We all know that change is inevitable in the world of politics and no change can be seem more abrupt or unfair than legislation to change the boundaries of legislative seats.
That was especially true when the Senate majority office released their proposal last week that makes major changes to the communities that will be included in the new 8th district.
Redistricting is the process of insuring that every citizenís vote is as nearly equal to the vote of other citizens or as close as possible to fulfill the Supreme Courtís "one man, one vote" principle.
The United States Constitution requires a national census be taken every 10 years. And based on the new population numbers, districts for the Congress are changed by state legislatures every decade. The legislatures also redistrict their House and Senate boundaries and that process has been going on in Concord since the census numbers became available last spring.
The majorityís proposal contains a number of changes that would not have been of my choosing. It takes two Sullivan County communities out of District 8, Claremont and Charlestown. Six communities in Cheshire County are moved out: Alstead, Gilsum, Roxbury, Sullivan, Walpole and Westmoreland.
New Sullivan County towns being added to the 8th district include Croydon, Grantham, and Springfield. Two Merrimack County towns, Bradford and Wilmot, are added to the district along with seven towns in Hillsborough County.
The net change is that 30,675 residents, or 53.7 percent, of the proposed district will be new to the district. Rather than the City of Claremont and 20 towns in three counties, the new district will have 25 towns scattered over four counties.
A couple of other districts are similarly changed but six of the 24 districts are not changed at all. In the densely populated southern part of the state, especially Rockingham and Hillsborough Counties, there are limited combinations of towns and cities based on the size of the communities that are possible.
The majorityís proposal, as well as any other plans brought forward by the public, will go before the Senate Internal Affairs Committee for a hearing. At that time, the public will be allowed to comment on each proposal and to make suggestions for the committee to consider.
Following the hearing, the Internal Affairs Committee will make a recommendation to the full Senate. The Senate redistricting plan must be approved by both the Senate and House and then it goes to the Governor. If he vetoes it, it will come back for a veto override. Should it become law, redistricting plans across the country, are frequently challenged in the courts.
When finalized, these new districts will be in play in the September primary election and the November general election. Senators winning in those elections will serve their new districts effective on Dec. 5, 2012 when newly elected Senators are sworn in.
Until then, I will serve all of District 8 as I have in the past and to be a good partner in helping transition from myself to others in the municipalities that will be leaving the district. And should I be re-elected in November, I will always have a warm spot and plenty of time and determination to be of assistance to communities I have been honored to serve over the years.
The first half of the current fiscal year ended on Dec. 31. Once in a while someone suggests the legislature should hire a professional firm or engage a group of citizens to provide revenue estimates for upcoming fiscal years.
If the first half of the current year is any example, and I think it is a very good example, our volunteer legislature does a very good job of estimating revenue. The overall revenue projection made last June for the July 1 through December 31 period was to take in $852 million.
Actual revenue was $810.2 million giving us a shortfall of $41.8 million.
Behind those numbers there is another story. Each October the state receives revenue from hospitals when they pay the Medicaid Enhancement Tax (MET). Revenue was budgeted for $97 million but based on differing standards upon which to calculate their taxes, some hospitals paid less than expected creating a hole of $41.1 million in this revenue source.
The Department of Health and Human Services is circulating a letter that will ask all hospitals to use a uniform basis for calculating their tax and that will produce additional MET income for the state. This is important because the additional MET revenue will leave the state with a shortfall vs. the budget plan of just $700 thousand or less than 1 tenth of 1 percent.
Being off by $700 thousand against revenue projections of $852 million is pretty good revenue estimating by our volunteer legislators serving on the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees. And when one looks back over the last decade, with the exception of the abrupt downturn in revenues when recession hit us head-on, the legislature has a long record of very accurate revenue projections.
Hereís a quick take on what has been going on. Business taxes are up over projections as are meals and rentals tax income and, very importantly, the real estate transfer tax. Lagging revenue sources include our "sin taxes" including the tobacco tax, proceeds from the Liquor Commission and income from the Lottery Commission. The interest and dividends tax is also behind.
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