Nearly as quickly as it emerged as a serious issue, the attempt to change the neutrality rules regarding officers in the New Hampshire Republican State Committee fizzled on New Year’s Eve.

State Rep. Fred Doucette, R-Salem, and Trump supporter Bruce Breton of Windham announced they were backing down from their effort to require GOP officers to support the reelection of President Trump.

Doucette was also a leading figure in Trump’s 2016 campaign.

He stressed that some party leaders overreacted to the proposal as an attempt to muzzle competition in a 2020 presidential primary.

“Contrary to some speculation, a change to the NHGOP bylaws was never an issue about President Trump’s ability to again destroy any Republican competition and win the New Hampshire primary in 2020,” Doucette tweeted.

The proposal had been criticized by supporters of 2016 presidential candidate John Kasich, who continues to entertain a presidential bid in 2020 either in a primary against Trump or as a third-party candidate.

Former state representative and Trump 2016 Co-Chairman Steve Stepanek of Amherst has said if he’s elected chairman of the party, he would remain neutral during the 2020 presidential nominating campaign.

Stepanek has a lot of friends in the Trump inner circle so that’s why he publicly chose not to come out against the idea.

Gov. Chris Sununu was opposed to the change, citing the tradition of the state GOP that welcomes robust party primaries.

Other leading Republicans and defenders of the first-in-the-nation primary had also said the plan would threaten New Hampshire’s leading role in the presidential primary calendar.

Doucette and Breton said in a joint statement, “Following many discussions with local, state and national peers, we have arrived at the consensus that the NHGOP, more specifically its leadership, has not represented or advocated for its membership in a forceful enough fashion.

“These conversations discussed the lack of coordinated, enthusiastic and steadfast support for Republican candidates in the state of New Hampshire as well as the lack of public support for the incumbent President of the United States.”

The pair said despite the withdrawal, the party neutrality rule should be addressed in the future.

“Instead, it is our core belief that Republicans should be unified in our support for the best candidate to take on and defeat the left-wing progressive Democrat(s) who will lead our country down a path of despair, who support open borders and will decimate our military,” they said.

The change was likely to fail if it had been tested at the annual meeting of the GOP on Jan. 26 at Pinkerton Academy in Derry.

That’s because it would have required a two-thirds vote.

The announcement came just before the deadline Monday for proposals to change GOP party bylaws at the annual meeting.

On Wednesday, outgoing GOP Chairman Wayne MacDonald announced he has extended the deadline for proposing changes to Friday night.

Sununu’s olive branch

Gov. Chris Sununu is expected to extend an olive branch to the Democrats that control all other levels of power in state government during his second inaugural address today.

“In November, the voters of our state set us on a path that requires that we as state leaders come together, embrace a spirit of cooperation, and work together to get things done for the people of New Hampshire. They deserve nothing less,” Sununu said in prepared remarks his office released Wednesday.

For four years, Sununu surely had experience. He was on an Executive Council that was under Republican control, dealing with a Democratic governor in Maggie Hassan.

“New Hampshire has sent us here to Concord to deliver results. There will be times when we will disagree, without a doubt, but let’s do so in a way that is free from insults and personal attacks,” Sununu said.

“We are here for a greater purpose, to represent the needs of our constituents, disagree respectfully, and focus on moving forward in areas where we can find common ground.”

Sununu will also touch on the accomplishments he achieved during his first term. These include a statewide public kindergarten initiative, another round of business tax cuts, major investments in school safety and local infrastructure and an increased spending emphasis on mental health care and caring for abused and troubled children.

Sununu understands the biggest imprint lawmakers and he can make in the next term will come with the next two-year state budget for the cycle that begins July 1.

“The state budget cannot and should not become a vehicle for political victories or policy-driven battles,” Sununu warned. “The budget is a road map for responsible spending, not some partisan-driven political agenda.”

$205.8 million surplus

If the state is on solid financial footing, why would the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report be put out late last Friday afternoon when it might get the least attention of the week?

That’s because those who read all the numbers would have surely noticed the last state budget ended June 30 with $94.8 million more in unspent money than had been known until now.

This puts the total unspent and unassigned surplus at the end of the last fiscal year at a staggering $205.8 million.

The last thing Sununu and his administration would want to highlight is that there’s a whole lot of cash for Democrats running the Legislature to spend.

