Cook On Concord: Perspectives after the legislative session
New Hampshire Health and Human Services Commissioner John Stephen’s departure from his job – announced in a letter to the governor last month — was expected, now that there are three members of the Executive Council of the governor’s party and given the fact that Stephen was often at odds with Lynch over policy and politics.
There is much speculation about Stephen’s future, but no one doubts that it is either politics or public service, since he said as much on his departure. Speculation is that he will run for the Republican nomination for the 1st District congressional seat currently held by Carol Shea-Porter and also sought by former Congressman Jeb Bradley. Stephen was a candidate for the job when Bradley was first elected.
Governor Lynch and Business & Industry Association President Jim Roche each recently sent letters reviewing the 2007 legislative session.
Lynch’s letter, sent to friends of his through his political committee, recited his accomplishments. Among them:
• Raising the high school dropout age
• Expanding New Hampshire’s children’s health insurance program
• Eliminating the waiting list for services for developmental disabilities over the next three years
• Increasing New Hampshire’s minimum wage for the first time in 10 years
• Expanding Project Running Start, which allows high school students to take college-level classes at their own schools
• Increasing the state’s “investment in New Hampshire’s public colleges and universities”
• Implementing the job training fund “to help New Hampshire businesses and workers compete in the global economy”
• Banning the burning of toxic construction and demolition debris
• Passing the Renewable Energy Act, “which puts New Hampshire on track to meet my goal of insuring we get 25 percent of our energy from renewable sources by 2025”
The governor added: “We were also able to craft a balanced, fair and fiscally responsible budget.”
Lynch said nothing about many other legislative activities, including passage the civil unions bill, failure of the constitutional amendment addressing education funding and passage of the law defining an adequate education, among many other items.
Roche, in a letter dated July 12 and sent to each legislator, thanked each for his or her service to the state.
A few of the highlights are:
• Passing the state budget “without having to resort to higher business taxes, an income tax or a sales tax”
• Passage of the R&D tax credit
• Establishing a commission to look at cost drivers in health care
• Establishing a matching grant program for cities and towns needing technical expertise to help with complex decisions regarding workforce housing projects
• Reinstating the job training fund
Roche added that the organization is still “concerned over the unresolved education funding issue,” calling again for a constitutional amendment “to allow for targeted education funding to those cities and towns most in need.”
He also voiced concern over the new health-care mandates passed in the last session. “Every new mandate makes it more difficult for businesses, especially small businesses, to continue to provide health care benefits for their employees,” he wrote.
He also criticized “the negative business impacts of HB 143, a bill that would have upset New Hampshire’s carefully crafted hybrid system of joint and several liability. We were pleased the governor vetoed the bill.”
Obviously, no one can summarize the action taken on all bills before the Legislature and the focus given in such a letter by both writers shows the priorities and focuses of each. The audience for the two letters differed. One was to political supporters, the other to all legislators who will be hearing from the BIA again next year.
On a very personal note, the Cook family had a wonderful experience the weekend of July 21, when the oldest member of the next generation, Richard F. Cook II, married Kimberly Soha of Candia in a lovely ceremony under beautiful skies. Any parent who has seen his or her child happily married has a wonderful experience. In this particular case, the bride and groom are the third generation to have met at the University of New Hampshire, which is an additional treat — and their proud father felt required to mention it.
Brad Cook is a partner in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green and heads its government relations and estate planning groups.