Tag Archives: New Hampshire

Random Thoughts on the Sununu Budget

Here is the transcript of Governor Sununu’s budget address.

While not mentioned in the address, the press reports that overall spending is slated to increase, over the next two years, from $11.3 billion to $12.1 billion.  That’s an increase of seven percent in Fiscal Years 2018-2019 over the two prior Fiscal Years, July, 2015 through June, 2017.

The press also reports that the increase in “general fund” and education spending is 3.5 percent.  I take that to mean that “revenues” that are classified as “General fund” and “education trust funds” (which are called “unrestricted revenues” in contrast with federal funds that can be used only as designated by Congress or Highway, Fish & Game fees, etc. that by law are restricted to certain purposes) are projected to increase by 3.5 percent and Sununu proposes to spend all of the projected increase.

Here’s a graphic showing the sources of government spending from a State website called “Transparent NH“, which contains the terms “general fund” and education trust fund”:

So the “revenues” from the”general fund” and the “education trust fund” made up about 42 percent of total revenues for the current fiscal year.

There is no corresponding graphic that separates general fund and education trust fund spending from other spending, which is why I assume that the reported 3.5 percent increase in general fund and education spending means that these revenues are projected to increase by 3.5 percent.  It would have been nice if the press explained this.

It also would have been nice if the press had explained why overall spending is slated to increase by seven percent over the biennium, given that “general fund” and “education trust fund” spending apparently account for less than half of the increase.

I suppose the press has been too busy pretending that the busloads of voters from Massachusetts should be taken literally instead of figuratively, and demolishing that straw man, to make the budget comprehensible.

Governor Sununu’s budget director, Charlie Arlinghaus, is a newspaper columnist for the Union Leader, which I have been referring to as #DyingPaper since this tweet:

Arlinghaus just wrote a column praising the budget he wrote.  I wonder how many newspaper columnists outside of New Hampshire moonlight as budget directors.

The budget is a status quo budget.  It doesn’t propose to eliminate any agencies or make any major changes in the way New Hampshire collects taxes or funds education.  That the budget is a status quo budget is evident from the Democrat Party’s muted response:

 Concord, N.H. – As a new governor, Chris Sununu was lucky enough to inherit a $160 million budget surplus … . Since 2005, Democrats have worked hard to balance the budget without sacrificing our investments in education, … . Today’s budget is largely a reflection of that hard work. While it appears he did a solid job of cutting and pasting from most of that plan in his budget proposal, he still gets an incomplete for some of the unanswered questions left from his speech today:

“… we are disheartened to see that Governor Sununu did not fully fund the state’s alcohol fund, … instead of helping freeze or lower tuition costs at the University System of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu is creating a scholarship program named after himself.”

“We also do not know from his presentation which communities will get full-day kindergarten and which ones won’t, whether he is planning to continue the New Hampshire Health Protection Program, … . We can only hope that Chris Sununu will stand up to members of his own party in supporting the programs that he’s promised to continue,” concluded Buckley.

None of the usual tripe that the budget will result in seniors being thrown out of nursing homes, massive layoffs of teachers, police, firefighters, etc., etc., etc..  Instead, the Democrats responded, mainly, by figuratively running a victory lap:  “While it appears he did a solid job of cutting and pasting from most of that plan [budgets under Democrat Governors]  in his budget proposal, …”

It probably was prudent for Sununu to propose a status quo budget.  For one thing, in New Hampshire a Governor’s term is only two years and Democrats have eroded the New Hampshire advantage incrementally since 1997.  Trying to undo twenty years in two years would probably be a bridge too far and result in the voters returning a Democrat to the corner office in 2018.  Still, it’s disappointing.

For another thing, Sununu’s dance-partners in the House, Speaker Shawn Jasper, and Senate, President Chuck Morse, are not change-agents.  They wouldn’t support a transformational budget.

To sum up, the main objective of the Sununu budget is to get reelected in 2018.  Which makes sense if you consider that two years is not enough time to turn around the ship of State, especially when your co-captains, Jasper and Morse, don’t want it turned around.

Chris Sununu Has No Intention of Draining New Hampshire’s Judicial Swamp

Governor Sununu’s announcement yesterday of a Judicial Selection Commission makes it clear that he has no intention of draining New Hampshire’s judicial swamp.  The announcement:

Not the first sentence.  The criteria for judicial selection will be “experience, good character and temperament.”  Not a mention of judicial philosophy.  In other words, Sununu is just as inclined to nominate a judicial liberal like President Obama’s nominee to fill the late Justice Scalia’s seat, Merrick Garland, as a judicial conservative like President Trump’s nominee Neil Gorsuch.   (See here for an explanation of a judicial liberal and a judicial conservative.)

