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Monday, August 11, 2014

Gun lobby fired up over new licensing query

The gun owners lobby is hopping mad at the state Department of Safety after issuing effective Aug. 1 a new form for those applying for the right to own a pistol or a revolver.

Their beef: The permit asks applicants the following, yes or no, question: ...

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The gun owners lobby is hopping mad at the state Department of Safety after issuing effective Aug. 1 a new form for those applying for the right to own a pistol or a revolver.

Their beef: The permit asks applicants the following, yes or no, question:

“Has any state or federal agency or licensing authority ever claimed that you are prohibited by law or regulation from possessing a firearm?”

State Rep. J.R. Hoell, R-Dunbarton, said the question is vague, open to interpretation and can’t even be accurately answered.

“How do you know if there ever was a question about your right to possess that you never knew existed? It’s like asking someone if anyone ever accused you of kicking your dog?” Hoell said.

“What if you had a neighbor who didn’t like you complain he saw you kicking the dog? You never did, nothing ever came of it, but somehow your application is now prejudiced because of some baseless, faceless accusation. It makes no sense and could have a chilling effect on people.”

Hoell said there’s no evidence the Joint Legislative Administrative Rules Committee ever approved any rule for a resident permit/revolver license; only a form for non-resident requests.

Assistant Safety Commissioner Earle Sweeney agreed to look into the matter and see how this change to the application came about.

“We’ve since learned this is the second iteration of this form which went from bad to worse from a Second Amendment point of view,” Hoell said.

Translation: At the very least, look for the gun lobby to aggressively pursue “corrective” legislation in the 2015 that makes the Department of Safety get rules if not full legislative approval for any such changes in the future.

Policy and politics

Texas Gov. Rick Perry decided to mix policy with politics as he brings his maybe I will run for President in 2016 to New Hampshire later this month.

GOP activist Kerry Marsh had already landed Perry for his first visit to the first-in-the-nation primary since the flame out that was his run in 2012.

Perry will speak at a Merrimack County GOP Committee fundraiser on Aug. 23. But this week, Perry added a day and an agenda to the visit by confirming he would attend an Americans for Prosperity event Aug. 22 at The Yard Restaurant.

AFP already had the event planned where it will unveil its white paper on New Hampshire’s business taxes. The report couldn’t come at a better time in the primary campaign since GOP candidates for governor Walt Havenstein of Alton and Andrew Hemingway of Bristol have presented very different plans on that topic.

“We’re happy to have Governor Perry at our event. He’s got a great record when it comes to business taxation in Texas,” said AFP State Director Greg Moore.

GOP operative Mike Dennehy is planning the trip and insiders report they should expect a much-less, control freak visit from Perry 2.0.

The security phalanx of 2011 – from Texas Rangers to privately hired staffers – plotting every Perry move in New Hampshire during his first presidential run was both legendary and widely panned, not just from the media throng but real voters not at all fond of or used to getting the steel curtain treatment.

Spending on hold

July is not an important or significant month for state taxes and fees.

The trouble for Gov. Maggie Hassan is, July comes as the election season heats up and raises a disturbing question whether good numbers in June were merely a blip on the radar. That’s why Hassan had no choice but to order a hold on “large spending items” in the state budget and to convene a private meeting of her revenue estimating panel.

The June numbers weren’t wildly great but they looked to have stopped the bleeding after returns in April posed the prospect of the year ending on June 30 with a revenue deficit.

June saved the day and on the tax and fee side they ended up $3 million or 1 percent over forecast.

Now July comes and the state’s two main taxes were off $5.1 million or about 20 percent less when compared to July 2013 which was nothing to brag about. State tax officials report most of the “variance” was due to a few taxpayers with larger payments last year.

And in July 2012, the state took about the same amount from business taxes as it did last month.

That’s cold comfort for Hassan who has her agency heads still trying to grind down the end-of-the-year spending totals to reach the budget target of returning $50 million in unspent money by June 30.

Getting ever anxious for those numbers, Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, started a clock entitled Spending 14 on the Senate Republican Caucus website, marking the days since the year ended and how many have passed since they wait for the totals.

House Democrats and Administrative Services Commissioner Linda Hodgdon back up Hassan’s desire to keep those private until all the accounting adjustments are completed in September.

Two dates to watch there is the scheduled completion of the Comprehensive Annual Fiscal and Financial Report of New Hampshire due out Sept. 29.

Meanwhile, the Legislative Fiscal Committee, where Senate GOP leaders have been stiffed by House Democrats, plan to meet Sept. 25.

Whichever one becomes the date when those numbers become public, it’s sure to offer plenty of fodder for Hassan and the GOP nominee for governor in the fall campaign.

Coverage compared

The Pew Charitable Trust and McArthur Foundation will release a ground-breaking report Tuesday that for the first time compares all 50 states in their offerings of health care coverage to public employees.

The report will analyze:

Average per employee premiums; before and after controlling for certain cost-drivers.

Employer and employee premium contribution arrangements.

Plan characteristics, including cost sharing arrangements (deductibles, copay, coinsurance).

Major cost drivers and sources of spending variation among states, and between states and large private sector employers.

Key policy levers available to state policymakers to influence costs.

This report for New Hampshire will give some context to the long-held argument of fiscal conservatives that state employees enjoy a “Cadillac” plan compared to their peers.

In the past several years, state workers have agreed to tens of millions in annual, health care cost savings and in 2013 leveraged those savings to secure their first, across-the-board pay raise in four years. Where does New Hampshire stand now?

Recycling supporters

Most campaigns try to do it but the campaign of Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown may be taking recycling campaign supporters to an art form.

Last week’s entry was broadcasting the 107 supporters he had picked up from Belknap, Merrimack and Strafford Counties.

Problem is about one in five of those names weren’t new. It turns out, Brown’s campaign had already announced 23 of them in earlier lists – women for Brown, veterans for Brown, etc.

The Sunday Telegraph confirmed this was the third time Brown’s camp put out names with some of them having already been announced.

All that said, Brown’s network of endorsers by any measure easily overwhelms his two, major GOP primary rivals, ex-Sen. Bob Smith and former State Sen. Jim Rubens.

In other Senate GOP news, Smith won a low-turnout straw poll of the Greater Nashua Area Federation of Republican Women with 54 percent of the vote. Rubens debuted his first, radio commercial of the campaign touting himself as the only “non-career politician” running for the Senate and that if elected he’d reject any congressional pension.

Kevin Landrigan can be reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashua