January 09, 2013CONCORD — North Country legislators have been sworn in, received committee assignments, and begun to request the drafting of legislation. Even with a heated debate over the revived ban on guns in the House chamber, representatives from our area see the potential for bipartisan cooperation.
Senate committee assignments are as follows: District 1, Jeff Woodburn (Energy and Natural Resources); District 2, Jeanie Forrester (Finance and Public/Municipal Affairs). Forrester is the Vice Chairperson of both committees.
Area members' House committees include: District 1, Linda Massimilla (State/Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs), Ralph Doolan (Commerce and Consumer Affairs); District 2, Rebecca Brown (Environment and Agriculture); District 3, Susan Ford (Finance); District 4, Rick Ladd (Education); District 5, Edmond Gionet (Public Works and Highways); District 13, Brad Bailey (Legislative Administration); District 14, Linda Lauer (Environment and Agriculture).
Based on comments from Ford, a Democrat from Easton, the Finance Committee is busy right away. The panel will be working with the Governor Hassan on a budget that will be presented to the entire legislature. Finance members will also hear updates from state departments.
Ford said that the committee must balance state needs with a realization "that there is a finite amount of available funding."
Local members of the House and Senate have submitted a variety of Legislative Service Requests (LSR). An LSR is a request to have bill drafted.
Two LSRs related to education have North Country bipartisan sponsorship. Ladd and Ford both signed on to an effort to require reporting of certain felonies by postsecondary institutions. Ladd and Ford also both sponsor an effort to establish a state anti-bullying day.
Ladd has placed his name on 16 total LSRs. Most deal with education policy. One would require four math courses for high school graduation. Another pertains to state aid for the costs of special education.
A ban on the sale of corn-based ethanol in gasoline is one of the LSRs that Gionet has requested. Representative Lauer has co-sponsored the idea to establish Franklin Pierce Day. This would honor the only resident of New Hampshire to become U.S. President.
Based on online information from Monday afternoon, Republicans Bailey and Doolan, and Democrat Massimilla, who all represent Littleton in the House, had not yet requested or sponsored an LSR.
A significant debate occurred on the House floor last week. The new Democratic majority changed House rules to ban guns on the floor and in the gallery. The vote overturned the rule passed by Republicans in 2011. Prior to then, guns had been banned in the House for 40 years.
The 196 to 153 vote was largely along party lines. Democratic members from Northern Grafton and Coös counties supported the measure. Bailey, Doolan, and Ladd, as well as three Coös Republicans, voted against the rule.
The Senate does not have a similar gun ban.
Bailey said that debate on the gun rule lasted about three hours. Even with the vote on that divisive and emotional issue, Bailey said he is confident that bipartisan work can be done during the session. Of his time in Concord last week, the Littleton Republican said, "There was a bipartisan atmosphere. Everyone is very cordial."
Seating arrangements in the House help with this spirit, Bailey and Ford both noted. The chamber is not divided by party. Rather, member seating is at random, with both Democrats and Republicans sitting next to each other.