Weekly N.H. News Roundup: July 12, 2019

Jul 11, 2019

The Executive Council shoots down the nomination of Attorney General Gordon McDonald to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. Two-thirds of Medicaid recipients in New Hampshire failed to comply with the new work requirement, prompting a delay of the penalties; the Concord School Board examines how it handles allegations of sexual abuse. 

GUESTS:

  • Ethan DeWitt - Concord Monitor statehouse reporter.
  • Sarah Gibson - NHPR Reporter.
  • Jason Moon - NHPR Reporter.
  • James Pindell – Political reporter for The Boston Globe.
  • Dean Spiliotes - Civic scholar in the School of Arts and Sciences at SNHU.

Transcript:

This is a computer generated transcript, and may contain errors. 

Peter Biello:
From New Hampshire Public Radio I'm Peter Biello and this is the weekly New Hampshire News Roundup on The Exchange.

Peter Biello:
Along party lines the Executive Council rejects Attorney General Gordon MacDonald's nomination to the state Supreme Court. Nearly two thirds of Medicaid recipients failed to comply with the state's work requirement so the state takes action. And the Concord School board examines how it handles allegations of sexual abuse. These and other stories made headlines this week and we're going to talk about them in this hour. We also have a video of this conversation streaming right now on our Facebook page and you can find it by going to Facebook and searching for an NHPR Exchange. It's all one word.

Peter Biello:
And here in the studio with me are Ethan DeWitt reporter for The Concord Monitor and Jason Moon and Dean Spiliotes civic scholar in the School of Arts and Sciences at SNHU. Thank you very much everybody for being here really appreciate it.

Peter Biello:
So we're gonna start with the big story of the week. The rejection of Gordon MacDonald as a candidate for the state Supreme Court. The Executive Council Council as we mentioned voted 3 to 2 along party lines to reject his nomination Governor Sununu nominated him. Ethan you were following this pretty closely before the vote.

Peter Biello:
Did you see this result coming.

Ethan DeWitt:
Well so there were some early indications from councilor Mike Cryans who had he's the North Country counselor who took over. He flipped. He's a Democratic counselor but he took over from a Republican seat and he's always kind of had a moderate voice but he had before him well before this vote expressed opposition and basically the dynamic was if one Democrat peeled away from the three bumpers and majority then there would be three votes with three Republicans and one Democrat. So it was just kind of a guessing game as to who might split and Cryans was kind of if it were anyone to kind of feasibly split. He would've been the one so his declaration of opposition was kind of a key thing the governor said yesterday in a radio interview that he was still holding out hope for Cryans near the end. But I think that I should say I wasn't present for the hearing about two weeks ago but during the hearing I think all the Democratic councilors made pretty clear that they had at least heavy skepticism.

Peter Biello:
So that was what was the skepticism based on.

Ethan DeWitt:
Well it it seemed to line in part due to his kind of past affiliations with the Republican Party. There was his representation of the Catholic dioceses and there was just sort of you know as we've kind of it it's sort of there's a lot of talk this week about whether the New Hampshire process is starting to mirror Washington and to what extent it does or doesn't. There are certainly more litmus test questions being raised in terms of how a future Supreme Court Justice in New Hampshire might rule on things that might not have been asked 10 or 20 years ago. And so some of those based on his his history for instance especially with reproductive rights were raised there was concern that he wouldn't stand up for organizations like Planned Parenthood and certain rulings and he declined to go into detail in his hearing which kind of perpetuated that narrative. So there's a lot. But it was it was sort of kind of looking at its political affiliation.

Peter Biello:
And after the vote Sununu said Democrats had politicized the nomination process and he called their treatment of MacDonald reprehensible.

News Clip:
We have changed the paradigm we have changed our system going forward where politics is clearly to the own words of the councilors here going to be a litmus test.

News Clip:
It is going to be on the table for consideration going forward now apparently.

Peter Biello:
Governor Sununu speaking after the vote. Dean Spiliotes your thoughts.

Dean Spiliotes:
Yeah Ethan is correct. You could see this one coming I think from from a bit of a distance away and we can talk about the politicization of the process there were these two arguments one about conservative ideology and his work in conservative politics prior to becoming attorney general actually looking pretty far back to his work as a legislative aide for Gordon Humphrey many years ago. So there's ideology ideology aspect of this and there was also an argument about him not having any prior judicial experience although other people have been elevated to the to the Supreme Court without prior judicial experience it is true however that someone hadn't been elevated without experience directly to the chief justice. I think in at least a century. So that aspect of it elevating him directly to chief justice was a little unusual. You know this is just a kind of part of a larger process of politicization of the process that really started with Justice Bork you know 30 or 30 plus years ago I used to be that certainly at the national level if men members of the Senate didn't like the politics of the nominee as long as they were qualified by in terms of their legal credentials. That was not considered in the decision making process and so you would have a conservative justice get a large majority in the Senate including Democrats and vice versa with liberal justices. That has now I think as a result of all the changes in the U.S. Senate. Obama's nominee Merrick Garland not even getting a hearing. I think people increasingly view this as as fair game politically and you could see not all. Not only what where the Democratic Executive Councilors were headed but kind of the mobilization among Democratic activists on the ideology component. So so yeah. That as they say the proverbial horse is out of the barn in terms of politicization locally and we'll see what happens next. I think Governor Sununu has temporarily paused judicial nominees in fact I think he withdrew a second nominee as well sort of in protest Yeah.

Peter Biello:
Ethan go ahead.

Ethan DeWitt:
So in response there has been there was kind of grooming talent had sort of a widespread at least within certain corners of the legal community support that had been kind of shored up and was was hoped to make him a bit more of a consensus pick.

And in the fallout from this you kind of saw a lot of criticism from from even from Democrats most notably John Broderick former Supreme Court justice who is a Democrat. One thing that people have also been doing is pointing to past examples as either examples of this being not in the out of the ordinary or completely out of the ordinary.

Ethan DeWitt:
And so two weeks...

Peter Biello:
And when you say this you mean the rejection of this particular Supreme Court nominee.

Ethan DeWitt:
Yes this rejection.

