Josh Rogers

Senior Political Reporter and Editor

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000 and serves as NHPR’s State House reporter. Before joining the staff, he lived in New York, where he worked for a number of different magazines.

Josh’s award winning reporting can be heard locally but also regularly airs on national broadcasts of NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Josh is also a frequent analyst on political talk shows in the state. He grew up in Concord, and holds a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies from Reed College.

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Before going into recess, lawmakers in Concord will vote this week on the state budget and other deals reached during committees of conference, including Voter ID and medical marijuana. The Democratically-controlled House and the GOP-controlled Senate have been at odds over a number of policy issues, but areas of disagreement over the budget were smaller than possibly expected, with the final budget including provisions sought by both chambers and Governor Hassan.

Ben McLeod / Flickr Creative Commons

State budget negotiators reached accord today on a $10.7 billion spending plan.

The budget still needs approval from the full legislature, but leaders in the House and Senate, as well as Governor Maggie Hassan, agree the proposal meets many shared goals.

NHPR's Josh Rogers tells All Things Considered host Brady Carlson about the negotiation process, what's in the final budget deal and its chances when it goes before the full House and Senate next week.

At issue for Governor Hassan was a provision in the House version of the bill that would allow qualifying  patients to grow their own marijuan. Hassan also didn’t like that the House wanted to permit doctors to prescribe cannabis to treat PTSD.

The N.H. Senate had removed both provisions from the its version bill at Hassan’s behest, and House negotiators say under the circumstances going along made sense. Concord Democrat Jim McKay is Chairman of the House Health and Human Services Committee.

A Thursday deadline is looming for House and Senate lawmakers to come to an agreement on the next two-year state budget. NHPR's Josh Rogers gets us caught up on the state of the negotiations, and what chance there is of Medicaid expansion being wrapped into the final deal.

The talks kicked off with small agreements, like the House agreeing with the Senate’s desire to drain $16m from a renewable energy fund,  and also to pay for local water projects starting in 2014 rather than 2015.

But while top budget writers stressed their common goals, big disagreements loom, on taxes and Medicaid expansion.

"Monday we’ll start the hard work of really talking about the issue where we may have some disagreement."

Democrat Mary Jane Wallner is House Finance Committee Chairman; Republican Chuck Morse leads the Senate’s finance panel.

It's committee season at the State House, as the legislative year nears its end. In the next couple of weeks, the budget will be getting the most attention, with some contention over Medicaid expansion, school building aid, charter schools, and personnel cuts. Other bills to watch for include medical marijuana and voter ID. US Senator Kelly Ayotte announces she supports a bipartisan immigration bill.

GOP Senate leaders say the proposal is prudent, while democrats say republicans failed NH by opting to study – rather than expand Medicaid.

Budget debates tend to be partisan, and this was no exception. Republicans made clear from the outset their comfort with their spending calls.

"Our budget in senate finance increased spending over the house budget by 24 million dollars."

Chuck Morse chairs the finance committee.

“This is a strong budget.”

Governor Maggie Hassan, House Speaker Terie Norelli and Senate Minority Leader Sylvia Larsen all say expanding Medicaid under so-called Obamacare is a good deal for NH:  About 60,000 more people would have insurance,  and $2.5B would flow to the state at a cost of about $85M over seven years. Republicans in the senate didn’t include expansion in their budget, and instead have proposed a commission to study the issue. But Senator Larsen and Speaker Norelli say they support exploring whether expansion can take even if the Senate opposes it.

The NH Senate will be voting on its budget this Thursday; their plan calls for $10.7 billion in spending over two years, coming just under the House's budget, which calls for $11b, but doing it with large policy differences. One of those differences is Medicaid expansion, which the Governor and House favor. Looking forward to the 2014 US Senate election, in which incumbent Jeanne Shaheen is expected to run for re-election, Jim Rubens has been added to the list of possible Republican contenders, along with Jeb Bradley, Frank Guinta, and Scott Brown.

