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On Thursday the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority (NHRTA) released the results of a feasibility study for a southern New Hampshire commuter rail.The study examined three rail options: a line connecting Nashua to Massachusetts, a line extending to Manchester, and a line extending all the way to Concord.The "Nashua Minimum" option would be primarily funded by federal and Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) contributions, leaving $4 million in additional costs each year. The "Manchester Regional" option would also be funded in large part by federal and MBTA contributions, leaving $7 million in additional costs each year. Lastly, the "Concord Intercity" option would get federal funds, but no MBTA contributions. It would cost the state an additional $15 million each year.The additional $4, $7, or $15 million each year could be funded through parking fees, vehicle registration fees, municipal contributions, lottery revenues, the state Energy Efficiency Fund, or some other state government source."We firmly believe that the options are clear: invest in passenger rail or choose the status quo and face the negative consequences associated with our young people fleeing the state while our existing population ages and in-migration continues to decline," said NHRTA chair Thomas Mahon.Rep. Bill O'Brien (R-Mont Vernon), the Republican choice for 2015 Speaker of the House, disagreed."It’s not an energy-efficient way to move people; not a good use of money; and it would create a state bureaucracy that requires more taxation to sustain," said O'Brien.Do you support a commuter rail in southern New Hampshire? CLICK HERE to post your thoughts on our site.CLICK HERE to learn more about the debate over a commuter rail in southern New Hampshire.CLICK HERE to read coverage from the Union Leader.
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On Thursday a legislative panel approved regulations for New Hampshire's medicinal marijuana dispensaries.The rules allow four medicinal marijuana dispensaries in four regions of the state: the seacoast, central New Hampshire, western New Hampshire, and the North Country.The price of a patient's therapeutic cannabis identification card will be $50.Although the legislative panel approved the regulations, one question remains: whether or not the dispensaries will pay property tax.The medicinal marijuana law passed in 2013 requires that dispensaries be "not for profit." That could potentially exempt dispensaries from property taxes.Sen. John Reagan (R-Deerfield), a member of the legislative panel, said he will look into filing legislation to make the dispensaries pay property taxes.The medicinal marijuana law also requires the state to issue a license for the first dispensary by the end of January 2015. That means the state has just two months for the license application process.Do you have an opinion on the regulations for medicinal marijuana dispensaries? CLICK HERE to post your thoughts on our site.CLICK HERE to learn more about the debate over medicinal marijuana.CLICK HERE to read coverage from the Concord Monitor.
On Tuesday stakeholders and elected officials from Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont gathered to discuss the aging population in the region.The three states have the oldest populations in the U.S.There are many public policy challenges related to an aging population, such as a smaller labor pool and higher demand for state assistance.However, the conference on Tuesday highlighted several opportunities in an aging population. For example, New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont could attract businesses that sell new medical technologies. The states might also provide a testing ground for driverless cars."It's not all about the problems that will be created by the aging society, it's partly about how we actively reshape our society," said Charles Colgan, professor of public policy at the University of Southern Maine.Do you think New Hampshire's aging population could be an asset? CLICK HERE to post your thoughts on our site.CLICK HERE to learn more about the demographics shift in New Hampshire.CLICK HERE to read coverage from Seacoast Online.
On Tuesday the Republican House majority nominated Rep. Bill O'Brien (R-Mont Vernon) for Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives. Rep. Gene Chandler (R-Bartlett) lost the nomination by just four votes. The Speaker is not officially elected until Organization Day, when the minority Democrats also vote. In theory Chandler could work with the Democrats to edge out O'Brien on Organization Day, but Chandler said he would refuse any nomination.In his comments to Republicans, O'Brien criticized Hassan and did not mention working with Democrats. Chandler's comments emphasized a more cooperative approach.However, several of O'Brien's supporters told the media O'Brien will be more inclusive in his second term as Speaker.As Speaker in 2011 and 2012 O'Brien oversaw the passage of several significant bills, such as the business tax credit scholarship program for private and home school students. However, his uncompromising leadership style inspired a member of his own party to sponsor a bill forbidding bullying in the Statehouse.Do you think O'Brien is the right choice for Speaker? CLICK HERE to post your thoughts on our site.CLICK HERE to read coverage from the Union Leader.
At a budget hearing Monday the New Hampshire Department of Corrections requested a $48 million funding increase.The increase covers 65 currently vacant positions and 81 new positions for the new women's prison in Concord.According to a NHPR report from August, state corrections officers are now required to work 3-5 double shifts a week to cover vacancies. Since 2010 this forced overtime has cost the state approximately $3.5 million more than the cost of additional full-time employees.Meanwhile, the inmate population increased 8% in fiscal years 2013 and 2014.However, Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) has asked all state agencies to lower their budget requests, and other agencies have equally compelling needs. For example, a lawsuit settled in 2014 requires the state to increase funding for mental health treatment. The University of New Hampshire has also offered a two-year tuition freeze in exchange for more funding. Some lawmakers may see those funding requests as a higher priority than funding for corrections.Do you think the Department of Corrections should receive a funding increase? CLICK HERE to post your thoughts on our site.CLICK HERE to learn more about the challenges faced by New Hampshire's prison system.CLICK HERE to read coverage from Seacoast Online.
Union Leader — 11/23/2014
Eagle-Tribune — 11/23/2014
A survey shows New Hampshire retailers are expecting holiday sales to be up 4.3 percent, slightly higher than the national expectation.
In The NH News