VETOES EXPECTED: After last week's legislative battles, House and Senate members still have work to do and will return to Concord June 27 for one more session — Veto Day.
On Thursday and Friday, House Speaker William O'Brien, Senate President Peter Bragdon and their staffs scrambled to send to Gov. John Lynch's desk the bills they thought he might veto. They're looking to ensure enough time to hold override votes.
Once the bills get to Lynch, he has five days — not including Sunday — to act on them. After that, they become law without his signature.
Lynch has said he would veto Senate Bill 409, which would let seriously and terminally ill patients use marijuana medicinally. He vetoed a similar medical marijuana bill in 2009.
The governor has expressed reservations about two nearly identical bills to establish an education tax credit to fund a scholarship program for low- and middle-income students to attend private and religious schools or home school programs.
Proponents say the bills would provide educational opportunities for students whose parents cannot afford to send them to private schools; opponents call the proposal a back-door voucher program.
The two bills, HB 1607 and SB 372, have close to veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate.
Other candidates for vetoes are two bills related to voting, SB 289, the photo identification bill, and SB 318, which would modify forms and procedures for voter registration.
Lynch has said he has concerns the photo ID bill may not protect a person's constitutional right to vote. Both bills passed the House and Senate by veto-proof margins.
Two other bills that could draw extra attention from the governor are HB 1490, which would change the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to reduce carbon emissions, and HB 1487, which would forbid the state to join a similar initiative for carbon fuels.
While HB 1490 would not repeal RGGI, it would change the energy-efficiency portion of the program significantly.
Another possible veto awaits HB 1670, which would redraw the political boundaries of the five Executive Council districts. Lawmakers want Lynch to act on the bill by Thursday at the latest, the day before the filing deadline for state and county offices. The bill would make substantial changes in the council districts in the southern half of the state.
Another possible veto target is SB 406, which would allow medical providers' insurance companies to make “early offers” to injured patients bringing malpractice suits. The bill did not pass the House by enough votes to override a veto.
O'Brien's welfare fraud detection bill is another possible target. While the Senate and conference committee watered down HB 1658 from what O'Brien had proposed, Lynch may be tempted to veto it anyway because the Senate did not take a recorded vote on the bill.
Other possibilities include HB 1617, which would eliminate the Certificate of Need board, or the Health Services Planning and Review Board. Lynch criticized the board earlier this year for approving massive hospital building projects, but may not want to see the board eliminated in three years, which the bill would do.
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CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT: A lot of finger pointing has taken place in the wake of the House's failure on Wednesday to pass a constitutional amendment on education and its funding.
O'Brien and other Republican Party leaders lobbied hard to get colleagues to support the amendment.
The caucus parade included Republican gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne, the other Republican gubernatorial candidate, Kevin Smith, former gubernatorial candidate John Stephen and state Republican Party Chairman Wayne MacDonald. The night before the vote, former Gov. and party Chairman John H. Sununu sent an email to Republican lawmakers urging them to support the amendment.
Lynch, who endorsed the amendment, did not attend the Democratic caucus Wednesday morning to lobby for the measure. Without being specific, Lynch later said he reached out to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, but was prepared to spend the summer and fall on a “pass-the-amendment” promotion tour of the state.
Needless to say, the tour has been canceled.
After the vote, O'Brien clearly laid the blame at Lynch's feet, saying he did nothing to bring Democrats on board. “We just needed a few more votes from the Democratic side of the aisle, and Gov. Lynch couldn't make them arrive,” he said.
Lynch, in turn, talked about the lack of trust in the House, where Democrats have been brushed aside for much of the last two years as an inconvenient afterthought.
“Cooperation and trust are fundamental to building the coalitions needed to pass an amendment such as this one. Unfortunately, those essential qualities were missing from today's debate,” Lynch said.
And new Majority Leader Peter Silva, R-Nashua, ruffled more than a few feathers when he blasted Republican opponents of the amendment. Before voters across the state cast ballots for Republicans in future elections, he said, they should “make sure that's who they are — not Libertarians, not Free Staters.”
One longtime amendment advocate, Rep. David Hess, R-Hooksett, noted on the day after the vote that the only way another education amendment could get to voters would be through a constitutional convention.
The question of calling a constitutional convention has to be on the ballot every 10 years, and this is the 10th year, so voters will have that opportunity in November.
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SLIGHTLY MISLEADING: The House took two votes on the education amendment.
One tally was 224-144 and the other 224-141, which looks like the same 224 representatives favored the amendment, but that is not the case.
By my count, 12 House members — 11 Republicans and one Democrat — either switched their yes or no votes or didn't vote during the second roll call.
After the first vote fell 13 votes shy of the 237 needed to pass, Rep. Paul Mirski, R-Enfield, asked the House to reconsider its vote.
Mirski, who had voted “no” the first time, was successful in persuading five other “no” voters to vote “yes” for the amendment the second time. They are Reps. John Burt, R-Goffstown, Timothy Comerford, R-Fremont, John Hikel, R-Goffstown, Paul Ingbretson, R-Pike, and Robert Kingsbury, R-Laconia.
Three representatives changed from “yes” votes the first time to “no” votes the second time. They are Reps. Peter Bolster, R-Alton, Carolyn Gargasz, R-Hollis, and Peter Ramsey, D-Manchester.
And three representatives voted “no” the first time and then didn't vote the second time. They are Reps. Harry Accornero, R-Laconia, Herbert Richardson, R-Lancaster, and Joseph Thomas, R-Merrimack.
Two of the representatives switching their votes are running for the state Senate: Hikel in District 20 and Bolster in District 6.
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RUNNING FOR OFFICE: One more week to go for people seeking state and county offices to file to run in the Sept. 11 primary.
This year, candidate filings have come in slowly compared with the pace in other years. Usually there is a line out the secretary of state's door on the opening day, filled with county office holders or wannabes.
On Wednesday, only two people were there at 8 a.m., Hillsborough County Commissioner Carol Holden and Hillsborough County Sheriff candidate Bill Barry. Soon, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Kennedy of Danbury showed up.
For many years, when Peter Spaulding was an executive councilor, he would be among those waiting for Secretary of State Bill Gardner to open the door.
When asked by a reporter why he wanted to be first in line, he replied, “Because you guys are here, and I'll get my name in the papers.”
And he did.
Last week, the only major candidates to sign up for higher office were the two Democrats seeking congressional seats, Carol Shea Porter in the 1st District and Ann McLane Kuster in the 2nd District.
The remaining congressional and gubernatorial candidates will have to file by Friday or they won't be on the primary ballot.
Second District Congressional incumbent Republican Charlie Bass is scheduled to file at Gardner's office Monday at 11 a.m., while 1st District incumbent Republican Frank Guinta is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. Wednesday.
Three of the four major candidates for governor will file Thursday, Flag Day.
Republican Lamontagne is scheduled between 10 and 11 a.m., Democrat Jackie Cilley at noon and Republican Kevin Smith at 2 p.m.
Democrat Maggie Hassan is expected to file at noon Friday.
The later the major candidates file, the longer they can collect those $5,000 checks from major donors. After they put their names on the line, the amount drops to $1,000 for the primary and $1,000 for the general election.
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UNION ENDORSEMENT: Hassan has been endorsed by the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local 6.
Joe Gallagher, president of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers, said of Hassan: “As governor, Maggie will move New Hampshire forward by building an innovative economy, creating the jobs to help middle-class families thrive. “
Hassan has also been endorsed by Carpenters Local 118, Iron Workers Local 7, UFCW Locals 1445 and 791, and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades Council 35.
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Garry Rayno writes State House Dome each week for the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He may be reached at email@example.com.