Capital Beat: As Hassan prepares to take office, few complaints from the GOP
Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan is being careful not to ruin her honeymoon.
Since she won the Nov. 6 election, the Exeter Democrat has been trying to strike a bipartisan tone. She’s reached out to GOP leaders – especially in the Senate, where Republicans still hold a majority. She’s named several veterans of Gov. John Lynch’s moderate administration to top posts. And most important, she’s avoided making waves on the state budget.
With 11 days until Hassan takes office, most Republicans have few complaints. But all things must come to an end.
“What I’ve been saying publicly and privately is the same thing: She has a six-week period from when she’s inaugurated to when she presents a budget. Let’s give her that period of time to do her work,” said Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, a Wolfeboro Republican. “We’ll certainly be giving her advice, but let’s keep
. . . the partisan differences to a minimum until we see where she’s going.”
Jan. 3 will mark New Hampshire’s first real gubernatorial transition since 2004, when Lynch beat one-term Republican Craig Benson. Hassan’s been naming top staffers ahead of the big day: Pam Walsh, a former Monitor reporter and Lynch’s former deputy chief of staff, will be her chief of staff. Will Craig will be policy director, Amy Kennedy will be policy adviser and Chris Kennedy, the current Senate minority caucus director, will be Hassan’s legislative director. Jennifer Kuzma, Lynch’s director of appointments and Executive Council liaison, will keep her job.
Personal relationships matter, especially in New Hampshire. Bradley said senators like Chris Kennedy. And, he said, they like Hassan, who served three terms in the Senate.
“Those of us who served with her in the Senate know her well and we all liked her.
. . . Even when we disagreed significantly on things like the LLC tax, it doesn’t mean she wasn’t the kind of person you were comfortable going out and having a beer with,” Bradley said.
“She’s still a friend,” he added, “and I think that goes a long ways in New Hampshire.”
But Feb. 15 isn’t a distant date. That’s the deadline under state law for Hassan to present a two-year budget to the Legislature, and it’s likely to kick off a grueling process – especially with control split at the State House, with Democrats leading the House and Republicans leading the Senate.
So far, though, Republicans like what they hear from Hassan, who called agency heads’ initial requests unrealistic and set modest targets for spending. After an initial hearing last month, Sen. Chuck Morse, a Salem Republican who chairs the Finance Committee, said Hassan “struck the right tone,” though he didn’t make any promises about the road ahead.
“She’s sent some very positive signals about not having any preconceived notions,” said Charlie Arlinghaus, president of the conservative Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy. “That having been said, one of the difficult things about our process is, she’s going to spend the next two months scrambling and putting something together, and we won’t have any idea what it looks like – she won’t have any idea what it looks like – until the very end.”
Hassan’s approach shouldn’t come as a surprise, said Kathy Sullivan, Democratic national committeewoman and one of her campaign co-chairs.
“I think it’s actually Maggie governing in the style that New Hampshire expects its governor to govern in, which is to be fiscally responsible,” she said. “We saw it with (former governor and now U.S. Sen.) Jeanne Shaheen, we saw it with Gov. Lynch and she’s continuing that model.”
And in terms of politics, Hassan’s approach make sense, Arlinghaus said.
“Proceeding with caution and keeping all of your options open is just politically smart,” he said, adding, “There’s no reason to alienate anybody until you have to. Part of making choices is alienating somebody.”
One more hire
One more Hassan administration hire: Molly A.K. Connors, who is leaving her job as the Monitor’s education reporter to join Hassan’s policy team.
Connors said Friday she doesn’t have specifics yet on her new gig, but she starts Jan. 3 and will be Hassan’s backup spokeswoman; Marc Goldberg, Hassan’s campaign spokesman, will stick around as communications director in the governor’s office.
House committee tango
Committee assignments are out for the newly Democratic-controlled House, and a lot of familiar faces will be getting gavels.
There will be 21 committees during the coming session – that is, assuming the House votes Jan. 2 to eliminate two panels (Redress of Grievances and Constitutional Review and Statutory Recodification) as recommended by the Democrats on the House Rules Committee.
Democrats will hold a two-vote majority on every committee except the powerful Finance Committee, where they’ll have a three-vote majority.