Ethan DeWitt:
So one thing I heard from Republicans in the last few days is looking at John Broderick John Broderick was confirmed by a Republican led Executive Council. He was you know very kind of overtly you know had aligned with democratic views including was a pro-choice had pro-choice views. And at that point the counsel was pro-life. And so what people have said to me is there wasn't a litmus test at that point. In fact that wasn't actually even asked by Executive Councilors even the Republican ones what his views were on reproductive rights on abortion et cetera. It was left off the table was kind of the nomination was entirely centered and the decision was tightly centered around his kind of personal integrity and kind of what he would bring.

Dean Spiliotes:
Even that was a long time ago long as governor Merrill that was like 25 years.

Ethan DeWitt:
It was a long time ago.

Ethan DeWitt:
So people are part of the issue so people are kind of pulling pointing to like past examples that are you know far removed and as we've seen kind of the standard in Washington now for any Supreme Court justice nominee is to be asked these questions and then to go before their hearing and say I can't you know weigh in on legal questions that might come before me. And and kind of deflect I've read every time but sort of. That wasn't a standard a while ago. The other example that people on the other side have been pointing to is Dorothy Graham who was nominated a few years ago to be leaving in 2015 on the Superior Court and the at that point Republican led executive council rejected her because of her past experiences as being a public defender and who had kind of defended its individual so that that was another I thought.

Peter Biello:
And here we get. We got a comment from a listener an anonymous listener about that to say the governor made statements about how this has never happened since he's been involved in the process wrong. He voted against a very highly qualified qualified nominee. Dorothy Graham nominated for the superior court. She had massive support to says this listener including from all sides prosecutors police even though her background was as a defense attorney so yeah. Good Dorothy Graham seems like things.

Ethan DeWitt:
Yeah. And the controversy there especially there was there was similar backlash from the legal community over that decision because it was sort of basically they said it sort of denigrated the role of a public defender which is meant to be this sort of you know above the fray kind of thing I mean it's it's a kind of constitutional duty to give somebody a right to defense even if the people might be privately seen to be less than reputable or or whatnot. And so that was sort of. So people have drawn that comparison as this has been politicized before. But moving forward I think the question is kind of where does this go. These nominations are paused for now. It's unclear what would pass the litmus test for Democratic councilors at this point. There have been a few names put forward by Councillor Volinsky had is notably exploring a run for governor. And so there's that dynamic as well.

Peter Biello:
So we'll get a few things to unpack there. I mean it's worth sort of explicitly drawing out the governor's response here because Democrats were not happy with it. And so Deborah picked tele another executive council called it childish that the immediate withdrawal of the nomination of Marty honing Berg to the I think it was the superior court. Yes yes yes. So maybe I'll go to you. Dean what did what do you make of that is that is just is that just blatant retaliation or is it effective political pressure or something else.

Dean Spiliotes:
Well You know I think there's a there's a lot going on here obviously we have the partisan dynamics between the two parties. We're going into an election year. Governor Sununu is going to run for re-election as governor. Party you know partisan politics and politicization of institutional processes is always quite nasty. You know if we flip the parties and it was a Democratic governor and a Republican majority. Executive Council rejected a Democratic nominee on similar grounds. You probably have a very strong reaction from from Democrats.

Dean Spiliotes:
I mean it is in some sense it's it's situational. You know whether or not his response is childish I'll let you know I'll let other people decide that. But it certainly signals to me to watch very closely whether there's any way to dial this back. Will there be some sort of compromise or some sort of you know everybody just takes a deep breath and they come up with some acceptable alternative or is this just going to kind of domino effect into a very what everyone already believes is going to be a very bitter election season in 2020 both locally and nationally.

Ethan DeWitt:
In terms of timeframe. You know there's been talk about how the Summer is very slow for the Supreme Court. And so there may not be a lot lost. But by having a four court Supreme Court for Justice Supreme Court through the summer and that kind of that gives them a little bit of time. Similarly with the budget you know may the continuing resolution there's talk about kind of this need to kind of cool off because this week has definitely come to a head on the whole a multitude of fronts and the State House and the Executive Council et cetera.

Ethan DeWitt:
But I've actually heard from some Republicans you know speak about bringing the Washington process to New Hampshire. Some have said why do we need to confirm anybody until the election if this is how this vote went. Why not hold the nominations until November 2020 which would be a very Washington thing to do. So I mean that we've seen recently but but some people are actually kind of quietly pushing for that. I don't know if that's what the governor would ever do but it's kind of notable that that's sort of when you move the Overton Window in some ways that it opens the potential for some of these things you wouldn't think might happen in the process in New Hampshire to be considered comments from some listeners.

Peter Biello:
Monica emailed to say I noticed that Governor Sununu whose executive order for judicial selection commission does not contain any of the qualification criteria that all of the prior executive orders had contained. And I wonder if MacDonald would have been nominated had these criteria been in some new news order. It's a comment from Monica. And Emily wrote in to say I support Councillor Pignatelli statement regarding Gordon MacDonald. Mr Macdonald lacked a judicial record for the council to review new Hampshire citizens deserve better. O'Malley continues. I hope Governor Sununu decides to work with the Executive Council and can put forth a candidate who is more representative of the state's citizens. Thank you very much Emily for your comment thanks also to Monica for for writing in again let's just jump in.

Dean Spiliotes:
Sure you too. That was a nice way of laying out the two issues on the one hand this issue of judicial experience and you know the U.S. Supreme Court every time there's a vacancy there's all this fun speculation about all these potential non-traditional appointments. But in the end it always ends up being somebody elevated from the U.S. Court of Appeals and so that's the more typical type of process. So you know one question is do you really need to have prior judicial experience if you're a very experienced lawyer and a attorney general. The other issue raised by by that comment is kind of the issue of a judge who more accurately reflects or represents. Sununu I'm not asking you to the state of New Hampshire. And you know that's a that's a political argument you know should justices reflect a particular viewpoint with regards to kind of the ideological mix of the state and that's a traditionally that has not been something it has been is considered as much as sort of general legal legal qualifications to your point.

