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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

From expanded gambling to gasoline tax, Nashua lobbied its positions this legislative session

NASHUA – New Hampshire lawmakers took up a range of weighty legislation this year, from expanded gambling to state education standards, and the city of Nashua was doing more than waiting on the sidelines.

The city staked out official positions on scores of bills this year, circulating its opinions via legislative newsletters sent to members of the House and Senate. Nashua also pays $14,000 per year to employ a legislative facilitator who watches out for the city’s interests in Concord. ...

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NASHUA – New Hampshire lawmakers took up a range of weighty legislation this year, from expanded gambling to state education standards, and the city of Nashua was doing more than waiting on the sidelines.

The city staked out official positions on scores of bills this year, circulating its opinions via legislative newsletters sent to members of the House and Senate. Nashua also pays $14,000 per year to employ a legislative facilitator who watches out for the city’s interests in Concord.

Not all of the positions taken by the city involved high-stakes legislation. For instance, in March, the city came out in favor of a Senate bill that authorizes municipalities to enter into contracts for the private funding and repayment of sewer system construction. The city also backed House bill 1442, which permits any circuit or superior court to establish a mental health court.

When bills involved delivering more money to cities and towns, it was hardly a challenge for the city to pick a side. Senate bill 409 proposed appropriating just under $5 million to the Department of Safety for municipal disaster assistance. For Nashua, this amounts to $197,000; city officials decided that one ought to pass.

The city also devoted space in its newsletters to persuading legislators to back Senate bill 367, which increased the state’s gas tax. The measure, signed by Gov. Maggie Hassan in May, is expected to deliver an additional $183,000 per year in highway funding for Nashua, beginning in fiscal 2016.

When legislation came forward to discontinue regional planning commissions, the city took a stand against it, stating that the Nashua Regional Planning Commission is integral to planning efforts throughout the area.

The city also fought a Senate bill that would have required cities and towns to notify all property owners in a historic district by first class mail of changes to zoning regulations in the district.

“This would result in a significant increase in postage and mailing expenses as well as in the use of time by city staff,” a city newsletter reads.

But Nashua didn’t shy away from
taking positions on more controversial issues before the House and Senate. The city was opposed to expanded gambling in the state. Nashua also urged legislators to vote against a trio of bills aimed at delaying or ceasing implementation of new Common Core educational standards and the new tests being ushered in across the state to support them.

One of those bills was sponsored by Nashua Republican David Murotake, a state representative who also sits on the Nashua Board of Education.

Discussing the city’s legislative newsletters, Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said she develops the city’s official positions, in collaboration with city department heads and the city’s legislative facilitator, David Alukonis, a former Hudson school board member who served seven terms in the New Hampshire House and chaired the Ways & Means Committee and Tax Equity and Efficiency Commission.

“You will find that most things are really administrative-type things the city talks about,” Lozeau said.

Jim Haddadin can be reached at 594-6589 or jhaddadin@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Haddadin on Twitter (@Telegraph_JimH).