Cook On Concord
I was not sure what analogy to use when describing the legislative victories N.H. Sen. Ted Gatsas of Manchester scored earlier this month. On the one hand, Winston Churchill’s going from exile in the Conservative Party to prime minister after Neville Chamberlain stumbled seemed a bit high and mighty. On the other hand, the ugly duckling seemed somewhat insufficient. I picked the ugly duckling. You remember the ugly duckling. The awkward bird, shunned by others, blossomed into the swan. Gatsas, shunned by the senate leadership of his own party through most of the legislative session, even denied access to the legislative research facilities, pulled out two significant victories at the end of the session. The first — small group health-care reform in the form of Senate Bill 125 — was a bipartisan effort to change the basis on which small groups are rated and their premiums calculated. Medical underwriting and geographical rating were criticized during the last gubernatorial campaign as defects in the current law, commonly known as SB 110, an act of the last Legislature. Gatsas, whose business experience is in benefits and employment matters, joined with Democrats in embracing the positions taken by Democratic Governor John Lynch and passed a new bill, which also was adopted by the House and eliminated medical underwriting and community rating for small groups of one to 50 employees. The new law is sure to be signed by Governor Lynch and is deemed to be fairer, although no particular group should plan on lower premiums as a result, only more equal premiums overall. The other victory was largely along party lines. At a news conference, the governor and senators announced a 13-vote majority for Governor Lynch’s plan, known as the D’Allesandro-Odell Amendment. That amendment passed, and it looked like Lynch had a great victory. However, in a legislative maneuver, the bill that had been adopted was amended with a failed plan proposed two years ago by Gatsas. Along party lines, that amendment passed (a couple of Republicans dissenting) and was sent on to the House. While the Gatsas plan resembles the Lynch-endorsed targeted aid, it retains a statewide property tax at a low rate and eliminates donor towns, with the exception of Hebron. The House accepted the Senate-passed plan on June 15 and the governor, having praised it as two-thirds of what he wanted, indicated he would not veto it. What a difference a couple of weeks made for Ted Gatsas.