Peter Biello:
Dean Bruce wrote in anyone can make an appointment. The challenge is to make an appointment that all 5 Executive Councilors will support. I challenged the governor to do the work necessary to find that nominee and to make that appointment is hard work.

Dean Spiliotes:
But that's what stand you can do that up front. I mean there are plenty of examples of governors and executive councils or or White Houses and U.S. Senate the senators going in advance through kind of what a list might look like and who might be acceptable who might not be.

Peter Biello:
Well we've got some other political news to discuss this week. Among them the fact that Governor Sununu vetoed 10 bills on Wednesday he's vetoed quite a few and these involved or some of them involved election in campaigns finance laws as NHPR reported this week one bill was designed to identify whether campaign donations from LLC members exceeded contribution limits. Ethan why did the governor veto this one.

Ethan DeWitt:
Well so the general kind of threw line for the governor for these election finance bills that he vetoed was he centered around kind of this idea of free political speech. This is something that you know we've seen back as far as citizens united as an argument that there are different ways to express support and increasingly kind of financial support is one way to make your voice heard and that if you change some of that transparency around some of these donations you're going to effectively kill that because there will be fewer people who want to do it with the LLC. This is the LLC Loophole has been something that's kind of been used. It's basically a way to get around individual. Donation limits because you can also donate through an LLC. And but that also donating through the LLC also affords a certain amount of anonymity through that donation. There are things there is this law that the governor vetoed would have required those donations to attach the donors names their addresses and so it would kind of remove the veil excuse me of venom and anonymity that they received and Sununu said that that would chill those donations in two ways one it would kind of chill the political aspect of it but it also kind of prevent some people from even forming LLC. And he said it would have an impact on businesses.

Peter Biello:
So the assumption being that people would form LLC is just to make political donations or anonymously.

Ethan DeWitt:
Sure or that they may or they may not form them if you know they they thought that donating through them would mean that their personal information would be suddenly really. So it was that was his argument. The Democratic argument was kind of the argument behind the bill was that you know these loopholes there's no need. Everybody else when you donate to a candidate your address your name you're always kind of identifying details are released as part of kind of if you go above a certain threshold as part of kind of campaign transparency in campaign finance.

Ethan DeWitt:
And we kind of agreed on this. So why should there be an exception just because you happen to have created this arrangement.

Dean Spiliotes:
Yeah. The bigger picture here the number of vetoes that Governor Sununu is issued I think there were 10 in this batch alone out of 42 bills and he's vetoed I think almost two dozen yeah two dozen two dozen bills as as governor. That's a record I think. John Lynch was in the mid teens I believe and so which is his right to do.

Peter Biello:
Not necessarily surprising given that the Democrats control sure.

Dean Spiliotes:
And again it gives you some insight into kind of what the re-election strategy may be that he's going to argue that he's you know hold holding the line against the tax and spend Democrats and and that's going to be his take rather than arguing that to hear you know look how well I work I work with.

Ethan DeWitt:
He already so that that kind of line was first aired by the Democrats early this week's news just broke the record in recent history in the last 30 years most vetoes by a governor.

Dean Spiliotes:
He will argue that that's he's gonna argue that's a virtue.

Ethan DeWitt:
Right.

Ethan DeWitt:
So you actually already yesterday he issued a fundraising e-mail that pointed it said something in the subject line you know we're breaking a record or something and then he said this isn't a record that I want to break but he's turning it around and saying if the legislature didn't send me so many bills that they knew would be vetoed then I wouldn't be vetoing them. And the Democrats say you know some of these bills have bipartisan support and are still vetoing them. And so it's going to be something that we see.

Dean Spiliotes:
Yeah they're going to argue he's an obstructionist governor and that if it's not for him if we if there was a Democratic governor things would be a lot better for four New Hampshire citizens seats are nice early look at kind of what what the rhetorical rhetorical take is going to be from each side.

Ethan DeWitt:
It's worth noting there are so many more bills to come through the pipeline. Just this week the Senate president released dozens more bills that I've still he. Now start the five day clock down that he'll have to either sign today or next week. There is all of the gun bills yet to be vetoed that they're expected to be there's the voting bills have yet to be vetoed. So there's just a lot more to come that 24 veto numbers likely to be much bigger.

Dean Spiliotes:
Yeah and I mean this really mirrors the national strategy certainly among Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives where they're passing a lot of stuff knowing it's not going anywhere in the Senate but they want to be able to it's a campaign saying you know here's our whole agenda. We've passed it. But Mitch McConnell in the Senate or Donald Trump or either or both are obstructing our agenda and I think the New Hampshire Democrats are going to make the same argument you hear Dan felt this make it all the time.

Ethan DeWitt:
So much of what's happened this week could have been seen weeks ahead or months ahead. I mean that's I think the theme this year legislatively none of the almost none of these votes these vetoes these outcomes are surprises and I think it does speak to what you're saying where there's so much that's sort of telegraphed and it kind of is embedded in this strategy that both.

Dean Spiliotes:
And we've talked you know months ago about pieces of legislation where we've said he's not going to sign this.

Ethan DeWitt:
Right.

Dean Spiliotes:
But he defends it anyway.

Ethan DeWitt:
He'll say it as early as February and then it goes through the process and then he vetoes it because you know.

Ethan DeWitt:
So it's just sort of as the reporter you sit back and you don't know what to do.

Peter Biello:
Well can I ask and maybe you can sort of unpack this this weird story for us a little bit. This week we we we heard tape of Governor Sununu at a fundraiser sort of sound like he was auctioning off pages of the veto which was politicized.

Dean Spiliotes:
The budget or the Family Medical Leave Act veto.

Peter Biello:
And so was he. Was he really auctioning off the pages.

Dean Spiliotes:
Or I don't know if it was the actual. It was I actually fax a copy.

Ethan DeWitt:
I actually confirm this. They he he does not have a copy of Senate bill one which is family leave that is given to the Senate clerk's office and kept there. They still have that. So whatever was bought for I think it was upwards of 400. Dollars was not the real veto. I do wonder if the person bidding realized that in the moment. But either way it was likely a photocopy of something. Legally speaking is this above board. I have absolutely no idea. But given that it was again very likely a photocopy and not the real thing I think that that should be taken into account.

