NH Week in Review for April 2: State poised to tighten voter eligibility

Apr 02, 2017

The New Hampshire Senate this week sought to more specifically define ‘domicile’ in order to better determine who is eligible to vote in state elections.

The action on SB 3, which now goes to the House for consideration, is part of Republican-led efforts in both the GOP-led House and Senate to rewrite election laws to curb voter fraud.

Democrats oppose the efforts, saying voter fraud is not an issue and that the measures will disenfranchise voters.

The Senate action fell along party lines, 14-9, with the number of Democrats in the Senate now one fewer because of the recent death of Sen. Scott McGilvray of Hookset.

Proponents of the measure point to its support by Secretary of State William Gardner and the fact that college students - a bone of contention in some circles because of their temporary residency - would not be affected by the law change.

See a Union Leader story here.

The action on voter eligibility came this week amid a report from NH1 that the state attorney general’s office has been given the names of hundreds of people who gave local addresses during same-day registration that couldn’t be verified. And two Laconia men, in a CNN interview, alleged but could not offer proof of 2016 election voting irregularities in the community. See a Laconia Daily Sun story here.

Kindergarten fight

The dispute over funding of full-day kindergarten at public schools throughout the state continued this week.

The House Finance Committee, which is wrapping up its version of the fiscal 2018-19 state budget, eliminated money for full-day kindergarten as outlined by Gov. Christopher Sununu in his February budget message.

Senate action this week on SB 191 kept the effort alive, much to Sununu’s delight. "I applaud the Senate today for passing a targeted full-day kindergarten program that will provide financial support to communities that choose to create such programs," said Sununu. “This legislation is good for children, families and a critical tool in retaining our workforce.”

SB 191 was filed by a Democrat, David Watters of Dover.

See a Foster’s Daily Democrat story here.

Energy projects

It’s been an up and down week for Eversource’s Northern Pass energy transmission line project through the North Country.

The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) Monday rejected the utility’s proposal to secure 10 percent of the 1,000-megawatt transmission line for customers, saying it was “inconsistent with New Hampshire law.”  Then the state Senate on Thursday approved a bill that gives new life to Eversource's failed request to buy power off the line. See a Concord Monitor story here.

National Grid announced Tuesday morning that it too wants to build a high-power transmission line linking Canada to New England. This one would go though both Vermont and New Hampshire along existing transmission lines. See a New Hampshire Business Review story here.

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, which opposes Northern Pass, told NHPR that the National Grid proposal is “clearly an alternative to Northern Pass and would seem to have many advantages to it.”

Also

State Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, R-Manchester, died this week from a sudden illness. He was known as a colorful and sometimes dramatic member of the House. See a Union Leader remembrance here.

A survey says New Hampshire is the best state in which to retire. The report gave New Hampshire high marks for overall well-being, crime and healthcare quality and tax structure, but not so much on its weather. See an NHPR story here.

The state’s two Democratic U.S. senators -- Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan -- said this week they will vote no in the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch as President Donald Trump’s pick for the U.S. Supreme Court. Both cited concerns about Gorsuch’s record on social issues.

“I cannot support a Supreme Court justice who would turn back the clock on women’s reproductive rights,” said Shaheen. Said Hassan: “Judge Gorsuch is not in the mainstream. He has not shown a commitment to protecting the rights of all Americans, and he does not seem to always fully consider the consequences his decisions have on real lives.”

Former Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who has served as Gorsuch’s advisor as he has wended his way through the confirmation process, said he will ultimately be confirmed by the Senate “one way or the other.” She raised the notion that the Republican majority might change Senate rules to make Gorsuch’s approval a simple majority rather than the 60-vote threshold that is currently required. See a Seacoast Online story here.

Gov. Sununu, in a visit to the governor's Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention - the first by the state’s chief executive in 17 years - said when it comes to the opioid crisis, he wants to cut red tape and build the workforce of caregivers who are trying to overcome addiction. See a WMUR story here.

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