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Cannon fodder: No free ski passes

New Hampshire legislators have gone two years without the free Cannon Mountain lift tickets they used to get. Some of them have found inconvenient the ethics ruling that barred the free tickets. So naturally there is a bill in the House to restore the perk. It is as good an idea as snowboarding in a Speedo.

As the Josiah Bartlett Center's Grant Bosse first pointed out, Rep. Gary Coulomb, D-Berlin, has filed House Bill 514, which would let legislators accept free Cannon Mountain ski passes from the state parks and recreation director. Cannon is the state-operated ski slope located in Franconia Notch.

Legislative ethics rules bar lawmakers from receiving gifts worth more than $25. Cannon Mountain charges $47 for a half-day lift ticket and $70 for a full day. HB 514 would get around this obstacle by some rather obvious sleight of hand. The bill "exempts the receipt of ski passes for Cannon Mountain ski area by members of the general court from the definition of a gift."

If a ski resort owner gave legislators on key regulatory committees, such as Senate Commerce or House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services, free lift tickets, it would be an obvious violation of the ethics rules. Under HB 514, the state parks and recreation director could give members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees free ski passes, and that would be OK - even though those committee members play powerful roles in deciding how much state money Cannon Mountain receives from the taxpayers.

Some legislators say they need to visit Cannon to better understand how it operates. Fine, then arrange with the management for a tour. No legislator needs to ski the mountain for free to understand how it is run any more than a legislator needs to go on food stamps to understand how public assistance works. As Cannon receives direct state appropriations, any offer of free ski passes carries with it a potentially corrupting influence. The gift ban clearly should apply.


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