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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Community and state mourning slain Greenland police chief

Kevin Landrigan

The horrific tragedy in Greenland reminds us of just how small a state we are and how a community can be torn asunder by such an unspeakable act of wanton violence.

Retiring Gov. John Lynch truly is the healer-in-chief and if anyone can rally a town and its public officials together to go on, it’s him.

Lynch spent most of Friday visiting the local school, meeting with community leaders and visiting police officers in local hospitals.

At the State House, it’s a devastating day for House Deputy Speaker Pamela Tucker, R-Greenland, the town’s only lawmaker in the 400-person body.

Tucker not only knew Greenland Police Chief Michael Maloney well but was leading plans for a surprise retirement party for him.

Maloney was to set to retire in eight days when he was shot to death Thursday by Cullen Mutrie, 29. Mutrie also shot four other police officers before dying in the home – presumably by his own hand – along with a female friend.

Betty Lichty, the House’s longtime, superbly capable administrative assistant, had just finished the touches on a proclamation that House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, signed and was to present to Maloney.

“When something like this happens to a member of law enforcement giving the ultimate sacrifice, especially in a small, close-knit town, it’s like something in every resident has been lost,” O’Brien said.

WMUR News Anchor Tom Griffith is a longtime resident of the town and clearly struggled through the live telecast of the unfolding, brutally sad events.

State Rep. Lee Quandt, R-Exeter, had trained Greenland and area police officers as a retired corrections officer who runs a law enforcement training business.

“He was always so mellow for a police chief. He’d say, ‘hey Lee, how are you doing,’ always pleasant and not at all pretentious,” Quandt recalled.

Medicaid contract still being debated

The vote on the largest contract in state history is less than 72 hours away and it’s still in doubt.

A long briefing on Friday regarding the Medicaid managed care program revealed still deep concerns among members of the state Executive Council about whether to go through with this.

The contract is a pivotal part of the two-year state budget since the assumption is that it would save $16 million.

Councilors David Wheeler, R-Milford, and Chris Sununu, R-Newfields, appear to be the most skeptical about moving forward.

“Saving $16 million is a lot of money but what is the price on going to the unknown changing a system that a lot of people seem to like right now,” Wheeler said.

“That’s the question all of us at the table are asking.”

The three-phase program would start with the acute care population and extend to those with developmental disabilities and nursing homes in the second year.

There has been tremendous push back to adding a developmental disabilities waiver to the mix even though Commissioner Nick Toumpas warns that the whole initiative could collapse without it.

Presently, there is no state in the country that has private vendors running managed care for these clients. Vermont and four other states to have such a program but the work is not done by private-making companies but private, not-for-profits that deliver the services.

Sandi Pelletier is the longtime executive director of the state area agency that serves the Nashua region.

“Why would we change a system that is very cost effective now and has a high degree of satisfaction?” she asked rhetorically.

According to the Kaiser Foundation in 2011, NH’s mental health system ranked fourth nationally and 15th best in terms of employment opportunities for those with physical or mental impairments.

In cost, the system was the 32nd most expensive.

Meanwhile, state health officials were rebuffed Friday when they asked to keep on the Healthy Kids Corp. because Medicaid managed care will not be on line in all likelihood until Jan. 1. The Legislative Fiscal Committee tabled the request.

Students hope to revive driver’s education bill

A loose band of high school students are hopping mad and hoping to try and turn the State Senate around like they did the House over driver education rates. Private driving school programs hired a good lobbyist, James Demers, who with a strong pitch at a public hearing convinced the Senate Transportation Committee to recommend study purgatory for a bill that would allow teens to take driver education lessons online.

“We know that’s just another way of killing the bill and we’re furious at trying to compete with a lobbyist when a lot of students and their families can’t afford the cost of driver’s ed,” said Jacqueline Roland, 15, a home-school student from Nashua.

The House Transportation Committee had recommended killing this bill (HB 1440) by a 15-2 margin but the full House passed it. Based on interviews with several senators, Roland and other students have their work cut out for them if they are going to resurrect this bill in the upper chamber.

Yea bus drivers!

Nashua resident Diedre Reynolds of Nashua got to introduce Vice President Joe Biden at his re-election campaign event at Exeter Town Hall on Thursday.

Reynolds warmed up the crowd by endorsing the so-called Buffett Rule that would end the Bush tax cut for millionaires.

“I give President Obama a lot of credit for taking on this fight and a lot of credit for admitting he didn’t even come up with the idea,” Reynolds began.

“As you know, President Reagan asked the question ‘Do you think the millionaire ought to pay more in taxes than the bus driver or less? Well I used to be a bus driver, for three years I drove elementary and junior high students to school.’

