Capital beat: What’s ahead for Republican-led State House

Monitor staff
Published: 11/12/2016 11:49:41 PM

Decriminalizing marijuana, lowering business taxes and funding full-day kindergarten are on the table. A raise in minimum wage and an extension of commuter rail are likely headed to the trash bin. Removing a license requirement to carry a concealed gun has a green light. 

Republicans are taking full control of the State House for the first time in more than a decade and policies blocked by past Democratic governors are now a possibility. GOP leaders say the economy, energy and the opioid crisis will take the spotlight.

But the Legislature also must deal with a number of unresolved issues when it returns in January. The state’s child protective services is facing calls for reform, an independent report found the agency doesn’t have enough staff to keep up with reports of child mistreatment. A waitlist to get into the state psychiatric hospital has reached record highs this year. 

Economy 

Republican leaders name jobs and the economy as the top priority, but are vague on specifics. The most recent state budget cut business taxes, a long sought Republican priority. But House Majority Leader Dick Hinch said last week the Legislature may consider further reductions this session. 

All GOP leaders are of course pledging no tax or fee increases, but that promise always gets tricky come budget time, which picks up this year. Without a broad-based tax, state lawmakers have struggled to find ways to raise new revenue. For a long time, legislators looked to a casino. But those plans largely sputtered out, given the sale of Rockingham Park in Salem, a site long considered viable for expanded gambling. 

Democrats have pushed to establish a state minimum wage, but Republicans have traditionally fought the effort and seem poised to reject any such attempt this session. New Hampshire relies on the federal rate of $7.25 an hour, and with a GOP-led Congress in Washington it seems unlikely the nationwide minimum will see any change either.

Guns

Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan twice vetoed legislation to repeal the license requirement for carrying concealed firearms. Governor-elect Chris Sununu has indicated he would sign such a policy. And Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, a Wolfeboro Republican, said last week he plans to refile the legislation, which has sailed through the Republican-led chambers in the past.

Education 

Sununu will nominate an education commissioner within his first few months of office. The Republican is an outspoken critic of Common Core standards and favors school choice, which will likely influence his pick.

It’s not clear what education bills will come up this session, but Republican may try to revive some veoted in the past. For example, Hassan angered Republican when she rejected a GOP bill to let districts use taxpayer money to send students to nonreligious private schools. 

Abortion

Sununu is pro-abortion rights, so it’s unlikely any bill restricting choice will make it through his desk. He does oppose late-term abortions. 

Rail

Democrats have made a major push to extend commuter rail from Massachusetts to Manchester, but Sununu calls the plan a “boondoggle.” It’s unlikely the project will chug forward during his administration. 

New Hampshire cabinet

As the jockeying for positions in a Donald Trump White House plays out, expect to see some familiar names. New Hampshire launched Trump’s successful bid for the White House, and many of his close advisers hail from the state. 

Corey Lewandowski of Windham is reportedly being considered for a spot as Trump’s chief-of-staff. Lewandowski led the businessman to victory in the New Hampshire primary, but was fired as campaign manager last summer after a Breitbart reporter accused him of forcibly yanking her away from the candidate. Adding fuel to the speculation, Lewandowski resigned from CNN on Friday afternoon, where he had been a commentator since leaving the Trump campaign.  

Rep. Fred Doucette, who just won another term at the State House, is hoping for a call. The Salem Republican was tight-lipped about where he wants to end up, but flew to New York City for Trump’s victory party Tuesday night. 

“I haven’t heard anything specific yet, but if I get the call of course I am going to respond,” Doucette said. Al Baldasaro also made it to NYC for Election Night. The state respresentative made waves this summer when he said Hillary Clinton should be put before a firing squad for treason over her handling of Benghazi, but he has remained part of the Trump team. 

New faces

Out with the old, and in with the new. The elections ushered in some fresh members, and showed others the door. 

Rep. Joe Lachance, a Manchester Republican who filed the expanded Medicaid bill and pushed to expand medical marijuana, was voted out Tuesday. 

He was beat by three Democrats, but plans to run again in 2018. Lachance was one of several members named by the attorney general who bought marijuana from former Rep, Kyle Tasker. No charges were filed and Lachance said he bought the drug while he waited for the state’s medical marijuana program to get up and running.

Rep. Joe Hannon of Lee is asking for a recount after losing by some 50 votes. The Republican unsuccessfully pushed a bill to legalize needle exchanges, and was planning to keep up the fight this year. 

Republican JR Hoell of Dunbarton is still weighing whether to ask for a recount. The outspoken state representative is a frequent filer of second amendment bills and anti-abortion bills. Recount request are due by Monday afternoon.




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