Dean Spiliotes:
It feeds into the larger discussion we're having about how he views these vetoes as something to rally Republican supporters in the state.

Peter Biello:
Ok one more political thing to talk about and then I want to talk about. Well this is sort of political as well the new Medicaid work requirement expires Jason Moon is going to join us for that part of the conversation. Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes says he's considering a run for governor. He won't make that decision officially until later this summer but he made the announcement in a Medium post to his supporters. Ethan I want to get your thoughts on a the fact that he is considering running at all and b the timing of this particular bit of news.

Ethan DeWitt:
Yes. So this is something that has been kind of again telegraphed for a while. The two there are the field of the Democratic primary will likely grow. You have Molly Kelly and Steve Marchand and who ran last cycle kind of keeping their foot in the door. But you know this had been expected for over how he was going to roll it out was sort of interesting and he chose. I think the Democrats have been kind of waiting for this veto threshold to be passed because it was clear early on that he would definitely surpass both his father who whose record was 14 vetoes and John Lynch whose record was 15. He's now hit 24. So the day after he does that Dan felt this kind of announces and I think that's sort of I don't I'm sure this has happened a lot.

Ethan DeWitt:
And NH political history but you now have a governor and the majority leader the Senate who has been the prime sponsor of so many of these bills. Dan felt has probably sponsored many if not most of the most significant bills that are being vetoed. And so it just creates another political backdrop just like you have an executive councilor and a governor who are what we've seen before who are kind of squaring off in significant ways like the Gordon MacDonald. So this is another stage. This veto fight and the budget fight for there to also be a gubernatorial fight which you can argue is good or bad for politics.

Peter Biello:
Well another piece of news that we should talk about this week is that during the first month of a new Medicaid work requirement in New Hampshire nearly 17000 recipients were out of compliance. Any fears Jason Moon is here to tell us a little bit more about that. Thanks very much for being here Jason appreciate it. So so this work requirement was meant for people receiving Medicaid but two thirds did not fulfill the requirements or if they did fulfill them they didn't successfully report it. So do we don't really know why. Right. There could be for a variety of reasons why they didn't.

Jason Moon:
Yeah I mean I think it's safe to say the leading reason is is because the state couldn't find them or that they these folks weren't aware of the requirement and or didn't know how to how to comply with it. And the reason we can be relatively certain about that is because we've seen a version of this already play out in Arkansas which was the first state to implement a work requirement for. And we should specify this is for Medicaid expansion expansion so not traditional Medicaid but folks just above above the threshold for for Medicaid. And so you know you have a situation where about two thirds of people were in noncompliance. And it's also worth pointing out of the one third who were who were in compliance. And I think Ethan for asking this question the majority of those people were deemed so automatically so I'm still trying to get the actual number of people who were in compliance who actually took action to do so. But it seems like it's a it's even less than one third. And so given that that situation the state has decided to pause the work requirement that it's going to be suspended through the end of September while they try to continue to to reach out to people people on Medicaid expansion to let them know that there is a requirement anted to let them know that all the ways they could either be exempted from it or could could meet the requirement all the different activities.

Peter Biello:
And as this prompted Governor Sununu as you mentioned Jason to announce that the penalties will be delayed here's how the governor spoke about delaying those penalties making sure we get this right is just absolutely paramount.

News Clip:
So the idea of giving ourselves another 120 days to move forward on this and get the implementation where we need it to be it's not just fair to the system but it's fair to those individuals.

Peter Biello:
So Jason the penalties that would have fallen down on these people would have been a suspension of their benefits.

Jason Moon:
They lose their health insurance right or would have been if not. And it's it's worth pointing out this gets us back into the political sphere a bit but the whole reason they could pause the work requirement is because Democrats passed a bill this session that that changed some of the requirements for the work requirement and allowed this this very thing to happen where the commissioner could make a determination that not enough people had heard about it. And so we could posit. And the fact that Governor Sununu signed that bill which was opposed the humanly all throughout the legislative process by Republicans was in itself as a symbol that they knew the rollout was not going well at all.

Peter Biello:
And so the state is saying that it's going to do some additional reaching out to people. You reported this week Jason they might be going door to door trying to find these people in the dense urban areas.

Peter Biello:
Holly Stevens with the health care advocacy group New Futures says the group is skeptical that additional outreach will be able to solve the problem.

News Clip:
With the very limited resources and only having an additional 120 days trying to reach out to 17000 people I think is going to be very difficult.

Peter Biello:
Jason what do you make of Holly Stevens assessment there.

Jason Moon:
Well I think one one important point to pull out of what she said is about the resources. So it's it's been unclear to to me and others for throughout this rollout how much money this state has been spending on the on the rollout on these outreach efforts. You know they've they've put out a lot of numbers about the number of automated phone calls that have been made and we know that they they spent I think it was like 100000 in some on this contract with with the telemarketing company. Those phone calls there were 50000 made only 10 percent of people picked up only 10 percent of those were actually able to provide the information that allowed them to be. You know for them to talk about the workweek so low return on investment all that effort by five about 500 people we're talking about you know this is we.

Dean Spiliotes:
Just to jump in real quick.

Dean Spiliotes:
This is something I remember when work requirements were being formulated both here in New Hampshire and in other states. This is something was very important to Republicans as a buy in for expanded Medicaid and we're talking about 138 percent of the poverty level this covers additional expanded coverage. And you know the concern up front was that this is exactly what would happen you're dealing with a population that may not have the same resources as the average New Hampshire citizen. They tend to be more transient maybe a little protective of giving out their personal information dealing with their health care when they get these calls. That's a really low yield on the telemarketing and so you know I'm a little skeptical as the clip you just played said that they're going to be able to do this you know reach 17000 people in a couple months.

