When the voting was done and the Senate neared the end of our final session day last Wednesday, there were two empty chairs. One was empty as Senator Andy Sanborn had resigned last month so he could establish his new residency in Bedford where he is running in a new district.
The other empty chair belongs to Senator Jack Barnes (Raymond), dean of the Senate, having served nine terms and the senior member by age. He is not running for re-election and by prior agreement, at his request, there were to be no farewell or thank you speeches about him. But he still left the session before we adjourned.
Jack is a very special man. A Korean War veteran, he is passionate about supporting our military and especially our veterans. Jack was a selectman in Raymond and always listens to what "his towns" want. He knows how to stay close to his constituents. In business, he worked for McDonald's initially as a manager and in time came to own several McDonald's franchises.
Many jokes and good times were tied to his loyalty to the Red Sox. Whether up or down, Jack would often wear bold Red Sox ties and even on his last day in the Senate, another Senator had checked to see the Red Sox score that day. He interrupted the session to let Jack know the Sox were ahead.
In a small body like the 24 member State Senate, every member leaves a mark. It is just that a few giants of the Senate leave a bigger legacy. Jack Barnes leaves a grand one, all for the good for New Hampshire. He will certainly be missed but long remembered.
The Senate's likely final day for 2012 was dominated by votes on whether to sustain or overturn vetoes. Because it takes a two-thirds vote to overturn a veto in both the House and the Senate, each vote is a roll call.
The tally for the day was mixed. One bill, Senate Bill 175, often called the "Salinger bill" named after J. D. Salinger, would allow the control of the commercial use of a person's identity to be passed on through inheritance, failed to get 16 votes needed to overturn the Governor's veto. The vote was 13 to 10.
Governor Lynch had vetoed Senate Bill 326 which, in part, deals with taxation of trusts. New Hampshire, through past legislative action, has made the state more attractive to companies in this field to do business in New Hampshire. In a briefing last week, I was told that one family trust business recently moved from Massachusetts to Salem, New Hampshire, bringing with it 75 high paying professional jobs.
SB 326 would align our taxation policy on trusts with states like Delaware. By changing our tax policy, without impacting revenue, New Hampshire residents could set up trusts in New Hampshire and have their trust income treated the same as it is in Delaware.
In his veto message, the Governor reminded us that he is "an advocate of reforming New Hampshire trust laws in order to make our state first in the nation for trust services." But, he felt this bill had a "potential fiscal impact and unintended consequences '"
The Senate felt otherwise, Every Senator voted to override the Governor's veto. I do not recall another time when all Senators, on both sides of the aisle, voted to oppose a Governor's veto.
Along with Senate Majority Jeb Bradley (Wolfeboro) and Senate Finance Chair Chuck Morse (Salem), I had spent several hours, the day before the veto session, with professionals knowledgeable on tax and trust law. It was our conclusion that the approach in SB 326 is a good one and I think that helped bring other Senators along.
On Friday, Southwestern Community Services, the Community Action Program for Sullivan and Cheshire Counties, brought together local leaders to assess the impact of the federal government's new approach to dealing with homelessness.
The fact of homeless families and individuals in our communities is a reality. Last year, for example, in Claremont SCS provided emergency shelter for 281 people totaling 12,000 "bed nights." The average stay is about 60 days.
Maureen Ryan, from the New Hampshire Bureau of Homeless and Housing Services, was there to explain the HEARTH act, the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act of 2009. The HEARTH act, for the layman, encompasses a new federal policy that someone who is homeless should be in permanent housing within 30 days of becoming homeless.
This new approach would push local agencies like Southwestern Community Services to lessen the time individuals and families are in emergency shelters and to find and move the homeless into stable housing situations as quickly as possible.
The forum on Friday helped bring forward information on what is causing homelessness in our area. Panelists cited mental illness and substance and drug addiction. Later discussion suggested the economy, too, is impacting the numbers of homeless. Others noted recent actions by the legislature in cutting some social service programs. An overriding factor is simply the lack of affordable housing in the state.
While many see homelessness as an urban problem, the facts suggest that locally homelessness is a real issue. The toughest stories, for me, were about children, noted as unaccompanied, who are homeless and have no family member with them.