The Senate President, Peter Bragdon (Milford), with our veto session over last Wednesday, has made it clear he sees no predictable circumstance that would necessitate calling the Senate back into session before we meet again in January.
That should not suggest that there is not plenty of work in the Senate to do before January. This week I have called the two committees I chair back for work on re-referred bills. Re-referred bills are those held over from our January to June session earlier this year.
There are many reasons a bill is re-referred. It could be a desire for the committee to get more information on an issue, a willingness of the Senate to hold a bill as a courtesy to the sponsor so they could work on it, or to hold a bill until we can see the impact of other legislation or action by a governmental agency. But bills cannot be held forever. Each re-referred bill must have committee action completed so the full Senate can vote on it in one of the first three sessions when we meet next year.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee has five bills to work on. Two deal with gaming, one raising the minimum bet at charity events and the other to legalize slot machines at some facilities in New Hampshire. The other three bills deal with making changes to our business taxes, meals and rooms tax and the real estate profits tax. Each of these could be defined as technical adjustments but they may have a serious impact on state revenue.
The Energy and Natural Resources Committee has bills relative to regulation of land line telephone service, the law dealing with septic systems, and a bill dealing with the permitting processes at the Department of Environmental Services.
While the Senate will not meet as a body until January, much work, often technical in nature, will be ongoing within the Senate. As some would say, "there is always something to do."
With just 24 Senators, there is a bit of a family spirit that surrounds the body. After the veto session on Wednesday, Senators remained in the chamber for a gift presentation to Senator Matt Houde (Plainfield) from his colleagues on the occasion of his marriage on Saturday.
Senators are very supportive of each other when going through difficult or joyous occasions. Party affiliation, length of service or position on bills does not interfere in the camaraderie among Senators. Senator Houde, whose district provides much of the northern border for District 8, works closely with me on issues of importance to our region.
Matt Houde is the first Senator to be married during my tenure in the Senate. It is a real pleasure to publicly wish Matt and Sarah a long and wonderful marriage.
Congratulations to Jim and Sue Fitch on receiving the Conservationists-of-the-Year Award from the Sullivan County Conservation District at the annual meeting held on Friday night at the Sullivan County Complex in Unity. It was the 65th annual awards dinner held by the Conservation District. The district helps landowners, farmers and woodland owners by conserving and protecting natural resources.
Sue and Jim have implemented many wise conservation practices as they have operated their beautiful Cornish family farm. They are the eighth generation of Fitches to operate the 165 acre farm which was started in the 1770ís. Farm operations today include a sugar bush, raising Highland beef cattle, a working forest and hay production.
In the presentation ceremony, emphasis was placed on the conservative easement that will protect the farm for the future. The Upper Valley Land Trust holds the easement but it was secured with the help of the Town of Cornish which noted the farm is a "keystone property" and the Land and Community Heritage Program (LCHIP).
The state Commissioner of Agriculture, Markets and Food, Lorraine Merrill, was there to update attendees on the status of agriculture in New Hampshire. When she became commissioner a couple of years ago, the press raised questions about agriculture dying in the state, and she responded that it "couldnít be a better time to be involved in agriculture."
The number of farms is growing and there is more diversity in agricultural operations. The commissioner had stopped by the Newport farmerís market on her way to Unity and noted that this year there are 80 farmers markets in New Hampshire. Many of us remember there only a handful of markets when the Newport market was started.
And interestingly, thanks to new technology and farm practices, the state now has over 20 winter markets which help provide food of the season to buyers. The commissioner pointed out New Hampshire is third in the nation in the percentage of products sold directly by farms to consumers. That includes farmers markets, farm stands and pick-your-own operations.
While agriculture in New Hampshire, including our region, faces many challenges, the commissioner reported that overall the state of agriculture in is good.
Janice Heighes received a well deserved round of applause and thanks from the podium for her more than 28 years of service with the Sullivan County Conservation District. Jan will be retiring soon and will be missed by all of us who have benefited from the services of the district. I send all best wishes to Jan on your retirement and many thanks for her years of service.
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