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Kevin Landrigan's Granite Status: Lawsuit or no, lottery ticket privacy could be a winner

By KEVIN LANDRIGAN
New Hampshire Union Leader

February 14. 2018 11:50PM




The unidentified winner of the $560 Powerball jackpot clearly could lose her lawsuit to retain anonymous status.

But her efforts have support at the State House. State Sen. Kevin Cavanaugh, D-Manchester, is seeking support for an amendment that would permit all lottery winners to check off a box if they want to remain anonymous.

“Jane Doe” sued the lottery after she signed the back of the winning ticket, which means under state law she must be identified.

She could have remained in the shadows had she not signed the ticket, created a trust and had the lawyer collect the winnings.

Respect for personal privacy is a powerful ethos in Concord and the right for lottery ticket winners to remain anonymous would be the law of the land had it not been for former Gov. and current U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH.

In 2014, the House’s strongest privacy advocate, state Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare, pulled off a stunning reversal on the House floor on legislation (HB 1244), which state Rep. Herbert Richardson, R-Lancaster, authored.

A House committee at the behest of the lottery recommended killing the measure, 13-5.

But with Kurk working his magic, the House failed to kill it, 150-149.

Then Kurk got them to pass it on an unrecorded, division vote, 172-130.

The Senate followed by passing the lottery anonymity on a voice vote.

Hassan then vetoed the measure, maintaining it could lead to abuse.

“... if the names of lottery winners are entirely precluded from the light of public disclosure then accountability and oversight is ultimately diminished and the opportunity for potential corruption is born,” Hassan wrote.

“In New Hampshire, we value personal privacy, as well as integrity and trust in our public institutions, and both are critical to our democracy. Balancing these interests is something we strive to do on an ongoing basis and something that the current system for disclosure at the Lottery Commission does well.”

The House voted in favor of overriding that veto, but the 160-142 vote was short of the necessary two-thirds majority.

The cause has been bipartisan; there were 46 House Democrats who defied Hassan and had favored the override.

Conversely, 22 Republicans had opposed Kurk and backed the lottery’s argument.

Cavanaugh would like his amendment to be applied retroactively so if it were to pass, this recent big winner would not have to identify herself.

Such backward-looking laws have failed to hold up in court, however.

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All eyes obviously are on Gov. Chris Sununu’s State of the State speech today. 

The first-term Republican’s team posted on social media a professional web video that served as a victory lap for the first 13 months of his term.

As we’ve noted before, he’s in enviable political shape. The latest indication is a University of New Hampshire poll that puts his approval rating at 61 percent.

His biggest obstacle right now is Medicaid expansion.

Sununu has to know how the Republican-led Legislature deals with the future of the New Hampshire Health Protection Program in 2019 and beyond can make a big difference on whether Democrats have a path to upsetting him in November.

Some Republican legislative leaders got way out in front rhetorically on this issue, saying they could not support spending any state money on Medicaid expansion in the future.

Federal regulators have already informed the Sununu administration that’s just not possible.

Even if you move the Medicaid expansion coverage population from private insurance to managed care, the Affordable Care Act still has a state reimbursement share New Hampshire cannot escape.

This amount is not a state budget buster, however.

The challenge in this speech is for Sununu to signal to his GOP brethren that this problem will be solved and that these same GOP legislative leaders are the ones who will take the lead to make it happen.

With hundreds of millions of dollars a year at stake, health care providers were turning up the heat, trying to make sure Sununu did the right thing.

Late last week, their allies were reaching out to well-known Republican businessmen and Sununu allies, asking them to sign onto this campaign.

“The plan is to get businesses to support Medicaid reauthorization by lending their name in support of it ahead of Sununu’s State of the State,” according to an email obtained by the New Hampshire Union Leader.

“We’re still playing with the language but it’ll be something like this: Support a vibrant economy and save taxpayer dollars by investing in quality, affordable health care. New Hampshire businesses and families need a unique, New Hampshire solution to keeping our state a great place to live, work, and raise a family. Expanded Medicaid is that solution.”

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Gov. Sununu’s nomination to promote Associate Justice Robert Lynn of Windham to become chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court would be the crowning achievement on an impressive career in the law and law enforcement.

The pick also is surely popular among Sununu’s conservative political base.

