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Garry Rayno's State House Dome: Jobs and the economy still biggest issue for Granite Staters

August 04. 2013 12:18AM

What's Important:

The popularity of the governor, U.S. Senators and U.S. Reps. garner the most attention when the quarterly Granite State Survey is released by Andy Smith, University of New Hampshire Survey Center director.


The headlines last week focused on the strong showings by Gov. Maggie Hassan and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, and the relative weak numbers for U.S. Reps Carol Shea-Porter and Ann McLane Kuster.


But the survey also asks what Granite Staters believe is the most important issue facing the state.


The poll released last week shows people are stuck on the same note that's been playing since the great recession began six years ago, jobs and the economy.


Jobs and the economy is the most important issue for 35 percent of the survey participants, followed by taxes, 8 percent; education quality, 7 percent; education funding, 6 percent; health care, 5 percent; the state budget 4 percent, and the cost of gas, 1 percent.


"There has been little change in what New Hampshire residents see as the most important problems facing the state over the last two years," Smith said.


Jobs and the economy has been the top issue since the recession began in September 2007, and peaked as the chief concern between early 2009 to late 2010 when it topped 40 percent and approached 50 percent.


While the percentage is considerably lowering than it was in those days, the current 35 percent is higher than it has been the last two quarters when jobs and the economy were listed as the chief concern by 30 and 31 percent of poll participants.


Despite the concern about the economy, Granite Staters continue to believe the state is headed in the right direction.


Currently, 64 percent believe the state is on the right course, 24 percent think it is seriously off track, and 12 percent are unsure.


Partisanship has little to do with the optimistic view of the state's future. According to the survey, 71 percent of Democrats, 63 percent of Republicans and 56 percent of independents say the state is headed in the right direction.


The sentiment is a little lower than it was in 2006 and 2007 when it hovered around 80 percent, but it is higher than it has been the past few years.


Voter ID:

Granite Staters are slightly more supportive of asking residents to prove who they are by showing a photo identification card when they vote.


Voter ID has been a hotly debated issue between the two parties in recent years. The Republican controlled 2011-2012 legislature passed two bills requiring photo identification to vote and former Gov. John Lynch vetoed both of them.


The 2011 veto was upheld, but the 2012 veto was overridden.


In June Democrats and Republicans reached a compromise to keep the law, but continued to allow student IDs to be valid identification and local election officials to vouch for voters they know who not have a photo ID.


According to the survey, 65 percent of Granite Staters support requiring a government-issued ID to vote, 26 percent believe photo ID should not be required and 9 percent don't know.


Democrats are split on the issue with 50 percent believing a photo ID should not be required, while 42 percent believe it should be and 8 percent don't know.

Among Republicans, 85 percent believe a photo ID should be required, 7 percent believe it should not and 7 percent don't know.

Independents also strongly believe a government-issued photo ID should be required, 76 percent, while 14 percent believe it should not and 10 percent don't know.

Electric Lines:

Vacation is over for some House members as committees begin meeting again after the July break on bills they retained.


Of particular interest are three bills dealing with electric transmission lines i.e. Northern Pass.


The House Science, Technology and Energy Committee meets Tuesday to work on three bills.


House Bill 569 is sponsored by North Country lawmakers and requires all electric transmission lines be placed within state transportation rights-of-ways to the extent possible.


This certainly would change the route of Northern pass if approved next session.


Two other North Country House members introduced House Bill 166 which would require the Public Utilities Commission to determine if proposed transmission lines are in the "public good" and those deemed not to be would have to be buried.


And the third bill – House Bill 568 – the committee will work on this week requires all new electric transmission lines to be buried.


The bill distinguishes between transmission lines needed to ensure system reliability and those built for "private, non-profit development."


For lines needed for system reliability, burying would be the preferred priority, but privately developed lines would have to be buried.


The committee may look at the three bills as a way to determine state policy for burying new transmission lines.


The issue is not going to go away anytime soon.


Charter Schools:

Charter school supporters did fairly well with lawmakers this session, particularly in the money department. The 2014-2015 budget contains enough money for four new charter schools in the next two years.


The State Board of Education stopped work on all charter school applications last fall when the attorney general's office told members they could not approve any new charter schools because lawmakers had not appropriated enough money to pay for them.


Lawmakers eventually appropriated the money to pay for the charter schools the board had previously approved, but no money for schools still on the drawing board.


A number of bills introduced this past session address the problem but most were killed and the issue was transferred to budget discussions.


Hassan included the money for four new charter schools in her budget but wanted to give the board greater authority to deny proposals that would saturate an area or offer redundant programs.


Budget writers eventually agreed to retain the money for the four schools, but added a provision allowing the Department of Education to audit the programs and finances.


Lawmakers also separated funding from approval so the state Board of Education would be responsible for ensuring the applicants meet all of the needed criteria, but leave charter school funding up to lawmakers.


Tuesday, the House Education Committee will begin work on three charter school bills it retained.


House Bill 243 requires charter school applicants to include the members of its proposed board of directors, their terms and other information about procedures in their applications.


Another bill – House Bill 424 -- would require the state board to help charter school applicants Improve their proposals. The bill also would require the state board to approve any application that meets all the requirements and to specify deficient areas in an application it rejects.


House Bill 435 would change the amount of the per-pupil grant to charter schools.


HB 243 might make it through the committee, but the other two are doubtful.

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