Rep. Susan Almy of Lebanon will chair Ways and Means, as she did before the GOP takeover in 2010. Concord Rep. Candace Bouchard will chair the Transportation Committee; she used to chair the Public Works and Highways Committee. Durham Rep. Marjorie Smith, who used to chair Finance, will instead chair the Judiciary Committee. Concord Rep. Mary Jane Wallner, the former majority leader, will chair Finance.
Concord is well represented in committee leadership. In addition to Bouchard and Wallner, Rep. Jim MacKay will chair Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs; Rep. Mary Stuart Gile will chair the Education Committee; and Rep. Gary Richardson, who lives in Hopkinton but also represents Concord’s Ward 5, will chair Legislative Administration.
But even with 21 committees, there’s apparently no place for Republican Rep. Bill O’Brien of Mont Vernon. The former speaker isn’t assigned to a single committee, according to the House Calendar.
Majority Leader Steve Shurtleff said he was told O’Brien didn’t request a committee assignment. We sent O’Brien an email seeking comment, but didn’t hear back. (Not a huge surprise: A week ago, he mentioned the Monitor on his Facebook page as an example of “local Democrat/Union propagandists.”)
The leadership teams for both House caucuses have firmed up, too.
On the Democratic side, Speaker Terie Norelli had already announced that Shurtleff, of Penacook, would be majority leader. Last week, she announced Rep. Naida Kaen of Lee would be deputy speaker, Rep. Frank Davis of Pembroke would be deputy majority leader and Richardson would be majority floor leader, with Rep. Jeffrey Goley of Manchester as his deputy.
She also named eight assistant majority leaders.
As for the GOP caucus, Minority Leader Gene Bartlett on Friday named Rep. David Hess of Hooksett as the deputy Republican leader and Rep. Laurie Sanborn of Bedford as Republican Policy Leader. Rep. Sherman Packard of Londonderry will be senior assistant leader, Rep. Shawn Jasper of Hudson will be whip and Rep. Andrew Renzullo, also of Hudson, will be deputy whip.
Sanborn’s rise has been especially swift – she’s just in her second term.
“I look forward to helping represent all members of the Republican caucus to create legislative policy which brings positive, common-sense solutions that serve the needs of New Hampshire citizens,” she said in a statement. “Our focus will be to remove barriers to economic growth, balance a budget based on realistic revenue estimates and protect against the overreach of government.”
Seating assignments should be out later this week; Norelli wrote in the House Calendar that Democrats and Republicans will be seated together, not in separate blocs.
On the Business and Industry Association’s wish list this Christmas season: right-to-work legislation, investments in transportation infrastructure and no increase in business taxes.
The powerful business lobbying group last week announced its priorities for the coming two years at the Legislature.
It’s a long list but includes opposing a sales or income tax, opposing any increase in the business enterprise tax or business profits tax, supporting a constitutional amendment to target education aid, strengthening the research-and-development tax credit, right-to-work legislation for the private sector, opposing any new or expanded health-care benefit requirements, tort reform and advocating for “investment in public transportation systems, including rail and air travel, as well as New Hampshire’s road and bridge network.”
In a statement, President Jim Roche said the state still faces many economic challenges.
“Our focus will be on policies and initiatives that encourage New Hampshire businesses to expand and hire more workers, and businesses elsewhere to expand into or relocate to New Hampshire,” he said.
Ocean State adventure
Ah, Rhode Island: home to coffee milk, the newly crowned Miss Universe and, apparently, U.S. Rep.-elect Ann Kuster’s new political action committee.
Papers were filed with the Federal Election Commission this month to create AnniePAC, a leadership PAC sponsored by the newly elected Hopkinton Democrat’s campaign committee, Kuster for Congress. Emily Mellencamp Smith, Kuster’s campaign finance director, will be treasurer for the new PAC.
But the PAC isn’t based in Hopkinton or Concord, or anywhere else in the Granite State, for that matter. Instead, it lists its address as 1 Park Row in Providence, R.I., a building that’s also home to a yoga studio and the office of former Rhode Island attorney general Patrick Lynch.
Of course, it’s not totally unusual: Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s Kelly PAC is based in Alexandria, Va.
