, Williams, Deane and Moriarty but it's just a guess.


The state Supreme Court affirmed for the first time something that insiders knew all too well about New Hampshire's vaunted anti-bullying law.

It has no teeth.

At the time in 2010, supporters pulled more than a few muscles patting themselves on the back for taking action to crack down on bullying in school which had become a more common problem over the past decade.

But as the Supreme Court unanimously ruled regarding a Manchester case at week's end, the teachers union and school administrators had been successful at watering it down.

How? By giving immunity for all school employees from facing any lawsuits and by making it clear that no private party (read parent or concerned relative) could have a cause of action.

US Rep. Annie Kuster, D-NH, went to bat this week for constituents with concerns regarding the proposed Kinder Morgan Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline. Kuster sent a letter to company officials.
"I am committed to supporting sensible energy policies that protect our environment and our local communities," Kuster said.

"In the last month, I have travelled to many of the towns impacted by the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline. I have taken the opportunity to meet with families, Select Board members, Conservation Commission members, town officials, and pipeline awareness groups, and in Mason, Temple, New Ipswich, Amherst, and Pelham. I share their concerns about many aspects of the proposal, including the environmental impact of construction and management of the pipeline and the potential safety implications that the current route raises for our rural communities. I am hopeful that these letters will ensure that the voices of my constituents are fully heard throughout this process."

Kuster said she was pleased that the Cheshire County process has been delayed by extending the comment period.

"New Hampshire is a quiet, rural state and thus there are considerations that must be taken into account in order for my constituents to maintain the peaceful quality of life that attracts them to the Granite State. I appreciate Kinder Morgan’s attention to the concerns that my constituents and I share, and understand the complicated process of siting a large energy proposal like the NED project,'' Kuster continued.

"Many of my constituents have raised questions about the NED project’s impact on environmentally sensitive areas, public health and emergency preparedness plans, and I request that Kinder Morgan fully analyzes the specific concerns outlined in this letter during the decision making process.''


House Speaker Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, believes the state budget feud has come down to one essential element - business tax cuts.

Despite Gov. Hassan's claims to the contrary, Jasper doesn't believe the two-term Democrat wants them to be part of a final deal. Hassan has offered an alternative plan with business tax cuts but only if they are paid for by raising taxes and fees elsewhere.

During a speech to the newly-formed Stratham Republican Town Committee last week, Jasper put it simply.

"We need to get our business taxes down below the national average," Jasper said. "We really have lost the New Hampshire advantage."

To Jasper's way of thinking, the state's high property taxes and high taxes on corporate profits are why it ranks as high as 40th in business favorability.

"We are an aging state ... how do we tell (people and businesses) that we're a place they want to be when our property taxes and business taxes are so high?"

And Jasper was particularly critics of Hassan's mastery of the budget.

"I don't think that this governor has a handle on the state financials at all. I don't think anyone in her office has a handle on them," he said. "It's really in the governor's bailiwick now. She has to come to that realization."

"So, (she's) not really being fair. She really doesn't care about the taxes. She cares about the spending."


Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, renewed her call for a permanent inspector general at the Veteran Affairs following reports that as many as 307,000 veterans have died while waiting to be enrolled for health care.
"I am shocked, saddened, and outraged that we’re seeing yet another report of systemic mismanagement resulting in the denial of care to veterans. If this report doesn’t serve as a wakeup call to the president that tougher oversight is needed at the VA, then what will?” Ayotte said.

"The VA has a pattern of deficient behavior and hasn’t had a permanent Inspector General for more than 600 days, but the President still hasn’t even nominated a candidate. This is shameful – our veterans should not have to wait a minute longer.”

At the same time, the Senate Majority PAC signals that even without an opponent, they view Ayotte as beatable in 2016.

Their insiders note Ayotte's favorability is at 38 percent which is lower than her counterpart, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, ever got during her very competitive race with Republican Scott Brown.


Quote of the Week:

"What are we saying to the next generation that it's too expensive, too complicated, to have a family.'' - US Rep. Annie Kuster, D-NH, speaking on her proposal to require health insurance plans allow women who get pregnant to change coverage.


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