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Bob Odell
State Senator
District 8


December  11, 2011

Senator Odell is Chairman of  the Ways and Means Committee; Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee; Vice Chairman of the Finance Committee; Vice Chairman of the State Parks Advisory Council; and member of the  Capital Budget Committee.

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.

The Dec. 7 email from Executive Councilor Ray Burton thanked the staff of the Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission, local officials and community supporters along with State Senators representing Connecticut Valley districts for their efforts on behalf of rebuilding Route 12 between Charlestown and Walpole.

Ray Burton, of course, was the single, most important person in making sure the Route 12 project is on the state’s next 10-year transportation plan when it is presented to the Governor this week. Councilor Burton chairs the Governor’s Advisory Council on Intermodal Transportation which is made up of our five executive councilors and the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation.

The GACIT process establishes and adjusts the 10-year highway plan every two years. To prepare the plan, there are a series of public meetings around the state where officials and citizens can comment on the draft plan put together by DOT staff. Charlestown was the site of the first meeting back on Sept. 12 and Councilor Burton and DOT officials got an earful that morning about the frustration, disappointment and surprise of community and business leaders and citizens over the fact that the Route 12 project had been dropped from the 10-year plan.

That was in spite of the fact the project was ranked the most important project for our area by the regional planning commission which looks over all the potential highway construction and rehabilitation projects and makes recommendations. Councilor Burton carried the concerns of local residents and took their message to the GACIT members who voted unanimously last week to reinstate the Route 12 project.

In the past, so many projects were put into the 10-year plan that they could not be funded and completed in 20 or even 30 years. Today, 10-year plans are much more realistic and balance needs with anticipated state and federal funding. That makes it tougher to get a project on the list and keep it on until construction starts.

We count on Ray Burton for many things to benefit our region. And he delivers as he did for us with Route 12. We all owe Ray our thanks and appreciation for his good work through the GACIT process and getting our most important highway need put back onto the 10-year plan. His public service over the years sets a high standard for other elected officials.

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Often when committees or one or both chambers of the legislature vote on major controversial issues, people on the losing side are often disappointed and sometimes just plain mad. And losers often want to find some sinister reason that legislators did not agree with their point of view.

That was the case of the writer of a lengthy and widely circulated email late last week. The issue was whether or not our eminent domain statutes to protect property owners need to be strengthened or changed to meet the concerns raised by the proposed Northern Pass electric transmission project.

The email was titled "Democracy Took A Back Seat At Your Hearing!" The writer suggested last "Thursday’s activities may be more accurately described as an example of the legislative process not working in the interests of New Hampshire citizens."

The House earlier this year had passed the bill in question, House Bill 648, by a huge 317 to 51 margin. But the Senate by a 14-10 vote had voted to study the matter and that resulted in the Judiciary Committee executive session on Thursday to vote on amendments to the bill. One amendment had committee support. The amended bill will come to the full Senate in January for a floor vote. Seven other amendments either did not receive seconds or failed to get committee support.

There are clearly two and probably other takes on this issue. The concern over private companies using eminent domain for private gain is prohibited through a constitutional amendment voters supported overwhelmingly in 2006. I had been part of a special study committee that worked on eminent domain legislation and proposed that amendment. So, while not a member of the Judiciary Committee, I do have some experience with eminent domain law in New Hampshire.

The email author wrote that the process on Thursday was "shabby at best, with some elected officials appearing to be bought and paid for through numerous political contributions."

That is a serious charge. I know the five members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including the Committee Chair, Senator Matt Houde (Plainfield), and I know that they have worked hard and sincerely to come up with a reasonable and responsible solution in dealing with House Bill 648.

When you do not get the response you seek either in committees or on the Senate floor, it can be very disappointing. But it is also rash and unfair to accuse volunteer legislators of not doing the right thing because of political contributions. Those who make those accusations need to make sure their facts back up their charges as they are questioning the integrity of legislators and the legislative process.

In my opinion, the experiences in some other states or in Washington do not reflect at all on the unique legislative process in New Hampshire. Whether one agrees with the decisions of the legislature, in the actions of committees, or by the House or the Senate, it is simply unfair to attack the integrity of legislators because your position did not prevail.

 

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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