Rep Steve Vaillancourt



Thursday
Apr172014

Senate's Death And Decrim Votes Could Save Gambling

NHINSIDER.COM EXCLUSIVE        

Optimism is true moral courage.  

 

                Don’t for a moment think repeal of the death penalty is dead in the wake of today’s 12-12 Senate vote and subsequent tabling motion.

                In fact, while repeal advocates failed to get their 13th vote for passage (clearly that would have been Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, the only Democrat to oppose repeal), they did come up with a second Republican in favor of repeal.

                Bob Odell, R-Lempster, not only voted for repeal, but he spoke eloquently in favor of not watering the bill down with language which would have made the state’s killing of Michael Addison easier.  (My position all along has been if you’re going to be anti-death penalty, you have to be anti-death penalty for all, including Addison).

                Odell’s position prior to the vote was generally unknown, but I had suggested here last week that he would be a likely candidate among Republicans to join Sam Cataldo, R-Farmington, one of the repeal bill’s co-sponsors.

                Repeal opponents, till the very last moment, believed that they had a chance to get a third Republican, Russ Prescott, of Kingston, who had been lobbied hard by the Catholic Church.

                Action now shifts back to the House.  As I elicited in a question to Speaker Norelli and then reported here, House rules allow for any bill which has been approved by the House to be added as an amendment to any Senate bill.  By having passed previously, the bill automatically becomes germane, and the Speaker cannot rule it out of order.

                Of course, an amendment could only be applied to a bill with an ought to pass motion.  If a committee sends a bill forward with an inexpedient to legislate (ITL) motion, no amendments can be offered prior to the vote on ITL.

                Don’t pooh pooh this parliamentary situation because it sounds like way too much “inside baseball”.

                Rules are vital to the way we get things done.

                Two Senate bills, currently before the House, come to mind for the amendment process.  One, of course, is the two casino gambling bill, and it’s most likely no coincidence that the House Ways and Means Committee delayed action on that bill today, so that it cannot make it on the calendar for next week.

                Mostly likely (but by no means certainly) that bill will emerge from Ways and Means with an 11-9 motion of ITL which would have to be overturned on the floor prior to any amendments being offered.

                Death penalty repeal sponsor Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, voted against ITL on last month’s gambling bill, so he could not be counted among the 15 who would have to flip on the gambling vote.  He and his group, however, could certainly identify any number of people who might flip on the gambling issue if they could get death penalty repeal in the process. Just as I have identified 30 Libertarian-types who might be willing to vote against a gambling ITL so as to offer an amendment on decriminalization of marijuana, Team Cushing have an extra week to identify death penalty repeal forces—I will name two Republicans just to get them started.  Kathy Souza, of Manchester, of John Cebrowski, of Bedford, have long been anti-gambling but pro death penalty repeal.

                With the 30 I’ve already identified and those Team Cushing might come up with in the next fortnight, the message from today’s action in the Senate is that not only is the death penalty repeal very much alive but so too is gambling and decriminalization.

                Of course when you start moving parts around, other parts move as well.  Senator Odell, now that he’s on the record in favor of the death penalty repeal, has also long been opposed to gambling.    So too with Democrats Martha Fuller Clark and David Pierce.  If you lose those three, you would need more than just Lou and the President to shift to get to 13 votes in the Senate.  Senators Rausch and Stiles would certainly come into play.

Only a cynic would point out that the Senate today not only failed to pass the death penalty repeal, but it refused to even consider taking up the decriminalization bill which, like the death penalty repeal, had received 70 percent in the House.  Call me a cynic.

Senators cited one of their rules that they had already considered a similar bill last year, but my guess is that Senators like President Chuck Morse and D’Allesnadro are so vested in their gambling bill (and likely realize that this might be their last chance to pass it) that they would agree to both decriminalization and death penalty repeal as part of a grand package.

                Of course, the House would have to agree to that first, and ultimately the governor would have to decide whether she would veto such an omnibus bill.

                My insider sources reveal that while publicly saying she would sign a bill repealing the death penalty, Governor Maggie Hassan was secretly working behind the scenes today to make sure such a bill never gets to her desk.  In an attempt to curry favor with the law enforcement community, she is out of step with 90 percent of House Democrats and all Senate Democrats except D’Allesandro on the death penalty repeal and similar numbers on decriminalization.       

