With 400 members, it is predictable that one-fourth to one-third of the current members of the House of Representatives will not seek re-election. The Senate this year will see substantial change, too, with five of the 24 members retiring. With one of the smaller legislative chambers in the country, the New Hampshire Senate usually has much less change than the House.
Two years ago there were five retirees with all incumbents re-elected in the election that fall. Four years ago there were just two retirees but five incumbents lost their bids for re-election. So, change in the composition of the Senate is gradual but certainly it takes place.
Given the small membership of the Senate we all have to work together, and that means we are all friends, even though we may agree or disagree on the issues of the day. That is why I would like to recognize the service and contribution of each of the retiring Senators.
Kathy Sgambati (Tilton) for her two terms in the Senate has been the "go to" person on the Department of Health and Human Services budget. Having been a staffer for over 20 years at the department, including time as deputy and acting commissioner, she knew how to get to the bottom line on HHS budget questions.
I sat next to her on the Senate Finance Committee for the last four years and she and I served as a two-person committee on the HHS budget. In truth, most of the time, she could have handled the discussions by herself. Senator Sgambati is an example of the relevant experience many Senators bring to the chamber. Her experience was extraordinarily helpful given the tough budget decisions that have been made over the past four years.
Mike Downing (Salem) is a small business owner and retired police officer who became knowledgeable on public employee retirement issues along with many others. He served on the Ways and Means Committee with me and he and I are the two deputy minority leaders. By style and temperament, Mike and I seemed to see many issues from the same perspective and thus worked together very well.
In a brief but emotional farewell speech, Senator Downing noted that he had sat in the back row of the Senate chamber when his father, Delbert Downing, served four terms there. Mike is not leaving public service. He is running for sheriff in Rockingham County.
Harold Janeway (Webster) sits on my right, and over four years we have built a friendship that has been most enjoyable. A retired investment adviser, Harold has been a key player in the budget negotiations and has been the Senate representative on the stateís retirement board. His thoughtful approach to issues is appreciated, as there are times when some simply react too quickly and act without thinking-through all the consequences of their actions.
And last, simply because I have written about her before, is Shelia Roberge (Bedford). She will finish up with 26 years of service in the Senate, retiring as the dean of the Senate. She has sat next to me for the last eight years and I will certainly miss her.
When you ask what kind of person you would like to serve in the State Senate, the five retiring Senators would be fine examples of excellence in public service. I wish them all well.
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As we shop and plan for the Fourth of July celebrations this weekend, it might be good to slow down and remember once again how much America has sacrificed over the last 200 plus years to protect and keep our democracy.
I have been reading "This Republic of Suffering" by Drew Gilpin Faust who is now the President of Harvard University. It is about the impact of the huge number of deaths in the Civil War on Americans of the time and thereafter.
Ms. Faust estimates that 620,000 soldiers died between 1861 and the warís end in 1865. That number she writes is "approximately equal to the total American fatalities in the Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War combined." If the same 2 percent death rate of the Civil War were applied to our nationís population today, "that would mean six million fatalities."
Tens of thousands of civilians died, too, from diseases and being shot and killed as battles raged around them. The emotional loss for families, communities and the country from the terrible loss of so many husbands and sons in one generation changed America.
While there is always joy in celebrating our national birthday, there should be time to pause and reflect on the cost of maintaining our nation, paid by the military today and by soldiers and families of past generations.
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