Rep Steve Vaillancourt


Liberty Express Manages To Find Snow

With no snow on the ground in southern New Hampshire as we enter meteorlogical Spring (March 1), leave it to the Liberty Express on Manchester23 to come up with a half hour of snow.  Yes, that would be my show, and to set a more wintry mood, I've delved into the archives to come up with footage I filmed during meteorlogical spring during a Montreal.

It was just before Kurt Vonnegut died, a subject I discuss during the first half of the show which airs Monday at 10 p.m., Tuesday at 11 p.m., Thursday at 9 p.m. and Sunday at noon (and is always available at  Fear not, if you couldn't find last week's show with a half hour of the B-52s in concert, it was late being put online but should be there now.  Also, the interview with former Rep and Senate President Alf Jacobson from two weeks ago is also up.

I thought it only fitting to dig out the blizzard show this week, and I must say, after watfching it, I nearly expected to see snow outside when I took the elevator down from Channel 23's spacious but not overly ostentatious Elm Street studios.  There was none.

Oh yes, that portion of 2007 was when Raybo Kiddie Porngate was at its height, so be forewarned...there might be a few comments on I traverse the slosh of Montreal.

I was also reading a biography of the greatest of all French monarchs (Louis XIV) at the time, and I spend some time talking about how the man behind "L'etat c'est moi" sent French colonists off to Quebec with HEMP as one of their primary crops.

You just can't make this stuff up.

It was also the week a Montreal police officer had been killed in the line of duty.  I played CJAD radio's report of that as I went slip-sliding through a fun blizzard (March blizzards are always fun because we know the snow won't last...even in Montreal).

In the first half hour, after mimicing Jasper crossing his arms to bully people, I play the entire song The Killing of Georgie by Rod Stewart, a 1975 song about a young gay person who had trouble explaining his life to his parents and then was killed by a street gang after getting to New York City.  It's expeically appropriate as Speaker Bill O'Brien continues to delay bring up the bill repealing gay marriage, no wonder since two out of three New Hampshire voters oppose repeal.



Japser Boasts About His Bullying Abilities

Like a peacock overdosed on amphetamines, Republican House Deputy Majority Leader Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, actually went out of his way to boast about his bullying abilities during the debate on Susan Emerson's bullying bill last Wednesday.

If anything falls under the category of you can't make this stuff up, this is it.  In fact, it was just one of numerous  Kafkaesque moments which Republican leaders have treated an unsuspecting public to lately.

One would think any sane person would be ashamed and remain mum had he done what Jasper bragged about doing.

The truly crazy thing was that the other side wasn't planning to speak on the bill at all, and when that happens, the House usually goes directly to a vote.  But no, in this case, Republican leadership not merely felt the need to put Jasper forward to embarass himself and this institution but former Speaker Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett, as well.

I couldn't believe my ears as I sat there listening to two people gloat about bullyijng, but it must have been true.  Here's how the Concord Monitor reported it, "I'd go into the back of committees where we had problems with members and stand with arms folded and just glare at members.  It was effective," Jasper preened.

Whatever happened to the idea that all House members take an oath to exercise indepedent judgment on all matters?

In the Jasperian universe, the oath apparently means nothing.  Rather than remain silent and let people wonder about his days as a bully, Jasper chose to speak and remove all doubt.

Not merely did Speaker Bill O'Brien's leadership team choose to debate the issue when no one had signed up to speak on the other side, but the bill was moved to the first order of business on the House calendar.

Was this an overt attempt to send word that bullying will not only continue but be increased under this leadership team?  One fears that can be the only answer.

We expect such vulgar tactics (if not such overt confessions) from Jasper, but for Gene Chandler to join the fray was very disillusioning.  He insisted that previous administrations had indulged in greater bullying than this one, even noting at one point that a prior speaker had moved the seat of one Rep out of Reps Hall.

No, you just can't make this stuff up.

One Rep told me that she used to respect Gene Chandler, but lost most respect for him with that speech.  She wondered what Chandler would like to confess to as to greater bullying during his days as Speaker.

