NH Week in Review for Jan. 22: Right to work, concealed carry get Senate OK

Jan 22, 2017

So far this legislative session, the issues of right-to-work and concealed carry have two of three approvals - from a divided state Senate this week and with the approval of the new Republican governor.

House approval would give Republicans political victory on the two issues that have flummoxed them in past sessions.

The GOP-controlled Senate on Thursday voted 12-11 along party lines to approve SB 11, which would prohibit collective bargaining agreements from requiring employees to contribute dues to a labor union. Proponents say it will encourage business growth in New Hampshire; opponents say it is a union busting measure that will result in lower wages. See a Union Leader story here.

It has the support of Republican Gov. Christopher Sununu, who said, “In our shared efforts to grow New Hampshire’s economy and again become the region’s economic driver, it is critical that we provide for ourselves every available tool to both strengthen our workforce and attract new, thriving business opportunities. Right-to-work legislation helps to realize those goals as it ensures fairness and choice for workers and signals to the business community our commitment to fostering a pro-growth environment.”

The concealed carry issue has to do with whether the state should repeal current law that requires a permit from law enforcement for someone to carry a firearm concealed from view. The repeal language in SB 12 passed on Thursday 13-10. See a Concord Monitor story here.

It, too, will get Sununu’s signature if it gets to his desk. “I am pleased that the state Senate today voted to advance common sense legislation in support of a citizen’s fundamental right to carry a firearm, joining neighboring states throughout the region and across the country,” he said.

Democrat Maggie Hassan, a Democrat and Sununu’s predecessor in the State House, had stymied legislative efforts to pass these measures in the past. Recent action could signal more items on a Republican agenda—changes to voting laws, for example—that could get further than in past years because of a Republican trifecta of control of the House, Senate, and the governor’s office. According to the Union Leader, there are 40 pieces of legislation that target the state’s voting laws.

Also in Concord

Sununu this week called on agencies to rein in spending with a mandate to hold off on new state hiring in order to get a handle on the current budget. He and the former governor differ on just how much of a surplus exists in the state budget that expires on June 30. Hassan said it’s $130 million, Sununu said he doubted that. “I’m not sure it ever existed to be honest, because when we got in and actually got the data and started looking at the numbers, it just not there,” he said in an NH1 News story.

Sununu has selected one-time political rival, Frank Edelblut, as his choice for education commissioner. Democrats question his lack of experience in education, while Republicans support him. The Executive Council, which is 3-2 in favor of Republicans, will vote on the nomination. See a Union Leader story here.

Law enforcement and victim advocates expressed opposition to a bill, HB 106, that would require sexual assault victims to corroborate their testimony if the defendant has no prior related convictions. Concord Police Detective Sean Ford, in a House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee hearing this week, called it “nothing more than a pedophile protection act and rapist shield law.” See a Union Leader story here.

In Washington, D.C.

U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, Democrat from the 1st Congressional District, did not attend Friday’s inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States.

 “I and many people in both parties have had and continue to have essential questions that go unanswered and deep concerns that have not been addressed. Congress is a co-equal branch of government. As Republicans who have chosen not to attend other inaugurations have shown, you can choose not to be there to celebrate but still respect the office. I respect the decisions of my colleagues to either attend or not attend, and all of us respect the office,” she said in a statement. “I plan to work with President-Elect Trump when we find common ground on issues that help our state and country, and I will be attending services and praying for him, for all of our leaders, and for the people of our district and our country.”

The rest of the New Hampshire delegation -- U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, and U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster from the 2nd CD, all Democrats - attended the ceremony.

“Today our nation proudly demonstrated our longstanding tradition of the peaceful transfer of executive power,” said Shaheen. “I want to congratulate President Trump, our new First Lady, Melania, and the entire Trump family. It is now the job of President Trump to unite our country and be a president for every American. Over the next four years, I hope to work with President Trump where we can find common ground to address issues affecting Granite Staters and all Americans,” Shaheen, the state’s senior delegation member, said in a statement.

Marches protesting Trump and his new administration were held in Washington, D.C., and in various locations around New Hampshire, with large gatherings in Concord and Portsmouth. See a WMUR report here.

Hassan, meanwhile, took center stage earlier in the week during questioning of Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick as education secretary. Hassan questioned DeVos on federal law regarding students with disabilities. Hassan’s son, Ben, has cerebral palsy. See an NHPR story here.

Also ...

Former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte has been named as a visiting fellow by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics for the spring of 2017. The Republican  lost her re-election bid in November to Hassan. She said she is “looking forward to speaking with students about pursuing public service and the important domestic and foreign policy issues facing our country." See a WMUR story here.

The number of cases of gonorrhea in the state nearly doubled in 2016, with 465 cases of the sexually transmitted disease reported, the state Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday. State health officials said they are “working to identify individuals who may have been exposed to gonorrhea in order to connect them with testing and treatment. We are also asking health care providers and patients with gonorrhea to help connect sex partners with medical care for evaluation and treatment of gonorrhea infection." See a Union Leader story here.

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