Governor Lynchís press secretary, Colin Manning, told reporters the Governor would keep the House and Senate in session all summer if necessary to get the budget restructured so it will be balanced. That means balancing the current budget for fiscal year 2010 that ends on June 30 as well as the upcoming fiscal year that ends next June.
The Governorís proclamation calling the legislature back into session said "Whereas, the welfare of the people of the State of New Hampshire requires the convening of the General Court for the purpose of enacting legislation to ensure that the stateís budget remains balanced for the fiscal year 2010-2011 biennium." June 9 is the day set for the Special Session.
House and Senate conferees were so divided a few days ago as to whether expanded gambling would be part of any budget solution that coming together again seemed unrealistic. But, a couple of days later I was watching an evening newscast on WMUR as they announced that Senator Lou DíAllesandro (Manchester) had agreed to stop his insistence that gambling be included in the budget remedy. He will have a separate bill on gambling at our Special Session for legislators to vote on.
With expanded gambling off the table, the majority leadership in the House and Senate and the Governor reached an agreement on a "tentative plan." The budget gap for the two years was pegged at $295.2 million and the committee of conference had come within $30 million before talks fell apart.
Based on an email, Friday, from Senate President Larsen, the tentative plan has no new taxes. She went further in her response to an email sent the same day by Jim Roche, President of the Business Industry Association. His email appealed to legislators to not "balance the budget on the backs of business."
One of the major irritants for small businesses has been the so-called LLC tax that was included in the current budget. Senator Larsen noted "the Special Session bill repeals the LLC tax."
She also noted there is no increase in the business profits, business enterprise or the rooms and meals taxes. Many lodging and restaurant owners had contacted their legislators about an earlier proposal to allow communities a "local option" to have their own rooms and meals tax. This idea came forward with little discussion or opportunity for the public to weigh in. The proposal has been dropped.
So how does the budget get balanced with no new taxes or tax increases: cuts in spending, taking money from entities like LCHIP and restructuring some of our bonding. Overall it sounds like the majority has a deal and it will take only a one day session to pass it.
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All committee of conference reports were voted on and approved, on what was originally scheduled to be our last session for 2010. There was a report on House Bill 1516 dealing with the proposed closing of four courts including the Claremont district court. The Claremont court will remain open for the next fiscal year beginning on July 1. The next biennial budget will determine if closing some courts to save money makes sense.
Most controversy was on a report on HB 1459 that would place requirements on businesses and other organizations that spend over $10,000 to help elect or defeat candidates for office. They would have to register and meet some other new disclosure rules. Opponents felt that it impinged upon our constitutionally protected right to free speech.
The Senate spent a couple of hours in debate, raising procedural questions and holding recesses before a party line vote to accept the committee of conference report. The report then went to the House where a bipartisan coalition killed the report in a floor vote of 135 for and 184 against.
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At our June 2 Senate session two Kearsarge Regional High School juniors sat in as pages. Jess Bolger is from New London and Kristen Kuzil is from Wilmot. They were very patient and attentive during the reading of dozens of conference committee reports which in most cases the Senate accepted by voice vote.
Jess and Kristen are good students with major plans for their futures. I introduced Jess to the Senate noting that she hopes to "become a senator or work in the UN and star in a Broadway show." Senator Houde (Plainfield) introduced Kristen with her future plans to "become a psychiatrist and help those with behavioral disorders."
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It was fun to join former legislative colleague, and now federal Department of Agriculture official, Jay Phinizy, for the opening ceremonies and ribbon cutting for the new Goshen Farmers and Artisans Market.
Farmers markets are one of the fastest growing segments of the nationís food distribution system and for many shoppers they offer a weekly opportunity to purchase locally grown food. Not only do small local farmers have new markets to help sustain them, there is a community spirit that surrounds farmers markets.
Jeff Perrino, who leads the six-member board of volunteers in charge of the Goshen initiative, has been working hard for many weeks to launch the market with fund-raising, vendor recruitment and marketing. Every week he has plans for demonstrations and programs relating to gardening and food preparation as well as entertainment.
The Goshen Farmers and Artisans Market will be open Saturdays from 9 am to 12 pm.
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