THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION Agency is offering a pretty appealing Valentine’s Day card to environmentalists and the state’s congressional delegation.
Assistant Administrator Alexandra Dunn will unveil the agency’s action plan for dealing with polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that will include a maximum contaminant level under the federal Safe Water Drinking Act for PFOA and PFOS — two of the most well-known and prevalent PFAS chemicals.
The plan will include stepped up monitoring of substances in the environment, enhanced scientific research and cleanup strategies, officials said.
But the delegation is clearly not going to get everything it wants as the stated maximum will be a goal and not an enforceable level.
Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, along with Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas, all D-NH, have been leaning very hard on the Trump administration to come up with strict limits on these contaminants.
Last year Shaheen secured $10 million to study the extent of and best practices to clean up PFOA contamination at current or past military bases, such as what was found at the former Pease Air Force Base.
Dunn will lay out the plan at the agency’s blueprint at New England’s regional laboratory in North Chelmsford, Mass., today at 11 a.m.
Pro-gun groups pan gun control study
New Hampshire House committees Wednesday debated a raft of gun control bills. (See related story, page A4)
So late last week Everytown for Gun Safety, the group Michael Bloomberg co-founded and helped bankroll coming out of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass slaying in Newtown, Conn., decided it was a good time to roll out some New Hampshire stats to make the argument that it’s far too easy for people to buy guns online.
The group maintains that a yearlong investigation found 14,608 from New Hampshire responded to gun-selling ads posted on Armlist.com.
“You should not be able to access a gun if you can’t pass a background check,” said Deidre Reynolds, volunteer chapter leader with the New Hampshire chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “And yet that is not the case in New Hampshire. Our lawmakers should work to pass HB 109, which would require background checks on all commercial gun sales in New Hampshire. Ensuring prohibited buyers can’t get their hands on guns through unregulated online sales will help keep our families safe.”
Gun rights advocates say unlicensed purchases of guns through the internet without any background check are in violation of both state and federal laws. Federal law requires those buying guns online to be residents of the same state where the gun is sold, said Alan Rice, president of the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition.
If the gun is ordered from a seller outside the state then that gun has to be sent to a federal firearms licensee (FFL) in New Hampshire for the buyer to pick up the gun, Rice said.
And the dealer in question is required prior to giving that gun over to do its own background check.
“There is nothing like an interest group to make their own report to try and regulate firearms,” Rice said. “I can put any ad I want online but I can’t just ship a gun to a private person.”
Rice said if there were so many unlicensed online guns bought especially by those who legally couldn’t possess them, there would be hundreds of prosecutions. That’s because he said state and federal law enforcement officials with cause could subpoena those records and easily go after them.
Bob Clegg is leader of Pro Gun New Hampshire and a former Senate majority leader.
“All ads may not have stated the need for a background check but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t required,” Clegg said. “Gun owners know the law and don’t need to be reminded.
“Let’s remember, too, advertising does not equal sales. If it did, every car dealer in New Hampshire would be richer than Midas. Every furniture dealer would own an island retreat in the Bahamas. Every Outback Steakhouse could put gold flatware on their customers’ tables.”
Ariana Valderrama, a spokesman for Everytown, said the group stands by its research.
“This bill focuses on gun sales within New Hampshire. We aren’t talking about FFLs, we’re focusing on unlicensed people,” she said.
The Department of Safety that polices the actions of the state’s firearms dealers apparently doesn’t want to get in the middle of this debate. Their spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on the report.
Will Sununu lay a bet on sports wagering?
Publicly Gov. Chris Sununu has been open-minded but pretty agnostic about legalizing sports betting since the U.S. Supreme Court last year gave states the go-ahead to permit betting on sports as long as those bets take place within the confines of each state.
Professional sports leagues haven’t been openly lobbying states to take this route. But their representatives have been spelling out the ground rules under which the leagues would not oppose such gambling to take place. At the end of 2018, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, also a two-term Republican, endorsed allowing sports wagering lounges at the three licensed casino operations, as well as permitting bettors within Massachusetts to place sports wagers from their phones and laptops.
The Baker administration estimated this would generate $35 million in annual tax revenues in that state.
Sununu has been briefed on the topic by state lottery officials.
You can bet the industry will be reading every line of Sununu’s budget address today to see whether the governor gives more of a thumbs up. (For more Granite Status, go to www.unionleader.com.)
NH Dems picking favorite in Nashua’s city special election
Nashua voters on March 5 will be filling a citywide vacancy on the Nashua Board of Alderman to replace former President Brian McCarthy, who died suddenly last November.
The New Hampshire Democratic Party will host a day of canvassing this Sunday for Ben Clemons, a former alderman who comes from a very active family in Democratic politics.
“New Hampshire Democrats know the most important thing we can do to win an election is to have face-to-face conversations with our neighbors,” said Party Chairman Raymond Buckley. “That’s how we won majorities on the executive council, state Senate, state House and kept both congressional seats blue this past November and that’s what we’ll keep doing to elect Democrats at every level of government.”
This was an easy choice for local partisans on both sides to be sure. The only other candidate is Fred Teebom, also a former alderman and strong fiscal conservative.
Classic contest in Concord
Also on March 5, voters in Concord’s Ward 10 will be picking a replacement for City Councilor Dan St. Hilaire who was recently confirmed to a judgeship on the New Hampshire Superior Court.
The winner will serve the balance of St. Hilaire’s term that runs through the end of 2019.
The two candidates have a different skill set but both are known in the city.
One is Zandra Rice Hawkins, the longtime executive director of the left-leaning Granite State Progress organization.