Ethan DeWitt:
So I do want to say that they have definitely pivoted towards door knocking when at the press conference we were asking what about those phone calls what do you what do you think they like. Oh that was a problem with the phone calls the be able to actually make contact actually their own numbers suggest it's a problem with the door knocking as well. They have according to this report they released this week. They've done 15000 knocked on fifteen hundred doors since they started doorknocking about a week ago only 12 percent of those visits have actually resulted in contact. So even when they're going door to door it's only getting a fraction and that's 12 percent of fifteen hundred. There are still 17000 people need to be reached that's granted only in a week and a half. But I think also speaking to Jason's point on the resources we're in a continuing resolution right now. I mean the budget is veto. There is no there's not a huge amount of money that the continuing resolution means that there is three months worth of the prior year's budget funding allocated departments and some departments feel I don't know about the HHS but some are already saying we're not going to make it the full three months with that amount because of certain obligations.

Ethan DeWitt:
When you're creating a whole new door knocking effort and you're they say they're using the same staff that they're have you can't hire anybody No you can't. You know that's eventually and start taking away from other things the staff were doing. And if you're already failing to kind of get like strong numbers of contact with the doorknocking already doing it is really hard to see how they're going to get to 17.

Dean Spiliotes:
This is a struggle if this is a structural problem that was people were aware of when they were discussing the whole idea of worker performance I'm not surprised to see this problem at all.

Peter Biello:
Well Jason really quickly there are court challenges to the work requirement elsewhere in the country. Would decisions on those challenges render whatever's happening happening here in New Hampshire kind of moot.

Jason Moon:
There is that there's actually a court challenge specifically to New Hampshire to New Hampshire and so the oral arguments are actually set for for the end of this month. And we could get a decision you know in the weeks after so it could be come early August. The whole thing will be put on hold by the federal judge. It'll likely go to appeal and that'll just sort of add to the confusion of the roll out and for people on Medicaid expansion to not be sure if if they're going to be subject to a work requirement. So that's probably the next shoe to drop in all this is what happens with the Federal Court case which the state is an intervener in.

Peter Biello:
Ok. That's an HP Jason Moon You can find his reporting on the Medicaid expansion work requirement at our Web site and HP York. Thanks very much for being here Jason really appreciate it. Happy to year. We're gonna stay along with Ethan DeWitt and Dean Spiliotes after a break we can be talking about 20 20 presidential candidates and who's headed to New Hampshire this weekend. I'm Peter Biello. This is the weekly New Hampshire news roundup and we'll be right back.

Peter Biello:
This is the weekly New Hampshire News Roundup on The Exchange on NH PR. PETER BIELLO joining us for the program today. Dean Spiliotes civic scholar in the School of Arts and Sciences at s NH U. Concord Monitor reporter Ethan De Wit. And joining us now as we talk about the 2020 presidential election James Pindell political reporter for The Boston Globe. James thank you very much for being on the line with us really appreciate it.

James Pindell:
Hey Peter.

Peter Biello:
So I want to start talking a little bit about Kirsten Gillibrand she was at Politics and Eggs this week and here's what she told the crowd of New Hampshire politicos that she wants to prioritize and that's the establishment of publicly funded elections.

News Clip:
Every candidate out there has a lot of plans a lot of good ideas. You will not get any of them done if you don't know what's standing in your way. And I promise you as soon as you get money out of politics it changes everything.

Peter Biello:
And Kirsten Gillibrand at Politics and Eggs this week James Pindell What do you think of Kirsten Gillibrand candidacy.

James Pindell:
Well she has really struggled to break through not only because she is not clear if she's a hardcore progressive or hardcore moderate her positions have shifted on some very key issues over the years of her career particularly on immigration which is clearly a hot button topic as well as on gun control which is also a very hot topic in today's Democratic primary. There's been a number of stories nationally trying to explore this question of why it hasn't exactly worked out for Kirsten Gillibrand. But the fact of the matter is she is behind a lot of people and in her home state her own state senators members of city councils mayors are going with other candidates who are from out of state. And that's even before mentioning that the mayor of New York is also running.

Peter Biello:
Mm hmm. Okay. Dean Spiliotes.

Dean Spiliotes:
Senator Gillibrand has spent a tremendous amount of time here on the ground in New Hampshire we know she's a Dartmouth alarm so she's familiar with the region spent a tremendous amount of time here very active in retail politics I think she was just here for seven days and the campaign is just not getting the kind of traction you'd want to see as a result of that kind of retail activity. And you know there just seems to be a much higher. I mean she's focused on women's issues as well. But there's just seems to be a lot more intensity surrounding the campaigns of Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren and you know we we James will remember we famously used to talk about Joe Lieberman who kind of as a last ditch effort in 2004 moved to Manchester for the remainder of the campaign and so and so you know Gillibrand having spent an entire week here is is starting to get dangerously close to them. The moving to Manchester stage so I'm not sure what the answer is for her but you know recent polling has her down at 1 percent or lower in most cases.

Peter Biello:
And the next debate what is the threshold for the next debate polling wise. Is there a polling threshold a court for from the Democratic Party. James maybe you know.

James Pindell:
Well yes. So it's a little complicated. The next debate in just a couple of weeks that's in Detroit and for the most part we know who's going to be in that debate if you qualified for the last one you're more than likely to qualify for this when it gets a little complicated in terms of who qualifies for the 19th or the 20th spot because we had a number of candidates who did qualify their tiebreaker rules. We'll figure that out in the next couple days. For the most part that said the real test and this is what can have a dramatic impact for the rest of the summer is how you qualify for the September debate. Now in context what they did is the DNC is really kind of running the threshold in running the rules here. They doubled the threshold. You needed to do to qualify and what that might mean on the ground for folks without getting into the weeds is that now we've had two nights of debate right now with 20 candidates on the stage in September it is probably more likely than not.

James Pindell:
We're going to have just one night with about eight nine maybe 10 candidates on the stage. It could cut by half in amount amount of candidates are on the stage just because of the DNC Rules and as a result the field of candidates the largest and most diverse in American history may start to winnow pretty dramatically here in the next few weeks and months.

Peter Biello:
Emerson polling shows that former Vice President Joe Biden has a lead now and or rather with a three way tie with Kamala Harrison Elizabeth Warren James in your view how how much does polling matter at this stage.

James Pindell:
It matters a lot because of the DNC rules of how you qualify for the debate. This particular poll is not among those that gets included right now. Candidates are basically doing three doing three thing. One they're trying to make sure because these debate rules that they have enough contributors to their campaign that they qualify for the debate. Second they're trying to spend money quickly to get their poll numbers up. You need a least two percent in four different polls to qualify for that September to. And that's actually a really hard threshold for a number of folks.

