NH House - Morning snapshot: Tues., Nov. 10, 2015


Good morning! 

Here is a rundown of today’s must-see, must-read news and opinion!

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Hassan details opioid  bill to be taken up at special session

Gov. Maggie Hassan released details Monday of a bill that will be taken up when a special session is convened to address the state’s opioid crisis.The proposal contains many of the recommendations Hassan made while requesting the special session, approved by the Executive Council last week on a 4-1 vote.As expected, Hassan proposed increasing penalties for fentanyl distribution to match those for heroin.Hassan also called for a statewide drug court office to expand existing programs and establish new ones in communities that don’t have a drug court.The bill calls for adding an attorney to the Department of Justice in a new position to focus only on drug crimes. Hassan’s bill calls for tax money to be set aside to award grants to state and local law enforcement initiatives that address the opioid crisis, which has claimed an estimated 500 lives over the past two years in New Hampshire. “There is no reason to wait to take these common-sense steps to help save lives and strengthen our efforts to combat the most pressing public health and safety challenge facing our state,” Hassan said in a statement accompanying the proposal Monday.The special session is scheduled to begin Nov. 18. 

Gatsas wins fourth term as Mancheter mayor following recount

Mayor Ted Gatsas emerged victorious from Monday’s 10-hour mayoral election recount, defeating Alderman Joyce Craig by 64 votes to secure a fourth term in office.   Gatsas won 10,085 votes to 10,021 for Craig, according to results read by Board of Recount Chairman Alderman Bill Shea.   "The mayor is Mayor Gatsas," said Shea, declaring Gatsas the winner.   Overall, mayoral challenger Joyce Craig dropped the initial 85-vote margin of victory Gatsas enjoyed to 64 votes. She picked up 60 votes in Monday’s mayoral recount; Gatsas picked up 39.   Asked how he felt about the results, Gatsas was quick to answer.   “No different than I did last Tuesday,” he said. “I think it goes to show that the machines are pretty good.”  

Study: Ethanol costing NH motorists millions

The federal requirement to blend ethanol with gasoline is causing a transfer of wealth from New England states like New Hampshire into corn-growing states in the Midwest, according to a study released on Monday by a group of business and environmental groups.“A High Price to Pay: The Hidden Costs of Corn-Ethanol Mandates on New England” is part of an anti-ethanol PR blitz that has included saturation television and radio advertising in the region, as the EPA approaches a Nov. 30 deadline for deciding the future of the controversial corn-based fuel. Ethanol was introduced to replace the highly toxic MBTE as a gasoline additive in 2005, in the hope that it would reduce carbon emissions and ease our reliance on imported oil. If 10 percent of the gasoline in your vehicle is ethanol, theoretically that’s 10 percent fewer gallons of imported oil. But it hasn’t worked out that way, according to opponents of the ethanol mandate. It’s obsolete, they say, because the United States is now a net exporter of petroleum products, and any environmental benefit from lower carbon emissions on the highways is offset by the carbon generated in the farming and processing of all that corn.

‘Reluctant expert’ on opioid epidemic urges lawmakers to balance the need for powerful painkillers with the risk of abuse/addiction

When lawmakers convene next week for a special session to address New Hampshire’s opioid epidemic, Shawn Riley wants them to remember that powerful painkillers have a rightful place in medicine and that Narcan, while effective in reversing overdoses, is not a silver bullet for addiction.A deputy chief with the Laconia Fire Department who oversees the agency’s emergency medical services, Riley describes himself as a “reluctant expert” on opioid overdoses, having both professional and personal experience.As to the latter, Riley on Dec. 29, 2014 spent more than eight hours at the bedside of his wife, Stephanie Murdough Riley, as she lay dying from lung cancer that had metastasized into her spine. Unable to treat the cancer, doctors could only address Stephanie Riley’s searing pain by giving her increasingly higher doses of painkillers.

Even the NH Secretary of State didn’t escape security

Security was so tight at the State House for Hillary Clinton filing her primary candidate papers Monday that even New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner was subject to a TSA-like security wand.A photo of Gardner being checked out by Secret Service before he could enter his office prompted state Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Horn to demand that Clinton apologize.As is common protocol when Secret Service is involved in a campaign event, everyone was asked to vacate the Secretary of State’s office in order for a security sweep of the rooms.Members of the media were directed to the first floor of the State House, then led back up to the second floor in groups, and subjected to the security, metal detection wands. “Secretary of State Bill Gardner has served with distinction for nearly four decades and has never had to undergo this type of disrespectful behavior from a presidential candidate,” Horn said in a news release Monday.The Clinton campaign referred all questions about security to the Secret Service.