Biden chipped in “So did I.”

Reynolds quipped, “Did you? Woohoo! Yea bus drivers!”

Reynolds works as an office administrative assistant and says her family is only able to thrive with the help of the child tax credit, student loans investments in education coming with a daughter, Megan, studying elementary education in college.

Fill ‘er up?

The latest collision between the aims of House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, and the state Senate Republicans is at hand and it’s whether to fill up the Rainy Day Fund.

When the state finished the previous budget year with $17 million in cash, O’Brien concluded that keeping trust with the voters would call for putting that much money into the account set aside for fiscal emergencies.

But Sen. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, rightly points out the two-year budget that began last July 1 assumes the state will end the year in a $14 million deficit.

And we’re counting on $41 million in disputed, Medicaid Enhancement Tax payments from the hospitals to make it that good.

O’Brien deftly put onto this bill $1.5 million in spending to reduce the waiting list for adults with developmental disabilities in need of services.

Senate leaders support spending that money but probably only if the expense gets pushed into the next budget year.

The Rainy Day Fund gambit is a signature priority for O’Brien so if the Senate doesn’t come clean with it, sparks will fly.

Bipartisan support

A new group is forming to defend the rights of refugees to New Hampshire.

Next week the Granite Staters for Strong Communities will announce a bipartisan slate of leaders headed up by co-chairs.

They also are working on an announcement to advance the dialogue in support of refugees and keeping the federally- financed program humming along.

An immediate goal of the group is to stop the House-passed bill (HB 1405) that would let any city or town pursue a one-year moratorium on accepting any new refugees.

Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, a former president of the State Senate, is the prime mover for this bill.

The Senate Municipal and Public Affairs Committee is expected to make its recommendation on the bill Tuesday.

Signs point to the panel not endorsing the bill but instead trying to come up with a mechanism that will enforce better communication between refugee advocate groups like the International Institute of New Hampshire and municipal officials.

Money for roads

House and Senate transportation experts are getting behind the belief that the next Legislature is going to have to find more resources to support infrastructure.

The question in 2013 and beyond will be where to get the money.

Sen. Jim Rausch, R-Derry, proposed a creative way to pay for much if not all of the widening of Interstate 93 from Salem through Manchester.

The plan could also pay for some projects not financed in the 10-year highway plan now such as final phases of the Broad Street Parkway in Nashua.

Rausch calls for more than doubling the state investment in Garvee bonds which are revenue anticipation notes that generate cash on the assumption they will be paid off with future revenues, primarily from the federal government.

Talk about timing. State Treasurer Catherine Provencher will next month go out to market on $115 million in Garvee bonds that were first devised by Sen. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

The bonds will carry a tiny interest rate of 1.47 percent and the $8 million cost of interest should be more than offset by how far those dollars will go as competitively bid contracts in a construction buyers market are coming in way under budget in recent months.

A pending federal highway bill does offer some modest good news – a revenue stream for New Hampshire that could be as much as $20 million a year more than what it’s been getting.

But that’s not enough and state transportation officials reminded lawmakers in 2011 repealed a $30 annual surcharge that generated nearly $50 million for the state Highway Fund.

Increasing Garvee bonds by $250 million will help I-93 but the list of red-listed bridges will grow still larger without more revenue in the future.

To be sure a recovering economy should boost receipts from the existing gasoline tax, highway turnpike tolls and motor vehicle fees.

A lack of enthusiasm

Not all Rick Santorum supporters in New Hampshire are going to flock to Republican presidential nominee to be Mitt Romney now that the former Pennsylvania senator is out of the race.

Jerry DeLemus is a promient Tea Party leader.

“I’ve said I wouldn’t vote for Romney,” DeLemus told Patch last week. “I think he completely dissed the liberty groups in New Hampshire. He’s done nothing to change my mind.”

“I didn’t say I wasn’t going to vote for somebody, but I wouldn’t vote for Romney,” he added. “My vote is a sacred issue with me. If I don’t believe in someone, or I have a problem with trust for that particular person, I’m not going to vote for him.”

This will be one of Romney’s challenges going forward and it’s a bigger one in states other than New Hampshire where the Tea Party is even stronger.

As Romney inevitably tries to tack to the middle, does he cause like-minded conservatives such as DeLemus to sit on their hands or vote with their feet?

In a close, swing state, that lack of enthusiasm among the GOP base can make all the difference.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or; also check out Kevin Landrigan (@KLandrigan) on Twitter and don’t forget The Telegraph’s new, interactive live feed at