I agree.  Gene Chandler has always been in the top five people I respect most (right up there with Bill Gardner and Neal Kurk).  He lost a great deal of respect I had for him.  Certainly he did nothing as vile while Speaker as to deny a disabled Rep an aisle seat.  This blog has learned that, despite offers of more than one Rep to give up his aisle seat so Tony Soltani can be seated where he should be, O'Brien refuses.  That's how vindictive and how much of a bully this current Speaker is, and I can't imagine Gene Chandler sinking that low.

I recall no such bullying tactics by speakers in the 16 years I have served in the House, and Chandler's defense that it used to occur rings hollow.  It would be like an executioner gloating, "We used to draw and quarter people before we hanged them, but now we just take them out behind the barn and shoot them.  See how far we've come."

All 400 New Hampshire State Representative were elected to their positions.  They all deserve to be treated equally, not to be bullied by some leader hopped up on power pills.

The 9 a.m. debate last Wednesday was one of the saddest moments I've experienced in the House, not because the vote to kill the bill was 224-78 (no record of the 224 exists); we knew it would be approximately a three to one margin since that's the Republican advantage.  No, the vote wasn't the reason, but the bullying in defense of the bullying bill was truly staggering.

Here's another curious line from bully Jasper, "I'll be blunt," he preened, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."

Curious because this is the same bully Jasper who couldn't stand the heat three years ago and chose to resign (get out of the heat) from the Hillsborugh County executive committee after his side did not prevail.  And yes this is the same bully Jasper who either resigned or was forced off the election law committee late last year when he couldn't take the heat.  If we all admonished Jasper's heat warning, our democracy would simply cease to exist!

And yes, this is the same bully Japser who was forced to apologize to a Represenative (Tim Comerford, R-Fremont) last term for being caught trying to bully the freshman, "You get across the hall for a caucus right now or you're off this committee."  (That was when Democrat Terie Norelli was Speaker and Jasper couldn't have had Comerford removed even if he'd tried; Speakers determine committee assignments).

When your paws are as bloody with bullying, both successful and failed, as are Jaspers, one would think you would have the simple dignity, the simply decency remain quiet, but no, he feels the need to speak up and remove all doubt that he's proud of his past efforts at bullying.

Meanwhile, the public was treated to these intemperate remarks in the main stream wonder the public more and more refers to the O'Brien/Bettencourt/Jasper House as a circus; no wonder Republicans are going to lose upwards of fourscore seats come November.  Jasper, in safe Hudson, probably won't be one of them, but Gene Chandler, in unsafe Conway-Bartlett, just might if he gives a few more speeches like he did last week.

Shame, shame, eternal shame on both of you.


Another Lambert For State Senate? Probably Not

            Here’s one case in which I don’t mind being scooped.

            Nashua Telegraph columnist Kevin Landrigan reported Sunday that freshman Litchfield Republican Representative and Selectman George Lambert is eyeing the District 18 State Senate seat which Tom DeBlois is apparently abandoning to run for Ray Wieczorek’s executive council seat.  Don’t confuse this Lambert with the Nashua senator (Gary) who is not running for re-election in District 13.

            I've heard this rumor for weeks now, but I chose not to run with it for the simple reason that there’s virtually no chance Rep. Lambert could win such a race.

            This is not about the representative; it’s about the make-up of the district.  Senate District 18, as currently configured—and no changes are proposed in the Senate-passed redistricting plan—includes five Manchester wards (highly Democratic 5, 6, 7, my ward 8, and 9), each with a population in excess of 9000 people and Litchfield with a population of 8271. 

            I left my calculator at home today, but you don’t really need a calculator to realize that Litchfield is outnumbered by more than a five to one margin in this district, and Manchester voters, having lost the northern ward senate district to David Boutin from Hooksett (Boutin used to live in Manchester) are not about to enshrine a Litchfield resident in the seat. 

            Even with a huge turnout in highly Republican Litchfield, there’s little chance that Lambert or anyone else from Litchfield could win a Republican primary, let alone a general election in this district which is about as 50/50 as they come.

