WE’RE NOT even out of January yet but already we’re into the “grind” of the 2020 session.

Kevin Landrigan

House and Senate leaders from both political parties are fully on board with making sure their members spend this coming week buried in committee rooms.

The goal over the next month is to give all 900-plus measures their time in the spotlight.

There’s not even a glimmer of hope that any individual or group could keep track of all the developments this week.

House committees will take testimony on a jaw-dropping 204 bills from the day after the Martin Luther King holiday through Thursday.

The 24 senators will be kept hopping with 76 hearings of their own.

But we can at least confirm this is a week for big topics and here’s just a small sample in this quick preview.

Prescription Drugs: The Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday will hear the six marquee bills on the subject that include a wholesale drug importation program, outlawing price gouging, mandating transparency in pricing and forcing lucrative rebates paid to pharmacy benefit managers to be passed on in lower prices.

“I think this could be the most important work of the session,” said State Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua, whose name is on several of them.

Medicaid in Schools: This bipartisan bill coming up Thursday has the backing of Gov. Chris Sununu who played a big role in its drafting. This is to resolve last year’s crisis that put at risk millions in Medicaid reimbursement paid to public schools. Some districts likely will not get as much federal aid under the new scheme that federal regulators have required. Sen. Jay Kahn, D-Keene, takes the lead of this one that already has 13 other senators aboard including Senate President Donna Soucy, D-Manchester. A House hearing on a similar bill is set for Tuesday.

Medical Marijuana: Supporters came up just shy last spring of overriding a Sununu veto that allowed these patients to grow their own. Sen. John Reagan, R-Deerfield, is back Wednesday along with his sweeping proposal to require all medical boards to fashion rules that deal with chronic pain management that’s attracted the attention of experts outside New Hampshire.

Student Sex Assault: Sens. Martha Hennessey, D-Hanover, and Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, each offered up proposals Thursday to close the loophole exposed by the case of former Concord teacher Howie Leung regarding allegations of sexual assault.

Vulnerable Adults: Sununu vetoed this bill that covered protective orders to give temporary relief from abuse, exploitation and neglect. Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, returns on Tuesday while Sununu has worked with GOP lawmakers to come up with a version the governor could support. Keep in mind some gun advocates have already told Sununu’s office they don’t like his proposal either.

Insulin Cap: Rep. Garrett Muscatel, D-Hanover, has gotten many lawmakers from both parties to embrace his bill being heard Tuesday that would mean insurers could charge a patient no more than $100 for a 30-day supply.

Shurtleff names conduct committee

House Speaker Steve Shurtleff, D-Penacook, has turned to a veteran, well-respected group of eight members, four from each party, to serve on his panel that will look into matters regarding legislative conduct.

They include 17-term Rep. David Welch, R-Kingston, seven-term Reps. Pat Long and Jane Beaulieu, both D-Manchester, and eight-term Rep. Kathleen Hoelzel, R-Raymond.

“There were many members who graciously volunteered for this advisory group and I do appreciate their willingness to serve,” Shurtleff said.

The other members are Reps. Kimberly Rice, R-Hudson, Beth Rodd, D-Bradford, David Danielson, R-Bedford, and David Doherty, D-Pembroke.

Mass. casino hurting NH nonprofits

New Hampshire has no casino, but most know you can play table games a couple of nights every single week in New Hampshire at events that benefit charities.

The newly-opened Encore Boston Harbor Casino in Everett, Mass., is threatening to take a bite out of revenue in the Granite State and the organizations have an action plan.

Sen. Harold French, R-Franklin, presented it this week to a Senate panel, a bill to dramatically expand the hours that these games can operate here. This would permit them to be open at 7 a.m. and remain open until 4 a.m. the following morning.

Presently they can’t begin before 11 a.m. and must close up by 1 in the morning.

This is to compete with Encore. When the Massachusetts Gaming Commission required the casino to sever its ties with disgraced founder Steve Wynn, regulators came up with this olive branch to let the casino stay open until 4 a.m. even though not all local officials were wild about the idea.

Rick Newman lobbies for the NH Charitable Gaming Operators Association.

