Hey, legislators, what did you accomplish this year?
We asked state lawmakers from the local area to tell us what they were most proud of from the recently finished legislative session. We were especially interested in measures that might have escaped public attention amid the budget and casino debates. Here’s what we learned:
More money for
I led the effort to get an additional $250,000 per year for the drug and alcohol fund. The treatment and prevention of drug and alcohol abuse in New Hampshire is extremely important. Gov. Maggie Hassan provided funding for existing treatment contracts, and the House supported her position. I worked with my colleagues to get support for the additional funding for prevention. It is a very small step in the right direction to get funding to this very serious problem in New Hampshire.
I worked at Odyssey House, a residential treatment program for youth years ago, so I know firsthand the importance of funding these programs.
I also had language added to House Bill 2, relative to the restricted use of EBT cards. I held a roundtable discussion with welfare administrators in my district in my last term and listened to their concerns about the abuse of EBT cards. EBT cards can no longer be used at adult-oriented entertainment, liquor stores, gaming establishments or off-premises retail licensees that sell primarily beer, wine, or other alcoholic beverages.
Additionally, SB 99 was a long time coming. I worked on similar legislation in the last session that was killed. This legislation calls for the study of the Site Evaluation Committee and its roles, responsibilities, processes, funding, etc. The bill also calls for creating siting criteria for energy facilities in New Hampshire.
Republican Sen. JEANIE FORRESTER
District 2 (Wilmot, Danbury, Hill, Tilton, Sanbornton, Meredith, New Hampton, Bristol and
numerous communities in
Towns reimbursed for flood control
A significant but little-known piece of legislation that passed was HB 581 sponsored by Rep. Mario Ratzki, and I was one of the co-sponsors. This bill had a positive impact on 17 communities in the Merrimack River and Connecticut River Flood Control Compacts.
Dams were constructed on many rivers and watersheds in the compact communities to control water flow down river. More than 20,000 acres (i.e., homes, farmlands and, in several cases, entire villages) were taken in order to provide this flood control, which resulted not only in the loss of land but also the accompanying property tax revenue.
The compact agreed to compensate the towns based on the value of the land lost. The state of New Hampshire is responsible to pay the affected communities and then seek reimbursement from Massachusetts. But recently Massachusetts has not been reimbursing New Hampshire. Consequently, the 2010 state budget no longer compensated the full amount to the communities.
This benefited the state but shortchanged the affected local taxpayers, creating a shortfall in local budgets.
HB 581 corrects this downshifting of reimbursement to the 17 communities. The attorney general’s office is now directed to secure the funds from Massachusetts or the reimbursement will come from the AG’s budget. Here are a few samples of the positive, projected impact for the 17 communities: Hopkinton, $199,326; Henniker, $87,340; Salisbury, $85,568; Dunbarton, $63,570; and Weare, $59,677.
Merrimack County District 10 (Hopkinton and Concord Ward 5)
Standing my ground, honoring Winant
I’m proud to be the prime sponsor of HB 135. This bill would have repealed New Hampshire’s version of “Stand Your Ground” and returned our state to the self-defense law that was in effect for the previous 40 years.
I’m equally proud to be the prime sponsor of HB 262. This bill forms a joint legislative committee to help facilitate the construction of a permanent memorial to the late Gov. John Winant.
The memorial would be constructed using no public funds. It is my goal to have a stature of. Winant finished in time for Concord’s 250th anniversary in 2015.
District 11 (Penacook)
I helped increase aid for higher education
As the Senate Democratic leader, I was proud to work successfully with our governor and Senate Republicans to achieve a bipartisan, balanced budget which increased support for higher education – including the UNIQUE scholarship program I helped to create – mental health, caring for children in need, and conservation, all without creating new taxes or fees.
I was also honored to sponsor a new program called “Pathway to Work” which supports unemployed people who want to create their own opportunities by helping them start their own business.
In addition, I helped push for the construction of a new women’s prison to relieve extreme crowding and provide the education and counseling services that will help women stay out of prison and to lead more productive lives.
As always, I kept a focus on local Capital Area priorities. Working with a Republican colleague in the Senate, I was thrilled to create a new bus service between Concord and the Manchester airport. This helps our airport, our economy and people throughout the region who seek inexpensive travel options.
My efforts to increase city-state communication and local control included such diverse work as Concord Steam, National Guard federal projects and the Penacook incinerator.
Continuing a focus on our economy and improving communities, I look forward to our state accepting expanded Medicaid coverage, reinvesting in highway infrastructure, and supporting job creation.
