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Gov. Chris Sununu went out on a limb in his inaugural address on Jan. 5, 2017, to predict that Right-to-Work legislation will become law in New Hampshire after decades of debate. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

Dave Solomon's State House Dome: Right-to-Work turns into big House fight


NEW HAMPSHIRE governors usually get most of what they want if their party controls the Legislature, but not always.

Gov. Maggie Hassan staked a lot of her political capital on the idea that a Democratic majority in the House for her first term would support her casino gambling initiative. That turned out to be a bad bet when the bill failed by one vote.

Gov. Chris Sununu may be on the verge of a similar experience. He went out on a limb in his inaugural address to predict that Right-to-Work legislation will become law in New Hampshire after decades of debate.

"We are going to give employees once and for all the flexibility they deserve in the workforce by passing Right-to-Work. Let's tell these companies New Hampshire is open for business," he said.

But the preliminary head count doesn't add up to victory for Right-to-Work in the House. According to sources close to those doing the counting, anywhere from 25 to 30 Republican state representatives are expected to vote against the measure, which narrowly passed the Senate.

A lot could depend on how many of the 400 representatives actually show up on the day of the vote, and from which party.

A significant number of Republicans in the House share the view of Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, the only Republican to cross party lines and vote with the 10 Democrats when Right-to-Work passed the Senate, 12-11, on Jan. 19.

Carson said she objects to a law that puts government in the position of telling labor and management what they can or cannot have in a negotiated contract.

The bill would make New Hampshire the only state in the Northeast that forbids contracts allowing unions to collect dues from unwilling employees, even a so-called "agency fee" designed to cover the costs of collective bargaining.

The House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee is set to hold its public hearing on SB 11 on Wednesday, Feb. 8, in Representatives Hall.

Right-to-Work opponents were holding up signs and handing out fliers as representatives arrived for a House session last Thursday, even though nothing close to Right-to-Work was on the agenda.

"We just want to make sure they continue to be aware of our concerns," said one protester.

Meanwhile, Sununu continues to press his case.

"It's going to be razor close, no question," said Greg Moore, state director with Americans for Prosperity. "It's going to come down to a handful of votes here and there. The governor has been working tirelessly. That he's made this his number one priority speaks volumes of its importance."

Forrester's financials

Former State Sen. Jeanie Forrester, the new chairman of the state Republican Party, says she is working on filing supplemental finance reports relating to her unsuccessful campaign for governor in the GOP primary last September.

Her action comes after the New Hampshire Union Leader published a Jan. 30 opinion piece by Kathy Sullivan, former chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party.

Sullivan took a look at Forrester's campaign finance reports and found them missing required information, including the dates of donations, occupation of the donor and the donor's employer.

Forrester said her fiscal agent, a certified public accountant, has all the required information on spreadsheets.

"In talking to her, I discovered that things on the spreadsheets didn't transfer over to the reports," she said, "so I'm going to get that updated and get it over to the secretary of state. My goal is to have it done this weekend. They will be there by first thing Monday morning."

Gaming bill is back

Lawmakers can be unpredictable, but odds are good that every legislative session Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester, will try to introduce casino gambling as a revenue source for New Hampshire.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday will hold a public hearing on SB 242, D'Allesandro's latest casino bill. It calls for two casinos at locations to be determined.

"This bill is an economic recovery job creation package," he said. "Right now, we have gambling going on all around us and New Hampshire is seeing none of the benefits. With two casinos, we have an opportunity to create hundreds of jobs, bring in hundreds of millions of dollars into our state, and help our struggling communities."

The Senate has often voted in favor of casino gambling for the last 12 years, only to have the measure die in the House.

Concealed carry

It's starting to look like one of the first bills that's going to clear the Legislature and land on Sununu's desk will be SB 12, which repeals the state's concealed carry license law.

The law gives local police chiefs the authority to issue permits to carry concealed firearms only if they deem the applicant "suitable." Eliminating the law would enable any legal owner of firearms to carry concealed.

The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee held a public hearing on Wednesday and later voted 12-8 to recommend that the bill "ought to pass." It's expected to clear the House in a mostly party line vote on Thursday, and be signed into law soon after.

"New Hampshire is opening the door to allow dangerous individuals with a track record of violence to legally carry hidden, loaded weapons," said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress.

State Sen. Jeb. Bradley, R-Wolfeboro pointed out that neighboring Vermont and Maine do not require a separate license for concealed carry, and have not seen a spike in gun-related violence.

"The evidence is clear that some of the safest states in the nation do not require law-abiding citizens, legally able to possess a firearm, to obtain a license to carry it on a concealed basis," he said.

dsolomon@unionleader.com

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