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Looking back at the week in news

Gaming authority may give state casinos a new chance

Senate President Peter Bragdon told The Telegraph’s editorial board this week he does not believe casino gambling in New Hampshire is inevitable. With Gov. Maggie Hassan going “all in” this past legislative session, he said, this would have been the year for it to succeed, and it still fell 35 votes short in the House of Representatives.

The 2012 version of casino gambling died because the governor could not corral enough members of her own party to follow her lead. And as Bragdon explained, even some supporters of casino gambling took issue with the way the law was crafted.

One obvious sticking point was the lack of established rules and procedures for managing casino gambling. That’s why, in the session’s waning days, lawmakers resurrected the Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority to design and recommend a regulatory structure for casino gambling.

Created in 2010 but never funded by the Executive Council, the authority got $250,000 from lawmakers to submit a plan by December. Its findings will be the foundation for the next casino offensive.

Casino gambling may not be inevitable, but its best chance ever will likely be in 2014, when a regulatory game plan will be in place and the money it will generate won’t already be part of the state budget.

Poll results generate more questions than answers

June poll numbers from the American Research Group raised eyebrows when it tagged Hassan with just a 41 percent approval rating – the lowest ever for a first-term governor since the poll started tracking such numbers in 1976.

Well, according to the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, Hassan has made a stunning comeback. Its July poll found that 58 percent of respondents think the governor is doing a good job.

The difference probably says more about the business of poll-taking than it does the governor’s popularity or lack thereof. In April, UNH had Hassan with a 51 percent approval rating – 10 points higher than ARG’s June ranking.

More striking still is how much the two polls differ on the public’s view of the state Legislature. In April, the UNH poll gave the Legislature a 42 percent approval rating, In July, it jumped to 51 percent. But in June, ARG reported a dismal 16 percent approval rating for state lawmakers.

As E.B. White once observed, “The so-called science of poll-taking is not a science at all, but mere necromancy. People are unpredictable by nature, and although you can take a nation’s pulse, you can’t be sure that the nation hasn’t just run up a flight of stairs.”

USNH is smart to target
needs of state’s businesses

‘We need to keep building strong ties between business and education,” Fred Kocher, president of the state’s High Technology Council told the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce in May. “Education is the key to our economy, and the two need to merge more than ever before.”

Kocher said his work with the technology council and the New Hampshire Coalition for Business and Education has opened his eyes to other initiatives aimed at improving the state’s economy through education.

More good news in that regard came this week when USNH Chancellor Todd Leach said that the
$10 million the university had saved in medical cost in the past year will be spent to help the state meet growing demands for skilled workers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Biostatistics and neuroscience programs at UNH in Durham will be expanded, computer science and engineering facilities at the Manchester campus will be improved and Keene State College will step up efforts to encourage college-bound students to pursue STEM-related studies.

This will help the university system achieve the goal of doubling its STEM fields graduates by 2025 – something that is needed to improve the attractiveness of the state’s labor pool to business.