James Pindell:
Right now we're looking at six to eight qualifying And third they're trying to build sort of early state organization in Iowa and New Hampshire with the money they have it coming in so they can develop an infrastructure to win. If they go viral or there's a big moment in the campaign maybe in the next debate maybe it's something else entirely that they can take advantage of that. I mean Pete Buttigieg right now is not at parity with sort of the three main front runners in New Hampshire right now Biden Sanders and Warren but he's got an influx of money and they're going to try to build that infrastructure for example.

Dean Spiliotes:
Just to kind of give you a hypothetical about how this might the polling might affect the field.

Dean Spiliotes:
Nbc Wall Street Journal poll that just came out yesterday national poll you know had this group of five that we spent a lot of time talking about Biden Warren Harris Sanders and Buttigieg and then the only other two above to two percent or higher Andrew Yang and better O'Rourke. So imagine if that continues on the impact that that would have on the field all the all the U.S. senators Gillibrand Booker Klobuchar they're all one percent or lower in some of these polls and so as James said you could have a really transformed look on the stage in September.

James Pindell:
Dean has said is true and what is the dynamic of this thing right now is that I've been talked to about two dozen activists for a story I'm working on about the state of the New Hampshire primary right now. They say of the race and we definitely have a top tier forming there is between three or six candidates depending on how you define it that are actually in competition actually in the game. And then there's everyone else and there's a few people on the side. Amy Klobuchar for example you you mentioned Cory Booker who may be able to come back up. I don't know what's going on with that oh even Andrew Yang but everyone else is not in the game and now among those three or four or five or six is anyone's guess who's going to win. Biden's dropping Warren's surging Sanders is dropping. It's kind of a it's kind of really interesting right now among those actually in contention.

Peter Biello:
And then there's everyone else Pete Buttigieg mayor of South Bend Indiana is going to be in New Hampshire this week. He's been in the headlines recently over alleged bias policing in the city of South Bend and his plan to address accept systemic racism has been sort of the subject of his discussions with hosts on any NPR particularly on Morning Edition this week.

News Clip:
Frankly it's twice as important if you're a white candidate it is twice as important for you to be talking about racial inequity and not just describing the problem which is fashionable in politics but actually talking about what we're going to do about it and describing the outcomes we're trying to solve for. I think we'll we'll know we're getting somewhere when this is not regarded as some specialty issue that candidates of color talk about or that we only talk about when addressing voters of color. This is a conversation that frankly white America needs to have too.

Peter Biello:
James Pindell your thoughts on Pete Buttigieg.

James Pindell:
Look when he first rose up which was based on a CNN town hall in Austin Texas. By the way not in an early primary state. People wondered how long this boom would last. That was March. It is lasted and it's been one of most impressive things we've seen in modern primary history is how he's been able to sustain momentum and sustain buzz. He need a media. He raised more money than anyone else running for president including Joe Biden who would make Riordan raise more money on the Democratic side than anyone else. And he with that money he'll be able to paper over some of this problems but one problem he cannot paper over is something he's trying to address this week and what your clip was addressing. You know a lot of polls his support among African-Americans around the country but particularly in South Carolina where they make up a majority of the primary vote is zero. And I just feel percent like literally zero African parent can say they support him. And so that's one reason why he's trying to take this issue head on. He's trying to build his support because they are very vital nationwide in terms of the primary season. But but he is he's got a lot of problems but he's got a lot of money so he can start start to fix those problems and he seems like he's very aggressive in doing that.

Peter Biello:
Dean Spiliotes.

Dean Spiliotes:
Yeah he is absolutely James is right. He's aggressively trying to fix that with a variety of proposals and speeches and visits to places like South Carolina. You know the issue for him is once you get past Iowa New Hampshire in which the electorate is primarily white African-American voters become a big part of the Democratic coalition. And as James said he's down 0 1 maybe 2 percent with African-Americans. You know the the danger for him is being labeled as kind of the candidate of high income high education white progressive elites. And so he has to figure out how to bring in other aspects of the Democratic coalition. If he wants to be viable but as James says raised a tremendous amount of money he's he's moving very aggressively. We just don't know if it's going to pay off. Joe Biden is still very strong among African-American voters particularly older African-American voters.

Dean Spiliotes:
Well James Pindell political reporter for The Boston Globe thank you very much for joining us. We really appreciate your insights.

James Pindell:
Thank you for having me.

Peter Biello:
Also in the news in New Hampshire this week Republican Governor Chris Sununu let a bill become law without his signature that would allow driver's licenses or non driver identification cards to be marked M for male F for female or ex for other. This driver's license law takes effect on January 1st. Also the sale of St. Joseph's Church in Laconia has been called off after the prospective buyers withdrew from the agreement. The Catholic Diocese is now considering a plan to sell parts of the property while preserving the church itself. A group of community members in Laconia has been working since May to stop the planned demolition of the church. And Governor Sununu is set to sign a bill today authorizing sports betting in New Hampshire. The bill will allow mobile gambling and wagering at up to 10 retail locations across the state. State Lottery Commission will supervise and regulate the new industry. This is the weekly New Hampshire News Roundup.

Peter Biello:
Still to come the Concord School Board grapples with how it's handling student allegations of teachers sexual assault and HPV. Sarah Gibson has been reporting on this and she's going to join us. I'm Peter Biello. We'll continue after a short break.

Peter Biello:
This is the weekly New Hampshire News Roundup on The Exchange on an HD PR fine. Peter Biello in the studio with me. Ethan DeWitt reporter for The Concord Monitor Dean Spiliotes civic scholar in the School of Arts and Sciences at S and H U. And joining us for this part of the program is h papers Sarah Gibson. Thank you very much sir for joining us.

Sarah Gibson:
You're welcome.

Peter Biello:
So Sarah I want to ask you first about the learn everywhere proposal among Governor Sununu whose vetoes this week was his veto of a bill that would have given more control to school boards and that was meant to head off this policy learn everywhere so Sarah can you explain sort of the connection between this bill that the governor vetoed and learn everywhere.