New Hampshire gets D- grade in 2015 State Integrity Investigation

By most accounts, New Hampshire is known for taking democracy pretty seriously. The state’s credo, “Live Free or Die,” is inscribed on its license plates. The state is proudly home to the nation’s first presidential primary, and residents are known for asking hard questions of the candidates who become fixtures at parades, fairgrounds and diners across the state every four years. But beyond the lofty reputation, not all is well at the Greek Revival capitol in Concord. In fact, the Granite State scored a 61, or D-, in the State Integrity Investigation, a study of transparency and accountability done by the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity. The score is even worse than the 66 the state got in the inaugural 2012 study, although the two scores are not directly comparable due to changes made to improve and update the project and methodology. No state scored above a C+ in the latest study, although New Hampshire is firmly in the lower tier; it was tied for 34th among the states, nearly the same ranking it had three years ago. It isn’t that New Hampshire lacks noble principles and high-minded laws aimed at ensuring an accountable government. A citizen’s right to access government records is written into the state constitution; the state’s venerable Executive Council is charged with overseeing the governor and reviewing all major state contracts in the light of day. But the state’s accountability rests heavily on the honor system; there are few entities within state government dedicated to ensuring that public officials and agencies behave themselves.

New England leaders speak against prescription opioid abuse

Political leaders from across New England met with business leaders Monday to discuss ways to combat New England's deadly opioid addiction problem, including tightening regulations around prescription painkillers.

Also Monday, Massachusetts' top medical schools said they've reached an agreement with the state to better teach their students how to recognize, prevent and manage prescription opioid abuse.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, and New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, were among the speakers at the event sponsored by The New England Council.

Baker said one area where New England states are working together is sharing information from their prescription monitoring programs.

Baker said the goal is to "get to the point where all of us are in the position where our data is crossing borders so that people won't be able to basically drug shop from state to state."

Massachusetts had 1,089 opioid overdose deaths in 2014, a 63 percent increase over 2012.

Hassan said the opioid crisis has also hit New Hampshire hard, claiming 258 lives so far this year in a state with one-fifth the population of Massachusetts. She also called for a more efficient prescription drug monitoring process.

Hassan also pointed to efforts in Massachusetts to crack down on the powerful narcotic fentanyl, which can be mixed with heroin or cocaine — sometimes without the user's knowledge.

GOP Derides New Hampshire Governor Calling Legislature into Special Session to Deal with Heroin

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) got what she wanted the first week of November. The legislature has been forced into an emergency session to work on a plan to deal with the state’s heroin addiction epidemic. It is not that there is a debate over the enormity of New Hampshire’s epidemic of heroin and prescription pain medication addiction. The state’s own Department of Health and Human Services hasn’t been shy about telling the people of New Hampshire how many of their friends and relatives are hooked on smack and painkillers like Oxycodone. The numbers prove the harsh reality that New Hampshire tops the nation for addiction, especially for harder drugs like heroin. Worse than that, the numbers show the problem is only getting worse. A New Hampshire DHHS report released in July 2014 showed since 2004 the number of people admitted to state-funded drug abuse treatment programs had risen by 90 percent for heroin use and 500 percent for prescription opiate abuse. To stem this tide, Hassan has proposed an $11.1 million program that would include stricter penalties on the sale and distribution of fentanyl, a new statewide drug court program and an increase in funding for local anti-drug effortsin New Hampshire. But Hassan will be dealing with a very contentious body of 400 politicians. After all, she is committed to forcing them to work through the holidays if need be.



Fix debates: Voters deserve better

As some of the Republican presidential candidates meet for their fourth so-called debate tonight, we know some other serious candidates won’t be heard at all. Others will be marginalized at the “kiddie table.’’ We propose a few simple solutions to improve the product. Some we have offered before.Stop using national polls to determine who gets on to the stage. The differences between the candidates are well within the margin of error, and relying on national polls in a state-by-state race is ridiculous. Both the Republican National Committee and the networks hosting the debates are using national polls to narrow the field of candidates before voters have a say.
Carson has made it: Now he’s a takedown target

Congratulations, Dr. Ben Carson.You haven’t made the big time as a conservative until a left-wing publication points its innuendo machine your way.“Ben Carson admits fabricating West Point scholarship” was last Friday’s headline in Politico, which sometimes seems to act as if it were the Internet media arm of the Democratic National Committee.The headline itself was a pre-fab, claiming that Carson had fessed up to something. He had not, and Politico later had to change its headline, but said it stood by its story that Carson had claimed he applied to West Point.In Carson’s 1992 memoir, the renowned brain surgeon recounted a key decision he made during his senior year in high school in 1969. Meeting Gen. William Westmoreland and two Vietnam veterans who had been awarded the Medal of Honor left a big impression on the 17-year-old Carson. He claims to have later been offered a “full scholarship” to West Point. He turned down a military career in favor of medicine, a decision that benefitted untold people alive today because of Carson’s healing hands.

Ray Duckler: Gilmore speaks, but is anyone listening?

Jim Gilmore, the invisible man among Republicans running for president, can thank Hillary Clinton for his sardine-can like press conference Monday.  Ask Gilmore, however, about the attention he received in the State House, and he’ll tell you just the opposite. “It is I who am giving her the opportunity,” Gilmore joked Only time will tell how long we’ll see a happy Gilmore on the campaign trail. For now, expect to see him around a lot, because, along with Clinton, Gilmore signed paperwork Monday and forked over a $1,000 cashier’s check, officially putting him on the first-in-the-nation primary ballot. His poll numbers would register zero on the Richter scale, too low to even move a pebble. He’s not participating in tonight’s GOP debate, not even on the undercard. Yeah, so? You got a problem with that? “I’m not getting out of the race,” Gilmore told me in a separate room, after speaking to the news media for 20 minutes. “I expect to run throughout. I’m not running to make a point, not running temporarily. I’m running for president. I should be president.”