                Wow!

                Talk about the plot thickening!

                Lest I forget, I had mentioned two possible Senate bills for the amendment process.  The other, Donna Soucy’s domestic violence bill, passed the Senate 24-0 and is currently with Cushing’s own Criminal Justice Committee.  Unlike the gambling bill, it most assuredly will come to the floor with an ought to pass motion, thus opening it up to amendments, but Cushing could actually offer the amendment in committee.

                When I suggested that idea to a reporter moments ago, the reporter countered that Cushing is too vested in the domestic violence bill to even think about jeopardizing it with an amendment.  My response was twofold.  One, it really wouldn’t be jeopardizing the bill.  Should the Senate not accept the amendment, it would not need to kill the bill, merely send it to a committee of conference.  Point two—lest we forget, this is the same Representative Cushing who lost a lot of respect among Republicans (including me) by attempting to attach a totally non-germane gun study amendment to a bill from J.R. Hoell.

                If we would do that for a rather innocuous gun study, about which he cares very little, one can only imagine the lengths to which he would go to save the death penalty repeal which he has made his raison d’etre.

                Ah yes, the plot thickens.  To attempt to attach repeal to the gambling bill which may never get beyond the ITL stage or to place it on the domestic violence bill?  Or something else?

                Das ist die Frage (that is the question for you not versed in proper German).

                Stay tuned.  Today’s Senate action on death and decrim did not end the debate, merely shifted it to another forum.  It could get so interesting, we’ll have to start charging admission to see what happens.  Of course, if we raise enough in admission fees, we won’t need the gambling revenue (only kidding).

Wednesday
Apr162014

Ways And Means Delays Action On Gambling Bill

NHINSIDER.COM EXCLUSIVE

IGNORANCE IS NEVER BLISS

Push everything back a week regarding a House decision on the Senate gambling bill.

After a two hour work session Wednesday afternoon, in which some members expressed a desire to get a firmer grasp of revenue expectations, Ways and Means Chair Susan Almy returned with what she termed "word from on high" that tomorrow's committee vote on the bill would be delayed a week, and thus House action will be delayed until...May Day, May Day, May Day (that would be May first) at the earliest.

The deadline for acting on all Senate bills is not until May 15, so tomorrow's deadline was somewhat arbitrary from the get-go.

One need not be all that big a cynic to read some gamesmanship into the Almy announcement of "word from on high".

Could it be for example, that Speaker Terie Norelli, does not want to House to get too much out ahead of the Senate prior to acting on this major piece of legislation.

As I've noted here in the past, any member of the House could offer a floor amendment to add in anything that the House has already passed but may be killed in the Senate. We are already hearing rumors that if the Senate kills Keno, it could be added to this gambling bill.

However, don't be confused by the concept of germaneness as this stage of the session. House rules would not limit an amendment to the gambling topic. The House defines germaneness as anything which has had a public hearing in the House and passed the House.

Hey, maybe if the Senate kills the death penalty repeal tomorrow, it could be resurrected as an amendment to the gambling bill. Maybe I shouldn't give pro gambling senator Lou D’Allesandro any additional motivation to vote against the repeal of death. He could be the swing vote in killing it tomorrow, a tactic which could keep his gambling bill alive in the House.

I hadn't thought of that possibility when I began writing this, but this is the time of year strange things happen in the game of gamesmanship between the House and Senate.

For whatever reason "from on high", Ways and Means will not be voting on the gambling bill tomorrow.

As Rep. Frank Sapareto, R-Derry, noted, that provides another week for amendments to be drafted. As if the revenue sharing wasn't enough of a "bribe" (not my word but that of someone testifying at last week's hearing) for Reps from hurting cities and towns, Rep. Sapareto has a new "bribe". He has an amendment which would earmark any money from gambling to roads and bridge repairs (thus negating the need for a gas tax increase) and then to a reduction in the business profits and business enterprise taxes.

Let the games continue.

Wednesday
Apr162014

For Casinos, NH Should Ask For Less Up Front And Higher Annual Percentage

As the New Hampshire House Ways and Means Committee prepares to vote on the latest gambling bill (SB366) tomorrow morning, I am reprinting here something I wrote last spring and shared with the committee during its hearing on the bill last week. 