District 15 (Concord, Hopkinton, Henniker and Warner)
I helped modernize corporate laws
When I ran for the Senate, I wanted to bring common-sense business principles to Concord. To me, that means working with both parties to solve problems, being careful with taxpayers money and focusing on things people really care about, such as economic growth and job creation.
I worked with Republicans to modernize New Hampshire’s corporate law, making it easier to create businesses and spur job growth. I helped pass a bipartisan law to protect restaurants and other service-industry businesses from higher taxes on tipped wages – taxes they can’t afford and which could hurt
I also worked with a Republican colleague to streamline regulations by combining several different permits into one, which will save time and expense for businesses, while keeping all of the same environmental protections in place.
To help our region, I crafted a new rule that will keep boating fees for their intended purpose of promoting water safety, instead of being raided by the Legislature. This will help to support the tourism that is so important to the economy of our region.
I was also proud to help pass a balanced budget that ended the developmental disability wait list, increased support for education and stabilized funding for community mental heath organizations – all without creating new taxes or fees.
Overall, I was glad to help get Concord back to working together on solving problems and moving our state forward.
District 7 (Laconia, Franklin, Webster, Boscawen, Canterbury, Gilford, Belmont, Northfield, Andover and Salisbury)
Plumbers, gas fitters boards will merge
One significant accomplishment was to merge the plumbers licensing board with the gas fitters.
There’s a lot of overlap between these two groups, so I – and the plumbers and gas fitters – believed that consolidation would simplify licensing and regulation. With better efficiency, it’s likely that license fees will be reduced as well.
I co-sponsored, worked in committee, and spoke for SB 189, which besides the consolidation allowed the board to establish lower fees for small business licenses and decreased the necessary training for gas fitters from 5000 hours of field experience to 1,000 hours.
When the gas fitters’ license was first established in 2007, the required training level was unknown, and 5,000 hours (over two years, working full time) was the guess established by the fire marshal. After more than five years of licensing, we’ve learned that 5,000 hours is excessive to start someone in a job as a gas fitter. Of course, they get better with experience, but 1,000 hours of field work, after completing the classroom training, is enough to ensure that they work competently and safely.
Finally, SB 189 includes all the protections homeowners and property owners have in current law to do plumbing repairs and maintenance on their own property. This was a last-minute fix, since the original bill had the allowances for home gas fitting, which are much more restrictive than for plumbing!
Merrimack County District 29 (Allenstown, Epsom
Having won and lost elections, I believe it’s important to hear what voters are really saying. Last fall, voters said they wanted a more moderate and bipartisan Legislature, and we achieved this goal. The final state budget had unprecedented bipartisan support: 337 House members voted for passage and only 18 members voted against!
HB 242 has not received a lot of publicity, but in the upcoming years could very well save lives and prevent injuries of New Hampshire 6-year-olds.
I am proud to have been the prime sponsor to increase the age of children using safety seats from the current age of 5 and younger (exempt if 55 inches tall) to 6 years (exempt if 57 inches tall). National Best Practices is 7 and younger or 57 inches tall, as was my original legislation. The Senate agreed; the House disagreed so we reached a compromise to benefit the safety of New Hampshire 6-year-olds!
SB 100 is the bill I’m most proud that we killed. If passed, employers could choose to pay employees with either a cash card or direct deposit and remove the current option of a paper check and the ability for workers to cash it with no fee. We realized the money to be made by the card companies when the prime lobbyist flew a woman out from California to testify twice for only a few minutes. We killed it in the House but the Senate attached it to a non-related bill. The other bill may be important in future years (employers accessing Facebook passwords), but we felt it was more important to let both bills go rather than pass SB 100.
Merrimack County District 20 (Chichester and Pembroke)
The return of civility
This is only my second term as a state representative; I served my first under Speaker Bill O’Brien.
I am most pleased about the changed atmosphere that prevails in the House this term. Proper process is being followed. There is consistency and fairness in the application of rules. The mixed seating has allowed members of both parties to get to know each other better and has fostered cooperation and collaboration. There are many fewer offensive emails sent through the “All Reps” legislative mail system – both to constituents and to each other. There is a feeling of collegiality and respect. We may not always agree, but we more often listen to each other now.
There have been fewer extreme pieces of legislation filed and passed. And although there are still those who hold extreme views, they get less support when votes are taken.
We must thank the leadership of both parties for this refreshing change.
In November, the voters spoke clearly. They wanted civility and common sense returned to Concord. I’m pleased to say that, in my opinion, they have gotten what they asked for.
Hillsborough County District 1 (Hillsboro, Antrim and Windsor)