November 25, 2010


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News in brief

• Governor appoints new chief justice: Much to the chagrin of incoming Executive Councilor Chris Sununu in particular, Gov. John Lynch did not wait for the new, all-Republican Executive Council to be seated, and announced last week he would nominate Linda Dalianis to be the next chief justice of the state Supreme Court. Sununu had called for Lynch to wait until the new Council is seated before nominating someone to replace Chief Justice John Broderick, who is leaving to become the first dean of the new University of New Hampshire School of Law. Dalianis, who is a senior associate Supreme Court justice, would be the first woman in New Hampshire to be named chief justice if she is confirmed. Dalianis, a Nashua resident, was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2000. She had served in the Superior Court system since 1980. She was the first woman appointed to the State Supreme Court.

• More court nominations: Lynch will nominate current Superior Court Chief Justice Robert Lynn for the vacant associate justice position on the Supreme Court. Lynn, a Windham resident, has served as chief justice since 2004. He’s been a Superior Court judge since 1992. Lynch was expected to also bring forward two nominees to serve in District Courts: state prosecutor Kristin Spath and Belknap County Attorney James Carroll. Spath was expected to be nominated as a judge in the Concord District Court. The Concord resident is currently an associate attorney general and serves as the chief of staff in the Department of Justice. Carroll, a Laconia resident, will be nominated to the Laconia District Court.

• O’Brien nominated for House speaker: Rep. Bill O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, was nominated to be Speaker of the House in New Hampshire last week. O’Brien, who would replace Speaker Terie Norelli, D-Portsmouth, beat former speaker Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett. Rep. John Reagan, R-Deerfield, and Rep. Susan Emerson, R-Rindge, were also running. Norelli was elected to the minority leader post earlier this month. O’Brien was nominated by the newly elected Republican members of the House. He would oversee a majority of 298 Republicans. O’Brien will hold a caucus after the Dec. 1 organization of the new House to formally elect a majority leader. O’Brien reportedly beat Chandler 142-133 on the second ballot. Republicans then voted to make it a unanimous decision. “I’m looking forward to working with Republicans and Democrats in the New Hampshire House to fulfill the mandate for a new direction that the people of New Hampshire voted for on Nov. 2,” said O’Brien, an attorney who was just elected to his third term.

• Ayotte announces NH office director: Sen.-elect Kelly Ayotte announced last week that Orville “Bud” Fitch, who is currently the Deputy Attorney General in New Hampshire, will serve as the state director for her Senate offices in the Granite State. Ayotte, who beat U.S. Rep. Paul Hodes in the election earlier this month, will be sworn in Jan. 5. Fitch will complete his duties in his current post Friday, Dec. 3, and will then join Ayotte’s transition team. Fitch, a Concord resident, has worked in the Attorney General’s office since 2001. The Cornish native previously was police chief in Sunapee.

• Ayotte wants balanced budget amendment: Ayotte also announced last week she has joined several of her Senate colleagues in calling for the establishment of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Ayotte joined a group of 12 senators and senators-elect. Earlier this month, Ayotte joined a separate push to formally ban earmarks.

• Lamontagne said to woo Palin with deer carcass photo: James Pindell at reported last week that Ovide Lamontagne, who nearly upstaged Kelly Ayotte in the Republican primary earlier this fall, apparently tried hard to get the endorsement of Sarah Palin. Palin ultimately supported Ayotte but before that, Lamontagne sent Palin a photo with him next to a deer carcass he had just shot. Pindell reported that the information came from a New York Times Sunday Magazine profile of Palin.

• Caffeinated alcohol illegal in New Hampshire: While there’s been a recent fervor over caffeinated alcoholic beverages, New Hampshire is planning to continue its policy of not selling the caffeinated alcoholic drinks, notably the controversial Four Loko. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced last week caffeine-infused alcoholic beverages are illegal and should be taken off the market. The drinks, which are known to young people as “Blackout in a Can,” have a volatile mix of alcohol and caffeine. According to a New Hampshire Liquor Commission press release, one can of the drinks is equivalent to drinking two cups of coffee and a six-pack of beer. The drinks won’t be approved in New Hampshire, said Commissioner Joseph Mollica. “We have no intention of allowing these drinks to be sold in our state,” Mollica said in a statement. By law, the sale of beverages with an alcohol content of 6 percent or more requires Liquor Commission approval. Mollica said parents need to know these drinks are still out there in other states.

• Shaheen and Brown agree on repealing 1099 requirement: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen announced last week she has introduced legislation together with five other senators, including Republican Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, that would repeal the expanded Form 1099 reporting requirement set to take effect in 2012. Shaheen said in a statement that legislators need to make sure small businesses don’t face unnecessary regulatory burdens. Shaheen also supported passage of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, which provided more than $12 billion in tax cuts for small business.

• State RNC gets temporary leader: The state Republican party voted last week for Wayne MacDonald to serve as temporary Republican National Committee committeeman. MacDonald is the current state GOP vice chairman and he’ll serve in a temporary capacity until a new committeeman is elected at the party’s annual meeting in January. MacDonald fills the slot vacated by Sean Mahoney, who resigned from his post to run for Congress. MacDonald has served as party vice chairman since 2003. He will not seek a permanent term as committeeman.

• Low unemployment: Another month, another drop in the state’s unemployment rate. At 5.4 percent, New Hampshire’s unemployment rate is the fourth-lowest in the country. “We must continue our efforts to get people back to work, which includes investing in our workers through job training to ensure that as companies are hiring, we have the skilled workforce in place to fill those jobs,” Gov. Lynch said in a statement. The national unemployment rate is 9.6 percent.