Garry Rayno's State House Dome: Students may hope to bag a MOOSE
The Making Opportunities Occur for Student Excellence (MOOSE) Scholarship program was still under discussion at the end of last week, so no dollar figures had been set in the bill, sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Morse, R-Salem.
However, the scholarship money would be available to New Hampshire residents who currently qualify for in-state tuition at schools in the University System of New Hampshire and the Community College System of New Hampshire.
"I know the governor (Maggie Hassan) wants to fund the university system, so I tried to draft legislation to fund students so they could go to New Hampshire schools," Morse said. "They can choose whether to go to the university or community college system or choose to go to Keene or Plymouth or UNH. We need to do something so our students will stay in the state of New Hampshire, and that is my intent."
Students would have to have a 3.0 grade-point average and have an SAT of ACT cumulative score above the national average to qualify for a scholarship, which would be one amount for both the university and community college schools.
The grants would not be based on financial need and would be only for full-time students. Also, a student with a criminal record would not be eligible.
The scholarship would be available for four years of undergraduate work and renewable as long as the student maintained a B average in college.
A scholarship could also be transferred from one public institution of higher learning in the state to another.
The program would be administered by the Division of Higher Education in the Department of Education.
The amount of money available for the scholarship would be determined through the budget process.
The MOOSE program would provide students with the money, then let them decide where to use it, Morse said.
The Salem Republican intends the program to help young people from New Hampshire go to college by bringing down the cost.
The University System of New Hampshire board of trustees has proposed holding tuition steady for two years if lawmakers return state aid to its previous level of about $100 million a year. The last Legislature cut state aid to the university and community college systems almost by half.
Hassan campaigned on restoring state aid to higher education, but did not say it would be returned to its pervious level in the upcoming budget.
"I do know there will be some money going forward for the university system and if there is it should based on scholarships," Morse said. "The reality is some people want to give the money to the community college system, and if that is where they want to go and that will keep them in New Hampshire, then let's do it."
He said he will propose legislation for expanded gambling, and the revenue would fund education and the highway system.
WHAT TO DO? Much has been made of meetings last week in Washington, D.C., under the watchful eye of Vice President Joe Biden to discuss recommendations for gun controls or regulations that would reduce gun violence in the United States.
New Hampshire, long known as a gun-friendly state, has not seen lawmakers jump at the opportunity to propose far-reaching gun restrictions.
Nine bills dealing with guns or other weapons will be introduced this session, and some have no chance of passage with the change in the political make up of the House and Senate.
Several bills introduced did not go forward in the last Legislature, which was certainly much more gun-friendly than the current crop of lawmakers.
For example, Rep. J.R. Hoell, R-Dunbarton, is proposing a bill to repeal the license requirement to carry a concealed weapon. In order to obtain a concealed carry license, a person has to provide three character references and evidence of no serious mental health issues and receive permission from his or her community's chief of police.
A similar bill died in the last Legislature.
Another bill that will go nowhere this time is one sponsored by Rep. Dan Itse, R-Fremont, that would exempt firearms, firearm accessories and ammunition manufactured in New Hampshire from federal law and regulation. A similar bill died last session, as did a bill to reduce non-resident fees for pistol permits. A similar bill will be introduced this session by Rep. George Lambert, R-Litchfield.
On the other side of the coin, House Majority Leader Stephen Shurtleff, D-Concord, would repeal the stand-your-ground legislation approved in 2011 over the veto of former Gov. John Lynch.
House Bill 135 would strip away the new provision allowing anyone to use deadly force anywhere a person has a right to be and revert to the so-called Castle Doctrine, which says people can use deadly force within their home and on their property to protect themselves and their family.
This bill has some support in the House, but is likely to run into some resistance in the Senate.
A bill that may not make it out of the House would require a person to have a concealed carry license in order to display a pistol or revolver in a public place.
New Hampshire is an open-carry state, meaning a person does not need a permit to carry a firearm as long as the firearm is not concealed. The prime sponsor of the bill, Rep. Delmare Burridge, D-Keene, said he introduced the same bill three years ago when he was in the House and it did not get any traction.
It's not likely to get much traction this year, either, but he is not deterred, saying he wants to bring back some sanity to the issue.
Another bill would require a person to get firearms training and safety instruction before being allowed to purchase or acquire a firearm. Rep. Cynthia Sweeney, D-Charlestown, introduced the bill because of an incident a year ago involving her granddaughter and a BB gun.
She said people treat BB guns like toys, but they are not. People need to be aware of the safety issues when they play with guns, she added.
A bill sponsored by Rep. Carol McGuire, R-Epsom, would protect gun owners from liability if a firearm was stolen and then used for a criminal act. That bill has bipartisan support.
Rep. James Belanger, R-Hollis, wants to allow military and veterans groups to use firearms in the compact area of a city or town for military or veterans events or on a national holiday.
Let's keep those re-enactments coming.
HEARINGS BEGIN: This is the first week for public hearings on bills, and though you shouldn't expect any barn burners, there is one bill that concerns the duty of the state fire marshal.
Most of the House bills are more mundane, such as one seeking to allow the administrator or executor of an estate to take control of the deceased person's social networking sites and another to grant immunity for 911 calls for drug- or alcohol-related emergencies.
And perhaps the most controversial would allow straight-ticket voting once again.
Straight-ticket voting allows a person to make only one check mark to vote for all of one party's candidates. Straight-ticket voting was eliminated a half-dozen years ago when Democrats controlled the House and Senate.
The Senate has eight committee hearings on bills this week.
Neither the House nor the Senate is scheduled to meet in session this week.