IT LOOKS LIKE those on both sides of the gun control battle in New Hampshire intend to make some money off it.
The left played bigfoot in the 2014 mid-term elections when Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety spent a staggering $128,000 to try to unseat Second Amendment champion and State Sen. Kevin Avard, D-Nashua.
The blitzkrieg failed.
A similar drumbeat could be heard from the right this week.
A state GOP fundraising email went out minutes after a House committee voted, 11-10, in favor of a Senate-passed bill (SB 154) to prevent the state from enforcing any Biden administration executive order on gun control.
An amendment from Rep. Daryl Abbas, R-Salem, expanded it to include any “law or regulation” passed while Democrats controlled the White House and Congress.
“Your New Hampshire House Republicans are standing up for the Second Amendment and pushing back against Biden’s federal overreach,” the fundraising email said.
The left-leaning Granite State Progress charged this could leave the state powerless to combat a D.C.-style storming of New Hampshire’s State House some day.
“It could also prevent New Hampshire from working with the DOJ, FBI, or AFT on major issues like the violent insurrection at the Capitol or the growing armed militia and white supremacist activity in the Granite State,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins.
Gov. Chris Sununu, a reliable favorite of the gun owner lobby, sounded ready to sign this one.
“Overall with firearm safety, we have done it very well,” Sununu said. “I think what you are looking at in terms of Washington could be a dramatic change to our system and that is nothing that I would support.”
No full House in May
The State Senate has been meeting weekly, plowing through many House-passed bills.
Next Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee, which has been meeting in the cavernous House chamber, will hold its public hearings on the state budget, set for 1 and 6 p.m.
The House of Representatives has taken a different tack. The Sunday News confirmed the plan is for the full House to not meet until early June.
House Speaker Sherman Packard, R-Londonderry, did a justified victory lap last week, after five remote meetings of the House without a new case of COVID-19.
“We invested in technology to enhance transparency and facilitate public participation,” Packard wrote in an op-ed the speaker submitted to the New Hampshire Union Leader.
“We evolved many of our processes, and staff worked day and night to ensure we could meet our goals.”
But as the 16-term Rep. Packard well knows, May is an important time for rank-and-file legislators to keep their bills alive by playing the State House version of checkers.
When the other chamber kills or sidelines one of their bills, a House or Senate member moves to take a related (read germane) bill, move it to the end of board and “king” it, returning the bill to the other body with an amendment reviving it.
The House’s deadlines require it to act by June 3 on all Senate bills and a week later on all conference committees.
With Republicans in charge and COVID-19 limiting numbers, fewer bills have been taken political hostage than usual this year.
For example, the Senate has killed or pushed back to committee only about 10 House-passed bills.
The pile likely will grow next week, when the Senate is expected to kill a proposed ban on requiring kids to have a permit for a lemonade stand (HB 183) and a measure to create a separate Atlantic Time Zone for New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine (HB 85).
Vaccine waste feared
The Moderna vaccine soon will be cranked out to states in 14-shot vials — more than twice as large as the traditional six-shot vials.
The aim is to pump more shots throughout the country, but Sununu worries this could lead to more waste. The current rate is just 1%, he said.
After Memorial Day, all first-vaccine doses will be administered at pharmacies and doctor’s offices while the state’s fixed sites will be kept open only for second-dose patients.
“You need 14 people at a time to get vaccinated,” Sununu said.
“Every doctor will have to have 14 people at the ready. I think it could have the negative effect of driving more potential waste,” Sununu said.
Soon they’ll be off!
We were the first to report a few months ago that New Hampshire was going to expand legalized gambling.
The innovation is to allow betting of up to $25 on “historic racing,” videos of archived horse races on terminals resembling slot machines.
The state’s nonprofit sector, hit hard by declining donations because of the pandemic, views historic racing as its next fundraising profit center.
The games could only occur at the 16 locations with “poker” or small “casino” rooms where games of chance are played to benefit 200 charities across the state.
The conventional wisdom was this, along with dozens of other pet projects, would be part of the grand deal House and Senate leaders will cut on the state budget.
But last week, the State Senate passed the House-passed historic racing bill (HB 626).
The House Ways and Means still has custody of another Senate-passed bill (SB 112) that could become a placeholder to make changes in the game, if desired, next year.
