April 25. 2018 8:02PM

Marsy's Law backer calls rogue robocalls underhanded


As Marsy’s Law heads into a climatic showdown vote in the House of Representatives today, supporters and opponents of it in the New Hampshire House of Representatives had to deal with some rogue robocalls.

State Rep. Mary Beth Walz, D-Bow, was among those reporting calls being made to House members urging them to support Marsy’s Law, but not in an appropriate way.

Walz said a telemarketer’s call said “my state representative” asked her to call him and commit to whether she would vote for the constitutional amendment.

“I again asked her directly who had hired her and she said the representative,” Walz wrote in an e-mail to colleagues. “Knowing the other reps in the district, I was suspicious of the assertions and called him.”

The contact person told Walz he knew “nothing of the sort,” had not asked anyone to do this on his behalf and wasn’t happy about the misrepresentation.

Henry Goodwin, Marsy’s Law for All national spokesman, urged those getting these improper calls to contact authorities.

“We are aware that someone is making dishonest and misleading calls, purporting to be Marsy’s Law, when they are not. These very same calls are also misrepresenting the positions of state representatives on CACR 22, and, contrary to state law, they fail to disclose who is paying for these calls,” Goodwin said.

“We have asked all who received these calls to notify the attorney general and hope that whoever is engaging in this illegal and despicable conduct is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Just as there were people who have opposed equal rights and protections for women, there will always be people who oppose equal rights for crime victims. These underhanded tactics, however, are contemptible and represent a sad new low for political opposition.”

Supporters have that high bar they need to clear today — three-fifths of the total House membership, for it to get to the voters this November.

Two House committees meeting jointly recommended, 24-11, to reject the amendment.

Spending cuts nix commuter rail

The on-again, off-again, $4 million study of commuter rail as part of the state’s 10-year highway plan is off.

The Senate Transportation Committee removed the spending as part of its amendments to the omnibus highway bill (HB 2018). Republican senators were worried cities and towns would end up holding the bag to pay for the rail subsidy. They also argued, given record high federal deficits, that federal grant money belongs to taxpayers too.

The project has had a rough ride this year. Gov. Chris Sununu placed it into his proposed plan in January as a way to sweeten New Hampshire’s bid to win the second national headquarters for Amazon.

Once New Hampshire failed to make the top-20 finalist site list, Sununu told House GOP members they could take the project out, so the Republican-led panel did.

But rail supporters rallied on the House floor and narrowly approved an amendment to put the money back in.

The Senate will be voting on its committee’s recommendation next week. Given the Senate’s long-standing opposition to this project, the chances of still another surprise on the Senate floor aren’t likely.

Act Blue eyes New Hampshire

Coming off its victory helping to flip the Virginia House of Delegates from red to blue last year, Act Blue is turning its attention to the New Hampshire Senate.

NY4US is a grassroots group that helps fundraise for liberal candidates running in vulnerable, GOP-held districts.

They’ve chosen to focus here and will host a Manhattan fundraiser next month to benefit two Democrats seeking to knock off GOP incumbents, state Rep. Shannon Chandley, D-Amherst, and Dartmouth College research director Jenn Alford-Teaster of Sutton.

Chandley opposes Senate Finance Chairman Gary Daniels, R-Milford, in District 11 while Alford-Teaster wants to take on first-term, GOP Sen. Ruth Ward of Stoddard.

The event at a private townhouse on May 7 will have tickets that start at $100 and go up to $1,000.

Act Blue’s partner the Future Now Fund will match all money raised at the event up to $40,000.

“The New Hampshire State House is a Republican trifecta, meaning the GOP controls the Senate, House and the governorship,” the e-mail invite states. “They use this local dominance to pass regressive legislation, restrict fair voting access and ultimately to vote to call for a national constitutional convention (and they’re only a few states away!) If we can flip the Senate, we can break this trifecta. We only need to flip two seats to tie the state Senate and achieve this disruption.”

Flipping two would create a 12-12 deadlock in the Senate, not give the Democrats automatic control.

Van Ostren announces forums

Former executive councilor Colin Van Ostern of Concord announces today plans for six, Free & Fair Forums as part of his bid for secretary of state and to elect more legislators committed to political and governmental reforms.

The six begin May 10 in Tamworth (Carroll County) and include stops in Bedford, Windham, Nashua, Barrington and Laconia.

“This in-person and online organizing will be our main focus, and our goal will be to increase citizen awareness, engagement in local campaigns, and voter participation,” Van Ostern said in an email to supporters. “We think this will be a better way to reach these goals than paying for big-budget TV ads, marching in parades, or writing stacks of checks to lawmakers all across the state.”

