'You Win Some, You Lose Some' Gov. Sununu on Legislative Decisions
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Gov. Chris Sununu signed dozens of bills in the last week, and dozens more are awaiting his approval. And while his legislative agenda suffered some significant defeats, about two-thirds of the bills he publicly promoted at the outset of this year's session made it to his desk.
In January, the Republican released a legislative agenda listing 20 bills divided into five categories: economic development and regulatory reform, energy and the environment, government reform and social responsibility, the opioid crisis and public safety, and educational excellence. Thirteen of them passed, four were killed and three were held for further study.
"At the end of the day, there are 400 members of the House of Representatives, there are 24 senators, and they're going to vote the way they're going to vote," Sununu recently told reporters. "You can't win 'em all, but we've won a lot."
The successes include bills aimed at strengthening the state's mental health and child protection systems and maintaining high standards for water and air quality. And while a bill to create tax credits for businesses that support workers in addiction recovery failed, a $1 million provision was added to another bill to for nonprofit organizations that educate employers about how to reduce substance misuse in the workplace and create workplaces that help people re-enter the workforce.
Lawmakers also passed a bill that came together after Sununu released his agenda incorporating many of the suggestions made by a regulatory reform committee he created, including streamlining the permitting process for wetlands development and establishing reciprocity with others states for professional licensing.
But Sununu also championed several other measures that weren't on his January list, and those didn't fare nearly as well despite Republican majorities in both the House and Senate. The House rejected both a proposed constitutional bill of rights for crime victims and a bill to give parents state money for private school tuition or home schooling. An attempt to tighten dog breeding regulations after an animal cruelty case in Wolfeboro failed when House and Senate negotiators couldn't agree on a compromise.
Sununu said the crime victims' amendment was "messaged fairly poorly by the advocates" but said he wasn't deterred by its demise or the failure of the other high-profile bills.
"We fight hard on things we believe in. Unlike previous administrations that might have taken a step back, didn't want to actually manage and push issues they believe would be in the best interest of the state, I'm always going to do that," he said. "You win some, you lose some, there's nothing wrong with that."
Former state Sen. Molly Kelly, one of the Democrats hoping to challenge and replace Sununu next fall, said Sununu has failed to addressing pressing issues such as the state's opioid crisis and the loss of both jobs and young workers. She accused him of pandering to the Trump administrator with his support of the school voucher bill.
"It's clearer than ever that Sununu's agenda is harmful for New Hampshire, especially for children and families," she said.
Former Portsmouth mayor Steve Marchand, also seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, said the school voucher bill in particular showcased Sununu's inability to set and drive an agenda.
"Right now we have a governor who is fundamentally weak and wrong," he said. "In 2019, I'll provide leadership that is strong and right."