With the Run for the Roses on Saturday, state lottery officials apparently want to get these games up and running to coincide with live horse racing this summer, including the Saratoga Race Course season in upstate New York from mid-July to early September.
The latest estimate is charities would get $6 million in profit, the state lottery and education would get $10 million and the “game operator” profit would be $49 million a year.More bingo on horizon?There’s another gambling push at the State House, but of a much smaller variety, to allow more charity bingo.
This isn’t the weekly bingo in your church hall basement. Those games are actually exempt from state regulation, as long as they stay small and local., according to Racing and Charitable Gaming Administrator Valerie King
We’re also not talking about the big commercial bingo halls, where so-called “coverall” jackpots can climb to $70,000.
The jackpots grow if not all the bingo numbers in a game get covered so they carry over into that mega-pot.
Those commercial vendors pay a $250 license fee.
No, these are the small charities that want to run their own bingos for their profit — after the state takes its slice. These groups pay a $25 license fee.
Paul LaFlamme, president of the Spartans Drum and Bugle Corps in Nashua, spearheaded this bill (SB 139) to allow such groups like this to have up to 16 bingo days a month, compared to the current 10.
LaFlamme, a former Nashua Republican House member, said just one more night a week for his group would give the state $15,000 more a year in revenue.
King said the Lottery Commission doesn’t oppose this Senate-passed bill.
“It is shrinking in size, the number of charities willing to do it,” King said. “I don’t think there is a need to put that cap on any longer.”
Legislature back in game
The Legislature is about to get more directly back in the business of deciding how new federal grants will be spent — even during the pandemic.
The Democratic-led Legislature sued, to no avail, to try to force Sununu to put all COVID-19 grants through the state budget process.
Last Thursday, Sununu said “90%” of the $1 billion the state is to receive from the American Rescue Plan is not for COVID-19, but rather for other purposes, including water and sewer grants and broadband access.
Only the COVID-19 money will go through the Sununu-controlled Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery. The rest will go through the Legislative Fiscal Committee this summer and fall, the governor said.
Sleeper business tax break
Another business tax cut is gaining traction.
Currently, businesses with $50,000 of income have to file a tax return for the 7.7% Business Profits Tax.
Senate Democratic Leader Donna Soucy of Manchester said this threshold hasn’t changed since 1993. Her bill (SB 101) would raise it to $75,000.
The Department of Revenue reports 86% of firms in this window ($50K to $75K) end up paying nothing. The rest pay a total of $1.6 million a year.
The House Ways and Means Committee may go further with this bill, either raising the threshold to $100,000 or tying it to an index that would rise with the cost of living.
Abortion battles to return
This coming week, the Senate Judiciary Committee is likely to make its call on two House-passed anti-abortion bills.
The first (HB 625) would ban abortions after 24 weeks with an exception to save the life of the mother. It carries a prison term of up to seven years for a health care provider who violates the ban.
The second bill (HB 233) would require interventions for an infant that would die without them. Any disagreement among providers about what is “medically appropriate” care could lead to a complaint and jail time.
The pro-life movement played a critical role in the GOP winning its majority. But Sununu, who supports abortion rights, might prefer that these bills die quietly.
Senate race goes national
Last week the Wall Street Journal dipped its toe into the mega-battle that would ensue if Sununu takes on U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H.
The story highlighted Hassan’s breaks with Biden — her opposition to bringing home all U.S. troops from Afghanistan and raising the federal minimum wage to $15.
For what it’s worth, after wrapping up a recent interview with Sununu, Boston radio talk show host Howie Carr concluded, “Sounds like a candidate to me.”
COVID briefings to continueVirus cases are down along with hospitalizations, daily death rates and the rate of people testing positive for the virus.
But the three-term governor did look just a bit crestfallen last Thursday when WMUR-TV Political Director Adam Sexton asked Sununu when his weekly COVID-19 briefings would end.
“There are still a lot going on with vaccines; my sense they will go on at least through May and maybe into June,” Sununu said.
The governor tossed back, “I find them valuable for the citizens. When do you think they should end?”
Sexton said it was a “planted” question; state employees and deaf interpreter staffers have been wondering about their summer vacations.