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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Support for tax increase boosts Shaheen

Kevin Landrigan

A left-leaning poll of New Hampshire voters offers some advice to the next person in New Hampshire’s political cross hairs: Jeanne Shaheen .

Shaheen, a Democrat, has to defend her U.S. Senate seat in 2014. Trying to unseat her will no doubt be the top priority of New Hampshire Republican leaders as they try to recover from disappointment at the polls earlier this month. ...

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A left-leaning poll of New Hampshire voters offers some advice to the next person in New Hampshire’s political cross hairs: Jeanne Shaheen .

Shaheen, a Democrat, has to defend her U.S. Senate seat in 2014. Trying to unseat her will no doubt be the top priority of New Hampshire Republican leaders as they try to recover from disappointment at the polls earlier this month.

The Progressive Campaign Change Committee surveyed Granite Staters on issues that sprang from the 2012 campaign. The committee was dedicated to the re-election of President Barack Obama, of course.

The findings confirm the group’s belief that a majority of New Hampshire voters clearly want Shaheen to continue to support ending the Bush tax cuts for wealthy individuals and small-business owners on Jan. 1.

Shaheen consistently has supported this tax increase, which was a centerpiece of Obama’s re-election agenda.

A clear majority also said they would oppose making significant changes to benefits given to seniors who receive Social Security or Medicare.

Sixty-six percent supported raising taxes for those earning more than $250,000 a year, with 29 percent opposed to it.

Only 13 percent wanted to cut spending on Social Security, and 17 percent had the stomach for reducing Medicare obligations.

The survey, done Nov. 14-15 by Public Policy Polling for the left-leaning group, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.

“New Hampshire voters delivered a clear mandate in 2012: Tax the rich, invest in jobs and don’t even think about cutting Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits,” Progressive Campaign Change Committee co-founder Adam Green said. “Voters are depending on Senator Shaheen and the rest of the New Hampshire delegation to fight hard for this mandate and reject any bad deal that would hurt New Hampshire families.”

These results are the first in a series of findings that will come from the group in the coming week.

Liquor warehouse fight

Gov. John Lynch is taking one for the team by having the State Liquor Commission award its 20-year warehouse contract to an out-of-state firm during the waning weeks of his eight-year tenure.

This long contracting process could easily have slid over onto the desk of Lynch’s replacement, former Senate Majority Leader Maggie Hassan.

This process has been controversial, and Lynch has heard plenty of grousing about it from the all-Republican Executive Council behind closed doors. The council remains livid at the Legislature for having broadened the commission’s powers to do its financial business without needing permission from the council or lawmakers.

Some of this control for the Liquor Commission could be scaled back by the new Legislature.

The record shows that making the liquor agency an enterprise fund was the doing of the Senate, and that Hassan was the prime author as the lead negotiator during budget talks.

In reality, then-Senate Ways and Means Chairman Robert Odell, R-Lempster, was the prime mover for this reform.

It wasn’t as much embraced by House budget leaders, and now with many of them back in charge, it will be interesting to see if they take up some of the recommendations of the House special committee on liquor operations that call for the Legislature to clip the commission’s wings.

Bipartisan praise

The death of Sen. Warren Rudman was an opportunity to look back at not a distant, but a different time, on Capitol Hill, when men and women of good will worked together for the common good.

It was revealing that some of the most heartfelt praise heaped upon this prominent Republican came from Democrats, ranging from New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley to several of Rudman’s former colleagues in the Senate club – Gary Hart, of Colorado; Bill Cohen, of Maine; and Fritz Hollings, of South Carolina, for example.

The Nashua lawyer and former attorney general was for many a larger-than-life figure who commanded a presence whenever he was in the room and exuded such a comfortable confidence that put all of his supporters at ease.

So few in today’s political arena are reluctant today to either share credit or to spend some political capital to help a friend, which Rudman was legendary for doing.

Whether it was standing up for Supreme Court Justice candidate David Souter or John McCain’s presidential run in 2008, Rudman clearly was shaped by his Korean War experience on legendary Pork Chop Hill, where the only ones to help save your life were inches away in the foxhole.

He will be missed on many levels.

Norelli’s big win

House Speaker-to-be Terie Norelli’s impressive win in the Democratic caucus erased all doubt about whether she would return to take the gavel on Dec. 5.

Nashua Democratic Rep. David Campbell put up a brave and respectable fight, but as promised, got behind Norelli’s ascension once his peers had spoken.

Now the question becomes whether Norelli will choose to bring back the band that helped her run the House four years ago or choose to identify a new leadership team.

We expect it will be more of the former, al though inevitably there will be a sprinkling of the latter.

Many of those in Norelli’s inner circle before were at her side and helpful to her victory nine days ago, among them former House Majority Leader Mary Jane Wallner and former Assistant Majority Leader Stephen Shurtleff, both D-Concord.

Some of the returning House Democrats who lost in 2010 are back, as well, such as Ed Butler, the Hart’s Location House member who had run the important Commerce Committee under Norelli.

There also is former House Finance Chairwoman Marjorie Smith, D-Durham, who left of her own accord in 2010, only to be urged to get back in the game because of the shape of the state budget under House Republican control.

Some have made moves since Norelli exited her leadership post. Rep. Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua,
backed Norelli over the local candidate (Campbell) and had chaired the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee.

If she wants to – and probably will – Norelli would likely let Rosenwald stay on the House Finance Committee, and now could play a big role in fashioning the next budget for the human services community.

Recertification altered

The state Board of Education embraced an upgrade of the teacher recertification system to prepare the educator workforce of the future.

“The initiatives are consistent with the board’s interest in commitment to effective leaders and educators in this state,’’ said Helen Honorow, the state board member on the New Hampshire Task Force for Effective Teaching.

Education Commissioner Dr. Virginia Barry said this finding will lead to even better and more innovative teacher preparation programs offered in the state.

New Hampshire is believed to be the first state for its educational body and all the relevant stakeholders to have embraced this reform.

“This will be a real partnership between educator preparation programs and the N.H. DOE (Department of Education), all targeted to a more integrated approach to enhancing and strengthening our professional educator workforce,’’ said Dr. Richard Gustafson, director of the state Division of Higher Education and a former community college system chancellor.

LGC battle ends

Without any fanfare, the Local Government Center essentially ended its long war with state security regulators approving its restructuring of its HealthTrust and Property-Liability Trust risk pool programs as ordered by a state hearing officer.

The LGC appealed the hearing officer decisions to the state Supreme Court, but these acts comply with the order.

The high court has agreed to hear the appeal, but set in motion these actions by the LGC when it denied a move to stay the hearing officer’s decisions.

The moves now permit cities and towns to have access to the risk pool benefits without having to pay dues to the New Hampshire Municipal Association, and these changes don’t affect either the staff or leadership of the quasi-public entity.

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