The “Chair” of the commission, Chuck Douglas, is an opponent of tort reform and once sued the State claiming that the judiciary has a right to “adequate funding” (the amount of which the State’s supreme court gets to determine).  During his time on the State’s supreme court, Douglas was anything but a judicial conservative:

Without question, the member of the Court leading the new judicial federalism charge in New Hampshire was then Justice Charles G. Douglas III, the author of many of its decisions recognizing rights under our constitution unknown at the federal level. This is not surprising because Douglas, writing only months after he had been appointed to the high bench, was one of the first in the nation to jump on Brennan’s bandwagon. See Charles G. Douglas III, State Judicial Activism – The New Role for State Bills of Rights, 12 Suffolk L. Rev. 123 (1978). See also, Charles G. Douglas III, The Unique Role of State Constitutions: Raising State Issues in New Hampshire, 28 N.H.B.J. 309 (Summer, 1987).

The Vice “Chair,” Jack Sanders, is a Democrat who served on Governor Hassan’s judicial selection commission, which is like President Trump having Attorney General  Loretta Lynch advise him on nominations to the federal bench.  Sanders’ presence on the commission indicates that Sununu sees no problem with the liberal, activist judges his Democrat predecessors put on the New Hampshire bench.

The mission statement of the commission and its composition signal that Sununu has no intention of draining New Hampshire’s judicial swamp.  Instead, it will be more of the same  liberal, activist judges that countenance drive-by voting, meddle in education policy and block even modest reforms of the judiciary and legal profession.

Sununu Snookered by Volinsky and Foster

On Tuesday of this week, the Executive Council held a hearing on Governor Sununu’s nomination of Frank Edelblut to be Commissioner of the State Department of Education.  A vote was supposed to follow at the Council’s meeting on Wednesday.  It didn’t.

Democratic Councilor Andru Volinsky asserted that the vote would not be legally binding because State law requires as a prerequisite to the appointment of a Commissioner that the Governor consult with the entire State Board of Education, but Sununu had only talked to the Board’s Chairman.

Attorney General Joseph Foster, a Democrat, agreed with Volinsky’s interpretation.

Sununu responded by asking the Council to delay the vote to give him time to consult with the seven members of the Board of Education.

Sununu got snookered.

Here is the statute in question:

21-N:3 Commissioner; Deputy Commissioner; Directors; Compensation. –
I. The governor, after consultation with the board of education, shall appoint the commissioner and the deputy commissioner of the department of education with the consent of council. Each shall serve for a term of 4 years. The commissioner and the deputy commissioner may succeed himself or herself, if reappointed. The commissioner and deputy commissioner shall be qualified to hold their positions by reason of education and experience.

The statute says nothing about the form of the consultation.  It leaves it up to the Governor whether to consult with the Board as a whole, with all of the members individually, or with a representative of the Board .  Nor does the statute speak to the substance of the consultation.  It does not require the Governor to submit names to the Board, or to nominate only individuals approved by the Board.  Indeed, the statute does not require the Governor to place any weight at all on any input he may get from the Board.  The language regarding consultation is hortatory.

I am sure that, nonetheless, the Attorney General told the Governor that this hortatory language would allow someone to challenge Edelblut’s appointment in court if the vote took place as planned on Wednesday.

Bull.

To have standing to challenge Edelblut’s appointment in court one would have to demonstrate a concrete personal injury.  An interest that proper procedures were followed in appointing Edelblut is not a concrete personal injury that would confer standing, but rather is a general interest shared by every citizen of New Hampshire that is not sufficient to confer standing.  From the 2014 case of Duncan vs. State of New Hampshire:

The text of the State Constitution nowhere suggests that the framers intended the judiciary to exercise a role of general superintendence over the whole of the State’s government — to function, in effect, as a body akin to the council of revision proposed at the Federal Convention of 1787. See J. Madison, The Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 Which Framed the Constitution of the United States of America 25 (Gaillard Hunt & James Brown Scott, eds., int’l ed. 1920) (proposing a “Council of revision,” comprised of “the Executive and a convenient number of the National Judiciary,” to “examine every act of the National Legislature”). “Vindicating the public interest (including the public interest in Government observance of the Constitution and laws)” is the function of the legislative and executive branches. Lujan, 504 U.S. at 576, 112 S.Ct. 2130; see Merrill, 1 N.H. at 204 (“legislative power” is intended to “regulate publick concerns and to `make laws’ for the benefit and welfare of the state”). “It is the province of judges to determine what is the law upon existing cases” and “to decide private disputes between or concerning persons.” Merrill, 1 N.H. at 204 (quotation omitted); see Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137, 170, 2 L.Ed. 60 (1803) (“The province of the court is, solely, to decide on the rights of individuals.”).

The Executive Council, not the courts, is the check on the Governor’s power to appoint the Education Commissioner.  In other words, Volinsky’s proper recourse was to try to convince his fellow Councilors to reject Edelblut on the grounds that proper procedure was not followed, more particularly that the Governor did not obtain input from the State Board of Education that the Governor is not required to follow.  Which explains why Volinsky and Foster cooked up the bogus legal argument that the vote was not legally binding because Sununu had not obtained sufficient input from the State Board.

