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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Gun control reform firing blanks in NH

Kevin Landrigan

Don’t look for any significant gun controls from the 2014 Legislature.

We’ve warned you about this before – thinking that the Newtown, Conn., tragedy and the fact that the shooter, Adam Lanza, was born in Rockingham County would move New Hampshire to jump about reform measures. ...

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Don’t look for any significant gun controls from the 2014 Legislature.

We’ve warned you about this before – thinking that the Newtown, Conn., tragedy and the fact that the shooter, Adam Lanza, was born in Rockingham County would move New Hampshire to jump about reform measures.

That isn’t going to happen.

There are too many gun owners and varied gun owner groups with powerful tentacles throughout the state for this issue to get much traction.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will start to crumble the gun control walls by turning a bill on disqualifying those with a mental health history from obtaining a gun into an eclectic study commission.

To her credit, Londonderry Republican Sen. Sharon Carson has reached out to all interest groups on all sides of the issue to invite them to serve.

The panel will adopt language that comes from Evan Nappen and former Senate Majority Leader Robert Clegg to create a process for someone who has lost the right to own a gun because of a mental health episode to annul that action at a later date.

The carefully written language requires a period of sane behavior before an annulment application could be accepted by a judge.

Meanwhile, the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee will start to weigh in on whether to create universal background checks for any gun sales in the state.

This one has little suspense to it, as well; whatever the panel does, not even the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives is likely to pass it.

And the entire topic is dead on arrival in the Republican-led state Senate.

Upbeat governor

Gov. Maggie Hassan will deliver her first State of the State speech on Wednesday in Representatives Hall.

It’s a fool’s errand for anyone to expect this cautious first-term Democrat to come out with any sweeping, expensive new ideas.

She’s likely to press for using some of the bigger-than-expected budget to replace spending cuts in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Hassan will promote an expansion of renewable energy options on the heels of her calling for construction of a New England access pipeline for cheaper natural gas along with all of her governor counterpart.

She might refer to national ratings that give New Hampshire a subpar grade on the state of its infrastructure, but it won’t include any specific call to raise the gasoline tax or the turnpike tolls.

In short, this will be an upbeat speech from a reasonably popular chief executive sitting on a lead against her competition and in no mood to hand the opposition a racy headline that could knock her off her game.

Making presence felt

There will be no shortage of energy or ideas in the Andrew Hemingway Republican campaign for governor.

Will there be enough dollars to make this a real contest?

That’s the question as Hemingway, 31, got off to a decent start with his announcement Thursday night to a crowd of about 130 in Manchester.

The Bristol entrepreneur has a lot of high-tech and digital skills that will be put to good use in this race.

And Hemingway signals on WMUR’s “Close Up” that he isn’t going to be as easy to pigeonhole as first thought when he came out against repealing same-sex marriage and for legalizing marijuana, plus a “new approach” on Right to Work legislation.

Hemingway will put out plenty of policy papers on a range of issues to show himself as a thoughtful crusader for economic freedom.

There are some smart GOP handlers offering advice, from former Frank Guinta campaign maestro Mike Biundo to Alicia Preston, whose noteworthy client list has included GOP Govs. Craig Benson here and George Pataki in New York.

But Hassan is the only female Democratic governor in the country, and now she’s vice chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, which spent more than $8 million to put her in the job.

Ironically, Hemingway’s ticket to plenty of cash could lie in whether former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown enters the Senate race against Democratic incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

If Brown runs, that race is competitive, and therefore makes the race for governor one in which the Republican Governors Association might invest.

Hemingway’s hindrance here is the recent past; the RGA plowed $7 million behind the bid of 2012 nominee Ovide Lamontagne, who was beaten by Hassan convincingly.

It’s too soon to know how rough-and-tumble and viable the Hemingway challenge to Hassan could be, but money talks.

Keen on numbers

It happened.

The House of Representatives endorsed a form of expanded gambling for the first time since it voted to legalize the nation’s first lottery in 1963.

Sorry, this isn’t just an expansion of the lottery, like a big-dollar scratch ticket.

