To the editor:
New Hampshire inched closer to passing two pieces of important legislation recently that should prove to be boons to many Granite Staters. Gov. Maggie Hassan’s single-casino bill, passed easily by the Senate last year but incredibly scuttled in the House despite statewide popularity, is beginning to look more and more like a strong possibility. During the day of Hassan’s State of the State speech on Feb. 6, the Senate passed a measure by an 8-1 vote to continue findings on a new two-casino bill that is being studied by a special commission that will be in charge of developing regulations governing their implementation and overseeing.
Concurrently the House has a new measure that would approve a single New Hampshire casino containing up to 5,000 slots and 150 table games. As Hassan remarked in her speech, “Instead of funding Massachusetts’ needs, let’s take this opportunity to invest in New Hampshire’s priorities and help grow New Hampshire’s economy.” There is a strong possibility that by this fall the two bills can be reconciled into what will hopefully become the single-casino plan that 89 percent of our state’s citizens approved in polls last year.
Looking at the subject from a Southern New Hampshire mentality, it is hoped that Rockingham Park will be a strong contender for the location, as 81 percent of Salem residents voted positively for last year. But the great news for most of us is that one of Hassan’s benchmark legislative aims that she campaigned successfully on two years ago may soon become a reality, with a plethora of economic gains on both state and local levels for all of us.
The Senate on the same day approved a bipartisan agreement to take part in the federally funded Medicaid expansion that the Republican majority infamously rejected last year along party lines, 13-11. Due to a combination of pressure from both Hassan and the Democratic minority, this extremely welcome reconsideration enables the Senate to join with the House (which had already approved the expansion again in January) to bestow a world of good for 50,000 low-income adults. No state funds will be utilized for the first three years of the deal, after which New Hampshire would fund 10 percent of the cost.
The two bills are currently being combined into a single legislation that will be voted on next month. As Hassan said, “With today’s positive step forward, it’s clear that we can work through this together and help working people access critical health coverage.” And for at least the next three years it looks like New Hampshire will be joining about 30 other states so far in accepting the federal funding.
Gov. Hassan deserves tremendous credit from all Granite Staters for her yeoman efforts in pushing for these needed resolutions. She spent 2012 campaigning vigorously on many other critical issues as well as the above, positioning herself as a credible successor to four-term governor John Lynch. She has turned out to be exactly what New Hampshire needed on every level, working in a decidedly bipartisan fashion with Democrats and centrist Republicans, and is now on the cusp of delivering on some of her most important promises. And along with the governor, both the GOP and Democrats deserve much praise.
William F. Klessens