Garry Rayno's State House Dome: 'Vengeance' amid unity
GOING FORWARD: The primaries are over, the unity breakfasts held, but bitterness remains from some of the races, particularly the Republican District 9 state Senate contest between winner Andy Sanborn and Rep. Ken Hawkins.
The race included charges and countercharges and complaints to the Attorney General's Office over mailings done by independent political action committees favoring Sanborn.
Thursday's Republican Unity Breakfast at the Manchester Country Club was a day for opponents to bury the swords and unite to fight the bigger foe in the November general election. Well, maybe.
At the breakfast, Kaitlyn Smith, who managed Rep. Ken Hawkins' campaign for the District 9 seat, approached winner Andy Sanborn to congratulate him. Sanborn responded by saying: ';Vengeance will be swift.';
';I did work on Rep. Hawkins' campaign, so I wasn't terribly shocked,'; Smith said, ';but I wasn't sure what to think of that. I don't know what he meant, and I would not want to speak to his intent.';
Several people standing nearby heard the comment and urged Smith to contact Senate leadership. After discussing the incident with Smith, Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley told Sanborn he should apologize to her, which he did, sort of.
Smith said Sanborn sent her an email that essentially said ';he didn't mean to threaten me, and if I misunderstood, he was sorry.';
She said she just wants to put the incident behind her.
Sanborn did not respond to several voice mails seeking comment.
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MAILINGS EVERYWHERE: The race for District 9 state Senate was not the only contest that left scars.
This was the attack-mail primary, and some races were flooded with them. Some of the mailers were sent by little-known groups that offered few details about where their money came from, while other attacks were more transparent.
Some of the more prominent attacks came from the New Hampshire Advantage Coalition, which used to be a political action committee. The coalition is now organized as a nonprofit education group, which does not have to disclose its donors.
According to one observer, the mailers done by the group were sent from a Maine address, which ensures they do not come under New Hampshire election laws and requirements.
The coalition targeted Dick Green, former Rochester mayor and state Senate District 6 candidate, who was running against Rep. Sam Cataldo of Farmington, who raised and spent little money on his campaign.
Days before the election, residents of District 6 received a mailer showing Green at a ';Republicans for John Lynch'; event.
Green was also targeted by the Conservative Senate PAC, run by Sen. James Forsythe, R-Strafford, who did not seek reelection.
The Conservative Senate PAC also targeted incumbent Sen. Russell Prescott, R-Kingston, in his race against Dennis Acton, R-Fremont, and Hawkins in the District 9 contest. The PAC also supported Joshua Youssef, R-Laconia, and targeted Bill Grimm, R-Franklin, in the District 7 race. And the group targeted Senate President Peter Bragdon in his race, as did the Americans For Prosperity PAC.
The Conservative Senate group registered the last week of August, which means it did not have to report its contributions and expenditures until after the primary.
Those three groups are the tip of the iceberg for the outside money that fueled attack mailers in both state Senate and House races on the Republican side.
On the other side of the coin is a group called Citizens Against Government Corruption, which mailed a postcard to everyone in the Mont Vernon-;New Boston district of House Speaker William O'Brien.
The postcard targets the 10 cent cut to the tobacco tax championed by O'Brien and others in House leadership and passed as part of the fiscal 2012-13 state operating budget.
';A week after giving them a 10 cents tax cut, the tobacco companies raise the price by 10 cents and put that profit in their pockets, and the state has lost $20 million in revenue. Grateful for the profit windfall, the tobacco companies turn around and give $50,000 or so back to the legislator as a thank you,'; the postcard reads.
The postcard urges people to write in ABBBO (Anybody But Bill O'Brien) for state representative in Hillsborough District 5.
The group is not registered as a PAC with the Secretary of State's Office.
Others PACs targeting House and Senate candidates included the National Right-to-Work PAC, pro-gay marriage and anti-gay marriage PACs, and several gun-rights PACs. And let's not forget union PACs for firefighters, teachers, police and state workers.
Because of the outside groups that targeted races, some lawmakers are talking about taking a long, hard look at state election laws and making changes before the situation is even more out of control in the 2014 elections.
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BOOTLEGGING: The Special House Committee to Evaluate the NH State Liquor Commission takes up the issue of bootlegging on Wednesday. Last week, the committee heard testimony on whether the commission illegally hired a lobbyist to defeat a bill that would have allowed the sale of liquor in grocery and convenience stores.
This week, the committee will review commission actions on the sale of large quantities of alcohol.
Under an advisory from the Attorney General's Office, stores are expected to report any individual sale of alcohol valued at more than $10,000 through an IRS 8300 form, which alerts the purchaser's home state about the sale.
The commissioners have said no such sales took place last year, but information released under a right-to-know request indicates some stores had creative ways around the reporting requirements.
A motor vehicle stop in Massachusetts in February 2011 found a Massachusetts resident with 1,676 bottles of Hennessey VS cognac, and an investigation began.
While the investigation found no criminal activity, according to the document, it did find that some stores allow large-volume purchases by out-of-staters on a daily basis: for example, the purchase of 30 cases a day every day from July to September.
A revision to the operations manual for liquor store employees will also be considered. The revision essentially tells employees not to combine transactions by an individual when determining whether the $10,000 threshold has been met, but rather to treat any transaction individually so only those cash transactions of more than $10,000 would be subject to the IRS 8300 reporting requirement.
The committee meets weekly and will issue a report by Nov. 1.
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ESSENTIAL HEALTH BENEFITS: The Joint Health Care Reform Oversight Committee has a dilemma. The pressure is on to determine what the state will offer for essential health benefits under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as ';Obamacare.''
What is included in the essential benefits will be required of any health insurance plan offered in New Hampshire.
The committee has been working on the issue for some time and was ready to make a decision last week until a serious question — both political and economic — brought the proceedings to a halt.
The group essentially has three plans to choose from as the baseline for benefits: Health Maintenance Organization Blue New England, Matthew Thornton Blue and Government Employees Health Association.
The HMO Blue New England would cost $500 a month, the Matthew Thornton Blue $498.79 and the GEHA $512.70.
The cost is not the issue, what they offer is.
The GEHA plan offers routine dental coverage, but the other two do not.
In New Hampshire, Delta Dental offers most of the dental insurance for the state, and requiring health insurance companies to include dental coverage would likely put Delta Dental out of business or severely curtail its operations.
And the real hot potato is abortion coverage, which Blue New England and Matthew Thornton offer as part of their essential benefits, but GEHA does not.
That puts the committee members in the untenable position of requiring abortion coverage, which is not mandated by state law but would be if one of the two plans is selected as the baseline for essential services, or mandating dental benefits and putting Delta Dental and its hundreds of employees at risk.
The committee meets at 10 a.m. Wednesday in Room 302 of the Legislative Office Building to makes its Sophie's choice.
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SOME GOOD NEWS: New Hampshire businesses will be told this week that they no longer will have to pay the 25 percent surcharge on their contributions into the state's unemployment fund.
The surcharge was imposed several years ago, when the fund dropped below the $150 million level.
The fund now holds about $170 million to $175 million, so George Copadis of the Department of Employment Securities Commission will make the official announcement this week that the surcharge has been removed.
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Garry Rayno may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.