New Hampshire House Speaker Shawn Jasper announced that former Second District Congressman and New Hampshire Supreme Court Justice Chuck Douglas will serve as Legal Counsel to the House of Representatives. Douglas is a well known and respected attorney and is especially appreciated in conservative political circles. He served as legal counsel to Governor Mel Thompson in the nineteen seventies before being appointed to the Superior Court bench. He was just thirty four when appointed to the Supreme Court in nineteen seventy seven. Jasper is expected to announce committee assignments later this morning and will name the chairs and vice chairs of the House’s committees. Let the fun begin!
Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, Republican from Wolfeboro, is hailing yesterday’s ruling from the New Hampshire Supreme Court upholding changes he authored to the state’s ailing public employee retirement system. In two thousand eleven, Senate Bill Three increased employee contribution rates, required non-vested employees to work longer before being able to collect and changed the way pension benefits are calculated. At the time, Bradley called the changes a first step in closing the five billion dollar hole that threatened to collapse the system. For the better part of a decade, New Hampshire’s retirement system has been widely considered in the financial press to be among the top five worst in the country, with many predicting bankruptcy. Arguing the changes amounted to a violation of their contract with the state, employee groups, led by the New Hampshire Professional Fire Fighters Association, sued. They won in Merrimack County Superior Court, however the Supremes ruled that the Superior Court erred in its application of the law as a contract preventing the state from legislatively changing contribution rates for vested employees. Writing for a unanimous Supreme Court, Chief Justice Linda Dalanis said quote: ““The narrow question before us is whether, by enacting R S A 1 0 0 – A : 1 6, I (a), the Legislature unmistakably intended to establish N H R S member contribution rates as a contractual right that cannot be modified. We hold that it did not.” In a statement released yesterday, Bradley said the ruling quote “affirms the Legislature’s ability to make the changes we’ll need to preserve the New Hampshire Retirement System, protect taxpayers, and maintain employee jobs.”
News from our own backyard continues after this.
Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas announced yesterday on this show that he’d appointed three new members to the Board of School Committee’s Student Conduct Committee to replace those who resigned at Monday night’s meeting of board. Ward Eleven’s Kate Desrochers, will chair the subcommittee, replacing Ward Two’s Debra Langton. Ward Twelve’s Connie Van Houten and Ward Five’s Ted Rokas will replace Ward Six’s Robyn Dunphy and Ward Nine’s Arthur Beaudry. The three resigned in protest alleging the administration withheld information on a pending expulsion case and defied the directives of the committee. Langton complained about an ongoing pattern of avoiding the committee on matters she believed fell under its purview. Gatsas declined to comment on the resignations or the allegations made.
Seems that Timberlane Regional School District Superintendent Earl F. Metzler is beating something of a retreat on his proposal to shutter the Sandown Central Elemtary School and send its fifth grade students to the middle school. An email sent by his administrative assistant Cathy Belcher, who I think really runs the place by the way, reads as follows quote: “As follow up to the school board’s vote on December 4th to support the Superintendent’s plan to reduce the proposed 2015-16 budget by closing Sandown Central, Dr. Metzler directed Deb Armfield to meet with key administrators (Sandown building principals and Director of Special Education) to plan for a 2015-16 consolidation plan for the two Sandown schools. Dr. Metzler is now confident Sandown grades 4 and 5 will fit comfortably at Sandown North without the use of portable classrooms or additions to the building. The district-wide special education program currently located at Sandown North will be relocated to accommodate this consolidation and the specifics about this transition plan will be forthcoming over the next few weeks. Facilities Director Jim Hughes has also confirmed that additional playground space can be developed at Sandown North. The next phase in this proposal will involve identifying options for the Sandown Central building and grounds once vacated by grades 4 and 5.” End quote. Metzler had proposed shipping the school’s fifth graders to the district’s middle school, which many argued would violated the district’s Articles of Agreement with the towns.
Things are getting hairy at the Hooksett Police Department. Hooksett Police Chief Peter Bartlett has again agreed to allow all members of the Hooksett Police Association to grow facial hair during the month of December. Participating members have made an initial donation and are hoping to raise more donations from generous businesses and citizens. All funds raised will be donated to the Hooksett Family Services Department. So, if you see an officer out there with a little extra scruff you can show your support by making a donation to the cause. Donations can also be mailed or brought to the Hooksett Police Department. Checks should be made payable to the Hooksett Police Association.