The so-called Dealers bill of rights passed both chamber of the legislature by wide margins. And the State Senate agreed to House changes to the bill without debate. Prior to that vote  Senate Commerce committee Chairman Andy Sanborn said the bill has profited from input from all sides.

"I’d like to send our appreciation over to the house for doing all the work, the deep dive that we expect from them to make a good bill a better bill."

The democratically-controlled NH House voted yesterday to kill a bill authorizing a casino with as many as 5000 slot machines and 150 table games. The vote is blow to Governor Maggie Hassan, who lobbied hard for the bill.  As NHPR’s Josh Rogers reports, the 199-164 vote was consistent with the house’s longstanding opposition to casino gambling, but may strain its relations with the state Senate, which had backed the plan by a supermajority.

N.H. Primary Turns 100

May 21, 2013
josh rogers, NHPR

The Executive Council chambers were packed as N.H.'s political class came together to honor what has become one of the best known things about the state,  the presidential primary. Bill Gardner.

"This is a special day in N.H., in the old days they’d call this a red letter day."

Bill Gardner is N.H.’s Secretary of State. He came equipped with plenty of historical detail, including the biography of Democratic  Rep, Stephen Bullock, who authored law that took effect May 21st 1913.

The gambling bill goes to the floor of the NH House for a full vote on Wednesday, after receiving a narrow 23-22 supercommittee vote resulting in a recommendation to kill the bill; the recommendation means that none of the amendments being debated in the House will be under consideration unless Wednesday's vote also fails to approve the bill. One such amendment would look to beef up regulation, while allowing for more revenue. Issues on the docket in the NH Senate include the Stand Your Groud repeal, Voter ID, the gas tax, the tobacco tax, medical marijuana, and the minimum wage.

Members of the so-called casino supercommittee spent its morning getting familiar with 17 separate amendments. The proposals ranged from beefing up regulatory oversight, to changing the way casino proceeds would be distributed among towns and counties, to allowing slot machines at any establishment that holds a liquor license.

But when the committee reconvened after lunch, the first motion came quickly, and it was to kill the bill.

“We may be 45 very bright people, but not one of us has a background in gaming.”

The New Hampshire House makes its first key vote as the casino bill is voted on by a supercommittee comprised of the House Finance and Ways & Means Committees; various amendments will be considered on Tuesday, with a committee vote and recommendation coming Wednesday. The New Hampshire Senate, meanwhile, continues to work on its budget, and the Senate Finance Committee prepares to hear from some of the larger state agencies - Health & Human Services, Transportation, and Environmental Services - on their budget needs.

The new bill limits a plan that aims to freeze implementation of the next phase of NH’s voter ID law.

Under the provisions of NH’s voter ID law set to kick in in September , only government issued ID would work at the polls --  and local election officials would snap pictures of voters who cast ballots without ID.

Neither provision would take effect under a bill backed by the democratically-controlled house, but the GOP led senate appears to have other plans.

While serving as a state senator 4 years ago, Governor Maggie Hassan supported a medical marijuana bill with a home-cultivation option.

But no longer.

Prior to voting a redrafted medical marijuana bill out of committee, Senate health chair Nancy Stiles said the bill was to maximize its chances for survival when it gets to the Governor's desk.

"We did try to include everything that I though we had agreed on  -- and again with my meeting yesterday with the Governor’s Counsel – and what would work and not work."

The top budget writer in the NH senate is signaling that the spending plan the senate will craft will be vastly different than the one adopted by the NH house.  Republican Chuck Morse of Salem says the house and Governor both inflated revenues for number of state taxes. Morse sees the state’s tax on hospitals, knows as the MET, as a prime example.

The New Hampshire attorney general’s office is investigating a former top official in the Manchester diocese.

Monsignor Edward Arsenault is under investigation for improper transactions involving diocesan funds.

According to Diocese of Manchester, it was allegations about a inappropriate adult relations that prompted its scrutiny of Monsignor Edward Arsenault. That in turn, uncovered evidence suggesting Arsenault misused diocesan funds.

