NH Week in Review for Aug. 6: Outrage greets Trump comments about state as drug den

Aug 06, 2017

Forgive Granite Staters if they’re feeling a little put upon by the president of the United States.

First, Donald Trump accused New Hampshire of being party to massive voter fraud in the 2016 election that put him in the White House.

This week, it was revealed that within a week of settling in at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue he called the state a “drug-infested den.”

Democrats in the state were outraged. Republicans, exercising more moderation for one of their own, expressed disappointment and were quick to put Trump’s comments in context relative to what’s happening with the opioid crisis in the state.

The Washington Post this week reported it had obtained a transcript of a telephone call Trump made to the president of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, in January, soon after his inauguration as president.

In that call, according to the transcript, Trump talked about the wall he wanted to build along the Mexico-United States border as a campaign promise to his supporters and the problem of drugs coming into the states from Mexico. “We have a massive drug problem where kids are becoming addicted to drugs because the drugs are being sold for less money than candy,” Trump reportedly said. “I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den.”

A chorus of protests from Democrats responded. “A gross misrepresentation of NH & the epidemic,” said U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in a Twitter tweet. “Disgusting. As he knows, NH and states across America have a substance misuse crisis,” tweeted U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan. “No, Mr. President, you're wrong about New Hampshire - but you have failed to help us fight the opioid crisis,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter. “Insults to NH are appalling. We’re working across the aisle to address the opioid crisis,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Ann McLane Kuster.

Christopher Sununu, the state’s Republican governor, issued a statement Thursday saying, “The President is wrong.  It’s disappointing his mischaracterization of this epidemic ignores the great things this state has to offer... Our administration inherited one of the worst health crises this state has ever experienced, but we are facing this challenge head on.  We have doubled our resources to support prevention, treatment and recovery; dedicated millions to law enforcement's efforts to keep drugs out of our state, increased the availability of naloxone, and are rebuilding our prevention programs for our kids.”

State Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, an often outspoken supporter of Trump in the Granite State, said, “I think he’s accurate. We did have a major drug problem and we still do. Why have we sunk $66 million into it in the past few years? Why are there 500 overdoses a year? You have to call it what it is.”

See a WMUR report here.

Left unclear is how his perception that New Hampshire is a “drug-infested den” helped him win the state, which he did in the Republican primary election, but not the general election.

According to drug overdose death data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the highest rates of death due to drug overdose in 2015 were in West Virginia (41.5 per 100,000), New Hampshire (34.3 per 100,000), Kentucky (29.9 per 100,000), Ohio (29.9 per 100,000), and Rhode Island (28.2 per 100,000). Drug overdose deaths in New Hampshire in 2016 numbered 479, 9 percent more than the overdose deaths
in 2015.

Trump’s belief in voter fraud prompted him to create an Election Integrity Commission, to which New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner belongs. That commission had asked for detailed voter data from each state, which some states have resisted handing over. A lawsuit that seeks to prevent Gardner from releasing New Hampshire voter information to the election panel will move forward, starting with a hearing on Monday in Hillsborough County Superior Court. See a Union Leader story here.

Healthcare uncertainty

State lawmakers this week rejected a key part of the plan put forward by the state’s insurance department to keep New Hampshire’s individual health insurance market under the Affordable Care Act from collapsing next year.

Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny had proposed a “reinsurance” program to create a pool of money that carriers could dip into as needed. Money for the pool would have come from a $32 million assessment on all of the insurers operating in New Hampshire, along with some federal money.

The Republican-controlled Joint Health Care Reform Oversight Committee voted unanimously to allow the state to attempt to establish such a program and to ask for any available federal funds. But they voted along party-lines, 4-2, not to include a fee for insurers in the plan, with Republicans arguing it wasn’t worth the expected return. Gov. Sununu also opposed the part that asked insurers to pay up an ante.

See a Concord Monitor story here.

Also in the state

The state’s motor vehicle inspection stickers are getting a makeover. They will be rectangular, both the month and year of expiration will now be printed on them and they'll have new security features as well such as a hologram backer. And, rather being mounted in the center of the windshield – just below the rearview mirror - they’re going to be placed in the lower left corner on the driver’s side. See an NHPR story here.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. David Shulkin was in the state Friday to hear for himself what’s been plaguing the Manchester VA Medical Center. With members of the congressional delegation and the governor at his side, Shulkin promised an investment to increase and improve the quality of health care delivered by the medical center to veterans. See a Union Leader story here.

The state and Dartmouth-Hitchcock this week reached a settlement over contracted staffing levels at New Hampshire Hospital. The two sides had been in dispute over what the state contended was understaffing at the state hospital. As part of the settlement, the state will get a credit from Dartmouth-Hitchcock. Another settlement agreement provides for an independent review of staffing levels. See a Union Leader story here.

A new federal regulation prohibits commercial fishermen from catching cod, and that has put a crimp in the charter fishing business in New Hampshire. Officials have also reduced the number of haddock that fishermen can keep from 15 to 12, and the fish must be at least 17 inches long. See a Union Leader story here.

Should you be 21 to purchase tobacco products? Should NH suspend the annual moose hunt? Do invisible dog fences need regulation? Those questions are a sampling of what we’re discussing on our Facebook page this week. Hop on over and join the conversation.


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