After a leisurely summer for most legislators, the pace of work will pick up in September. The Senate will start things off by holding a session on Sept. 3, the Tuesday after Labor Day. The purpose of this session is to elect a new Senate president.
The only candidate at this writing is Senator Chuck Morse (Salem) who has lined up Republican Senators to support him. And from a couple of conversations with Democrat Senators, I suspect there will be some votes from that side of the aisle for Senator Morse, too.
Senator Morse is seeking the Senate presidency just two months after he oversaw passage of the budget he had a strong hand in crafting. It passed with all 24 Senators supporting it. Getting that level of consensus around the budget bills, the signature legislative bills that come before the legislature every two years, was not easy.
Chuck Morse was elected to the Senate on the same day as I was back in 2002. He ran for another office in 2006 and returned to the Senate in 2010. In three of his four terms in the Senate, he has chaired its most important committee, the Finance Committee. I have served with Chuck on the committee each term.
Many people tell me they are sick of politicians and all the divisiveness they see in Washington. Senator Morse has a different style that has allowed him to be successful in leading the Finance Committee and pulling people together. He does much of the work himself including sitting in and monitoring lengthy House Finance Committee hearings and debates. And he works closely with staff and especially the Office of the Legislative Budget Assistant. He knows the budget better than any of us.
He also insures that everyone gets their voice heard and an individual Senator’s special requests are considered. There is a list, he often notes, where individual Senator’s concerns are kept until resolved as the budget process comes to a conclusion.
As chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, I know how much Senator Morse counts on responsible revenue projections around which he will put his limits on spending. He serves on the Ways and Means Committee, too, and together we try to build a collaborative approach with the two committees working together.
Chuck is a business man owning a nursery and his small business experience has been of great value in our policy and finance discussions. He grew up in Salem and graduated from his local public high school and Plymouth State University.
If you have not sensed it from my comments, I am a strong supporter of Senator Morse. I am confident he will be a good leader for the Senate.
This is the public’s week to be heard on Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, or for many, Obamacare. Stakeholders have been rallying their supporters to attend a meeting of the Commission to Study Expansion of Medicaid Eligibility and press the case for expansion. Other stakeholders will be doing the same except they will advocate that New Hampshire not expand Medicaid.
Again, we have an issue that is polarizing at the national level with regular news broadcasts about how Obamacare is going. We are now just over a month away from Oct. 1, when individuals can sign up for subsidized health care insurance through something called exchanges.
The exchanges and expansion of Medicaid are two separate parts of Obamacare. The exchange is going forward but the legislature will decide about whether or not to add thousands more people to the Medicaid rolls.
The good news: in the New Hampshire legislative tradition, the public either in person or by communicating with the committee can have their voices heard. The study commission will begin drafting their report shortly with recommendations on expansion. The report is due on Oct. 15.
Medicaid expansion was included in the Governor’s budget plan and in the budget that came out of the House. The Senate did not include expansion in its version of the budget but in the committee of conference the study commission was created as a compromise.
The debate on Medicaid expansion is pretty intense now … it will get hotter.
Strolling with Judy and two granddaughters through the vendor aisles of the 40th annual Apple Pie Crafts Fair on Saturday in Newport, on one of the most beautiful days of the summer, I thought about how much pleasure there is in participating in local traditional events each year.
I also was happy to see friends and neighbors I missed during the summer. There were bits and pieces of conversation to catch up on or simply a chance to say, "hello." Years ago I served on the board of the sponsoring organization, the Library Arts Center, and made pies for the sale. One year I even was a judge in the apple pie contest.
Judy asked me, "how do you make a decision on the best pie?" I said, "you pick the ones that remind you of the apple pies your mother made."
We started off, of course, with a stop at the Richards Free Library book sale. Granddaughters left with two puzzles and grandfather took home a travel guide that will help with the planning for an upcoming trip. Total cost: $1.50. It was a bargain.
All of Bob Odell's Sunacom columns since August 4,
2008 are free to view in the Archives.