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.
English usage issue of the week: Following my criticism of certain modern trends in English usage, I have received many supportive comments and several suggestions for correction. The latest is the tendency of people who want to examine issues more closely. Many say they need to “drill down” on a particular issue. Unless the issue is exploring for oil or looking for water, the phrase should be avoided.
At a recent meeting in Concord, six of the seven living governors appeared on one stage. Governor Lynch was joined by Walter Peterson, John Sununu, Stephen Merrill, Jeanne Shaheen and Craig Benson in discussing the role of a governor in affecting the economy of the state.
What was interesting about this club reunion was how distinguished a group of people we have elected governor, how well they got along with each other and, despite ideological and political differences and rivalries, how graciously they performed.
Finally, June brings graduations. At our house, Thomas Cook, the youngest of his generation, was graduated from Manchester High School Central on June 16.
This passing mixes pride with poignancy, and pointed out more than anything else the quality of public education in New Hampshire, in its largest and oldest high school in its largest city. Those faculty members and administrators who helped Tom get to his graduation included some of the great educators of our time. John Rist, the principal, Kathleen Mirabile of the history department, Selma Naccach-Hoff and Patricia Hicks of the English department, Ed Sterling of the music department, along with scores of others sent almost 500 students on their way.
Reading the list of colleges that will be attended by these graduates and considering their achievements, they are indeed the best and the brightest and stack up against graduates of any institution, public or private, and refute accusations that our public schools fail.
Congratulations to the Class of 2005 at Manchester High School Central and all of the other high schools in New Hampshire.
Brad Cook is a partner in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green and heads its government relations and estate planning groups.