On November 3, 2015, Governor Hassan called for a special session of the legislature to, in her words, “to take up comprehensive substance abuse legislation.”
Based on the chart below, which shows deaths from opiates spiking in New Hampshire more than a year earlier, one can fairly ask of Hassan: “what the hell took you so long”?
More particularly, why didn’t Hassan propose the package of legislation that she proposed in November, 2015 in the budget she submitted for the period beginning July 1, 2015? Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and say it was just that she was asleep at the switch when she proposed her budget at the start of 2015.
Hassan vetoed the budget passed by the Legislature on June 25, 2015. While the veto message mentioned not spending enough on opiates/opioids, it was well down a laundry list of additional spending. In other words, opiates/opioids was not the or even a primary reason behind the veto. Moreover, the budget Hassan vetoed actually increased substance abuse funding by 75 percent.
In September, Hassan reached a deal with Legislature over the budget. In taking her victory lap, Hassan made clear that the primary reason she vetoed the budget was to prevent a reduction in business tax rates, not because the budget didn’t do enough regarding opiates/opioids. Indeed, Hassan asserted that the budget deal “fails to include even higher levels of funding for substance misuse.”
As noted at the outset, approximately two months later Hassan called for a special session to deal with opiates/opioids. This session was scheduled to and did take place just a matter of weeks before the Legislature reconvened in its regular 2016 session. Obviously, at this point, there was no point in calling a special session. Except to score political points.
The package of legislation Hassan proposed in November, 2015 could have been proposed months earlier, when the Legislature was in its regular session and the budget was still being contested. But that wouldn’t have been as flashy a headline as “Hassan Calls for Special Session.”
In January of this year, Hassan said opiates/opioids presented an “all hands on deck” moment for the State. But as the chart above shows it was every bit as big an issue in July, 2015 when Democrat State Senators went on a junket to Israel:
Yet there was no criticism by Hassan or her allies in the media WMUR, NH1, NHPR, etcetera when the Democrat State Senators chose to go on a junket rather than deal with the issue.
Incidentally, second from the left is Ray Buckley, Chairman of the New Hampshire Democrat Party, on what was supposed to be a non-partisan “educational seminar.”