What about Lynn having to leave the court and retire at age 70 in August 2019?

Well, first it speaks to Sununu’s confidence about his immediate future that he would risk turning that plum political appointment over to a successor. The move to promote from within also gives him another judgeship on the high court to make before the next election.

This also could signal that some who Sununu might want to put on the high court may be more available a year and a half from now.

Among lawyers who GOP activists like for the high court are Bryan Gould and former Assistant U.S. Attorney David Vicinanzo.

A partner with the same firm that housed Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, Vicinanzo would have to take a big pay cut to join the court.

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The Democrats’ best hope of knocking off Sununu just took a pass on 2018.

Former executive councilor Colin Van Ostern of Concord made official Wednesday what had been whispered for a few days: he is going to sit this election season out.

It was logical to assume Van Ostern would be back, following a well-financed 2016 campaign in which he lost to Sununu by 18,000 votes.

But there are some very good reasons for Van Ostern to run this year which have nothing to do with Sununu’s popularity or his own prospects for success.

He and his wife, Kristyn McLeod, have two young sons and each parent is very busy professionally — Van Ostern as chief marketing officer at College for America at Southern New Hampshire University, a nonprofit school.

Van Ostern has told Democratic activists that he won’t go quietly into the 2018 election night and he’s committed to support Democratic candidates up and down the ballot. Plus, he’s only 39.

As we reported, N.H. Forward, Van Ostern’s political action committee, raised nearly $47,000 in 2017.

The decision leaves former Portsmouth mayor and 2016 candidate Steve Marchand the only hopeful for governor on the Democratic side.

Former state Sen. Molly Kelly of Harrisville confirmed she’s giving the race a serious look. The five-term state senator has a history of giant wins, having first won her seat in 2006 by knocking off former Senate president Tom Eaton. R-Keene.

She also was an early supporter of Van Ostern’s campaign.

Van Ostern wisely chose to make this week all about his decision and not anyone else’s future.

That’s because now that he’s out, there’s a whole host of other Democrats who might be tempted to give it a run and he should let that process play out for a bit.

State Sen. Dan Feltes, D-Concord, hasn’t ruled out such a campaign.

Like Kelly, Feltes was an early Van Ostern backer.

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Gov. Sununu’s nomination to promote Associate Justice Robert Lynn of Windham to become chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court would be the crowning achievement on an impressive career in the law and law enforcement.

The pick also is surely popular among Sununu’s conservative political base.

What about Lynn having to leave the court and retire at age 70 in August 2019?

Well, first it speaks to Sununu’s confidence about his immediate future that he would risk turning that plum political appointment over to a successor. The move to promote from within also gives him another judgeship on the high court to make before the next election.

This also could signal that some who Sununu might want to put on the high court may be more available a year and a half from now.

Among lawyers who GOP activists like for the high court are Bryan Gould and former Assistant U.S. Attorney David Vicinanzo.

A partner with the same firm that housed Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, Vicinanzo would have to take a big pay cut to join the court.

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Quick takes:

• The New Hampshire Democratic Party is going to the suburbs for its annual state convention. The event will be Saturday, June 23 at the Cooperative Middle School in Stratham. A speaker for the event will be announced at a later date.

• Sununu announced he’s got a good headliner of his own for a March fundraiser for Friends of Chris Sununu. Vice President Mike Pence will head the program. In recent months, Pence has stepped up his fundraising schedule and started appearing on behalf of favored GOP hopefuls/incumbents for governor and Congress in key states.

• Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig is among a pretty impressive list of key elected officials, medical experts and advocates that will gather Feb. 22 in Boston to discuss the opioid crisis at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Boston. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker and professionals with Boston Medical Center, Harvard Medical School and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine are also on the dais. The Washington Post is sponsoring the event.

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The Manchester VA Medical Center is holding another Town Hall and Listening Session next Tuesday, this one at the Colonel Edward Cross Training Center in Pembroke. “The new location is in response to tremendous veteran interest,” said Alfred Montoya, acting medical center director. “It is exciting to see the growth in participation at these events, and specifically improved overall veteran satisfaction with the medical center.”

The event starts at 5:30 p.m.

klandrigan@unionleader.comEmail news and tips to granitestatus@unionleader.


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