Sarah Gibson:
Sure. So learn everywhere as a set of proposed rules from the State Board of Education. And that's very much been championed by the Commissioner of Education frank adult blue. It would basically require high schools public high schools to grant credit towards high school graduation to students who are doing learning outside the classroom as long as it's approved by the State Board of Education. So if the State Board of Education says yes dance studio or yes first robotics or yes Chinese language class you are approved by us that a student who is attending those extracurriculars starts getting credit towards their high school graduation. Even if the local school board says we don't really approve of that. So it's been pretty contentious but the supporters say that it will really expand opportunities for students. It's been contentious particularly among Democrats and traditional supporters of public education. And so this this bill that was just feet out SB 140 was meant to really put the final say in how credits happen with the local school boards so they could essentially override the state Board of Education were it to go for it with Learn everywhere.

Peter Biello:
So that was vetoed. So it was so learn everywhere it seems like it's it's own. Is it a sure thing.

Sarah Gibson:
It's not yet a sure thing so next week the Joint legislate you guys are going to need to help me out the that. JLCAR the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules is going to discuss that propose those proposed rules from the State Board of Education. They could send it back and say hey you guys need to look at this again. There certainly is going to be a lot of resistance and concern that those people hear from educators about so let's just.

Peter Biello:
You say educators are not in favor of learn everywhere.

Sarah Gibson:
Most public school educators I've spoken to are very opposed to it.

Ethan DeWitt:
So JLCAR is the committee they kind of actually will a lot of power it's kind of not they're not well known but secretly they kind of can craft when you pass a bill suddenly that goes through a department they have to decide kind of the mini rules within that bill that weren't really laid out and there's just been a debate in the past few weeks and I'm sure for years as well over kind of what the role. JLCAR should be. So technically the role is not to weigh in on policy which means that even though this is a democratically controlled committee it's a joint committee between the House and the Senate. There shouldn't be kind of an overruling of this. This is Department of Education proposed rules just on the basis of we don't like this learn everywhere program. And yet you know inevitably things become political. And there have been kind of votes in this session in past sessions where people said this is JLCAR muscling in. So what it'll be very good to see next week kind of what they decide to do. And you know they have a lot of power even if they don't change the overall intent of the rules.

Ethan DeWitt:
They can change three the rules within them to create exceptions and etc.

Dean Spiliotes:
So the politics of this are really interesting you basically you know you typically have conservatives speaking in favor of local control on education decisions. Frank Edelblut conservative head of the Education Department here in the state. But here's a case where you know some Democrats argue that this is essentially an end run around public public education that it's a way to shift education more towards private private types of choices. So the politics are a little inverted on this compared to what we usually hear.

Sarah Gibson:
Yeah. And you and you do see there are tons of comments in response to the learn everywhere proposed rules and you know superintendents and school boards across the state were saying this takes away local control. Kind of interesting to see them partnering very much with Democratic legislators to get rid of learn everywhere.

Peter Biello:
Well Sarah Gibson I want to ask you about another story that you were following this week at the Concord School Board held a public hearing on Monday to gather input on sexual harassment abuse and community safety. This comes after police accused Howie Leung special education teacher at run late middle school of sexually assaulting a former Concord student. So Sarah why did officials think a discussion like this the one you attended on Monday night was necessary.

Sarah Gibson:
Sure. So Leung was previously at the middle school and then until this past spring he was actually at the high school. And so they thought it was necessary because they've been getting a lot of pushback and concern from parents across the district who feel as though the district mishandled allegations and concerns raised by students about Leung's behavior for many years going back at least five years. So this was a. Actually a committee within the school board that looks at conduct and they were looking at kind of the holes in their existing conduct policy and asking for parent input into what can we tell how can we train staff and what can we tell students and staff so that this kind of thing doesn't happen in the future.

Sarah Gibson:
Yeah. So what was the big takeaway from the meeting or were there more than was there more than one takeaway.

Sarah Gibson:
Well there certainly were. I would say one of their major gaps that people identified quickly was that right now teachers and staff go through no training on sexual harassment or sexual assault in Concord. That means that if you start there. No one gives you any kind of best practices for what to do if one of your students says I feel uncomfortable around a teacher that could have been really helpful because basically what happened was that student students who did raise issues faced retaliation and and resistance by teachers. So that training is definitely sounds like it's a priority from the district even from the superintendent as well as as as for the parents. The other takeaway is that parents really want to see the results of an investigation by a school district. Yeah.

Peter Biello:
One of the parents in attendance Betsy MacNamara says they want the district to share the report from its internal investigation into the case.

News Clip:
We just need to see that report to the full extent possible while protecting confidentiality. And parents will be applying the pressure for that.

Peter Biello:
So did the school board make any commitments to that to that point.

Sarah Gibson:
So they haven't seen the the full report yet is due by the end of the month. So they were they basically said we don't know how much is confidential in this report we don't know how much pertains to that to the ongoing criminal criminal investigation. Therefore we can't say exactly how much we can give to you. But we do want to give a redacted version to parents to the public so that they can understand as much as as as possible without obviously breaching confidentiality issues. But parents really are concerned that that could be the confidentiality issue could be kind of a facade so that the district doesn't necessarily have to give as much information as it should.

Peter Biello:
What about The Leung case where does that stand now. So he's.

As far as we know he's still in Massachusetts because that's where the charges originated and he is facing a bail hearing I believe later on but currently is facing multiple very serious felony level charges for sexual assault against one student. However he might be facing more charges in New Hampshire we don't yet know there is a Concord police investigation that's ongoing. The Department of Education is also investigating. So it could be that there are more charges and even more victims we hear about the alleged victims we hear about in the future.

Peter Biello:
Sarah Gibson thank you very much for sharing your reporting on this really appreciate it.

Sarah Gibson:
You're welcome.