This is her first campaign for elective office.
“I’ll say for all of my campaigning for issues or candidates over the years it’s a very different experience being on this side of it. But I’m having fun!” Rice Hawkins said.
The other hopeful is Joe Shoemaker who is the division director of the state’s Office of Professional Licensure and Certification.
A New Hampshire native, Shoemaker has lived in the ward for 18 years and been involved in youth sports programs.
It’s always good for the political process when special elections attract healthy competition.
Not a bad NH kickoff for Klobuchar
With so many presidential candidates getting in or setting up exploratory bids it’s getting hard to stand out.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., figured out a pretty good formula for herself by choosing New Hampshire to host her first televised town hall meeting of her 2020 presidential run.
CNN’s Don Lemon will moderate the event next Monday night at 10 p.m. on the campus of Saint Anselm College.
Klobuchar’s campaign is still working out details for other stops she’ll make on the trip.
She had good luck with her campaign kickoff the previous weekend.
While announcing a presidential bid in a driving snowstorm presented obstacles, it still made her look like someone who was ready for the fight.
“I don’t have a political machine. I don’t come from money. But what I do have is this: I have grit,” Klobuchar said.
Time will tell whether the controversy over how she managed her office staff becomes a brief speed bump or a sinkhole.
Booker has some pretty good hits too
The much-anticipated debut of Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. as a presidential candidate is a pretty jam-packed, three-day visit with six events starting with a forum at the 3S Art Space in Portsmouth Saturday morning.
He’s also gotten two prominent Democrats to host house parties for him, 2018 Executive Council nominee Gray Chynoweth in Manchester on Sunday and state Sen. Cindy Rosenwald of Nashua on Monday.
On Sunday night he joins the parade of candidates who have been currying favor with New Hampshire Young Democrats this time with a “Sunday Funday” at the Electric Avenue Arcade in Manchester.
Don’t sleep on Gillibrand with two-day trip
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, has assists from her own Democratic heavies on her second trip to the state. On Friday afternoon, Democratic National Committeeman Bill Shaheen will lead her on a tour of downtown businesses in Dover. Then, on Saturday, new state Sen. Jon Morgan, D-Brentwood, will be her guide at local firms in Exeter Saturday morning. On this trip she will also meet with LGBTQ activists in Somersworth and will wrap up the trip with a speech at her alma mater, Dartmouth College in Hanover.
New York mayor cancels testing the waters visit to NH
And what is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio up to?
Politico reported this week he's hired city hall staffers with national political experience and Friday morning he was to meet with Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess and chat with locals at a diner.
de Blasio was to follow that up at night with a meeting with organizers of Rights & Democracy in Concord.
But de Blasio decided to cancel the trip following the tragic friendly fire death Tuesday of a New York police detective.
"Every situation is individual, obviously, but I just felt for something that was not governmental that it wasn't appropriate at this point in time; just as simple as that," de Blasio said.
He's not formed an exploratory committee, raised any money or created a political apparatus to run in 2020.
But he hasn't ruled it out either.
If de Blasio does run his campaign would look quite different from the former New York mayor who's also looking at a 2020 run - Michael Bloomberg.
On the economy, Bloomberg is a centrist while de Blasio's politics are very much more leftward whether it's pre-kindergarten for all or paid personal time for all employees.
Is this race big enough for two executives of the Big Apple?
At this early stage most activists would say, C'mon in the water's fine.
BIA balks at suspending tax cuts
It shouldn’t come as any surprise but the state’s largest business lobby, the Business and Industry Association, gathered a large contingent of firms and trade groups to oppose House and Senate Democratic leaders who want to cancel plans on the books for another round of business tax cuts.
But Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, D-Concord, and House Ways and Means Chairman Susan Almy, D-Lebanon, have been at this game long enough to know it wasn’t going to be easy to achieve their goal of directing those expected business tax cuts to other purposes that would include more local property tax relief or cutting other taxes for consumers.
“Not long ago, New Hampshire’s corporate income tax was one of the highest in the country. The Legislature made a promise to the business community that it would implement modest reductions in the BPT and BET. Former Gov. Maggie Hassan agreed. Going back on that promise would send the wrong message to employers operating in New Hampshire and to those considering moving or expanding here,” said BIA President Jim Roche.
“The state is currently running a very large surplus in business tax revenue, even with the BPT and BET reductions, or perhaps because of them. Increasing businesses’ taxes will surely kill the goose laying the golden egg: private sector employers.”
The groups in opposition included New England Wire, Index Packaging, Keller Companies, Mountain Club on Loon, AT&T, Work Opportunities Unlimited, Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce, Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce, Souhegan Valley Chamber of Commerce, Wolfeboro Area Chamber of Commerce, Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, Associated Builders and Contractors of NH/VT, and the New Hampshire Grocers Association.
Moving forward on Hassan anti-cyber attacks bill
A key Senate panel endorsed bipartisan legislation Wednesday that Hassan co-wrote with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, to require the Department of Homeland Security to make permanent the “cyber hunt” and “cyber incident response” teams that help prevent attacks on federal agencies and the private sector.
“Cyber attacks pose a massive threat to Americans’ safety, security, and privacy — and these cyber response teams play an important role in helping to prevent and mitigate attacks,” Hassan said. “I’ll keep working with Senator Portman, as well as Chairman Ron Johnson and ranking member Gary Peters, to move this and other critical bills forward to strengthen our country’s cyber defenses.”
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee also approved measures Hassan was on board with to retain highly trained professionals in the work force and to improve the transfer of executive power during presidential transitions.