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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Casino opponents circumvent meeting

Kevin Landrigan

The sharp elbows are flying over legislation to legalize casino gambling in the state.

The NH Building and Construction Trades Council had planned a luncheon meeting this Wednesday at St. Paul’s Church across the street from the State House. Well apparently, gambling opponents noticed the public posting of the meeting and St. Paul’s officials canceled the visit. ...

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The sharp elbows are flying over legislation to legalize casino gambling in the state.

The NH Building and Construction Trades Council had planned a luncheon meeting this Wednesday at St. Paul’s Church across the street from the State House. Well apparently, gambling opponents noticed the public posting of the meeting and St. Paul’s officials canceled the visit.

“When this event was booked by the group NH Building and Construction Trades Council, there was no mention of this being a discussion on gambling or we would not have approved this use of our space,” wrote Parish Administrator Kristin Dunklee. “St. Paul’s can not in any way be connected with this discussion, as we can not appear to endorse this legislation. Your check will be returned to you today.”

Later in this e-mail Dunklee wrote, “I apologize for the short notice on this, but the Bishop’s office is firm on this point.”

Among those copied on this letter to the union officials was Jim Rubens, chairman of the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling.

“It’s pretty clear to us that our opposition will stop at nothing to stifle dialogue in support of this legislation,” said Huck Montgomery, a spokesman for the building trades’ group.

The meeting with unions and other supporters of the casino effort will go forward this Wednesday at another location, Montgomery added.

Rubens insisted he had nothing to do with the canceling of this event and denied a claim from union organizers that the anti-gaming coalition was sponsoring automated telephone call messages to citizens against the casino.

“We don’t have that kind of money,” Rubens said.

Meanwhile, the three working groups for the House Finance and Ways and Means Committees will hold further informational sessions this week.

Current plans call for this super panel to make a recommendation on the measure in late May and have the House vote on it just after Memorial Day which is May 27.

Thus, the showdown vote on the casino is likely to take place just before the State Senate votes on its budget. But keep in mind those schedules in both legislative bodies are subject to change.

Sanborn a potential
candidate for governor

Add Republican State Sen. Andy Sanborn to a growing list of potential GOP candidates for governor in 2014.

The Bedford senator isn’t commenting on his plans next year, but several sources confirmed Sanborn was in Washington earlier this week meeting with top GOP officials including those at the Republican Governors Association. Since Sanborn has moved from Henniker to his current Senate seat in Bedford, he also could run for the First Congressional District seat held by Democrat Carol Shea-Porter.

State Senate watchers have noticed Sanborn has taken an even higher profile on debates in the Senate during recent weeks.

Education tax credit repeal bill may die

The move to repeal the education tax credit (HB 370) program is on political life support.

But don’t be misled that the move to table the House-passed repeal bill in the State Senate means that it is going to be somehow revived between now and the end of the 2013 session.

Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, made it crystal clear that he doesn’t expect the bill to come off the table which means it will die there when the session ends.

The life support motif is because House budget writers agreed at the 11th hour to attach the education tax credit repeal to the trailer bill for the state budget (HB 2).

But trust me, Senate Republicans are not about to back down on this issue as they might on certain spending items in the state budget. The Senate GOP leadership is united in the firm belief that education tax credits for income-eligible families to have options other than their child’s assigned public school is a noble act.

So why not kill the House-passed tax credit? Well, in all likelihood the move to table was the same reason the device is deployed in both legislative branches. Tabling a bill not only keeps in political limbo but makes it more difficult for your opponents to try and hold you accountable politically for killing it.

Ethical concerns with tax credit scholarships

Some might ask what’s the ethical concern with tax credit scholarship programs offering to pay schools part of their administration fee money in order to generate business owner donors to the tax credit program.

The Telegraph reported exclusively on Friday that the leading scholarship group, the Network for Educational Opportunity, had made this offer to the Roman Catholic Church in New Hampshire that was declined. NEO officials insist they are not pursuing this “fund-raiser” model of generating donations because they are right up against a June 15 deadline to generate all the tax credits that could be turned into scholarships for the next school year.

Here’s the potential quagmire: The limit on these scholarships is $2,500. NEO officials have set a target to try and raise $500,000 in scholarships though they’ve only raised about 30 percent of that ($135,000) as of now. Even at the higher number this would mean the most number of scholarships they could offer is 200.

But they’ve already got 700 applicants. So naturally which schools would have a better chance of getting these scholarships than those that kicked over the most in tax credit donations to the scholarship organization? You get the picture.