A major flaw of this gambling bill is that the state loses money in the long run by opting for a very large up front fee and very small percentage of the take on an annual basis.  When the single casino bill was defeated by 29 votes on the House floor last month, someone noted that Millennium, the very same company would be allowing New Hampshire only 30 percent of the annual take, "gives" the state of Pennsylvania 55 percent.

The reason is simple.  Pennsylvania did the smart thing; it didn't require a big up front licensing fee.

New Hampshire should do the same if gambling is ever to pass, and an amendment doing just that should be available by next week.

While this story I wrote last May was in regard to a specific proposal then under consideration, the principles remain the same.  Be prepared to wade through a sea of numbers, but then you should agree that less up front and more on an annual basis is much, much better for the state, probably more than a billion dollars better.  SB366 calls for two casinos, but the principles enumerated here would apply to one, three, or any number.

Also, SB366 calls for the developer to pour nearly half a billion dollars into the casino.  What does the state care how much it costs to prepare the infrastructure?  If we had more casinos than just two, free enterprise concepts would take care of that.  By not requring such heavy construction costs, the state could boost its annual take another five percent or so.

Senate President Chuck Morse told Ways and Means that the House and Senate should be able to negotiate a deal.  The starting point for such negotiations should be both the up front vs. annual rate and the number of casinos.

Friday, May 10, 2013 at 04:40PM

     

Although the math is fairly simple if you use rounding, this exercise will require a calculator if you wish to follow along.

Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare, the chair of the gambling subcommittee on revenues, offered the most salient point of them all during yesterday's hearing when he stressed how the duty of elected officials should be to guarantee that the state of New Hampshire accrues the greatest amount of money possible when it comes to establishing gambling...or as Rep. Kurk asserted, how the state in future years will regret "leaving money on the table."

That's been my position all along and I had developed a hypothesis that the less money the state takes up front in licensing fees, the more it takes in an annual tax rate, the better the state would be in the long term. Even as I sat in the hearing yesterday, I ran the numbers and came up with a difference of not merely millions of dollars, but hundreds of millions, in fact of more than a billion, $655 million plus another $521 million at the high end.

The Kurk subcommittee ran six scenarios, based on 3000 or 5000 machines at per machine per day rates of $149.00, $253.74, and $257.50.

For my analysis, I've gone with the original fiscal note for the gambling bill, 5000 machines at $162.89 per machine per day (Maine's take) on the low end and $285.98 per machine per day (Connecticut) on the high end. While the Kurk panel added 30 percent for gaming tables, a disputable industry average, I just went with the machines (so you could conceivably add 30 percent to my totals if you want to build in table game revenue).

At the low end, LBAO calculates $297,274,250 generated annually for the casino; $521,913,500 at the high end. Next we need to take into account the three scenarios--

SB152 calls for an $80 million licensing fee and 30 percent tax rate; the Kurk panel opted for $50 million and 33.33 percent, but clearly the best take for the state is: $5 million up front and 37 percent per year.

At 30 percent, and for the sake of simplicity, I'll do some rounding here; the state share would be $89 million at the low end and $156 million at the high end.  Were the figure to be 37 percent, the state take would be $110 million at the low end and $193 million at the high end.

Next we need to multiply by 20 since this is a 20 year contract and rates would not change.

At 30 percent, the state's take over 20 years would be $1.78 billion at the low end and $3.13 billion at the high end.

At 37 percent, the state's take over 20 years would be $2.20 billion at the low end and $3.86 billion at the high end.

That's a difference of $420 million for the state at the low end and $730 million at the high end, but we need to back $75 million out of those numbers since the licensing fee would be only $5 million at the five percent rate versus $80 million at the 30 percent rate.

Thus, by not going to the 37 percent rate, the state would lose $345 million at the low end and $655 million at the high end.

We can also run the numbers for the $50 million up-front fee and a 33.33 percent tax rate. We get, after backing out the $30 million in the licensing fee ($80 million minus $50 million), a state loss of approximately $188 million on the low end and $352 million on the high end.

The hypothesis that the greater the tax rate and the less the licensing fee, the better for the state is certainly proven by the data.

One caveat must be noted; some will point out that a dollar 20 years from now will not be worth the same as a dollar today. That's most likely true although we have to way of quantifying it. However, we do know that the state, at a difference between the 30 and 37 percent rate, would make back the $75 million in only two to four years, and anything beyond that would be pure gravy

Were the state absolutely desperate and in need of the additional $75 million immediately, borrowing would actually be a better idea. The Treasurer could borrow at less than three percent; thus an annual cost in the $2 million range or $6 million for three years. Anyone conversant with basic math would have to agree that the $6 million cost would be more than offset by the long term gain of $345-655 million!

