This will be a typical March week in the State House. The Senate will take up just 16 bills while the House will vote on over 250 bills. This work load reflects the difference between the more than 1,000 bills introduced by the 400 members of the House vs. a couple of hundred bills brought forward by the 24 members of the Senate.
Senate to consider increasing Governor's term
In the Senate, there is only one bill that will cause much debate and discussion. It is a Constitutional Amendment Concurrent Resolution (CACR 9) to have governors elected to 4-year terms beginning with the 2012 general election. New Hampshire is one of only two states still with 2-year terms for Governors. The other state is Vermont.
There are arguments on both sides. Those who want to stay with the traditional 2-year term say New Hampshire governors are better held to account for there actions. If voters do not like the Governor, they can bounce him or her out in fairly short order. The fact is that only two governors in the last centry, the most recent being Governor Craig Benson in 2004, who were defeated after only one term. The last Governor defeated for re-election after two terms was Hugh Gallen in 1982.
Those favoring a 4-year term believe Governors need time without an election hanging over their heads to advance broad policy initiatives. The 2-year election cycle is too distracting for the state’s chief executive and a period away from gubernatorial election politics would benefit the state. A constitutional amendment resolution requires three-fifths majority to pass in the Senate. That means 14 votes as we currently have 23 Senators with one vacancy. A similar vote is required in the House. If the CACR passes both bodies, it will be on the ballot in November, 2010 for all voters to weigh in.
The House will be voting on a wide range of bills covering many subjects this week. The House uses a consent calendar which will have about 150 bills on it. The House votes on all of these fairly non controversial bills with one vote by following the recommendations of their committees. Another 100 bills will see debate and individual voice, standing or roll call votes. Senators are watching to see which ones pass and then end up on our desks.
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A couple of weeks ago, Steve Taylor, who was the long time New Hampshire Commissioner of Agriculture, Markets and Food, introduced me to his leadership group, noting I represented more milking cows and sugar maple trees than any of the other 23 Senators. It makes sense given that industry leader Bascom Maple Farms is located in Acworth while there are several other major producers close by like Stetson’s two miles down the road from us here in Lempster. On the other end of the scale, a friend from Alstead said he was boiling sap from less than a dozen tops.
The last couple of years we have not boiled simply for lack of time. But if you cannot do it yourself, the next best thing is to pick a producer and visit their sugar shack. We decided to stop by our friend and forester Don Clifford’s family operation named Sabbath Acres Maple Syrup in North Newport. Drawing sap from 650 taps, the Clifford’s have been boiling since March 10 and Don predicts this may be the best year in a decade. Don has been at it for many years and his love of making good syrup is evident as he takes you on a mini tour and explanation of the operation from the taps to the filling and labeling of containers. Producing consistent high quality syrup is an art and it is carried out beautifully at Sabbath Acres. It all makes me want to start planning for next year right now.
Maple syrup is an important part of our agricultural economy. That is why Governor John Lynch has proclaimed March 28 and 29 as New Hampshire Maple Weekend urging citizens to recognize the cultural and economic value of maple producers in the state. More than 65 sugar houses, many in our area, will greet visitors during Maple Weekend with free samples and tours. You can find a list of participating sugar houses at nhmapleproducers.com.
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The State Senate usually meets every Wednesday for a session to debate and vote on bills. And each week two high school students act as Senate pages and help the Clerk and Seregent-at-Arms distribute materials … usually floor amendments … to the Senators. When not passing out documents, the pages sit in the front of the chamber facing the Senators. Some consider the pages’ place on the Senate floor the "best seats" in the chamber.
It is always a pleasure for Senators to introduce pages who live in their districts to Senate colleagues. That was my job last week when Julia Jones, a Sutton resident and student at Kearsarge Regional High School, was a page. Julia is an athlete, active in 4-H and has been elected to the student council. It was great to have Julia with us and hopefully she gained a special insight into what takes place during a Senate session.
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