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Bob Odell
State Senator
District 8


March 18 , 2012

Senator Odell is Chairman of  the Ways and Means Committee; Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee; Vice Chairman of the Finance Committee; Vice Chairman of the State Parks Advisory Council; and member of the  Capital Budget Committee.

Senate District 8 towns: Acworth, Alstead, Charlestown, Claremont, Gilsum, Goshen, Langdon, Lempster, Marlow, New London, Newbury, Newport, Roxbury, Stoddard, Sullivan, Sunapee, Sutton, Unity, Walpole, Washington and Westmoreland.

Michael Shklar, our moderator, reminded voters as they left the Goshen-Lempster Cooperative School District annual meeting that we should be thankful we live in a country and community where we can participate in the democratic process.

That is especially true for those of us who have the opportunity to go to school district and town meetings. It is direct democracy in the most fundamental way. When we are in our town halls and school gyms, we are the "governing body" while we are in session.

The town meeting form of government is not appropriate for many communities because of their size. Having started by going to town meetings with my dad as a child, they still give me a special sense of community as we debate and vote on issues with our friends and neighbors.

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The legislature is pushing on to the critical Mar. 29 "crossover" deadline. That is the date when all bills passed by the House and Senate must be exchanged.

There was an intermediary date last Thursday when all Senate bills with fiscal notes had to move through their policy committee so they can be dealt with by the Finance Committee before crossover. An example would be Senate Bill 392 FN which outlines a voluntary reporting procedure for property owners or their contractors who plow and apply salt to parking lots or other surfaces. The goal is to allow contractors and property owners to reduce their liability exposure while encouraging them to use less salt.

The bill has a fiscal note because the state may have some modest expense in managing the data it receives but it appears that there is a process in place and likely no actual cost. The Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed the bill with an "ought to pass as amended" recommendation, it is likely to get a strong vote on the Senate floor and immediately be sent to the Finance Committee. The Finance Committee will review it for state financial impacts the next day and send it back to the Senate floor for a final vote the following week.

Not all, but many bills with fiscal notes go to two committees. That allows Senators to separate out the policy in a bill from making a financial decision on whether the state can afford or even should be spending money to implement a bill.

We do know that with the Mar. 29 crossover deadline that Senate committee work and floor action on all bills introduced by Senators will be completed when we go home that day. And Senators and House members will be pleased knowing that the 2012 legislative session will be more than half over with plans to finish up in early June..

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When the Senate meets this week, there will be 55 bills on the calendar. Twelve bills or 20 percent of the bills will appear on the consent calendar. This is an innovation by Senate President Peter Bragdon (Milford) to speed up the voting process on the Senate floor following the consent calendar used in the House for decades.

Under new Senate rules, committees can put a bill on the consent calendar only if every committee member is present for its vote, that the vote on the committee recommendation is unanimous and that the committee members vote to put the bill on the consent calendar. Senators are then asked during our floor session to vote for all the committee recommendations on all bills on the consent calendar as a group without debate.

In the past, every bill was taken to the floor by a Senator who read a brief statement about it. And then each bill was voted on separately. The voting on these generally agreed upon bills took time and was usually perfunctory generating no debate or discussion. One Senator can take a bill off the consent calendar and add it to our regular calendar. And bills with fiscal notes cannot be on consent calendar unless the committee recommendation is to kill the bill.

I started out opposing Senator Bragdon’s consent calendar idea. But it is working very well and I have changed my mind. I like the traditions of the Senate but improving the process should not be rejected simply because it is a change from the past.

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Last week when I wrote about Medicaid and state finances I said I would lighten up a little bit this week. A few hours after finishing the article, I was picking up four and a half year old granddaughter, Eleanor, and we were off to the March Madness concert by the Kearsarge Community Band.

The band is very popular and by the time we arrived at the New London Outing Club Indoor Facility all the seats on the floor were taken. Eleanor and I climbed up onto the bleachers and settled in for the concert.

The music was wonderful and for musical amateurs, like me, the introductory description of each piece and the background on the composer was very helpful. Conductor Aarne Vesilind and the more than 40 musicians deserve generous praise and appreciation for their contribution to the cultural life of the region.

The Kearsarge Community Band, especially with a chance to spend some time with Eleanor, definitely lightened things up for me and the concert was a good break from Medicaid, taxes and budgets and other matters that could be taken up later.

 

Bob Odell
State Senator
New Hampshire State House
107 North Main Street
Concord, NH 03301-4951

Telephone:  603-271-6733
Email:  rpojr@aol.com

 

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