(submitted Wednesday, May 25, 2011 for June issue)
So, the day finally came. After months upon months of listening to, at times, rather heated debate, reading editorials, conversing in the halls of the State House, and pouring through well over 100 e-mails, we finally voted. The issue of the century in New Hampshire politics has finally been settled.
Yes, there will be no changes made to the boating speed limits on Lake Winnipesaukee.
The bill in question, SB27, sought to increase the speed limit in the section of the lake known as “The Broads”, from 45 mph to 55 mph. This was one of those bills where I actually agreed with most of the arguments being made on both sides of the issue.
But, when it came time to push the button, I sided with the minority (276-75*), and voted against the motion to ITL (Inexpedient to Legislate) the bill. With laws against drunk boating and reckless operation already on the books, I stood by the notion that people for the most part will act responsibly, and that mechanisms already exist to deal with those who don’t.
The other big topic, on which there have been several related bills floating about, is state pension reform. In a nutshell, the goal is to take the plans being hammered out between the Senate and the House and produce a pension reform package that falls somewhere between “do nothing” and “tear it all down”. The latest word (Union Leader, 5/24/11) is that the House and Senate committees working on this have agreed to leave in place most benefits for workers already vested in the state’s public pension plan.
SB129, a bill to require a person to present a photo ID prior to voting was passed in the House on May 4th by a vote of 243*-111. I voted with the majority to ensure the integrity of our voting process, the foundation of our representative republic. In New Hampshire, you have to have documentation showing who you are and where you live, in order to register to vote and get your name on the checklist. Some tried to argue that some voters don’t have any form of identification to show. If that were, in fact, the case, then how did their name get on the voter checklist?
Proving your identity and residence to get registered to vote won’t do you much good if anyone can walk in to a voting station, claim to be you, and then take your right to vote away form you.
A couple other bills passed recently in the house include:
SB120 (passed 358*-15): A bill loosening the restrictions on happy hour advertising by bars and restaurants. The reasoning behind the original restrictions, I’m guessing, was to prevent people from seeing cheap beer specials advertised in their local newspaper, thereby preventing people from going out and drinking to excess and running over pedestrians on their way home from the bar.
Not to make light of drunk driving and the very real dangers associated therewith, but I don’t think advertised drink specials are the cause of a would-be drunk driver’s irresponsibility. It reminds me of the arguments made in Massachusetts a few years back to prevent beer and wince from being sold in supermarkets. The voters were told, and expected to believe that letting people buy beer and wine at the same store where they bought their groceries would lead to an increase in drunk driving incidents, which would not happen if people had to make that one extra stop on the way home to get the bottle of wine or six-pack of Sam Adams to go with their dinner.
I’ve said many times that common sense and responsible behavior can not be brought about by the stroke of a pen with the passage of more feel-good legislation.
SB67 (passed 273*-100): A bill to establish a committee to study school vouchers and school choice. Although, I voted for this bill, I wouldn’t mind seeing, as an alternative to more studies and committees, a resolution urging all members of the House and Senate to go down to their school district offices and apply to become a substitute teacher.
A lot of people like to talk about education reform, but unless you’ve spent some time in a classroom environment in New Hampshire (down in the trenches), you really can’t get a feel for what things are like. Are there problems with our state and federal education systems? Yes. Are they problems that can be fixed by shoveling more taxpayer dollars into the bucket? It’s been my experience that more spending is definitely not the solution.
How is it that in some public schools in New Hampshire, high school students taking high school level geometry and second year algebra classes can’t do simple multiplication without a calculator? In a nearby high school where 11th graders can’t divide 35 by 7 in their heads, I saw a lot of notices concerning our recent votes on the state budget, but not a lot of concern expressed over the fact that there are students a year away from graduating, who that lack the basic math skills that my daughters (Swasey School third-graders) have mastered at the age of eight?
Frankly, I don’t know what measures, if any, can be taken at the state (certainly not the federal) level to fix a problem that needs to be honestly and openly be addressed at the local level on a town-by-town basis. The solution to our educational shortcomings in New Hampshire must involve students, parents, and educators, not lawmakers and bureaucrats.
Well, I have to wrap this up to make the deadline, so I’ll close by wishing everyone a safe Memorial Day weekend. Be sure to take some time out between hot dogs and horseshoe games to remember and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives in the defense of our country and our sacred freedoms.