Shea-Porter working for Naval Shipyard

Departing U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., is hoping she’ll help deliver some parting gifts to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

Shea-Porter said the pending House National Defense Authorization Act includes nearly $150 million to expand the shipyard’s capacity to repair the Virginia Class of submarines.

“The bill also includes an important provision that opens the door for expanded hiring authorities to help the shipyard fill nearly 200 positions,” Shea-Porter said.

Supreme Court sides with State Employees Association

The New Hampshire Supreme Court delivered a victory to the State Employees Association and a member of its collective bargaining team, former Concord Democratic state Rep. Rick Watrous.

In a 4-1 ruling, the high court overturned the decision of the Public Employee Labor Relations Board and ordered the Community College System of New Hampshire to pay Watrous training courses he had taught as a part-time faculty. The justices said the PELRB was wrong to rule that such tutoring was not a topic the union should have been able to bargain with community college administrators.

This win was fitting since during his tenure in the House, Watrous was a maverick unafraid of challenging either party’s leadership.

Dems submit Right to Know to Gov. office

Democratic legislative leaders aren’t about to let Sununu off the hook on his past support for family and medical leave.

Last week, Sununu withdrew support asking for more study after concluding the House-passed bill financed with an increase in the unemployment tax would be too expensive and unreliable.

The Senate Finance Committee just voted along party lines to agree with that recommendation.

When the GOP-Senate endorses that call, this will kill the cause for the year.

Both Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn of Whitefield and Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley launched separate, Right-to-Know Law requests with Sununu’s office. They asked the governor to turn over communications he had with the Departments of Employment Security and Insurance Departments along with a list of all “registered (or non-registered) lobbyists/special interests that you or your staff have met or talked with” about the bill (HB 628).

Sununu legal counsel John Formella began in his response with the long-standing view that the governor’s office does not fall under the Right-to-Know Law.

Further, all communications with agency heads are “deliberative processes” under executive privilege and exempt from disclosure, he wrote.

As for lobbying meetings, Formella added, “This office is not in possession of the lists that you are requesting, and we therefore are not able to provide a further response to that request.”
Woodburn said Democrats won’t let voters forget Sununu backed the idea in his 2016 campaign only to abandon it now.

“Governor Sununu cut a secret deal with insurance company lobbyists and the out-of-state Koch brothers to try to sink bipartisan family and medical leave insurance legislation,” Woodburn said.

Sununu's shining approval rating

It’s way too early to get overly excited by statewide polls especially in this most unpredictable year we’re in.

But who wouldn’t like the approval rating Gov. Chris Sununu finds himself in less than seven months before the general election.

The University of New Hampshire Survey Center’s poll released Tuesday and the raw numbers aren’t as important as the historical takeaways.

Here’s one. The intensity of support for Sununu at this time is nearly identical to that of former Gov. Maggie Hassan in the middle of the first of her two terms. It’s lower than that of John Lynch, who went on to win a second term with 70 percent of the vote in 2006; that triggered the unprecedented, Democratic takeover of state government in Concord.

The healthy horse race leads Sununu has over Democrats Steve Marchand of Portsmouth (49-27) and Molly Kelly of Keene (51-24) are predicable and much less revealing.

What is cause for celebration is the all-important right track/wrong track direction because this is the classic canary in the coal mine question this far out from the vote.

If a majority believed New Hampshire was headed down the wrong track, this would spell big trouble for Sununu.

Instead, 72 percent chose the right track option including a solid majority of Republicans (84 percent) independents (68 percent) and even Democrats (65 percent).

Joyce Craig backs Pappas

Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig is the latest prominent Democrat to endorse 1st Congressional District campaign of Chris Pappas.

The connections between Craig’s mayoral campaign and that of the Executive Councilor Pappas were many and they extended over both of Craig’s campaigns for the City Hall post in 2015 and 2017.

It would have been shocking had Craig chosen not to support Pappas, the owner of a prominent business in the Queen City, who backed her from the very beginning.

Craig joins Pappas as he opens his Manchester headquarters next Wednesday at 225 Eddy Road.

Meanwhile, 1st Congressional District Republican candidate Eddie Edwards of Dover hosts his fourth town hall next Wednesday at the Laconia Public Library.

He’s already held similar events in Conway, Londonderry and Hampton.

Political visits ramping up

The weather is warming, which means the pace of political visits is picking up.

Former New York mayor and two-time White House hopeful Rudy Giuliani was in the state for a two-day visit that included headlining a state Senate GOP fund-raiser.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will be the guest speaker for the state GOP’s Spring to Victory fund-raiser May 14 at the Atkinson Country Club.

U.S. Rep. John K. Delaney, D-Md., makes his seventh presidential campaign exploratory trip to the state this Sunday, a meet-and-greet event at the Peterborough Town Library at 1 p.m. Delaney said he’s made 50 stops in New Hampshire

klandrigan@unionleader.com