Flotsam & Jetsam

Isn’t liquor the state beverage?Here’s a thought: In the next legislative session, a rep or senator with even a semblance of guts should sponsor a bill banning the use of the legislative process as a laboratory for elementary school students to study how a bill becomes law.While it’s obviously essential for students to understand how their government works, in the last four years we’ve seen lawmakers forced to posture on the life-or-death matter of whether to make the pumpkin New Hampshire’s official fruit (of course, after a crucial hearing during which it had to be proved that pumpkins are indeed a fruit) and then earlier this year our underworked lawmakers were compelled to name the Chinook the official state dog.Now along comes a group of Jaffrey grade school students who want legislators to vote on making apple cider the official state beverage. Why?“Our class was wondering if N.H. could have a state drink. We thought it would be apple cider, because our state is known for its apple orchards,” wrote three of the students in a letter that eventually persuaded Rep. Bonnie Mitchell, D-Jaffrey, to sponsor legislation.Mitchell said she would help them because “it’s important for children to see how the process works.”While that sounds great on paper, what are the youngsters actually learning about the legislative process? That, with the economy barely able to breathe on its own, budget deficits running into the hundreds of millions of dollars, a tenuous school-funding system, a health-care system out of whack and a social safety net with holes bigger than Shaquille O’Neal, our elected leaders can put dealing with all that aside to focus on the matters of real import in our day-to-day lives, like deciding what the state beverage should be.The summit of all its partsWhen lawmakers convened last month for their dueling “summits,” it was a sign to their constituents to begin thinking that perhaps there’s a better way.Which way is a matter of debate, but it certainly has become clear that taking a flying leap off one of those “summits” is definitely not a good idea.First, there was the fair and balanced get-together put together by the Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee. In fact, the “tax summit” – a description coined by folks who actually wanted nothing to do with the event – featured so many different points of view and more than a few equivocations that it was likely that summiteers came out more confused about the issues at hand, or at least in a state of information overload.Put generously, nothing discussed by any of the distinguished presenters was new, different or not very easily accessible to lawmakers already – unless, of course, they’ve been held hostage in a cave by a roving band of Free Staters for the last several decades.So why hold the “tax summit”?The obvious answer: Because without it, the Republican “anti-spenders,” as Patrick Hynes of NowHampshire.com calls ‘em, wouldn’t have been able to hold their own entertaining get-together.While the observation might make the “anti-spenders” squirm slightly, it became pretty obvious that their “summit” was all too similar to the earlier one – long on stuff we’ve hard oh-so-many times before and short (very, very, very short) on details. Suffice to say, the concrete examples for cutting spending included something to do with butchering “sacred cows” and to stop planting lilacs on the state dime. There, that ought to fix the mess.The bottom line: When lawmakers start talking next year about rolling up their sleeves and getting down to doing the hard work, don’t stand too close because you might make the mistake of stepping in it.Overtaxed and outHere’s a thought: With all the doomsday talk about New Hampshire being overtaxed, and getting worse, at what point does that undermine economic development folks who work to attract businesses here – by touting the state’s “advantage” low taxes.F&J TOTE BOARDGary Smith: The president of the State Employees Association wins a sixth year in office in an election held at the behest of the U.S. Department of Labor.James Bender: The Republican Senate hopeful from Hollis is forced to explain his previous financial support of former Democratic Congressman and University of Massachusetts Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan.Local Government Center: The organization that aids municipalities is at the center of a couple of storms, in the courts and with regulators, over its practices and policies.John Stephen: The former Health and Human Services commissioner is walking like a gubernatorial candidate and talking like a gubernatorial candidate.Bill Binnie: The Rye businessman throws his hat in the ring to run for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination.Katrina Swett: Supporters and potential supporters are still waiting to see whether the former congressional candidate will take another shot at the 2nd C.D. Dem nomination.The Union Leader: The Manchester newspaper decides to make online readers pay for access to its political columns by John DiStaso, Scott Brooks and Tom Fahey.Paul Spiess: The former Republican state rep and co-chair of the Citizens Health Initiative is named interim director of the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute, designed to analyze local and state budget and tax policy issues.It’s been making the rounds…• It now costs more to make a local call from a pay phone than it does to buy a share of FairPoint stock.• Actually, you could argue that the Legislature holds a spending summit every year – whenever it’s in session.• How come champion interstate political buttinsky Grover Norquist and his crowd are allowed to stick their noses into political races around the country, but the national parties are deemed as meddlers?• Go figure: Not long after Kelly Ayotte provided her essential endorsement of the ultra-conservative third-party candidate in New York’s 23rd C.D. race, The Boston Globe ran a piece labeling her among “New England’s moderate Republicans.”• And if Ovide Lamontagne likes to complain about the “outsiders” getting involved in a New Hampshire Senate race, why is it OK for him to stick his nose into New York’s 23rd C.D. race?