Will 2012 Legislature's legacy be unfinished business?



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When you read this, shortly before Memorial Day, the Legislature will either have finished its business or figured out what it is not going to accomplish or, probably in rare instances, will continue to work on final legislation.

At this writing, it appears that the Senate is not going to accede to some of the more extreme shenanigans of the House. A number of bills desired by the House and/or the Senate will die because the House refuses to take "no" for an answer and has reattached provisions defeated in the Senate to Senate bills that were passed over to the House and which otherwise would pass.

Nevertheless, there is a legislative session every year and no extreme damage probably will be done. Many citizens and legislators will breathe a sigh of relief when the Legislature goes home.

Among the items not completed as of this writing - which both legislators and Gov. John Lynch have supported -- is a constitutional amendment on education funding. The question is whether all of the rhetoric will turn into consensus behind one amendment that might get the required super-majority in the Legislature in order to be sent to the voters in November.

Otherwise, a stated goal of Governor Lynch will not be attained, and the elusive amendment will have to wait for the next Legislature which, it's assumed, will be less favorable to passage than the present one is.

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Governor Lynch, leaving the stage the first week of next year, will be replaced in November. In the meantime, he still is governor and has shown no signs of slowing down, keeping up his practice of appearing at as many public and civic events as possible and bringing his cheerful and friendly presence to events all over New Hampshire.

On the substantive side, the governor announced the nomination of a new Supreme Court justice. James Bassett, 55, a Republican, an attorney at the Concord law firm of Orr and Reno and a Canterbury resident, was named to fill the seat vacated by Justice James Duggan, who retired in January.

With a five-member Executive Council majority required to ratify a Supreme Court justice, and the present Council being all-Republican, Lynch's selection of Bassett, a moderate in politics and longtime town official, may have been politically astute.

More probable, however, is that Bassett was selected because of his qualifications. A talented trial lawyer with a stellar record of legal and civic engagement, Bassett toyed with statewide office a number of years ago. Interestingly, he is one of the few nominees in recent years to be considered for the state's highest court without having served previously as a judge of another court.

While lack of judicial experience could be criticized, the record of justices of the Supreme Court with similar lack of judicial experience counters that argument in New Hampshire. Gov. Judd Gregg named veteran business and commercial lawyer Sherman Horton of Nashua to the court during his term, and Horton served with distinction, bringing the perspective of a business practitioner to the deliberations of the Supreme Court.

Another example was the retired Justice Duggan, who came from an academic and legal assistance background and served with great distinction on the court and without any particular ideology for a number of years.

The final example is former Chief Justice John Broderick, now dean of the University of New Hampshire Law School in Concord, who went directly from private practice as a litigator to the Supreme Court when he was named by Gov. Stephen Merrill, later elevated to chief justice by Gov. Craig Benson.

Of course, politics crept into the process immediately, with Republican House Majority Leader David Bettencourt issuing a typically partisan criticism that the Executive Council should not approve the appointment of a "lame duck" governor to such an important position as the Supreme Court, regardless of the "excellent resumé" of the nominee.

Bettencourt should know better, but politics is politics.

Hopefully, the Executive Council members will recognize quality and the fact that the governor is governor with full power of the office until the next governor's inauguration.

But eventually Governor Lynch undoubtedly will join the line of former officeholders who discover what the late Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater said: "They remember you for one month for every term you serve." In politics, holding the power is what counts and when it is gone, it is gone and, as the Romans said, "All glory is fleeting."

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Interestingly, there is a new website in New Hampshire for those looking for internships and jobs as they graduate from college or are in their final months.

Jason Alexander, managing partner of the Bedford-based Alexander Technology Group, has created "NH-Internships.com," which is a free clearinghouse for available internships, which hopefully can lead to job opportunities in New Hampshire for its students and residents so they will not be forced to leave New Hampshire upon graduation.

It is an interesting and helpful development and readers should use their web browsers to find "NH-Internships.com" and take a tour.

Brad Cook, a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green, heads its government relations and estate planning groups. He also serves as secretary of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.


 

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