A recent editorial in the Valley News quoted a state rep as describing the current state of affairs at the New Hampshire Legislature in this way, “We address problems that do not exist, we misunderstand problems that do exist, and then we do the wrong thing for ideological reasons.” That pretty much sums it up.
The very first bill passed by our Legislature this year — their urgent priority — was not legislation aimed at fixing our infrastructure, solving our infrastructure problems or doing something about our affordable housing problem or the opioid crisis. The very first order of business was passing a bill to ensure that gun owners were no longer required to get a permit to carry a concealed handgun.
There have been many attempts to solve non-existent problems. A bill to solve the problem of poor people eating was retained by the House Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee. Senate Bill 7 would have changed the eligibility requirements for food stamps, potentially kicking 17,000 families with children off the program. This was not going to save any money — in fact it was going to cost the state to do it. It did nothing to prevent fraud. All it was going to do was ensure that the working poor would have a harder time feeding their kids. Truly a victory for our well-to-do state senators. Only it wasn’t, because the House HHS committee had an outbreak of decency and decided to retain the bill. They’ll have to act on it, of course, but by the end of the year they may decide to quietly kill it.
Our governor’s first big appointment was Frank Edelblut, the commissioner of education who has no background in education, homeschooled his seven children and had never been inside a New Hampshire public school. His confirmation was along party lines, despite all those constituent calls to Executive Councilor Joe Kenney, who does the wrong thing for ideological reasons at every opportunity.
Sununu chose to drop his nominee to head the Department of Environmental Services, when most of the executive councilors thought businessman Frank Kujawski’s past as a Boy Scout wasn’t enough of a qualification for the position. Kenney, however, was quoted in the press as saying he would have voted for him. He voted for one unqualified guy — why stop now?
Frank “I’ll be an implementer” Edelblut has decided to go for a big power grab. He got Sen. John Reagan to add an amendment to a bill that had already had a public hearing in the House, giving Edelblut’s unchecked power to reconfigure the Department of Education, an undefined plan he apparently developed without speaking to any of his alleged colleagues. There was something of an uproar over that bit of jiggery-pokery, so a public hearing was held, in a room that was too small for it, with Sen. Reagan allowing all the lobbyists to speak before constituents, then berating those who questioned Edelblut’s fitness for the job. Nothing says, “I’m a duly elected representative of the people” like lecturing them for expressing their concerns. Even the Union Leader (the official state mouthpiece for the N.H. GOP) thought Frank’s power grab was a bad idea. Despite the best efforts of Reagan, the Senate Education Committee voted thumbs down on the amendment. It still has to go before the full state Senate.
To his credit, Edelblut has been out visiting, so at least now he knows what the inside of a New Hampshire public school looks like. He asked the state board of education to reconsider the standards for teaching science, something they’d just spent two years doing. Edelblut’s criticisms of the science standards were based on a report by conservative education think tank, the Fordham Institute. Fordham uses cutting-edge 1950s science teaching as their criteria for evaluation.
The bill to solve the non-existent problem of voter fraud, SB 3, is still languishing in committee. Meanwhile, HB 238, a bill to create yet another study committee to study the actual problem of broadband access to the internet is likely to pass. I predict the study will reveal we need better access, especially in the northern part of the state, and that nothing will come of it. I hope I’m not the only one amused by Sen. Jeb Bradley’s attempts to cloak his opposition to legalizing marijuana in the objections of the police chiefs — the same police chiefs he blithely ignored when it came to concealed carry.
At the N.H. House, the bickering between the self-styled Freedom Caucus and the leadership continues, after their failure to pass their own budget.
None of this will be helped by the recent revelation that GOP State Rep. Robert Fisher from Laconia seems to have had some reprehensible things to say about women in a number of online forums, including one he created. He used a variety of personas to put forth his views, including the astounding statement that rape isn’t all bad, because the rapist enjoys it. Fisher is refusing to resign.
Problems, misunderstanding and ideology. Rinse, lather and repeat.
Susan Bruce is a writer and talk radio personality on “The Attitude with Arnie Arnesen” on WNHN-FM. She lives in Concord. Visit her blog at susanthebruce.blogspot.com or find the broadcast at www.wnhnfm.org.
- Category: Columns