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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Legislative leaders working on Right to Work vote

Kevin Landrigan

The state House of Representatives bid to push the Right to Work bill (HB 474) into law over the dismissive veto of Gov. John Lynch is going right down to the wire.

Unless there’s a brand new breed of House attendees showing up on Wednesday, House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, needs to convince about 15 of his GOP caucus to either change their minds or take a walk.

That’s how far short Right to Work supporters fell the last time the issue came to the House for a pre-veto test vote a few weeks back.

We first reported that at O’Brien’s urging, House chairmen were giving instructions to their committee members that getting lost for the vote was an option.

Decisions are based on a two-thirds vote of those who do so, so the smaller the number in the chamber, the smaller super-majority vote is needed.

Some, such as Derry Republican Rep. Phyllis Katsiakores, took offense that the request was asking her “not to do my job’’ and had never been made before.

Cornerstone Action N.H. Executive Director Kevin Smith revealed on Thursday that O’Brien was “just a few votes shy’’ of reaching the veto override benchmark.

At week’s end, the select House GOP group O’Brien was buttonholing and trying to change their minds included Russell Day, of Goffstown, and Kevin Sullivan and Jim Waddell, of Hampton.

Union leaders report they’ve lost a few votes they had against Right to Work, but potentially could pick up a couple of House GOP veterans fed up with the level of pressure.

Stressed-out supporters were reportedly turning to U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Congressman Frank Guinta and perhaps former Gov. John H. Sununu to make pro-Right to Work calls at week’s end.

Working America, an umbrella organizing group for the national AFL-CIO union, began a statewide radio buy urging lawmakers to vote against Right to Work.

We’re tempted to call this one, but have been told by both sides that it would jinx them, so it’s a pass.

The solid guess is this outcome will be razor-thin Wednesday.

It’s on me

Republican State Chairman Jack Kimball took full blame for the disappointing GOP defeat in the Hillsborough County District 4 special election.

He should. It came after veteran Republican operatives had been whispering for days that their vaunted special election operation under former Chairman Sununu had all but disappeared.

“Let’s be honest, the buck stops with me,” Kimball told the New Hampshire Union Leader. “This all happened on my watch, and I take full responsibility for it.”

That came two days after the election and two days since The Telegraph had asked Kimball to comment other than his standard press release, and he had declined.

Until the waning days of this race, New Boston Republican candidate Peter Kucmas had to turn to New England Right to Work Campaign Executive Director John Kalb to help run his campaign.

Kalb’s group did a mailing in the final days trying to drum up outrage about state Rep.-elect Jennifer Daler, D-Temple, and her vote against Right to Work in 2007.

GOP State Executive Will Wrobleski came in to help the Kucmas camp in the final days.

In 2009 and early 2010, the state GOP ran off seven straight special election victories that led to their historic super-majority victories in all offices except the corner office.

To be sure, Daler was a well-known candidate, having won a House seat in the four-seat district in 2006, taking one from O’Brien in the process.

But when Daler took a seat in the Democratic wipe-out election, she lost two of the five towns to O’Brien and the man she will replace, former House Chief of Staff Robert Mead.

She won all five towns, albeit barely Lyndeborough, last Tuesday.

The plain and simple truth is the Democrats totally out-hustled the GOP with SEA-sponsored phone banks, other union calls, mail and campaign checks that swamped the GOP newcomer.

Meanwhile, the GOP candidate was reached by a Telegraph reporter on Election Night at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C.

Memo to Grand Olde Party: Wake up!

More special elections

Fortunately for Kimball, he’ll get at least three chances to make amends with special House races set for July, August and September.

The GOP should win one, but the other two are no cakewalk.

Why? Let’s look at the first, likely to be July 19 if there’s no primary to replace Greenville Republican Robert Huxley.

Democrats have convinced former Rep. Peter Leishman, of Peterborough, to run for the spot. Republicans have David Simpson, of Peterborough, in their corner, but it will be a contest.

The same is true on the Seacoast in September to replace Seabrook GOP Rep. Gary Wheaton, who left after a second motor vehicle arrest in four months.

Wheaton is one of five Republicans running, with former Hampton Falls Rep. Lou Gargiulo an early favorite for the GOP nod.

But the field of two Democrats for this seat includes Mark Preston, of Seabrook, the son of former Senate Democratic Leader Bob Preston, a one-time candidate for governor.

The GOP’s fortunes look more solid in Strafford County to replace Barrington’s Marty Hardy, who quit after making some insensitive comments about the mentally ill.

Honey Puterbaugh, of Barrington, is the only GOP candidate, while the Democrats have four, including Barrington’s Dennis Molloy, who has competed well in past elections.

Seeking more funds

State budget spending advocates still looking for cash will likely come up largely empty-handed before the Senate Finance Committee.

Those looking for more money for the University System of New Hampshire, the developmental disability wait list and hospitals out of $115 million a year in Medicaid funding were dealt a tough blow late last week.

Senate tax experts raised the forecast for revenues $41 million above those adopted in the House-passed budget.

But Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Morse, R-Salem, said he isn’t inclined to spend that money; instead, he would save it to shore up the state’s Rainy Day Fund, cope with a potential budget deficit in the current year and have at hand if the budget needs reopening next January.

Pondering retirement

What’s holding up a deal on retirement reform?

Senate negotiators are balking at anti-collective bargaining language in the House-passed plan (HB 3) coming at the insistence of Weare Republican Rep. Neal Kurk.

Also, they’re trying to work out how apply a cap on the total compensation that pensioners can receive that curbs special duty pay excess while dealing with those in public safety who have contributed thousands for those hours of police and fire details worked over the years.

On Friday, the parties did embrace setting higher payroll deductions for public safety employees (Group 2), going with the House plan to raise to 11.8 percent for firefighters and 11.55 for police. They currently both contribute 9.3 percent.

By the way, this is the only change in the entire reform that the N.H. Retirement System would have even a “moderate decrease’’ on the state’s $4.7 billion unfunded liability.

Senators are wary of too restrictive definitions of part-time employees to curb double dipping.

The negotiators will return for more talks Monday morning.

Ward 1 forum Monday

The House Republican from Nashua’s Ward 1 is holding a wide-open political forum Monday night at Nashua High School North.

Rep. Carl Seidel said a June 16 event is being planned to take ideas for what lawmakers should pursue for new bills in 2012.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, check him out on Twitter, and don’t forget the new interactive live feed at www.nashuatelegraph.com/topics/livefeed.