Last year, NH elected a Republican governor and voted for Republican majorities in all branches of our state government. It’s still something of a puzzle how this came to pass given the rampant voter fraud Donald Trump and his acolytes (including our governor) have brayed about, but the only plausible explanation is that those busloads of people from Massachusetts came to NH to vote for the GOP.
Where a new governor begins sets the tone for his or her administration. Governor Sununu’s first legislative priority was to pass a bill repealing the 100-year-old law requiring a gun owner to have a permit to carry a concealed handgun. NH has the 11th worst infrastructure in the United States. We ranked 2nd in the nation for overdose deaths. We have a serious housing problem, and homelessness and poverty are on the rise, yet this gun bill was the most important thing our new governor could think of?
Governor Sununu also took the big raise negotiated for him by the state employee’s union, though he hasn’t yet been willing to sit down and negotiate a contract with them. They’ve been without one for the last 180+ days. One of the sticking points? He doesn’t want to give them a raise, even though he took one, before ever sitting down at his desk in the corner office.
The legislature will be back in session next week. With the likelihood of losing at least some of those majorities (if not all) in the next election, the rabid right majority is going to attempt to pass their entire ideological wish list. There are more voter suppression bills coming up, and more bills to cut business taxes. Bills to maintain fealty to the fossil fuel industries, bills to destroy public education. There are 11 bills dealing with decals on license plates. And because our volunteer legislature full of old people has no interest in a future they won’t be part of, there’s a bill to create a memorial to Meldrim Thomson.
Governor Sununu chose Speaker of the House, Shawn Jasper to be his new Commissioner of Agriculture. One does wonder if that was a deliberate political calculation. The GOP has moved so far to the right that Jasper now appears to be moderate, and removing him from the speakership will very likely allow that rabid agenda to move along more smoothly. When Gene Chandler was elected Speaker last month, there were some sighs of relief. Some real reactionaries ran for Speaker, and Chandler, at least, isn’t one of them. That relief was short-lived.
Chandler has restructured the House leadership. It seems he promised during his campaign for the speakership, to include influential lawmakers in his leadership team. Chandler added six assistant majority leaders, who bring all kinds of “influence” to the table. One of them is State Rep. Al Baldasaro, one of the most nationally famous legislators in the state. Al is famous for a number of reasons (all of them embarrassing) but especially for suggesting that Hillary Clinton should be shot for treason. Another is Victoria Sullivan, who pleased the reactionaries in her party last year, when she launched an attack on the tweets of a female legislator, which appeared to be an attempt to distract attention from former Rep. Robert Fisher, a rape apologist her party was desperate to protect and retain. This is a nice reward for Sullivan, midway through her second term.
Speaker Chandler has also appointed a policy advisory committee. This is comprised of “influential” lawmakers who, according to the House website, will review upcoming legislation, hearings, review bills on the calendar, amendments, and give input on various issues. Two of these big thinkers are Frank McCarthy and Lino Avellani. Given that Avellani missed most of the first three months of last year’s session, one wonders how he’ll make it to the weekly meetings, and how, halfway through a second term he became “influential.” Frank McCarthy, after he was ousted in 2012, and before he was reelected, made a career of writing bellicose letters to the editor, where he made frequent bigoted and ugly accusations. In the last year or so, McCarthy has allied himself with the Carroll County contingent of Free Staters and Tea Partiers, groups that promises of inclusion must have been made to by the Speaker candidate, in order to secure their votes.
There are no moderate Republicans any more. The GOP of Trump has no interest in what is right for our state – their interest is in serving party ideology, serving themselves, and their donors/paymasters.
This rogue legislature has the potential to do a great deal of damage. Pay attention – and get involved. State politics may not be sexy, but they affect our lives every day of the week. This is an election year, which gives voters the power to hold their legislators accountable during the session, and again, at the ballot box.
This was published as an op/ed in the December 29 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper
For those who don't understand the concept of an op-ed: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_piece