Attorney General Foster was not giving Sununu objective legal advice, but rather was helping Volinsky play the role of obstructionist.  In short, Sununu got snookered.

New Hampshire Attorney General Foster Opposition to Trump EO Based on Falsehoods

Here is New Hampshire Attorney General Joe Foster’s announcement that he opposes President’s Trump Executive Order on foreign entry into the United States:

So according to Foster, Trump’s Executive Order violates the constitution by excluding foreigners from entering the United States based on religion.

But here are the relevant portions of Trump’s Executive Order:

(c) To temporarily reduce investigative burdens on relevant agencies during the review period described in subsection (a) of this section, to ensure the proper review and maximum utilization of available resources for the screening of foreign nationals, and to ensure that adequate standards are established to prevent infiltration by foreign terrorists or criminals, pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas).

(f) At any point after submitting the list described in subsection (e) of this section, the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Homeland Security may submit to the President the names of any additional countries recommended for similar treatment.

(g) Notwithstanding a suspension pursuant to subsection (c) of this section or pursuant to a Presidential proclamation described in subsection (e) of this section, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may, on a case-by-case basis, and when in the national interest, issue visas or other immigration benefits to nationals of countries for which visas and benefits are otherwise blocked.

There is no mention of religion in the Executive Order.  Rather, entry by the nationals of seven countries identified by the Obama administration as hotbeds of terrorism -Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen- is suspended for 90 days, to allow the development of heightened vetting procedures.

The affected nations are Muslim-majority countries, but other Muslim-majority countries -Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, for example- are not on the list.  Moreover, the Executive Order applies equally to non-Muslims.

In short, there is no targeting by religion.

New Hampshire Republicans Living Up To Sobriquet “Stupid Party”

At the beginning of 2013, in response to the disappointing election results in 2012, then Arkansas Governor Bobby Jindal called on the Republican Party to “stop being the stupid party”.

Apparently some Republicans in New Hampshire did not get the call:

Now DiStaso is a hack who carries water for the Democrats, but why did the Republicans give him the opportunity to help the Democrats embarrass the new GOP Governor, the first GOP Governor in New Hampshire since 2003? Continue reading New Hampshire Republicans Living Up To Sobriquet “Stupid Party”

Sununu’s Plan to Replace Obamacare Just More of the Same

From the Associated Press:

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu is asking Congress to give states as much flexibility as possible to design their own health care systems as part of the federal effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“We urge Congress to untie the hands of the States,” the Republican governor wrote in a Wednesday letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Let us have the flexibility to design a New Hampshire system for New Hampshire citizens.”

I attempted to locate the letter, but it is nowhere to be found on Sununu’s official government website.  (So much for New Hampshire having a transparent government).

So based on what the Associated Press has reported, I have to say that Sununu’s plan to replace Obamacare is just more of the same.

In other words, Sununu’s plan, again based on the Associated Press reporting, is to replace Obamacare with Sununucare.  More particularly “design[ing] a New Hampshire system for New Hampshire citizens” means shifting powers from the federal bureaucrats and regulators to State bureaucrats and regulators. Continue reading Sununu’s Plan to Replace Obamacare Just More of the Same

A Modest Step to Begin Draining the Swamp in Concord

I previously posted some thoughts on reforming legislative hearings – New Hampshire Legislative Hearings are Largely a Waste of Time.

As an interim step, I propose the following reform: that no lobbyist be allowed to testify at a legislative hearing until every member of the public has already testified.

The reforms I proposed in New Hampshire Legislative Hearings are Largely a Waste of Time would make this reform unnecessary.  But until those or similar reforms are made, the privileged treatment of lobbyists at legislative hearings should be turned on its head.

Democrats Hoist By Their Own Petard on Right to Work

Earlier this week, the New Hampshire House held a hearing on Right-to-Work, which is a term describing a law that guarantees that an employee cannot be compelled, as a condition of employment, to join or to pay dues to a union.  From the Concord Monitor:

Hundreds of union members turned up to the State House on Tuesday to oppose a controversial right-to-work bill, loudly cheering fellow workers’ remarks and at times jeering those who advocated the bill’s passage.

(For my thoughts on the efficacy of New Hampshire legislative hearings go here.)

There are two genre of arguments over Right-to-Work. Continue reading Democrats Hoist By Their Own Petard on Right to Work

New Hampshire Legislative Hearings Are Largely a Waste of Time

(UPDATED on January 8, 2017.)

Both the New Hampshire Legislature and the United States Congress hold “public hearings” on bills.

The custom and practice in New Hampshire, however, is to allow anyone who wishes to testify to testify.  This encourages the opposing sides of a bill to pack the hearing with favorable witnesses in an attempt to show a groundswell of public support of or public opposition to the bill, which generates redundant testimony.  Additionally, because there is no separation of the wheat from the chaff the committees must endure low quality, and in many instances downright unhelpful, testimony. Continue reading New Hampshire Legislative Hearings Are Largely a Waste of Time