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Bob Odell
State Senator
District 8

September 17, 2009

Senator Odell is Chairman of  the Ways and Means Committee, and member of the Energy, Environment and Economic Development Committee;  Finance Committee; Citizens Trade Policy Commission; State Park System Advisory Council; and Comprehensive Cancer Plan Oversight Board.

Senate District 8 towns: Acworth, Alstead, Charlestown, Claremont, Gilsum, Goshen, Langdon, Lempster, Marlow, New London, Newbury, Newport, Roxbury, Stoddard, Sullivan, Sunapee, Sutton, Unity, Walpole, Washington and Westmoreland.

 

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is: When does the legislature go back? 

There are several answers to that question. One answer is that the legislature will be back to regular sessions in January. But there is also a special session on October 28 to vote on motions to override vetoes by Governor Lynch. And there are bills left over from earlier this year. In the Senate, for example, there are more than 30 bills that were “re-referred back to committee” for further work. And then there are new bills to be introduced this fall. Plus, study committees have been appointed to work on various subjects often with December 1 deadlines to file reports with legislative recommendations for next year. While the legislature will not formally reconvene until January, in one way or another, legislative work is underway most of the year.

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Legislators use the re-referred bill process for a variety of reasons. Under Senate rules, the committee that originally heard the bill is required to take action on each bill so that the full Senate can vote on them during one of the first three Senate sessions when we reconvene in January. 

Senate Bill 181 dealing with the Liquor Commission, for example, was re-referred because the House had killed similar legislation. In the end, the language of SB 181 was put into the budget that is now law. Thus, supporters of SB 181 got the changes they wanted at the Liquor Commission in the budget and not through a separate bill.

Other re-referred bills reflect controversy such as SB 154 which would name a portion of route 18 in Franconia in honor of Corporal Bruce McKay who was killed in the line of duty. There are folks in the Franconia area that support and some who oppose this measure. The Senate stepped back to see if a consensus can be found with plenty of local input.

Re-referred bills may also reflect that while a bill has a good purpose it simply is not ready for passage. That is the case with SB 166 which deals with state permits for mineral extraction, mining and reclamation. The Department of Environment Services (DES) last fall asked me to sponsor this legislation to clarify state responsibility to issue permits for those wanting to engage in mining operations. The department was thinking of permits for substantial operations and not hobby miners, gem stone producers, or recreation and education mines.

When the bill first came before the Senate Energy, Environment and Economic Development it was clear the bill did not take into consideration potential impacts that could adversely and, I think, unfairly hurt small mines. So, the bill was re-referred back to committee and the committee chair asked me to work on it over the summer and make a recommendation to the committee.

Several mining folks have raised concerns including Jim Tovey who owns the Tripp/Clark mine in Alstead. He does gem mining and creates beautiful finished jewelry. Lance and Andrea Brownell own the Ruggles Mine in Grafton that is a tourist attraction and an educational stop for many school groups studying minerals and earth science. Bob Whitmore has owned the Palermo mine in North Groton for thirty years. It has produced world class examples of rare minerals. The Palermo and Ruggles mines are two of the oldest mines in the country. 

As the committee designee, I met with the Brownells, Jim Tovey and Bob Whitmore along with the state geologist, David Wanch, to go over objections to the bill. All are reasonable and lead to the prospect of a two part bill; one part would deal with new, major mining operation permit applications, the other would exempt small operations already in place. I have asked the Commissioner of DES to have his staff draft new language to reflect this new approach to the legislation. While there may be some obstacles down the road, the re-refer process in the Senate has kept a bill alive which, once revised, will meet the goals of DES while protecting the rights of some small miners to continue their operations. It’s an example of the legislature at work when it is not officially in session.

* * *

The state through the court system has been trying for years, in a fairly systematic manner, to upgrade district court facilities, save money where consolidation is possible and make other improvements to increase efficiencies and strengthen security. Through the budget process this year it seemed inevitable that courts in Colebrook, Milford and Claremont would be closed. In the case of Claremont District Court, its business would be consolidated into the Newport District Court. 

During a late night session in June, the Committees of Conference working on the state budget passed an amendment to keep the courts in Claremont, Colebrook and Milford open for at least a year. The amendment also created the Committee to Evaluate the Physical Consolidation of the Claremont and Newport District Courts and Family Division Sites and the Closing of the Colebrook and Milford District Courts. I am one of two Senators appointed to the Committee which will have an organizational meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 22.

 

Bob Odell
State Senator
New Hampshire State House
107 North Main Street
Concord, NH 03301-4951

Telephone:  603-271-6733
Email:  rpojr@aol.com

 

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