            Now, Rep. Lambert may be--and is--a maverick and a colorful one at that, but he’s no fool.

            He can do the math, and the math tells him that if he wants to remain active politically, he better run for a rather sure House seat and forego any Senate aspirations.

            Landrigan reports that Ward 6 Rep. Will Infantine does not have time to run for and serve in the seat.  Will has told me the same thing, but I’m not altogether sure I believe he won’t run.  When I mentioned that former Senator Andy Martel might well run for the seat—and in fact Andy has been around the State House putting out feelers—Will noted that Andy might not be eligible since he lived in Florida for a while.

            I trust that Andy is smart enough to not have re-registered in the Sunshine State, that he would in fact be eligible to run here, but the very fact that Infantine mentioned it to me shows me that he may be more interested than he lets on. 

            Infantine lost that Senate race to Dan O’Neil in 2000 then Martel beat Democrat School Board member twice before Betsi DeVries took the seat in 2006 and 2008 before losing to DeBlois in 2010.

            As I noted, this is a 50/50 seat with top of the ticket determining the outcome.

            My guess is that Lambert will not run nor will Infantine, and that Martel will lose the seat to DeVries or some other Democrat in a close race in November.  All my calculations have a Democrat winning this seat regardless of who runs on the GOP side.

            Yes indeed, this is my Senate district and I’ve been known to express an interest in the past (I lost to O’Neil in the 2000 Democratic primary), but as I’ve reported here recently, I don’t think the Governor’s press secretary should also serve as an elected official, and I plan to be the next governor’s press secretary.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

            Regarding the Bedford Senate seat (district 9), held for ages by Shelia Roberge and currently by outgoing Ray White, Landrigan reports that long-term Rep. Ken Hawkins might contest Henniker Senator Andy Sanborn who is moving to Bedford.

            That would most likely assure a third candidate, some dare call him a RINO Andy Peterson, of Peterborough, could step in and carry this district as he did several years ago when Peter Bragdon and Gary Daniels split the conservative vote in a GOP primary.

            Neither Milford nor Merrimack is in that district any more— it will meander all the way from Bedford out to Cheshire County— but Peterborough still is and the district will be much less conservative and Republican than it currently is.

            I’m still waiting to see which Democrat will run for (and win) the newly formed Dover-Somersworth-Barrington district, a sure win for Democrats but with no incumbent.  Somersworth State Rep Dale Sprague’s name has been bandied about; he’s one of the least liberal Democrats in Concord, so Raybo and kathythes might like the idea of him claiming the seat. 

The fun has just begun.


Hillsborough Reps Warn Commissioners Not To Raise Property Taxes

            By a straight party line vote of 17-3, the Hillsborough County Executive Committee voted Friday morning to send a letter to county commissioners urging that they propose a budget which not only does not increase county property taxes but also does not use more than $2.5 million of the county’s expected $14 million surplus.

            The county has been using $6 million of the surplus in recent years, but Reps in the delegation fear that continuing the trend would mean a spike in taxes in future years, so they want to cut back now.

            Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare, suggested that the meet the delegation’s guidelines, commissioners would have to trim spending by about $4 million.

            Of the county’s $85 million budget, approximately half is raised in property taxes.  Rep. Steve Stepanek, R-Amherst (House Ways and Means Chair), noted that if not cuts in spending are made, the tax rate would have to go up nearly 10 percent.

            “Elections have consequences” Rep Kurk reminded the delegation, and voters elected Republicans expecting taxes to be kept under control.

            The three Democrats on the committee (Pat Garrity, Ken Gidge, and Barbara Shaw) not only voted against the motion but actually spoke in favor of increased spending, of adding programs back in.

            As in all counties, commissioners propose a budget, but legislators have the final words on the bottom line.  Last year, commissioners (all three Republicans by the way) came in with a plan that would have raised taxes six percent; the delegation cut it back to zero.  All three commissioners were in the audience when the motion to send the letter passed.  Commissioners had previously sent a letter to the delegation noting how they might not be able to hold the line on spending.  Word that the delegation only want $2.5 million of the surplus used could not have come as good news to the threee (Sandy Ziehm, Toni Pappas, and Carol Holden).

