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Hilary Niles, Executive Director
Facing a $210-220 million budget shortfall, Gov. John Lynch has released a three-part plan to cut spending, restructure debt and increase revenue for New Hampshire. He’ll present ideas requiring immediate action to the House and Senate Finance Committees on April 15. Further action will be left to the entire Legislature.
In his Power Point presentation to an invitation-only group of reporters April 8, Gov. Lynch did cite the recession—lower tax revenues and increased demand for services—as part of the problem. He did not question how realistic the monetary projections had been on which the budget was founded.
A new approach to parole is making headway in the N.H. Legislature.
If Senate Bill 500 passes, supporters say, less jail time and more community supervision could save the state money and help reduce recidivism at the same time. The Parole Board, however, fears for public safety if their authority is usurped.
The bill has passed the Senate and is expected to get a vote in the House sometime this month.
Determining who’s in charge of permitting large groundwater withdrawals in New Hampshire may get a lot clearer with Senate Bill 411, sponsored by Sen. Jacalyn Cilley (D-Barrington). Senate Bill 411 maintains current law—that DES is the sole permitting entity—while also stressing that applicants still must comply with local zoning and site plan regulations.
In other words, says Rep. Judith Spang (D-Durham), chair of a special groundwater study commission, “The fact that they may have a permit does not guarantee them the ability to do the withdrawal if it doesn’t meet local ordinances.” The House Resources, Recreation and Development Committee takes up the bill with a public hearing on April 6.
A tug-of-war about who has final say has mired the groundwater permit process for several years, since the USA Springs bottled water controversy erupted in Nottingham.
In his 14 years as a New Hampshire legislator, Rep. David Bickford (R-New Durham) has seen efforts to re-calculate child support come and go. Many—about a dozen each year—make their way through the House or the Senate, but few succeed.
“We’re just Johnny-come-lately to make a change,” Bickford says. “We hire people, they work like dogs and come out with good reports, and the legislators say, ‘It’s over my head. We’ll study it and then get back to it maybe,’ and then we don’t. … I’ve just never seen anything move so slow.”
Bickford sponsored six of the 11 bills relating to child support this year, including House Bill 1474, which passed the House March 17. It would create a commission to move child support guidelines toward an “income shares” model. Other bills that have passed the House would tweak the support formula for multiple children and for shared custody.
March 25 this year marks Crossover, the deadline for the N.H. House and Senate to vote on all bills that originated in those respective chambers.
Bills must pass the chamber in which they’re introduced before “crossing over” to the opposite chamber. Legislation that’s still alive after Crossover receives a second public hearing and potential floor debate before the second deadline in mid-May.
And some notable legislation is either still up for its first vote, or on its way to the other side.
The state’s share of education funding could remain capped at 2009 levels, according to two bills awaiting floor debate in the Senate. Either measure would save the state about $70 million a year from current funding obligations.
How good that looks depends on what town you’re looking from.