By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – Christmas is this week and it is a time for wishes or maybe wishful thinking.
With the vacation nearly over for lawmakers who head back to Concord Jan. 8 to begin the 2020 session of the General Court, wishful thinking has to be on their minds.
They will face the daunting task of acting on about 240 bills, about two-thirds in the House, one-third in the Senate, before the end of the month.
While that sounds ambitious, the vast majority of the bills are recommended for a polite death — interim study — or outright death — inexpedient to legislate and will not take long to debate if there is any discussion at all.
But there are several areas where lawmakers are not content to let a Gov. Chris Sununu veto stand as the final word like net metering, minimum wage, paid medical and family leave and an independent redistricting commission.
‘Red flag’ fight
Some highly contentious issues remain like the “red flag” bill that allows a relative, household member or law enforcement to report a person who is a risk to him or herself or to others, which would result in the temporary removal of that person’s firearms.
The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee could not agree on a recommendation for the bill, so it has none, which will ensure a vigorous debate.
House Bill 221, which would rename Columbus Day Indigenous People’s Day is also bound to result in a long, contentious debate.
The Senate also has a few bills to argue about, but nothing as controversial as the House.
House Speaker Steve Shurtleff and Senate President Donna Soucy have to wish for a smooth opening to the 2020 session which is bound to become contentious as they always do in an election year.
They have to wish for a session that holds few surprises and instead paves a fairly safe route to hold their majorities for the next term.
House Minority Leader Dick Hinch and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Morse may wish for the right combination of issues to make a case for change in the next election.
They will also hope Santa brings good candidates to run under the GOP banner and to fill more slots than they have for House seats in the past.
At the top of the ticket, Sununu has to wish for lots more bills to veto and maybe a tax or two he can slam in advertisements. He already has a start with the Transportation and Climate Initiative, which he claims will raise gas taxes by 17 cents.
And Sununu has to wish for a bruising Democratic gubernatorial primary requiring the candidates to spend all their money winning the nomination.
The governor may wish for, but he will not have a quiet Executive Council for the next year, with Second District Councilor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andru Volinsky who is already making Sununu’s political life difficult.
The Democratic gubernatorial candidates Volinsky and Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes will wish for a primary based on issues and honest disagreements allowing the victor to move toward the center for the general election.
They will also wish for the National Democratic Governors’ Association to be willing to help with the final push to the general election, which it didn’t do in 2018.
The gubernatorial nominee will need all the help he can get because the state party’s number one priority will be returning U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen to Washington.
Shaheen has to be thankful for the candidates who have announced they are running for the GOP nomination: former House Speaker Bill O’Brien, businessman and attorney Bryant “Corky” Messner, and retired Brigadier General Don Bolduc, and possibly former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. They all will be a striking contrast on the issues with the two-term Senator, who always does well in races fitting that model.
The GOP candidates need to wish for a backlash against President Trump’s impeachment which turns out his base in New Hampshire, which is not one of his strongest swing states.
The Republican candidates for the first and second congressional districts have to have the same wish list as the U.S. Senate candidates.
Former GOP state vice chair Matt Mayberry intends to run against first-term incumbent Chris Pappas for the first district seat, while former state representatives Steve Negron and Lynne Blankenbeker have said they intend to run against four-term incumbent Ann McLane Kuster for the second district seat.
The Republican state party wishes it will be able to raise the money the Democrats have over the past few elections.
And the GOP also wishes for a unified party at least for the down-ballot races.
Democrats wish for a repeat of the 2018 election with one exception, winning the governor’s race so the party’s goals and vision will not be denied by an active veto pen.
What NH needs now
There are some things the state should wish for all its citizens.
Those wishes should be:
An end to the opioid crisis that has plagued the state for a decade claiming thousands of lives and crushing families and communities.
An education funding system that does not leave so many children behind due to its over-reliance on property taxes, something the state Supreme Court told lawmakers they had to fix, but to date they have defied the court’s ruling.
An energy future that is less reliant on fossil fuels and more reliant on renewable sources because pollution does not respect state boundaries although many politicians will tell you otherwise.
A fully staffed child protection system responsive to the needs of children in crisis and with the resources to help broken families survive and flourish.
A higher education system that is not last in the country for public support leaving New Hampshire students with the highest student debt rates in the country.
Economic development initiatives to help the North Country, the Connecticut River Valley and any other region outside the state’s golden triangle from Nashua to Concord to the Seacoast. There are two New Hampshires and one of them has not prospered after the last depression.
Affordable housing so young people remain in New Hampshire to raise families and to contribute to everyone’s wellbeing.
And a Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.
Garry Rayno may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Distant Dome by veteran journalist Garry Rayno explores a broader perspective on the State House and state happenings for InDepthNH.org. Over his three-decade career, Rayno covered the NH State House for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Foster’s Daily Democrat. During his career, his coverage spanned the news spectrum, from local planning, school and select boards, to national issues such as electric industry deregulation and Presidential primaries. Rayno lives with his wife Carolyn in New London. InDepthNH.org is New Hampshire’s only nonprofit, online news outlet dedicated to holding government accountable and giving voice to marginalized people, places and ideas.