By John Toole
---- — Southern New Hampshire will continue to have a strong voice in the Legislature, with local lawmakers presiding over key Senate committees in the coming session.
Sen. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, will play a critical role in formulating the state budget as chairman of Finance.
Sen. Jim Rausch, R-Derry, will keep an eye on funding for the Interstate 93 widening and other local highway projects as chairman of Transportation.
Sen. Russell Prescott, R-Kingston, will have a hand in environmental and energy issues as chairman of Energy and Natural Resources.
Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, will find herself at the center of judicial system and legal debates as chairman of Judiciary.
She also will have influence in how state government operates, as chairman of Executive Departments and Administration.
Sen. Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton, who represents Newton, will deal with some of the important services provided by the state as chairman of Health, Education and Human Services.
With only 24 members, senators will find themselves multitasking.
Rausch and Morse, for example, will work on tax policy as members of Ways and Means, while also reviewing large state spending projects on Capital Budget.
Stiles will be a local voice on local issues as a member of Public and Municipal Affairs.
Republican-dominated Southern New Hampshire will have less clout in the Democratic-controlled House.
None of the committee chairmen and vice chairmen announced by Speaker Terie Norelli are from the region.
But Rep. Sherm Packard, R-Londonderry, will be part of the House Republican leadership team as senior assistant Republican leader.
The region also holds the ranking, or senior, minority position on key House panels.
Among them are Rep. Norm Major, R-Plaistow, on Ways and Means; Rep. Charles McMahon, R-Windham, on Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs; Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, on State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs; Robert Introne, R-Londonderry, on Science, Technology and Energy; and Packard on Transportation.
Norelli named one of her newly elected Southern New Hampshire Democrats, Rep. Betsy Burtis of Derry, to Transportation.
In other key House appointments from the region, veteran Reps. Mary Griffin, R-Windham, Gary Azarian, R-Salem, and Frank Sapareto, R-Derry, will join Major in helping to shape state tax policy on Ways and Means.
Reps. Robert Elliot and Marilinda Garcia, both Salem Republicans, and Ken Weyler, R-Kingston will track state spending on Finance.
Reps. Walter Kolodziej and Kevin Waterhouse, both Republicans from Windham, and William Friel, R-Atkinson, will be alongside House Minority Leader Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett, on Public Works and Highways.
Griffin has served 16 years and says it matters to Southern New Hampshire to have lawmakers in key posts in the Legislature.
“It’s very, very important,” Griffin said.
“We’re very interested in this area in the economy. We want to get things done to create jobs. We need to keep taxes down for business,” Griffin said.
She looks around at colleagues such as Azarian, Major and McMahon and says they have something in common.
“They are all very smart,” Griffin said.
Without local representation in key positions in Concord, legislators have work to do.
“You need to assert yourself. You need to make friends on the committees you don’t have a seat on,” Griffin said.