There's also the matter for what a casino should reasonably expect to lease or rent a slot machine, and that's where I get the additional $521 million of loss to the state. As reported here two weeks ago, a Millennium spokesman insisted to the revenue panel that the going rate is in 10-15 percent range. N.H. Lottery Director Charlie McIntyre pegged that number at seven percent. I provided proof that six percent is in fact used in Delaware, and since then, I have received a seven percent figure from Rhode Island. Let's be generous and say the leasing fee will be 7.5 percent; that's still five percent less than midway range Millennium was claiming (12.5 percent).

Take the $521 million LBAO estimates for the casino yearly intake and multiply by five percent, the true difference in what slot rentals costs and what Millennium claims, and you get $26 million a year; multiple that by 20 years, and the state loses another $521 million by accepting Millennium numbers.

Thus, the answer to Rep. Kurk's question about how much the state will be "leaving on the table" with SB152 is potentially $655 million plus $521 million or a total of 1 billion, 176 million, money that will be lost to the state and will flow right back to Las Vegas where Millennium, the drafters of SB152, are based.

Wednesday
Apr162014

UNH Poll--Marijuana Legalization Reaches +17% Support; 67% Favor Regulation And Taxation

                Just when you thought support for legalization of marijuana couldn’t get much higher in New Hampshire, along comes the latest WMUR Granite State Poll from Andy Smith at UNH showing even more powerful public opinion.

                Support for simple legalization now stands at 55-38, up from 53-38 in February.

                Support for decriminalization, similar to a bill which has already passed the House with a 70 percent majority, is at 61-24 percent, and of the 61 percent, 49 percent express “strong support”.

                Support for the idea of legalization with regulation and taxation at retail outlets is also setting new records.  It’s gone from 65-29 percent to 67-30 percent, but perhaps the most significant news out of the UNH poll is that people really prefer the legalize and tax option.

                When asked which option they would prefer, New Hampshire voters were 49 percent for legalization and taxation; 18 percent for decriminalization; and only 29 percent for keeping laws the way they currently are.

                In announcing poll results, Andy Smith wrote, “Legislation is most likely to be preferred by young people (67%), high school graduates (62%), liberals (61%), and residents of the Manchester area (66%) and North Country (60%).  Decriminalization is most likely to be preferred by residents with a postgraduate education (29%).  Keeping the laws as they are now is more likely to be preferred by regular churchgoers (51%), older residents (45%), conservatives (41%), and residents along the Mass border (39%).”

                A link to detailed polling data, including a breakdown by regions, age, and reading and viewing habits, is available below.  510 New Hampshire residents responded to the poll conducted  between March 24 and April 1.

                Support for legalization is even stronger in New Hampshire (plus 17 points)than nationwide; a recent Pew Poll had support at 54-42 percent.  A recent poll out of Colorado shows that support has doubled from the ten point margin which passed legalization at the polls (55-45) in November, 2012.

                This is a sharp repudiation of the House which two weeks ago, after initially passing the legalization and taxation bill, struck it down.

                Estimates are that taxes on marijuana alone could generate $60 million a year, not to mention the business profits and business enterprise taxes which would be generated along with more than a thousand good new jobs.

                In announcing poll results, Andy Smith wrote, “Legislation is most likely to be preferred by young people (67%), high school graduates (62%), liberals (61%), and residents of the Manchester area (66%) and North Country (60%).  Decriminalization is most likely to be preferred by residents with a postgraduate education (29%).  Keeping the laws as they are now is more likely to be preferred by regular churchgoers (51%), older residents (45%), conservatives (41%), and residents along the Mass border (39%).”

                According to data provided by the Department of Revenue Administration, illegal marijuana sales are in the $160 million range.  This is money which goes to street dealers who are then able to use it to hook their clients are truly dangerous drugs.  The state, of course, realizes zero revenue from that black market trade, most likely a reason why such a large majority of New Hampshire residents prefer legalization, regulation, and taxation, numbers which surprisingly continue to rise.\

                I say surprisingly because the swing upward has been so strong and so rapid that one would expect a backing off some time in the near future. 

