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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Voter ID veto gets priority in Legislature

Kevin Landrigan

House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, has yet to decide when the House of Representatives will take up the right-to-work veto of Gov. John Lynch.

That’s looking more and more like it will happen later this fall, if not just before the 2012 session begins in January.

But O’Brien does want one veto override to come up much quicker than that: Lynch’s bid to strike down legislation requiring voters to show an ID at the polls.

Senate President Peter Bragdon accommodated that Friday, setting Sept. 7 as the date the Senate will take up six vetoes, including the voter ID bill.

O’Brien told reporters this issue must be resolved as soon as possible. If, as expected, the Republican-led Legislature overrides Lynch’s veto, O’Brien said local election officials need time to train so that the ID process doesn’t slow lines at the polling places.

It’s important to stress the new mandate, if it comes to pass, would begin in the November 2012 general election. The first-in-the-nation presidential and state primaries next year would operate under existing laws.

“We will have three elections before it goes live,’’ O’Brien said.

Overlooked motion

Thanks to a parliamentary glitch, the House of Representatives will also have to meet on Sept. 7.

Last week, the House Rules Committee agreed to let in more than 15 bills that came in after the late June deadline for proposing measures for the 2012 session.

O’Brien confirmed at that point that he wants the House to return later this fall to take up at least half a dozen of them.

These include any fix to deal with the expected loss of $35 million of federal Medicaid money.

The rules panel voted to waive deadlines and permit O’Brien to refer the pressing issues to committees to start their work.

The trouble is that when the 2011 regular session wrapped up in June, there hadn’t been the routine motion made to permit committee assignments to take place while the House wasn’t meeting.

Thus, O’Brien needs the House to meet formally, likely on Sept. 7, to assign those bills to committee.

In the meantime, nothing prevents House committees from starting informal discussions about these matters.

House policy committees were already scheduling meetings this month to deal with the 150 bills from the 2011 session they decided to retain for further study.

The Senate is likely to vote to override at least some of Lynch’s vetoes; some of them are already moot, such as a retirement reform bill (SB 3) that has already been replaced by the state budget.

House leaders need to decide whether they’re going to take up the Senate vetoes when they do come in to meet.

LGC resolution

At long last, the expensive dispute over financing at the Local Government Center will go to the public soon.

The damning final report of the Bureau of Securities Regulation will head to a hearing officer in the agency who will take testimony on the dispute.

As one might expect, both political parties in Concord jumped onto the controversy with different solutions.

Deputy Speaker Pam Tucker, R-Greenland, is proposing that lawmakers create a task force in 2012 to examine the allegations against LGC.

Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen, D-Concord, called for the LGC to cut its losses and refund the money now to cities and towns.

All of this should sound familiar, but in reverse.

When Democrats were in charge of the Legislature, many of these charges had already been launched by the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire.

That group ultimately brought a complaint to the securities bureau that resulted in this final report last week.

At that time, Senate Democrats were split badly over whether to bring the hammer down on the LGC. Some wanted to bring the LGC under direct state regulation, while others sought to require a refund to communities immediately.

Ultimately, Senate and House Democrats in charge opted to have their policy committees study the matter. Former Senate Majority Leader Maggie Hassan authored the solution that, among other things, directed the securities bureau to conduct this investigation.

The task force idea of House Republican leaders accomplishes two objectives. It shows legislative leaders are concerned about a “disturbing report’’ and it likely delays any ultimate solution to this dispute until after the 2012 elections.

Keep in mind: Historically, the city and town lobby has had solid support in the House regardless of which party ran the joint. In the state Senate, Secretary of State Bill Gardner has always had the upper hand in these matters.

Lots to do

It’s a busy week on the presidential/state political front. Upcoming events include:

 • Monday: The State Employee Association Bargaining Senate will meet in Concord to vote on the proposed two-year contract.

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has three stops planned, including a town hall-style forum at the Nashua VFW in the evening. Earlier in the day, campaign officials say Romney will promote his support for right-to-work legislation before a business crowd in Concord.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., will address the Nashua Rotary Club at noon.

 • Tuesday: A competitive special election for an open House seat between Democrat and ex-Rep. Robert Perry, of Strafford; Republican Honey Puterbaugh, of Barrington; and independent Ross McNamara, of New Durham.

The winner will replace Barrington Republican Marty Harty, who resigned after making disparaging remarks about the disabled and poor unable to care for themselves.

 • Wednesday: The Executive Council will meet at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods. Topping the agenda is what to do about the council’s refusal to support family planning contracts for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com. Also check Landrigan out on Twitter (@KLandrigan), and don’t forget The Telegraph’s interactive live feed at www.nashuatelegraph.com/topics/livefeed.