“Not everybody works 9-5. When I was in the House, I used to drive a cab from 6 p.m. and end at 1 a.m. You get out of work at that hour and sometimes you are wide awake looking for what there is to do,” Newman said.

“With the opening of the Everett casino, we think we can pick up some business by staying open.”

Those running charity events along the Mass. border have struggled to keep some customers since Encore began late-night poker tournaments last November, Newman said.

The other way this bill would counteract is to raise the “buy-in” limit that poker players here could bet.

Right now the limit for non-cash tournaments is typically $150 with a once-a-day game that offers $250. This bill would raise that to $1,000.

Sununu has his own ‘play nice’ initiative

Last week Sununu signed an executive order that mandates “respect and civility” in the state government workplace.

He’s put Administrative Services Commissioner Charles Arlinghaus in charge of implementing it.

“Granite Staters have always taken great pride in the care and concern we show for those within our communities,” Sununu said. “This executive order marks a significant step forward for ensuring that our state employees are afforded the respect they rightfully deserve in the workplace.”

Sixth senator comes out for Messmer

Former state Rep. and 2018 candidate for Congress Mindi Messmer of Rye continues to build the team backing her bid for Executive Council in the 3rd District and this becomes more critical now that she faces a primary challenge from five-term Rep. Patty Lovejoy, D-Stratham.

Sen. David Watters, D-Dover, became the sixth state senator to endorse Messmer. Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, and husband Geoffrey are hosting a fundraiser for Messmer at their Portsmouth home next Thursday.

RNC seat fight getting physical

Hillsborough County Republican Chairman Chris Ager has his work cut out for him trying to unseat four-term incumbent Steve Duprey from his seat on the Republican National Committee.

Duprey continues with the help of consultant Mike Biundo and his RightVoter team continues to pile up high-profile endorsements with last week’s batch, including former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski of Windham, Senate Republican Leader Chuck Morse of Salem and former state Sen. Kevin Avard of Nashua.

But Ager’s allies are playing for keeps as we saw with the conservative 603 Alliance endorsing the challenger.

“Chris has proven himself to be a strong team player who regularly invokes Ronald Reagan’s calls for unity. At the same time, he has exemplified Reagan’s comments that the GOP should be a party of “bold colors, not pale pastels.” Ager has championed free market capitalism, low taxes and spending, the Second Amendment, the sanctity of life, and school choice,” said former Rep. Fran Wendlebloe, the group’s spokesperson.

“Incumbent Steve Duprey, in contrast, has been an active supporter of Planned Parenthood, which not only promotes practices repugnant to most GOP voters, but also spends millions in support of Democrat candidates and in opposition to Republicans. More recently, Duprey’s business has supported net-metering policies that would force New Hampshire ratepayers to pay more for electricity.”

Duprey and Ager are battling for this choice that 500 delegates to the annual Republican State Committee will make on Jan. 25 at Inter-Lakes High School in Meredith.

Libertarians pick their candidate for governor

Former Libertarian Party State Chairman and presidential candidate Darryl W. Perry has won his party’s nomination for governor.

Perry landed the nod at the party’s annual convention last week in Concord.

He’s now about collecting the petitions to get his name on the general election ballot. Perry needs to get 1,500 registered voters in each congressional district to sign up.

The Libertarian Party lost its automatic status to have its own primary when its candidates for governor or U.S. Senate failed to reach the required 4% threshold of support.

Campaign reform group marking milestones

Open Democracy Action is planning two events this week to mark some milestones.

Last week was the 10th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizen’s United that permitted unlimited spending on campaigns by corporations.

The group is sponsoring a mock funeral at the State House plaza Tuesday noon to include a casket procession.

Then there’s a Thursday luncheon at the St. Paul’s School to mark what would have been the 110th birthday for the late campaign finance reform advocate Doris “Granny D” Haddock.

The luncheon features a welcome by Haddock’s grandson, Lawrence Haddock and memories from a friend and associate of Haddock’s, Peterborough’s Francie Von Mertens.

For more State House Dome, go to unionleader.com.

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