In the end, special session got it right
We think legislators who gathered in Concord on Wednesday met that objective in a way that could serve New Hampshire well in the ongoing battle to get a handle on the state’s opioid crisis.
The Republican idea was to create a task force to examine the multitude of suggestions being put forward by Gov. Maggie Hassan and others.
Democrats, including the governor, weren’t crazy about the idea of creating – in effect – a supercommittee to study the issues ad nauseum.
"There is no reason to wait to take these common-sense steps, and I will continue pushing for and working with the legislature and stakeholders from all sectors on a comprehensive, bipartisan package that supports law enforcement, improves prevention, treatment and recovery, and strengthens our efforts to help save lives and combat the most pressing public health and safety challenge facing our state," the governor said in a statement.
Her concern – a not unreasonable one, given how the legislative process works – was that solutions could take months to reach her desk while people continued to die from drug overdoses in record numbers.
Republicans, meanwhile, were worried about acting in haste and producing bad law – also a reasonable concern, given how the legislative process works.
"These are complex issues with huge consequences," House Majority Leader Richard Hinch, R-Merrimack, said. "By assembling this group of legislators who are experts in their respective policy areas, and putting together a process by which they work with external stakeholders, we believe we have a better chance of not just having good legislation, but having the best legislation we can, given what we know at this time."
On Wednesday, Republicans and Democrats came together to create a task force that includes a broad range of stakeholders and satisfies the "be quick, but don’t hurry" maxim.
Just as important is the fact that Republicans agreed to speed up the deadline for the task force to finish its work and issue a report with recommendations for legislation. Rather than finish up in January or later, lawmakers agreed on a December deadline so that they can then fast-track the legislation and get it to the governor’s desk PDQ, as people used to say in the old days.
"While I believe that there are certain steps, such as cracking down on fentanyl, that we can take immediately, I am encouraged that the legislature has established its joint, bipartisan task force and has committed to getting expedited legislation to my desk in January," Hassan said in a statement after the special session had concluded.
We applaud Republicans and Democrats for their willingness to work toward a set of solutions that address this multi-headed dragon that bedevils the people of our state.
We trust lawmakers will continue to put partisanship aside and do their jobs by vetting the proposals the governor has put forward and getting the best of them to her desk in the very early weeks of 2016.