A Kuster spokesman didn’t respond to a request for comment about the Ocean State address.
A vote for Lynch
Polls show Gov. John Lynch is quite popular with the public as he prepares to retire to Hopkinton after four terms. Based on last week’s final Executive Council meeting, he’s also plenty popular among Republican elected officials.
Not only did the all-Republican council give Lynch a chair as a parting gift, they offered kind words for the outgoing Democrat.
“I’m going to miss you. You are a great governor, one of the best governors this state has ever had – and that’s a Republican saying that about a Democrat,” said Dan St. Hilaire of Concord, who didn’t seek a second term on the council.
Manchester’s Ray Wieczorek said Lynch is “not only a good human being,” but “a great leader in the state.” And Chris Sununu of Newfields joked about hiring him as a lift attendant at Waterville Valley Resort, which Sununu owns.
Lynch has said he wants to return to the private sector and perhaps teach. But longtime Executive Councilor Ray Burton of Bath said he wouldn’t be surprised if he were asked to become, say, an acting president (we assume, of the University of New Hampshire) or chancellor (we assume that’d be the soon-to-be vacant top job at the University System of New Hampshire).
If such a nomination comes before the council, Burton promised, “I plan to vote yes.”
Shaheen gets a win
Down in D.C., Shaheen got a win last week when Congress voted to provide coverage to military servicewomen who need abortions in cases of rape or incest.
The Democrat introduced and pushed for the amendment, which was attached to the National Defense Authorization Act.
That bill passed the House Thursday and the Senate a day later, going to President Obama for his signature.
“After three decades of a policy that discriminated against women who put their lives on the line for us, I am so proud that we will finally begin to provide the coverage our servicewomen deserve,” Shaheen said in a statement. “We have heard from so many who have said the same thing: this is an issue of equity. Women in the military should have the same health coverage as the civilians they protect. I am glad that colleagues in both houses of Congress and of both parties could come together to right this wrong.”
Ayotte was also happy when the bill passed. She successfully attached several amendments, including one requiring the Pentagon to prepare a statement of budgetary resources and another prohibiting funding to the Medium Extended Air Defense System, which her office described as a “troubled weapons program that the Pentagon has said it does not plan to procure.”
Mr. Lang Goes to Concord
The Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire have moved up to Concord.
The union moved its offices last week from Londonderry to 43 Centre St. – a short walk to the State House, where President David Lang is a familiar face and vocal advocate on pension and other issues.
“We spend a lot of time in Concord anyway,” he said, “and this is just a nice move for our union.”
News of record
∎ Rep. Marcia Moody, a Newmarket Democrat, has been named the country’s “most valuable state legislator” by The Nation, a liberal magazine, which among other things hailed her “tireless campaign to reveal the influence of (the American Legislative Exchange Council)’s corporate-sponsored ‘model legislation’ in New Hampshire.”
∎ Steve MacDonald, who writes for GraniteGrok and NHInsider, has been named “Blogger of the Month” by Americans for Prosperity, a national conservative group.
∎ Tyler Deaton, most recently of New Hampshire Republicans for Freedom and Equality, has joined b-fresh consulting llc as a managing director. The Manchester consulting and lobbying firm is run by Sarah Crawford Stewart, former state director for Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman, and her husband, Chris Stewart.
∎ Nick Clemons has been hired as district director for Rep.-elect Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts. Clemons was the Democrat’s campaign manager and is a former executive director of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, and was state director for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Here they come
The Free State Project already had a plan. Now it has a schedule, too.
The project is trying to sign up 20,000 liberty-minded activists who pledge to move en masse to New Hampshire. Some 13,471 people had signed up as of Dec. 16, and 1,118 had already made the move.
This month, the group announced a new goal: “trigger the move” by reaching the sign-up goal in December 2014. It’s fundraising to add a full-time executive director, seeking tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service and launching a new website.
“This has been a very busy year for the FSP – especially considering all this was accomplished by volunteers – and the next two years will be even busier,” President Carla Gericke wrote in the group’s newsletter. “When we Trigger the Move, imagine the influx of new movers with new ideas, capital, energy, and more. I know I can’t wait. And neither should you!”
(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or email@example.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf. Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @annmarietimmins.)