Editorial: Carson ‘fibs’ add up to one big story

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson’s biography is one of his most attractive features. The renowned Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon rose from a poor background to the heights of his profession. It is a story that resonates deeply for many conservatives, suggesting as it does the power of the individual will over long odds. That’s why increasingly clear evidence that Carson embroidered – or outright fabricated – parts of his biography is such a crisis for his campaign. For Republicans who insist that the most salient attack on Hillary Clinton is her possible lack of honesty over the Benghazi attacks, Carson’s apparent fibs must come as an especially bitter blow. Let’s summarize some of the statements from Carson that have recently been called into question. In his book Gifted Hands, the surgeon claims he had a “full scholarship” offer from West Point. The problem? West Point doesn’t offer scholarships, and there’s no record that Carson applied, according to reporting from Politico. The candidate subsequently says that he was told informally that he could be admitted to the elite military school.

State should issue medical marijuana cards now
More than two years have passed since Gov. Maggie Hassan signed into law a measure to allow those with acute or chronic medical needs access to marijuana for medicinal purposes. Activists have spent the interim complaining of how slowly the state has moved to implement the law, which has several facets. It will protect those meeting certain medical criteria from prosecution if they’re found with small amounts of the drug, however they obtained it. More proactively, at least in theory, it would allow up to four dispensaries of medical marijuana to operate within the state, to supply those in need legally — with the state, of course, benefiting financially.Twenty-seven months and counting later, the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services is still assuring residents those dispensaries, and the authorization cards that would protect patients and allow them to purchase the drug, are coming. Soon. As in, don’t hold your breath.Last week, Linda Horan decided enough is enough. The Alstead resident, who suffers from stage 4 lung cancer, would assuredly qualify for such a card under the statute. The problem is she likely doesn’t have the time to wait for the state to get around to issuing them.




Vowing hard work, Clinton files primary papers

Hillary Clinton, vowing to outwork fellow Democrats Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders, filed to be on the New Hampshire primary ballot Monday and took aim at repeating her 2008 primary victory.The former Secretary of State noted that she was the first woman to win a national primary election. In a rally in front of the State House, she urged supporters to help her win the party’s nomination and the White House, “not just to break that highest, hardest glass ceiling, although that will happen.”Clinton, making her 13th trip to the Granite State, filed her declaration of candidacy with Secretary of State Bill Gardner with longtime friends by her side. It was the fourth time she’s filed the necessary paperwork. Besides her 2008 campaign, she filed twice on behalf of former President Bill Clinton, who on Monday was in Latin America on business for The Clinton Foundation.O’Malley, a former Maryland governor, and Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, filed last week to be on the 2016 primary ballot.

Gilmore calls RNC debate process ‘dishonest’

Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, after filing for the New Hampshire primary, blasted the media and the Republican National Committee for a presidential debate process he called “dishonest.”   Gilmore, a former RNC chairman, said the limited criteria that is based on national polls fostered an atmosphere where the media is playing favorites.   Gilmore said he is more qualified than most of those who will be in the Fox Business televised debate Tuesday night in Milwaukee. His low standing in those polls does not qualify him to be on the “undercard” debate, either.  “I’m not getting on the stage because of an arbitrary power that’s been invested in the establishment media to decide who gets on and who doesn’t get on,” he said at a news conference in Secretary of State Bill Gardner’s office today. “It’s detrimental to the public interest.”

James Pindell:  GROUND/GAME

Among the main players in tonight's fourth Republican presidential debate, there is an incentive to be serious and boring. But the moment the debate becomes boring, it will become super interesting. In the last debate, CNBC was widely panned for asking candidates if they are "proposing a comic book version" of a campaign, or for each candidate's "greatest weakness" (wasn't that debate supposed to be focused on the economy anyway?). Tonight's debate host, Fox Business Channel, knows the spotlight will be on the moderators tonight. The have an added incentive to ask substantive questions and give equal time to candidates. The two candidates with the most to prove tonight also want a boring, wonky debate. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, in theory, would excel in a policy-driven debate. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson also probably doesn't want to spend a whole segment explaining that he really did try to stab someone as a youth, among other now questionable topics from his past. But if the debate does get serious and wonky, it will be the first time for this Republican field in such an environment. Who knows what could happen in that case. It could be a great night for Bush, who desperately needs a great night. But if Bush cannot even perform in a boring debate, it could mean curtains for his campaign. Will a detailed "show me your plan" debate expose the weaknesses of Carson and Donald Trump, who have been leading by the force of their personalities and backgrounds? 



Fish and Game Department warns motorists to watch out for deer during mating season

New Hampshire woman files defamaation suit against Bill Cosby

Nonprofit aims to help New Hampshire’s drug courts with rewards program