Arsenault was the diocese point person for during its  landmark settlement sexual abuse settlement with the state a decade ago.

With April being a big month for state revenue, New Hampshire could end the biennium in the black; things are looking tougher for the casino proposal, as the legislature continues to work on the budget; Senator Ayotte held a handful of town halls meetings last week, getting questions and a bit of backlash on her gun control positions.

Senator Kelly Ayotte has been in the news for her opposition to expanded background checks for gun sales; the NH Senate set to vote on a number of bills this week, with a number of them expected not to pass; one bill that may find bipartisan support is the proposed freeze of the Voter ID law, which would mean that more stringent requirements set to go into effect in September would be put on hold.

GOP Senate leaders in have said they see no reason to again require people attempt to retreat if they can do so safely before they use deadly-force in self-defense. But Ryan Health, Chief of Police in Alton, law told the Senate judiciary committee that current law puts citizens at risk.

"What I am talking about is innocent bystanders, other individuals in public places."

In the wake of the bombings in Boston, NH Senator Kelly Ayotte and other lawmakers are arguing for treating the remaining suspect as an enemy combatant, which would break new legal ground; the national gun bill fails to pass, with Senator Ayotte being the lone New England Senator to oppose the bill; the casino bill backed by Governor Hassan and the NH Senate is now being examined by the NH House Finance and Ways & Means committees; both branches of the NH Legislature continue to work on their budgets.

The casino legislation endorsed by the New Hampshire Senate and strongly backed by governor Maggie Hassan got its first hearing in the New Hampshire House Tuesday.

John H. Sununu announces he will not challenge Jeanne Shaheen in the 2014 US Senate race; former Senator Scott Brown visited New Hampshire this weekend, but is not saying yet if he intends to make a Senate run in NH; other possibilities for 2014 include Frank Guinta and Jeb Bradley.

Josh Rogers, NHPR

Go to any medical marijuana hearing and you will hear people suffering from severe illness or injury extolling the therapeutic benefits of marijuana. But in NH you have never heard things like this. Elizabeth Woodcock is with the NH Department of Justice:

The NH attorney general’s office is willing to work with the committee and with the medical community to see if we can resolve the concerns that we have about the bill, and that’s the only thing I came to say.

Josh Rogers, NHPR

Former State Senator Joe Foster is a bankruptcy lawyer who has never prosecuted a case, but his confirmation as N.H.'s highest law enforcement official looks assured. Former colleagues of both parties hailed his judgment and legal knowledge.  Foster now manages the McLane law firm and says he well understands his new role would be different.

"You role as a lawyer is to represent your client, and that’s what I did at the law firm. You role at the law firm is to represent the people of N.H. and that’s what I am going to do, I am going to look out for their interests."

House finance committee chair Mary Jane Wallner opened her testimony on the house’s $11b spending plan by holding it aloft, and then setting it gently on the table.

"We brought you a present, all tied up in a big gold bow. So there it is, house bill 1 and 2 as passed by the house."

The senate accepted the House budget politely, but Senators  also signaled they will be taking a different approach.  Casino Gambling, which the Senate and Governor Hassan support, is likely to be at the center of the Senate spending plan.

House finance committee chair Mary Jane Wallner opened her testimony on the house’s $11b spending plan by holding it aloft, and then setting it gently on the table.

"We brought you a present, all tied up in a big gold bow. So there it is, house bill 1 and 2 as passed by the house."

The senate accepted the House budget politely, but Senators  also signaled they will be taking a different approach.  Casino Gambling, which the Senate and Governor Hassan support, is likely to be at the center of the Senate spending plan.

The House passes their budget, which does not include gambling, but funds some of Governor Hassan's priorities, such as mental health and higher education; the budget-writing process now moves to the Senate, where it is likely to see numerous changes; the Senate hears several high-profile bills this week, including a reinstatement of the state minimum wage; Scott Brown announces he "would not rule out" a Senate run in NH.

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