NH Week in Review for Feb. 5: Ayotte, casino gambling re-emerge

Feb 05, 2017

Kelly Ayotte re-surfaced in Washington, D.C., this week as President Donald Trump’s emissary to help his Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, navigate the U.S. Senate toward confirmation.

Also re-emerging this week was legislation at the State House to, once again, try to legalize casino gambling in the state.

Ayotte in November lost her bid for re-election to a second term as a New Hampshire Republican in the Senate to Democrat Maggie Hassan.

With Trump’s election as president, there was talk that he might appoint her to his cabinet, possibly as secretary of defense, despite her public criticism of Trump during the campaign and her ultimate declaration that she wouldn’t vote for him. But Trump dismissed that speculation in November with a curt “no, thank you” when her name came up during a New York Times interview.

Since then, Ayotte was named as a visiting fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of of Politics.

As Gorsuch’s sherpa, if you will, Ayotte was seen this week on Capitol Hill, personally introducing the Colorado federal judge to senators and escorting him to meetings and ultimately the confirmation hearing. See a Union Leader story here.

Republicans in the state, given the rift between Ayotte and Trump, hailed the move as “fence mending.” See a WMUR story here.

For her part, Hassan lined up this week to vote against many of the Trump cabinet nominations, while keeping an open mind on the Gorsuch nomination.

"The first week of the Trump administration underscored the need for a strong and independent judiciary that will serve as a check on the executive branch. I will thoroughly review Judge Gorsuch’s record throughout the hearing process so that I – and the American people – can determine whether he would protect the civil rights of all Americans and how he would evaluate the constitutionality of executive orders like President Trump's un-American immigration ban,” she said in a statement.

She said she will vote against the nominations of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education, Jeff Sessions as attorney general, Tom Price as secretary of health and human services, Mick Mulvaney as director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. She wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times about her opposition to DeVos; read it here.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, offered a cautious tone on Gorsuch this week, saying in a statement: “The independence of the Supreme Court is of utmost importance. Judge Gorsuch must demonstrate that he will rule independently of political influence or pressure, and defend the Constitution. I will thoroughly review Gorsuch’s record and his testimony during the nomination process. However, I will not support any candidate who intends to turn back the clock on civil rights, including women’s reproductive rights and LGBT equality.”

Shaheen said she would oppose the nominations of DeVos and Sessions, and has not specified her intention on the others.

Another roll of the dice

The casino legislation comes again from state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, in the form of SB 242. Calling it a “job creation and economic recovery package,” It would permit two casinos with slots and table games. He estimates the casinos would produce $195 million a year in revenue for the state.

“Right now, we have gambling going on all around us and New Hampshire is seeing none of the benefits. With two casinos, we have an opportunity to create hundreds of jobs, bring in hundreds of millions of dollars into our state, and help our struggling communities. The majority of the people of New Hampshire are in favor of gaming and it’s time for the Legislature to listen,” said D’Allesandro, who has been thwarted in past efforts to get his gambling bills through the Legislature. His reference was to charity gaming that is legal in the Granite State.

A hearing on the bill is Wednesday. See an Eagle-Tribune story here.

Time for a change?

A measure is making its way through the Legislature to put New Hampshire in the Atlantic Time Zone, thus eliminating the twice-yearly changing of the clocks (the fall back and spring forward) to keep up with Daylight Saving Time.

HB 209 passed the House this week and will now be considered by the Senate. It follows a move in Massachusetts to study conversion to Atlantic Time in that state, along with Vermont and Maine also considering the move.

Proponents argue the change puts more daylight toward the end of each day year-round. Opponents worry about children waiting for the school bus in the dark. See a Union Leader story here.

Also this week

Gov. Christopher Sununu prepared to roll out his proposed budget for the fiscal 2018-19 biennial during an address he’ll give to the Legislature on Thursday. Republicans are pretty excited about it, given that it’s the first time in 12 years that a Republican governor has proposed a budget to a Republican-controlled House and Senate. Democrats are a bit nervous. See a WMUR story here.

A bill to establish a paid family leave and medical leave insurance system is under consideration in Concord, so far without opposition. HB 628 had a hearing this week with no opposition. It would provide paid leave for up to 12 weeks for employees to take care of a family member or themselves, but the money would come entirely from a fund backed by money from employees’ paychecks and would not mandate that a job remain open for someone working for a small business. See a New Hampshire Business Review story here.

Inmates in the state’s prisons protested in a variety of ways a new visitation policy that prohibits hugging and kissing between a prisoner and her/her visitor. Corrections officials say the policy is necessary to cut down on the amount of contraband -- especially drugs -- that visitors are smuggling into the prisons. See a Concord Monitor story here.

Should children get free admission to state parks? Should NH allow residents to carry concealed firearms without a permit? Would you support charging a road usage fee on more fuel-efficient or alternative fuel vehicles? Those are among the topics we’re discussing on our Facebook page. We’d like your opinion.
 

 

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