                Democrats and Independents continue to lead the way.  They both support legalization by nearly a four to one margin, 77-20 percent.  However, in the recent House vote, no less than two dozen Democrats, mostly those influenced by leadership which seems timid on dealing with such an issue during an election year, moved from the positive to the negative side.

                Talk about an inability to read public opinion.

                Even Republicans support legalization, albeit by a narrow margin of 50-46 percent.

                The licensure at retail outlets is favored by a 79-15 percent margin in the Manchester area, but support is generally universal throughout the state.

                It is favored 67-30 percent in the first CD; 66-30 percent in the second CD.          

                Union Leaders are in support 55-38 percent; WMUR viewers 63-27 and New Hampshire Public Radio listeners 69-26.

                Here’s the link for the UNH press release.

  1. [PDF]
  2. THE WMUR GRANITE STATE POLL - College of Liberal Arts

  1. cola.unh.edu/sites/cola.unh.../gsp2014_spring_marijuana040914.pdf
     
  1. 6 days ago - DURHAM, NH – Support for legalizing marijuana and taxing it like alcohol ... These findings are based on the latest WMUR Granite State Poll,.
Tuesday
Apr152014

Parties Remain Far Apart On Death Penalty Repeal

IGNORNACE IS NEVER BLISS

Why is it that neither party wants the truth known when it comes to support or opposition to the death penalty?

In this case, the truth is so easy to determine; numbers tell the tale that Republicans by and large are still much, much more likely to support the death penalty than Democrats.

How can it be then that death penalty supporter Republican Senator Jeb Bradley, of Wolfeboro, can be quoted in the Monitor as saying? "I think it will not break down all that much on party lines."

How can it be that repeal supporter Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, can be quoted in the same article as saying? "It's not a party issue."

Of course it's a party issue. At last check (and admittedly I've been out of the state for four days), only one Republican senator, Sam Cataldo, of Farmington, had come out in favor of repeal. Only one Democratic senator, Lou D'Allesandro of Manchester, has traditionally voted against repeal (I still have him as undecided this time around, but he's made his position clear in the past).

As reported here last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday reconsidered its previous vote and came out 3-2 in favor of repeal, but it's important to note Sen. Cataldo sits on that committee. Apparently, the bizarre Cushing Amendment, which would have kept the death penalty on the books until this July (an attempt to make sure Addison is put to death), was never considered by the committee.

Time will tell whether or not it is offered as a compromise on the Senate floor. It seems to me there's not much room for compromise on this issue; either you favor state executions or you do not, and Republicans obviously do while Democrats do not.

Among recent Democrats to change from pro death to prolife are Majority Leader Steve Shurtleff, of Concord, and Criminal Justice Chair Laura Pantelakos, of Portsmouth.

Thus, while Republicans remain for the most part in favor of the death penalty (I and many other Libertarian minded are exceptions), Democrats are becoming more and more in favor of appeal.

When the repeal bill (HB1170) passed the House 225-104 on March 12, Democrats were 166-20 in support. That's an amazing 89.2 percent. Republicans were 59-84 against repeal; only 41.3 percent in support.

All national opinion polls, and a recent one from Andy Smith at UNH, show Democrats narrowly supporting repeal while both Republicans and Independents are overwhelmingly opposed. There's no way to spin the numbers otherwise, and why Sen. Bradley and Rep. Cushing would even try such a spin is beyond me.

Most recently, Gallup found support for the death penalty at 60-35 with 81 percent of Republicans in favor, 60 percent of Independents, and only 47 percent of Democrats.

Andy Smith broke it down by those who voted for Romney (73-18 in favor of death--wow!) to those who voted for Obama (40-43 against) and those who didn't vote at all (75-16 for death). I guess that last number tells us that if more people in fact voted, repeal would be in even bigger trouble.

I have long told repeal supporters that they could expect this type of party breakdown, but they just didn't want to see the truth. Nor do they, apparently, now as the bill heads to the Senate showdown in a few days. If Lou fails to pull a Pantelakos, in other word if he votes against the death penalty once again, at least three Republicans would have to vote for it for passage.

That's simple math.

The truth will out because...in this case the truth can and is quantified.

How can it be that "leaders" in both parties want to keep this type of support a secret.

There must be some strange motivation I fail to see.