While they both want voters to give them the job of governor next fall, Gov. Chris Sununu and Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, D-Concord, have been quite civil toward one another, but there seemed to be an interruption to that political ceasefire at the Executive Council table last week.
The two tangled over a variety of topics, most pointedly over the canceled contract of Granite Pathways to treat inpatient adolescents with substance-abuse problems.
That frostiness started when Volinsky, a 2020 Democratic candidate for governor, referred to the project as the “Sununu Center.”
“Let’s get one thing straight: Granite Pathways is different than the Sununu Center,” Sununu shot back.
The nonprofit vendor operated its program out of a wing of the Sununu Center in the North End of Manchester, the detention center for criminally delinquent juveniles.
The center is named after Sununu’s dad, former Gov. and former White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu.
Volinsky questioned whether the Granite Pathways project could spell trouble for Gov. Sununu’s signature Hub and Spoke treatment system for those with opioid addiction, given Granite Pathways has another five contracts with the state.
“I have concerns about their hub-related activities when this seems to be an abject failure,” Volinsky said.
Sununu also was challenged on when another vendor would be picked to provide these services, since these youths now are being placed outside New Hampshire or in non-state programs.
More time is needed, the governor said, as the agency considers whether the next program should be in a more secure setting.
“I don’t want people to misunderstand that we have given up on kids in this state; absolutely not. Instead we are moving to get this program to where it needs to be,” Sununu said.
Volinsky questioned whether the Department of Health and Human Services is doing enough to monitor its contractors.
“I count on them to be the experts but when their administrators describe what happened at Granite Pathways as a learning experience for them, that troubles me,” Volinsky added.
During the 2020 race, count on Volinsky maintaining that while likable, Sununu has not been enough of a hands-on manager.
Trust me, Sununu will give a lot of pushback to that charge.
Tourism chief returns
Those who follow the marketing of New Hampshire as a destination will surely recognize Sununu’s “new” pick to be director of the Office of Travel and Tourism.
The nominee is Lori Harnois of Epsom, who previously served in that post until she left in 2014 to become the head of Portsmouth-based Discover New England, a joint marketing campaign aimed at international travelers to the entire region.
Assistant Director Amy Bassett has served as acting director since Victoria Cimino left last spring to head up the Willamsburg (Va.) Tourism Council.
Sununu is asking the council to set her pay at just over $108,000, one salary step higher than when she left five years ago.
A sudden, t
ragic change at NH Police Standards/Training
The council had to name an interim director at the Police Standards and Training Council following the death last Monday of its CEO Timothy Merrill, 67, of Milton after a brief illness.
A longtime chief of police in Wakefield, Merrill served for many years on the council’s board of directors before taking over the agency.
“This is a real loss for all of law enforcement,” said Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, who served on the board with Merrill.
Leftover Senate bills headed for dust bin
Senate leaders released their early agenda for the 2020 legislative session, taking care of bills left over from 2019.
The Senate’s first session to deal with these is Jan. 8.
Among the leftovers, only 16 are getting a positive recommendation and many have been stripped down.
Sen. Martha Hennessey, D-Hanover, proposed public financing for elections of governor and executive councilor and that’s been turned into a study committee (SB 304).
Senate panels did revive measures from Sen. David Watters, D-Dover, to raise the smoking age to 21 (SB 248) and from Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, to allow larger electricity users to deploy net metering (SB 13).
More than half (37) are offered “death with dignity,” and sentotherwise known as sending bills to interim study, where they would have to start all over again as new bills in 2021.
Committees are recommending the rest (23) be killed outright.