Peter Biello:
And listeners you can find links to her reporting at NH PR dot org. Also in the news this week the towns of Peterborough and Jaffrey are considering a joint project to buy and manage a group of wells for their municipal water systems. Both towns are facing possible water shortages. Peter Burrow has industrial toxins in its town well and Jaffrey is expecting a big bump in demand as a large pharmaceutical company MillerCoors Sigma expands its Jaffrey office. Peterboro voters already approved money for the project in Jaffrey voters will consider it in March. Also a new law signed by the governor this week claims to help people with felony convictions better understand their voting rights. The new law clarifies that people who have been convicted of felonies can vote once they're released from prison and even if even if they're still on probation or parole. The law also requires probation and parole officers to receive training on a felon voting rights. So let's move on to the fun part of the show which is the animal stories The Concord Monitor reported last week that a rooster was found left alone with a bag of food outside the statehouse doors. And for more on this we're going to turn to Sara Persechino communications director for the state Senate. Sarah welcome.

Sarah Persechino:
Good morning Peter.

Sarah Persechino:
Thanks for having me.

Peter Biello:
Glad to have you here. And we're talking to you because you are now the keeper of this rooster.

Sarah Persechino:
Yes I am. So lives in Hopkinton.

Peter Biello:
How is the rooster doing.

Sarah Persechino:
He is great. It was unclear when we first found him at the statehouse whether it was a head or a rooster. But after a few early morning calls we can definitely confirm that he is a rooster.

Peter Biello:
Ok. So what do we know about the rooster's appearance.

Peter Biello:
I guess not much right. Like to just kind of left there with food and here you go here's a rooster.

Sarah Persechino:
Yeah.

Sarah Persechino:
The exact origin is unclear and it was as I said unclear about the gender at first. But in that state Senate offices we started referring to the chicken pretty affectionately as Maude Chickenson which is in honor of our first female state senator Maude Ferguson. But since then since he's come home with us my children have renamed him my five year old daughter refers to him as Max and my two year old insists that he is a girl and calls her Shelby. So so he's been well take care.

Peter Biello:
So was this was the at the time chicken now rooster sort of wandering around the state house when it when it appeared in.

Sarah Persechino:
He was on the line and someone had left food and a cup on the steps so that they have staff caught him and we had him underneath the house courtyard for a little while which is inside of the building a little outdoor space.

Peter Biello:
Okay. And confirm that that this rooster is in fact the exact state bird.

Sarah Persechino:
Right. It is it's in New Hampshire red.

Peter Biello:
You've got to wonder if that's related.

Sarah Persechino:
It is unknown. Someone knows where it came from we haven't found that yet.

Peter Biello:
Well Sarah we did want to bring you in just to check up on this story because it gained a lot of traction last week and we didn't have the roundup last week. So we had to mention it.

Sarah Persechino:
Perfect.

Ethan DeWitt:
Well I just want to point out that it was kind of remarkable how many people in the statehouse actually are equipped to handle a chicken left abandoned rooster that you're getting into neighbors and crowing and oh sure. But I mean it's just I believe what I heard is at least two or three other staffers were were ready to take this this took them in and actually kind of knew what to do.

Well I wonder if their offers still stand maybe more Roosters will end up. That's not an invitation. That's not an invitation to leave chickens at the statehouse.

Peter Biello:
Sarah Persechino thank you. Thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate it.

Sarah Persechino:
My pleasure.

Peter Biello:
So we had an abundance of animal stories this week I just want to mention another one really quickly before we have to close out which is that WMUR reported this week that a couple drove a pair of horses through a Dunkin Donuts drive thru which is possibly the most New England thing I've seen in a long time WMUR reported that the horses are named Angel and Gracie and they've gone through the drive thru before according to their owner. Sometimes they get doughnuts but not this time. Just coffees for the riders did you Did you see this Ethan. Are you looking at it right now

Ethan DeWitt:
I'm looking at right now.

Ethan DeWitt:
Yeah. I hadn't seen it before to this but yeah I would kind of like to have a horse every time I get through that excuse.

Peter Biello:
Can you see I don't know if there are pictures that you see cup holders on the horses that's in the picture.

Ethan DeWitt:
No I. I'm sure that they're deep in the background but I can't quite see that.

Sarah Gibson:
The horses are out the actually the perfect height for the window.

Sarah Gibson:
So it works out quite well.

Ethan DeWitt:
You could not take them.

Peter Biello:
There's no door in the way so you can lean close.

Ethan DeWitt:
You're walking by Dunkin Donuts you're wasting opportunity on a horse.

Peter Biello:
We have officially learned the best way to go through a drive through. OK so just reminder that over the weekend temperatures are going to be in the 80s so reminder that if your pets are very uncomfortable in hot cars even for short periods of time high temperatures can be deadly for your pets. So treat your pets with love keep them cool and comfortable during the hot weather this weekend. That said I want to ask everybody here. Well you'll be looking forward to in the next week newswires. Ethan we'll start with you be work with real elk.

Ethan DeWitt:
So the rumors today the Democrats in the statehouse are sitting down for the first of likely many talks with the governor's side on the budget and so we'll see what comes out of that. They have two months.

Peter Biello:
Sarah Gibson what would you be reporting on now.

Sarah Gibson:
This Administrative Rules Committee talking about learn everywhere next Thursday.

Peter Biello:
Ok. DEAN What will you be watching.

Dean Spiliotes:
We're watching the ripples of this the confirmation battle over Gordon MacDonald see how that plays out. Also a lot of a lot of 2020 candidates come through the state this weekend.

Peter Biello:
Lots happening in the next week. We'll talk about it at the roundup next week we hope you will join us. Thank our guests again for being on the program today. Ethan DeWitt of the Concord Monitor. Sarah Gibson from an age PR Dean's Spiliotes civic scholar in the school of arts and sciences at S.A. h you really appreciate having your insights today. That's gonna be it for today. But you can join the conversation as it continues on Facebook and read all the stories we talked about today. An HP board The Exchange is a production of new Hampshire Public Radio. The engineer is Dan Colgan our senior producer is Ellen GRIMM Michael Brindley is our program manager producer Jessica Hunt and Christina Phillips producer and operator of the cameras today on Facebook Live. You can watch a video of this by searching for NHPR exchange on Facebook. Our theme music was composed by Bob Lord. I'm Peter Biello. Thank you very much for listening and have a great weekend.