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Monday, January 5, 2009

New Ideas, but No New Money

Dan Touhy writes in the Union Leader that state legislators are drafting 1,000 new bills for introduction this year.

Senator Lou D'Allesandro warns lawmakers not to expect new money to flow to their new ideas:
"As usual, people put in lots of legislation, but I don't think there will be any spending legislation," said Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. "We're facing an economy that's down nationwide and very much in peril as we speak."

Under New Hampshire system, each bill will receive a public hearing, and at least the opportunity for an up-or-down vote on the House or Senate floor. Unlike Washington, bills can not be killed in Committee, or simply thrown in a drawer if Leadership finds it inconvenient. Such openness is commendable, but it does lead to the Legislature spending its time in interesting ways:
They deal with just about everything: Providing property tax relief, protecting the lead role of the New Hampshire Presidential Primary, banning text messaging while driving, raising the state gas tax, and suspending a driver's license for the theft of gasoline.

A month after Michael K. Addison was sentenced to death for killing Manchester police officer Michael Briggs in 2006, lawmakers are pitching several ideas to reform, expand or abolish the state's death penalty law.

But scores of the proposed laws are of a decidedly lighter fare.

Make the Chinook the state dog?

Create a specific penalty for taking stones from one's stone wall?

Text of the legislative requests are forthcoming this month, but their subject titles may prompt some shrugs. A few culled from the list propose:

--Imposing a safari fee on big game hunting preserves.

--Urging the U.S. to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

--Examine the treatment of pregnant inmates.

--Require developers to create space for people to dry laundry without electricity.

A dozen or so call for naming buildings, roads or bridges in honor of someone.

One bill proposes renaming the Christa McAuliffe planetarium the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, after NASA astronaut and New Hampshire native Alan B. Shepard. Another would rename a bridge to honor Navy SEAL Daniel Healy, an Exeter man who died in 2005 while on a combat mission in Afghanistan.

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