Can you really believe that the House and Senate have been working on this current budget problem now for two years, and as soon as the “Special Session” was called, the Senate President and the Speaker of the House had all the budget problems solved. Bim, Bam, Boom!, One, Two, Three! However you want to describe it, the budget deficit has been taken care of, it’s history, within a matter of just three days. Amazing, isn’t it?! Monday, they wrote the session House rules, Tuesday, they presented a bill to the public (public hearing), and Wednesday, it will be voted through. The leaders were very optimistic.

We are talking here about balancing our state budget. I’d say, we should be making serious cuts and program eliminations, not creating new or increased fees and taxes. We need to meet the needs of the people in these challenging economic times, not draining their pockets. And that includes no more downshifting to the counties or municipalities.

The special session begins with a brand new slate, nothing from the regular session may be carried over. Everything has to come as a new bill. Right, a lot of retyping for Legislative Services. You know as well as I do, that most of it is just the same stuff we already killed, but now there’s more leadership pressure to pass it. The fiscal year ends June 30th, and the State Treasurer needs time to buy bonds (which only spreads more deficit “interest and principal” over a ten or twenty year period), restructure debt, and move funds around.

Remember, Governor Lynch has said, many times, that he would veto any licensing of casinos before a new regulatory authority is in place, and also he would veto any bill with money derived from gambling to balance this biennium’s budget.

Now it’s Wednesday and the fight is on. As soon as the Session got started, I started the morning off by making a motion to “adjourn for 90 days from today”, and I asked for a roll call vote. The 90 days would have put it one day after the session period ended, thus killing the period. After a debate with her clerk, her lawyer, and party leaders, the Speaker ruled a motion to adjourn was in order, but putting a time period on it was not. I amended my motion “to adjourn sine die”, which translates as “without a day”, meaning without a day fixed. It is the way to adjourn a legislative session without giving the Speaker the right to set another day. It ends the legislative session entirely and says the legislature shall not meet until another session is called by the Governor or starts normally, as provided in the NH constitution. Another lengthy debate, and the Speaker ruled it out of order. I again amended my motion just “to adjourn”, which failed on a roll call vote 74-294.

Why did I try to do this? I believe that we have already debated the budget issues without success for two years, any bonding just adds to debt, and the money moving shell game solves nothing, but adds to the debt. The Governor has the power to balance the budget, simply by being a true leader, take charge, do his job, and make the necessary budget cuts. Amen.

We started on House Special Session bill HB-1 amendments. The first four were technical, not money related, and all passed on roll call division votes: 2388h 248-103, 2372h 321-28, 2373h 337-6, and 2404h 328-8. The next nine were all Republican amendments trying to remove pieces of the bill. All were on roll call votes, and they all failed. Lastly, bi-partisan amendment, 2406h, failed on roll call vote 113-223. SS HB-1 then passed the House as amended (OPT-A) on a roll call vote 177-167, and sent to the Senate, which also passed it. A bad day for New Hampshire; it was the worst bill I’ve seen in my four years.

It is only fair to say that SS HB-1 reminded me of an old game they have played for years throughout Europe, “the shell game”, typically called “das huthenspiel” in German, where an actor has three walnut shells and a very small soft ball. It’s a betting game, guessing under which shell, the ball is. You place a bet with the actor, he holds the money. He shows you the ball, then puts it under a shell. He then moves the shells around and around, then lines them up. As he moves the shells, he invisibly moves the ball from under that shell, to under another one. He then touches the first shell and asks, “is it here; touches the second shell, is it here; touches the third shell, or is it here? Bingo, you lose. If the game isn’t drawing many tourist players, his helpers will play, losing a few, but winning more often, trying to entice the tourists to play. That, my friends, is exactly what the inter-departmental money moving sham is. The moving of funds, which often involves bonding, where no one wins, we all lose, especially the taxpayer.

The Special Session SB-1, the gambling bill, started out, in the House, with a motion to table, which was killed on roll call vote 108-235. Then, with very little debate, the House killed it on a roll call vote 141-191.

It was interesting to hear, after the signing of the budget bill, Governor Lynch saying, “it’s responsible”(talking about the bill). Yes, Governor the bill is responsible, “responsible for”: the increased cost to county and municipal budgets; the increase in various fees and taxes; the taking of RGGI, RSP, and LCHIP money, all dedicated funds; being balanced-how, when the bill passed was based on $295M, when in reality the deficit is +$360M; bonding- $25M and $40M - just spreads the current deficit to future budgets.

As we close out the 2009/2010 Legislature, I look back over the two years, still sometimes thinking I just imagined some of the things that happened: Although one legislature can’t bind another, we: bonded; passed gay marriage; raised countless fees and taxes; played the shell game; tried to steal JUA money; downshifted costs to counties and municipalities; passed a state version of Obama health care; and it goes on and on... This legislature will be talked about for years to come, and not in a good way.

(Editor’s Note: NH State Representative Mike Kappler can be reached at l.mikekappler@comcast.net)

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