Consumer assistance program on back burner

The Legislative Fiscal Committee on Friday put off a decision on whether to create a state, consumer assistance program to assist residents as they deal with the universal, federal health care law.

Supporters of Obamacare praised the panel’s decision to take a breather to learn more about it.

“The Committee’s decision to delay a vote on whether to accept the federal grant funding shows that Committee members appreciate the importance of this opportunity for the state,”said Lisa Kaplan Howe, Policy Director at NH Voices for Health (VOICES). “We hope and expect that they will fully and carefully consider the benefits of moving forward with this opportunity, which would, if implemented, ensure that New Hampshire residents and businesses have a place to turn to learn of and access new opportunities and assistance for health insurance.”

Sen. Sanborn said he didn’t want to support the $340,000 grant because the program has not been well thought out.

“The thought of inexperienced, community activists offering insurance advice opens a Pandora’s Box of questions that officials within the Insurance Department and the governor’s office have been unable to answer,” Sanborn said in a statement.

“I implore both the governor and the Insurance Department slow down and respect the statutes in place designed to ensure oversight and transparency of this complex law, specifically with regards to Joint Health Care Oversight Committee which should have been consulted first as to the appropriateness of this grant.”

This program will help residents achieve coverage through the exchange or partnership the state and federal government will jointly set up.

It also will give information about tax credits that are projected to make health insurance more affordable for more than 96,000 low-income workers.

A statewide survey earlier this year found few residents understood how this so-called Health Benefit Marketplace would work.

An advisory board recently urged the Insurance Department to begin as quickly as possible a public outreach and education program.

“We urge Fiscal Committee members to use the time before their next meeting to hear directly from the people of New Hampshire – including those who may search for coverage and assistance through the Marketplace – about whether and how to move forward,” Kaplan Howe added.

“Ultimately, this decision must be guided by the needs of the state and, most especially, by the needs of the residents who will be directly impacted by their decision.”

Online sales tax vote could happen on Monday

New Hampshire has no sales tax but Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, warned residents here Friday that congressional efforts are strong to place onerous, sales tax collection requirements on all states.

The Senate could vote as early as Monday on whether to begin debate on this online sales tax bill

“Supporters of this online sales tax bill are trying to muscle it through before senators find out how disastrous it would be for businesses in their states,” Ayotte warned. “I will fight this power grab every step of the way to protect small online businesses in New Hampshire and across the nation.

Ayotte voted against a federal budget amendment that sought to force online retailers to collect sales taxes in states where they don’t have a physical presence. The amendment passed, 75-24, but the budget resolution is non-binding and does not carry the force of law.

Senator Ayotte met with online retailers in Manchester and Portsmouth to discuss her strong opposition to the proposal, which she said is unfair to businesses in New Hampshire – a state that doesn’t have a sales tax.

Ayotte has also introduced the “Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act” that would prevent state and local governments from imposing new taxes on Internet access, and prohibit any multiple or discriminatory taxes on e-commerce.

All four military branches testify on readiness

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, hosted her first hearing Friday chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness.

At the hearing executives with the four military branches testified.

“As we look at the challenges facing our servicemen and women, an area that needs particular action is in replacing the automatic budget cuts under sequestration,” Shaheen said. “If these cuts remain in place, they will significantly impact the Services’ ability to conduct training, maintenance, and to sustain their readiness.

“Sequestration is not a solution to our nation’s fiscal problems, and it is not responsible with respect to our national security.”

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, is ranking member of this panel that will be the one to first receive any future plans to close military bases in the future. Shaheen and Ayotte’s roles bode well for the future of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

Young Republicans chair gets “The Gipper Award”

Congratulations to David Hurst, outgoing chairman with New Hampshire Young Republicans who was given the organization’s highest honor, “The Gipper Award” at the group’s convention over the weekend. Tyler Deaton, a leader in the state’s same-sex marriage movement and secretary of the organization, nominated Hurst for the award.

“I nominated David Hurst to receive the Gipper Award because I know how many people he has brought into this organization, including myself. I would never have become involved in the New Hampshire Young Republicans if it weren’t for the inclusive and sincere leadership David has always shown,” Deaton said. “David is a person who knows we have to grow the Republican Party, and to do so we have to capture the hearts and minds of next-generation voters. His guidance for the Young Republicans will be sorely missed.”

Molly Sanborn, the group’s treasurer, announced at week’s end she that was a candidate to replace Hurst at the top.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at
321-7040 or klandrigan@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@Klandrigan).