It’s keno, a uniquely different gambling experience. Having bingo-like numbers drawn at bars and restaurants across the state every six minutes is something totally different from
the pick-three or pick-four the lottery plucks twice daily.

So, what will happen to keno in the state Senate, where leaders of both political parties remain obsessed with legalizing a casino?

“How do we kill this thing?” one pro-casino senator said within an hour of the House’s strong vote for keno.

It isn’t dead by any stretch, but you can bet the Senate isn’t about to move this at all until it sees what the House does with its own gambling bill.

What was the most interesting dynamic about the House vote on keno? Republicans embraced Keno by a 111-55 margin, while Democrats split on it, voting 91-86 in support.

The House Ways and Means Committee will hold the first hearing Thursday on Jaffrey Democratic Rep. Richard Ames’ casino bill (HB 1633), which came out of the high-powered commission charged with crafting a robust casino regulatory regime.

Ames’ bill does that, along with producing $80 million from the license for one high-end casino. The state would get 35 percent of the profits from slots and 18 percent from what’s bet at table games.

Hassan won’t testify, but will submit a letter of support.

Tweet thoughts

You’ve gotta love a pair of operatives who can have fun even in the midst of mortal combat.

We salute Democrat Judy Reardon, Shaheen’s top aide, and Patrick Hynes, a longtime GOP operative who perhaps likes GOP hopeful Brown.

The two spent much of Thursday on Twitter cranking up their claim that their opponent would bite the dust this November.

Here’s a sampling of the back-and-forth:

Reardon started by complaining about the independent Purple Strategies poll on Thursday that had Shaheen and Brown tied at 44 percent. The liberal blogger had panned the methodology.

“The sample in the purple poll is way off. For example, the percentage of college grads is off by 15-20%,” Reardon began.

Hynes shot back, “You guys want cheese with that whine?”

Reardon: “You want to bet on the outcome of the election?”

Hynes: “If Brown runs, yes, what is the wager?”

Reardon “What can you afford?”

Hynes: “$100 donation to 2016 presidential candidate of my choice if Brown wins or your choice if Shaheen wins.”

Reardon: “That’s good. Twitter shake of hands.”

Hynes: “Done.”

Reardon: “Hillary Clinton thanks you.”

Hynes: “The 2016 version of Herman Cain thanks you.”

Deadline looms

New Hampshire Republican State Committee Executive Director Matt Mowers has until 5 p.m. Monday to respond to the subpoena from the New Jersey Legislature’s Special Committee on Investigation regarding Gov. Chris Christie’s “bridgegate” scandal.

The Sunday Telegraph obtained a copy of the 12-page subpoena packet Mowers received. As we first reported, it doesn’t seek testimony from the regional office aide to Christie, but instead
any documents regarding the closure of lanes
leading to Fort Lee off the George Washington Bridge.

The request also asks Mowers to turn over any day planners, timers or calendars going back to September 2012.

At least for the moment, Mowers turned to familiar territory when seeking a lawyer. He picked Craig Carpentino, a white-collar defense lawyer with a Park Avenue firm in New York City.

Carpenito previously worked for then-U.S. Attorney Christie as a federal prosecutor.

Christie fired Mower’s boss, Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly, but Kelly, too, went to Christie alums to represent her. She went with the firm whose managing partner was on Christie’s transition team and whose named lawyer, Walter Timpone, was a Christie appointee to the N.J. Election Law Enforcement Commission.

But then Kelly dumped the named lawyer and picked another, Michael Critchley, perhaps so she could more easily implicate Christie in the scandal.

Get well soon

Join me in a get-well wish to longtime popular Senate clerk Tammy Wright, who was knocked out of the box by a
painful viral infection last week.

It was only her second illness absence from the Legislature during her 24-year stretch.

Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, is still new to this presiding
over the body stuff, and while Wright was missed, Senate calendar clerk Ann Daniels and journal clerk Jessica Eskeland chipped in.

Meanwhile, the workaholic clerk was
still updating the bill
status from her home while the Senate was in session.

Here’s a best-of-luck wish for a healthy return soon, T.W.

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