Mario Ratzki Reports from Concord: October 2014

State revenues will fall short

By Mario Ratzki, NH representative

We had our last legislative session on September 17 to address the Governor's vetoes of three bills. A two-thirds vote is necessary to overturn a veto. A Yes vote was to overturn, a No vote to uphold.

  • HB 591, an anti-bullying bill which the Governor thought was written too broadly. Veto sustained by a vote of 141 Yes to 154 No.
  • HB 685, which dealt with proprietary information. Veto was sustained by a vote of 190 Yes to 113 No.
  • HB 1244, a bill allowing lottery winners to remain anonymous. Veto was sustained by a vote of 160 Yes to 142 No.

All three vetoes were upheld. I voted to overturn on HB 591 and sided with the Governor on HB 685 and HB 1244.

I do have some good news and some bad news.

First the bad news. I have it on good authority that 2014 state revenues will come in short of expectations. How much is not yet clear, but the state's budget for fiscal year 2015 is sure to be impacted, and not for the better. Official numbers will be available as of October 1.

The good news is that Senator Shaheen and Senator Ayotte were able to secure a $25 million TIGER grant (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) from the federal Department of Transportation to go towards the replacement of the Sarah Long bridge in Portsmouth. With 6,000 jobs at stake at the naval shipyard, as well as the Portsmouth economy, this is a great windfall for our state and for the state of Maine, which is sharing the cost of the project with us.

Our federal dollars are coming back to New Hampshire. I want to congratulate both Senator Shaheen and Senator Ayotte: This is a perfect example of what bipartisan work can do.

Speaking of bridges, I am well aware of the condition of the bridge on Route 4 by Green Crow. Andover Town Administrator Marjorie Roy, the Board of Selectmen — James Danforth, Duncan Coolidge, and Sophie Viandier — state representative David Karrick, and I all approached the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (DOT) to be sure that repairs would be effective and timely.

I am happy to report that DOT is in the process of rehabilitating the bridge, a project that will probably take place in the next few weeks, weather permitting. The project, once finished, will give the bridge another 10 to 12 years and allow logging trucks to continue to use it.

This was not a scheduled project for DOT, and the department could have decided to defer it or down-post it, with just one lane of traffic. So when I am asked about the 4.2 cents road toll increase and what it is for, I say: Look no further than the Green Crow bridge right here in Andover, and the Highway 127 re-paving in Salisbury.

I also understand that DOT is looking at the bridge on Route 4 in Danbury by Huntoon Farm. More details to come.

While gas prices have fallen by more than 20 cents a gallon since we introduced the increase on July 1, I do understand it is an additional burden on everyone, but we are benefitting from it as well.

I have previously mentioned the offer that the State of Vermont had made to pay for repairs on the Villas Bridge at Bellows Falls. (Cost: $5 million.) Of course, New Hampshire would have had to reimburse Vermont down the line. Our Public Works and Highways subcommittee on HB 1205 voted unanimously to kill the bill. We simply have more pressing priorities. The full committee will hear our recommendation in October, and I am quite certain it will agree with us. Sorry, Vermont.

I have introduced three Legislative Service Requests for the upcoming 2015/2016 legislative session. When finalized, they will have House bill numbers.

One would be to allocate funds for flood control towns for the year 2013 for which the towns were never paid, including Salisbury. We did get the funds for 2012 this year.

The second one would require so-called non-profit organizations 501(c)(4), (5), and (6) which engage in political advertising to reveal their donors' names. I truly believe in transparency in political campaigns, and some of these organizations (not all) take advantage of an IRS loophole to promote political agendas.

I will also introduce an open primary bill where voters, regardless of their past political affiliation, would be able to vote in either party primary (not both, of course.). They would just say to the poll worker which ballot they wanted on Primary Election Day. This would make the job easier for poll workers and give more choice to the voters.

And finally, a constitutional amendment for a four-year term for Governor. This would ensure a degree of stability in our political system as well as allow the Governor to attend to the people and the state of New Hampshire instead of spending her or his time campaigning in the second year. This is something that many constituents, of every political stripe, have asked me to do. This, of course, is a long shot, as a constitutional amendment requires a 60% vote in the legislature and a two-thirds vote in a statewide referendum.

I also learned recently that the parties (Democrat, Republican) are allowed to appoint candidates for the general election up to seven days after the primary. This means that these candidates have not been vetted by the voters at all. I believe this to be unfair to the candidates who did go to the trouble of campaigning for the primary, and I will introduce a bill to change the statute.

I expect plenty of opposition from both parties.

I am happy to report that the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire gave me a 58% approval rating, which is only six points below Representative Laurie Sanborn, who is in the Republican party leadership.

I am also happy to report that the New Hampshire Public Health Association has recognized me as a Public Health Champion for 2014. Wow!

On the losing side, little Michael, David Karrick, and I came in last in the bed race at the annual Grange Fair in Danbury recently. The young teams who won walloped us and were pretty impressive. We did get an Honorable Mention ribbon.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that I had my hair cut at New Horizons in Andover. Thank you, Meghan Barton.

I am hoping for an Indian Summer. My grapes need it. It sure doesn't feel like Indian Summer, though.

I am always available at 735 5440 and at marioratzki@nullgmail.com. You can also check my record as a state rep at www.marioratzki.com.