On the Political Front is our Morning morning check-in with NHPR's Senior Political Reporter Josh Rogers.
The New Hampshire campaign trail has been mostly quiet since the Paris attacks. Democrats were in Iowa for their weekend debate; Republicans have been mostly elsewhere since late last week. How much will Paris change things?
Who knows, Rick. At a minimum, it’s already increased everyone’s -- candidates’ and voters’ -- focus on international issues. Whether it changes the trajectory of candidates who’ve never before held office, or tilts the races towards those who maybe sit low in the polls but have more political experience is something to watch. How President Obama responds could roil both primaries, to say nothing of next November. The only 2016 candidate here Monday is Carly Fiorina; Jeb Bush and Chris Christie will both be in New Hampshire later this week. So too will Ben Carson. Sunday, Bush called for the U.S. to “declare war” on ISIS. Campaigning in Florida over the weekend, Christie stressed its “too late” to elect someone who needs to be trained.
Let’s turn to the State House. Lawmakers return to Concord Wednesday to set the terms for a special session dedicated to the state’s opioid crisis. What shall we expect?
Well, the Legislature’s will on the terms of the special session – process-wise -- will will out, which should not be surprising. Recall that Governor Hassan first pitched this special session to leaders some months ago and top lawmakers made clear they weren’t terribly interested in it. Which isn’t to say they don’t agree that state needs to move on revamped polices to deal with opioids – overdoses, fatal and non-fatal, keep rising – but they have never been entirely convinced that they need to pass a bill, particularly a far-reaching one
before January. But the Governor and council voted to bring lawmakers back to Concord, so here we are.
So the proposal the governor released last week, which included a bunch of provisions, from stiffer fentanyl proposals, to new mandates for insurers on rehab coverage, and more drug courts, won’t be put to a vote?
Not if things go according to plan. The House and Senate are instead expected to appoint a task force to review proposals. GOP leaders have identified their own set of topics, some similar to those in Hassan’s proposal, like insurance coverage for substance abuse, and strengthening the state’s prescription drug monitoring program. The task force would fine tune proposals and file legislation by early January. Assuming consensus emerges, some of these proposals might reach the governor’s desk before February.
Assuming consensus emerges; is that a safe assumption?
On some of this stuff, absolutely. On the fentanyl, penalties, probably on something to do with insurance coverage, and on drug monitoring and perhaps drug prescribing. Where things could get fraught is the stuff that costs money, like drug courts, increased funding for the Governor's Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse, even adding a lawyer at the Attorney General's office to focus on drugs issues. Republicans say they want a firm grip on the state’s financial picture before spending money not contemplated in the state budget. The governor, meanwhile, says the state can afford what she’s proposed, and she can point to revenues that have come above forecast during the first quarter. She and Republicans are also both very aware that voters are concerned about these issues.
Didn’t a recent poll rate drugs as the states number one problem?
According to a UNH poll taken last month, fully 25 percent of voters see drugs as the state’s biggest problem, and half the public thinks the state need to spend more to address drug abuse. Last year at this time about 3 percent rated drugs the top issue. This is a poll UNH has been taking for a long time and jobs and the economy had been voters biggest concern since 2007. Not any more, apparently.