Sununu has been a big proponent of using this extra cash only to make one-time purchases as he did with the $30 million in grants for school security.

He has already said he will include more one-time money in state aid for cities and towns in his next budget plan.

Consumption tax axed

With the new year came a little-noticed state tax repeal.

It’s the electricity consumption tax, a charge on everyone’s electricity bill created back in 1978 after construction started on the Seabrook nuclear power plant.

Senate Republican Leader Chuck Morse of Salem and Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, had been primary advocates for this bill, which Sununu signed in 2017.

Lawmakers decided to make this tax go away the following calendar year, which started on Tuesday.

“We have continued to hear from homeowners as well as businesses large and small that energy prices are too high and they are right. New Hampshire’s energy costs are 40% greater than most other states and are among the highest in the country,” Morse said at the time.

“Working alongside Governor Sununu, we’ve listened to our constituents concerns and recognized the positive impact eliminating the electric consumption tax would have on lowering energy costs.”

The tax raised about $6 million a year.

Sworn in

On Wednesday morning all officers in Hillsborough County took the oath of office and were sworn in for two-year terms.

The newcomers are Hillsborough County Attorney Michael Conlon of Goffstown, Register of Deeds Ed Sapienza of Manchester and Register of Probate Elizabeth Ropp of Manchester.

The incumbents who won again last November were Sheriff Jim Hardy of Pelham, County Commissioners Toni Pappas of Manchester, Paul Bergeron of Nashua and Robert Rowe of Amherst and County Treasurer David Fredette of Nashua.

Dementia treatment

U.S. Sen. Hassan co-sponsored a new law President Trump signed creating a new public health infrastructure that helps combat Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

The new law sets up centers of excellence that will help inform the public about innovations that can improve early detection, treatment and care.

“We know that there is still far more work to do to combat this public health crisis, and I will continue working to help those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia as well as their loved ones,” Hassan said.

Delaney in Hanover

U.S. Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., becomes the latest presidential candidate to return to New Hampshire. He will be in Hanover on Saturday, Jan. 19.

Former Republican state Sen. Jim Rubens and his wife, Susan, will be hosting the Democratic candidate to foster a debate on the issues he maintains has been lacking in his party.

Last month, Rubens welcomed another potential candidate, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, at an Upper Valley event.

“Candidate choices are clustering into Trump, several big government populists, empty charismatics (i.e., Beto O’Rourke) and left centrism. Having read his book and checked out his legislative and business record, I slot John Delaney as a pragmatic, get-the-job-done, left centrist,” Rubens said.

“To his credit, John Delaney has founded two NYSE-listed companies and seems particularly adept at cross-partisan coalition building.

“Left-center is not my politics. But the need for big-picture solutions is now so urgent that all of us are called upon to widen our nets, at least to listen. Please join us in listening, posing questions and making suggestions to this credible and competent candidate.”

Nyet to Russian

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, has come out forcefully against the decision of NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to invite his counterpart in Russia to a forum in Houston, Tex. in the coming months.

The Russian leader of its space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, is a U.S. sanctioned-nationalist, a politician with a record of stark racism and homophobia.

He was sanctioned for his role as deputy prime minister in Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.

“Jim Bridenstein should withdraw his invitation to Dmitry Rogozin, the sanctioned leader of the Russian space agency, immediately before Congress is forced to take action,” said Shaheen, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committee.

Shaheen has her own well-earned reputation in Russia as a hawk.

This was why the country refused to extend a visa for Shaheen to visit that country late in 2017.

In solidarity, Shaheen’s Republican congressional colleagues who were also set to attend canceled that trip.

Inmate case in court

The ACLU of New Hampshire will make arguments today in Merrimack County Superior Court trying to do away with state attempts to recover from inmates the cost of their incarceration in response to lawsuits they bring against the state.

Eric Cable is the ACLU’s test case.

He was released from state prison in November 2017 and sued the state, alleging that he got negligent medical care while in jail.

In response, the state filed a counterclaim to recover the cost to incarcerate him, which was more than $119,000.

The state seeks to have that amount offset any award Cable could get from his suit.

“This is the first time the state has filed a petition seeking cost of case against a former inmate, and this filing is especially problematic because it was filed in retaliation against a lawsuit,” the ACLU said in a statement.

klandrigan@unionleader.com