The Senate received a message inviting Senators to join the House in a joint convention for the purposes of swearing-in the Governor and the five members of the Executive Council and to hear the Governor's inaugural address.
Senators joined the House and took their seats in the front of our beautiful Representatives' Hall around 11 a.m. on Inauguration Day knowing the Governor wasn't scheduled to make his address until 12:30. But there were plenty of important ceremonies and a little pageantry that would take up the time before the Governor's address.
To get started, you have to get people invited to the ceremony, other than legislators, into the hall. The House Sergeant-at-Arms calls out names of groups and invited guest as they march into the chamber guided to their assigned seats by members of the military.
The first group was the "family and friends of Governor Lynch" followed by his daughters, former governors, commissioners and department heads, representatives of the judiciary including all five members of the Supreme Court, and several other groups and individuals. Finally, Governor Lynch and Dr. Lynch were welcomed to the chamber to applause.
The program began with the posting of the colors, patriotic songs and an invocation. This year a special feature was a reading by our own Tomie dePaola, from New London, who read a "whopper" from one of his books. It was about an imagined border dispute between Vermont and New Hampshire. It was presented with heavy reliance on the northern New England dialect. His presentation was extremely well received and brought laughter and smiles to faces in the audience.
The Governor was sworn-in by the first female Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, Linda Dalianis and the Governor, in turn, swore-in the newly elected Executive Councilors.
I found the Governor's speech to be, in part, a reminder that New Hampshire is a pretty good place to live. And, legislators planning drastic changes take action at the risk of upsetting a government structure that has made New Hampshire the envy of the rest of the nation.
Some high rankings the Governor cited: "… fastest growing economy in the nation. We have the lowest state taxes. We are the safest state. We are the most livable state, and New Hampshire is considered the best state in the nation to raise children."
He continued, "The Federal Reserve Bank says New Hampshire had the fastest economic growth of any state in the nation in the past year, and predicts we will lead the country in economic growth in the coming year. The National Journal calls New Hampshire the fastest growing economy in the nation. Think about it. Fifty states and New Hampshire is the best."
The biggest issue facing the state remains the budget for the biennium starting on July 1 and some legislators were disappointed the Governor did not lay out his plan to meet the anticipated gap between current revenue and spending projections. Critics need to remember that the Governor will present his entire finance plan as he is required to do on February 15. That speech will kick the budget debate a notch higher on the intensity scale.
The day before Inauguration Day was Convening Day. Our state constitution, Article 42, requires that the Secretary of State present election results for the gubernatorial and executive councilor elections "before the senate and house of representatives, on the first Wednesday following the first Tuesday of January to be examined …"
The official convening day work consists of a joint convention, hearing the Secretary of State's report on the election results and the appointment of five legislators to examine the results. With the formalities of Convening Day completed, the stage is set for the swearing in of the Governor and Council the next day.
The unofficial business of Convening Day was likely more on the mind of legislators, especially new ones. The Department of Safety took two committee rooms in the Legislative Office Building and staffing them to photograph legislators and legislative staff for their prized identification cards.
More important, for many, are the legislators' license plates. Each legislator may have two sets for which they pay $9 per set. These plates go over one's regular plate that must be kept on the car. The number on a Senator's plate reflects the district number the Senator represents. House member plate numbers are tied to their seat in Representatives' Hall. Thus, the first number indicates which one of the five sections the member sits in and the second number is seat number within that section.
We are three-quarters of the way through our current biennium. The first of the two years ended with a surplus, revenue over expenditures, of about $75 million. In the first six months of the second year ending on December 31, the state was right on target coming in with $3.6 million over the budget plan. A shortfall of $15 million in a Medicaid related transaction put us slightly (one percent) in the red. While that is pretty good news, some analysts see a huge potential $895 million gap between revenue and spending over the next two years.
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