NH Week in Review for March 5: The Bay State in the Granite State news cycle

Mar 05, 2017

Twice this week, neighboring Massachusetts had a bearing on what was going on here in New Hampshire.

First, it was news that New Hampshire placed second to Massachusetts in a ranking of best states in America. Then, it was news of Gov. Christopher Sununu blaming Massachusetts - specifically the city of Lawrence -- for the source of the vast majority of the potentially deadly drug fentanyl that comes into the Granite State.

The No. 2 status came from the U.S. News and World Report’s Best States Ranking released on Tuesday. States were evaluated on seven criteria - health care, education, crime and corrections, infrastructure, opportunity, economy, and government.

New Hampshire’s highest ranking of 1 was given for opportunity, which the report described as a measure of “poverty, housing affordability and equality for women, minorities and people with disabilities.”

The Granite State’s lowest ranking - 30 - was in government, described as where a state stands on “transparency, integrity, fiscal stability and their use of digital technology in serving residents.”

U.S. News and World Report said this of Massachusetts: “Its vibrant academic environment, innovative and supportive health care policies and modernizing economy, measure for measure, make this small New England powerhouse with a population of 6.8 million the strongest state of all.”

Gov. Sununu told NH1 News that the ranking “helps immensely” as he seeks to attract new businesses from out of state. NHPR took the ranking and put it in some perspective. Read the story here.

The ranking took on a political overtone when state Democratic Party chair Raymond Buckley, fresh from consideration as chair of the national committee, said the ranking is due to the work of former Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat who is now a U.S. senator. Sununu is a Republican. See Buckley’s statement here.

The second source of Massachusetts vs. New Hampshire news involved a dust-up of blame over the source of fentanyl - a narcotic that is being used and abused for its heroin-like effect. The drug is a major factor in the ongoing opioid epidemic in the state that is responsible for the majority of overdose deaths in New Hampshire last year and so far this year.

In a speech in Manchester on Wednesday, Sununu said the drug is coming into this state from Lawrence, Mass., and he vowed, “We’re going in,” according to a WMUR report. "We're going to get tough on these guys, and I want to scare every dealer that wants to come across that border. We're not giving dealers nine months on parole and probation anymore. We're putting them away for the five, 10 and 15 years that they deserve."

Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera responded: “These borders have been here forever, when we were colonies, but the drugs don’t identify those borders, the users don’t identify those borders. So, I refuse to say the real problem is X.” Said the Bay State’s Republican Gov. Charlie Baker: “I do view this as a problem that affects us all and I think singling out a single community or a single state is just not accurate.” See an NHPR story here.

Also in the state

It was vacation week in New Hampshire - schools were out, so was the state Legislature. A big hearing is scheduled next week on an election reform measure that seeks to tighten up proof of residency in the state for purposes of voting. SB 3 will be heard by the Senate Election Law and Internal Affairs Committee at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. See an NH 1 story here.

Gov. Sununu’s revenue estimates for the proposed new biennium budget are out of sync with House budget writers. The House Ways and Means Committee came out with revenue estimates Wednesday showing the state will bring in nearly $60 million less than what Sununu projected. The discrepancy means House budget writers will likely have to make cuts to Sununu’s proposed spending on education, infrastructure or health care. See a Concord Monitor story here.

On Capitol Hill, tension continues between the Democratic delegation and the policies of the Republican administration of President Donald Trump. Trump gave a speech Tuesday to a joint session of Congress. U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said in a statement she found some redeeming qualities in his calls for infrastructure improvement but found him lacking on such issues as health care. U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan said in a statement Trump “focused on a partisan, anti-middle class agenda that would pull our country and economy backward.” U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter of the 1st Congressional District said in a statement that what Trump outlined is “wrong for the working men and women in New Hampshire.” U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster said in a statement, “We must fully investigate Trump's conflicts of interest to ensure our country is always put before business.”

New Hampshire’s unemployment rate held steady at 2.7 percent for January, with modest job gains across a number of sectors. See an NHPR story here.

The funding formula as part of the federal 21st Century Cures Act for opioid addiction treatment actually gives the state less money than officials expected. New Hampshire currently has the second-highest rate of per capita drug overdose deaths nationwide behind West Virginia, yet it is low on the priority list for $1 billion of federal money currently being divvied up among the 50 states and territories. See a Concord Monitor story here.

On our Facebook page this week, we’re discussing abortion, minimum age for marriage, and the electoral college. Join in on the discussion.


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