            Hillsborough has a bigger surplus that most counties—in the 15 percent range or nearly double what is recommended—but the delegation (except Democrats) don’t want to draw it down much more than ten percent.

            In another interesting development Friday morning, Representatives voted against Chairman Carl Seidel, R-Nashua, on a proposal for the delegation coordinator who last year was making around $100,000 (salary plus benefits).  The vote was 11-9 as five other Republicans joined Seidel and the three Democrats.  During the budget deliberations last spring, the delegation cut the position to half time with a salary of $20 an hour ($20,000 a year).

            Seidel has been working like mad to redesign the position to provide more flexibility (and more salary).  It was in fact increased to $23,600 (with no benefits), but when Seidel came up short of getting everything he wanted, he was one of three Representatives to vote against the proposal, but it passed 17-3 as amended.

            I mention this because earlier in the week, a Rockingham County representative (no names please) explained to me how its coordinator was making close to $100,000 (again, including benefits) and an effort to trim back was unsuccessful.

            Maybe Rockingham County Reps should try again.  They now have a model in Hillsborough County which should work just fine and save around $75,000 of taxpayer money. 

            The delegation coordinator works with the executive committee which meets only ten times a year and is only busy a few weeks during budget time.  I would have cut even more but I ended up voting for the $23,600 plan.  See how reasonable I can be.

            Just two weeks ago on the House floor, Seidel was opposed by most members of the county delegation (inlcuding three who spoke on the floor--Reps. Bill Belvin, Gail Barry, and I) when he tried to get the terms for county commissioners increased from two to four years.  The bill, despite a near unanimous vote from the Municipal and County Government Committee, was overturned by nearly a two to one margin on the floor (there was no roll call, so we'll never know exactly who voted for and against it), but Seidel clearly had not forgotten that vote when he spoke this morning.

             Last year, the Executive Committee had overturned Seidel when he tried to appoint a non-executive committee member to a budget oversight committee.  Yes, that would be Rep. Sean Jasper who left the Executive Committee three years ago in a huff when he didn't get his way on an issue at the delegation level.  Democrats had defeated Jasper and other Republicans, but everyone except Jasper (including me) remained on the committee realizing that future elections would indeed have consequences. 

             The consequence now is that only 21 of the county's 123 representatives are Democrats; that's why only three Democrats serve on the 21-member executive committee.  That's why the county tax rate will most likely remain stable despite the best effort of the three big spending Republican commissioners.



February Revenues Should Be OK

            As the New Hampshire House and Senate are off on vacation next week, another month of revenues will be in the books.  February is not a big month, and early indications are that we should come in around target of $81.6 million.

            Good news is that the rooms and meals tax (it’s all in for the month) is 19 percent over plan ($5.7 million vs. $48. million expected) and that rooms and meals taxes are about 11 percent over plan (we’ll get more in this category).  Rooms and meals for the month stands at $17.2 million (plan was $15.5 million), but as usual $1.2 million will be removed from this category in an end of month accounting.

            Business taxes, only projected at $11.6 million for the month, are $4.6 million short so far (there was a $0.6 million charge for refunds), but they could well come in close to plan.

            As usual, lottery revenues will miss the mark big time.  Those numbers are all in, and it’s $4.5 million, $1.2 million (or 21 percent) shy of the plan of $5.7 million.

            Liquor and tobacco revenues are off a bit but could well hit plan by the time March 1 gets here (monies usually come in on a daily basis in those categories,).

            For a light revenue month, expect news to be neither good nor bad.

            Medicaid enhancement monies, which came in way short earlier in the year, are now expected to come in as expected albeit later on.

             Thus, with eight months in the books, we will see a shortfall but in fact, we'll be $15 million or so ahead of plan, nothing to shout about but certainly better than a kick in the teeth (which we were getting two years ago).

            Of course, March and April are the big months.