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Haven't seen the last of voter ID feud

September 10. 2011 8:37PM

The photo ID issue is not going away.

Yes, the Senate failed to override Gov. John Lynch's veto of a bill that would require all voters to present a photo ID at the polls or be left to cast a provisional ballot.

But the House is set to start work on another ID bill on Sept. 20. The language now in House Bill 356 has nothing about provisional balloting, as the vetoed bill did. It has nothing about digital photos at the polls, as the Senate wanted. It just requires an ID.

Rep. David Bates, R-Windham, said an ID law will have to have a backup plan.

'One thing you absolutely cannot do is simply turn away anyone who shows up without a valid ID,'' Bates said. The Senate dug in its heels on provisional ballots. Bates said it's the best backup, but town clerks said it's a horrible idea. So it's back to the drawing board. Sens. Russell Prescott, R-Exeter, and Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, said they plan ID voter bills, too.

The House meets this week to bring in a few late bills and pass a technical fix of the budget bill. House spokesman Shannon Shutts said vetoes aren't on the agenda.

Among the bills is one that will fix a $35 million budget hole. Republicans dismissed warnings this spring that the state would be on the hook for Medicaid mistakes found in a federal audit. Now they've got to pay up.

Other new bills cover redistricting, a glitch in the public pension reform bill, managed care for Medicaid, and looking at allegations against the Local Government Center.

Vetoes the House has to tackle eventually include the expansion of legal use of deadly force, which the Senate has sent through an override vote, as well as the right-to-work bill, emasculation of the Rail Transit Authority and HB 542, allowing parents to remove children from classrooms when 'objectionable material'' is used or discussed.

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The new FRM task force may do more than come up with the sixth report on the multi-million dollar fraud case.

Chairman Rep. Kenneth Weyler said he will consider bills of address and possible impeachment in the matter. 'If a person was totally deficient in the performance of their duties, that is one option open to us,'' Weyler said, noting those moves 'are the only punishments we have available to us as legislators.''

Most of the key officials who were in place during the 10-year FRM fraud are gone: Banking Commissioner Peter Hildreth, Securities Regulation, and former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, now a U.S. senator.

That leaves Associate Attorney General Richard Head in the cross-hairs. He led the Consumer Protection Bureau for Ayotte for a few years and led production of the AG's report on FRM. Gov. John Lynch nominated him to be deputy attorney general, but the move went nowhere with the Executive Council.

Weyler's committee has a stack of five already completed reports members must digest before deciding where to go next.

They include the so-called Chandler Report that Secretary of State William Gardner ordered and findings of the joint Commerce Committee hearings last year. Deadline for this report is Dec. 1.

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Newly installed Republican Party Chairman Wayne MacDonald is working on several fronts as he takes over for Jack Kimball.

He's got to figure out what to do with a long-term contract with party spokesman Christine Baratta. Kimball signed the contract Aug. 15, and it runs until January 2013, MacDonald said.

'Traditionally, a chairman has flexibility to hire his own staff. No reflection on Christine, she's a fine person,'' MacDonald said. 'She'll probably be leaving soon. The exact schedule is not worked out.''

For the meantime, Alicia Preston is handling communications for the GOP.

MacDonald is also combing through campaign finance reports from the special House election in the Barrington area last month. Somehow, party finances were mixed in with the support for GOP nominee Honey Puterbaugh. That brought the party's total spending to $37,275, extremely high for a special election. MacDonald said the party's spending was closer to $2,200 or so. Puterbaugh reported spending $8,233 of her campaign funds; winner Bob Perry spent $4,464.

Included in the GOP report were donations of $5,000 each by Sen. Jeb Bradley, the House Republican Victory PAC and the Mortgage Insurance Companies of America. It also shows a $10,000 contribution on July 21 by former Gov. Craig Benson. MacDonald said that gift covers both the primary and election cycles for the year. 'There was some confusion about how paperwork was handled,'' he said.

Next up is a special House election Sept. 20 in Peterborough. MacDonald says the party 'is redoubling its efforts,'' with phone banks, literature drops and direct mail.

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It's not always what you say, but how you say it.

Rep. Kyle Tasker, R-Northwood, found that out last week when his comments about guns and police leaked out.

Tasker asked, 'Am I justified in blowing a cop away because I'm quicker on the draw and he already pointed his firearm at me? Police are just citizens with badges, and all laws should apply equally.'' Tasker said he was involved in 'an intellectual discussion'' about SB 88, the deadly force bill, on a private Facebook page for first-term Republicans.

He said his comments were taken out of context. 'In no way do I endorse shooting of police officers or anything but following the lawful orders of the police,'' he said. Tasker stood by his statement that police and citizens should be treated equally. He thinks it's wrong that the death penalty applies in murders of police and judges but not in the murders of average citizens.

Tasker said he plans to find out who went public on him and kick them off the page.

He earned a scolding from some Democrats, two former law enforcement officers. Former federal marshal Rep. Steve Shurtleff said the remarks were 'appalling.'' Rep. Ray Gagnon said the reference to police being quick on the draw is 'insulting and disgusting.'' Rep. Jerry Bergevin, R-Manchester, found Tasker's remarks upsetting. He warned Tasker to tone it down, but he said he did not leak Tasker's remarks.

Bergevin said he thinks the deadly force bill is vague, weakens the state's law and leaves residents vulnerable.

'Someone could interpret that it's okay to brandish weapons in our state and could produce a deadly weapon in road rage or other incidents. This is a real safety concern, and I don't think it's being taken seriously,'' he said.

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Speaker of the House Bill O'Brien has joined his counterparts in Iowa and South Carolina in defense of the current calendar for presidential primaries.

The three were among those attending a national speakers convention in South Carolina last week. They're worried about efforts in Florida and Michigan to jump ahead of their assigned places.

'Other states have tried to leapfrog the current calendar and move ahead of us, but none have shown that they have what it takes to do a thorough job of vetting presidential candidates like we do in local, retail setting,'' O'Brien said.

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Former state Senate staffer Addie Shankle has registered as a lobbyist for the New Hampshire Public Interest Research Group.

She said NH-PIRG plans to focus on health care issues in the Legislature and in presidential politics, particularly fighting against attempts to weaken or repeal the federal reforms in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Tom Fahey is State House bureau chief for New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. E-mail him at

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