Josh Rogers

Senior Political Reporter and Editor

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000 and serves as NHPR’s State House reporter. Before joining the staff, he lived in New York, where he worked for a number of different magazines.

Josh’s award winning reporting can be heard locally but also regularly airs on national broadcasts of NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Josh is also a frequent analyst on political talk shows in the state. He grew up in Concord, and holds a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies from Reed College.

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Update:  The New Hampshire Legal Rights Foundation announced Tuesday that it has severed its relationship with former Rep. D.J. Bettencourt.  The foundation had recently named Bettencourt as executive director.

 

Jim Bassett is well-known and well-liked in the New Hampshire Bar. But his nomination drew criticism from some conservatives. They didn’t like that Bassett supported the Brady gun law on as a GOP congressional candidate in 1994. They also don’t like that Bassett said he accepted the Claremont education funding rulings as precedent during his confirmation hearing. Most councilors dismissed these concerns, and prior to the confirmation vote, District 2’s Dan St. Hillare predicted  Bassett would be a great addition to the court.

New Hampshire House lawmakers try and fail to revive a bill to ban late-term abortions.

The house first passed a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy in March. But that bill was quickly pushed aside by the senate. House lawmakers revived the proposal Thursday, tacking it on to bill related to health screening tests for newborns. Yet the narrowness  of the margin – it was adopted by just 4 votes -- prompted a quick change of heart. Lawmakers like Jennifer Coffey, a republican from Andover, told colleagues the abortion language put the newborn testing proposal at risk.

The flurry of activity continues at the New Hampshire statehouse. NHPR's Josh Rogers tells All Things Considered host Brady Carlson about the latest, including a Senate vote on a constitutional amendment to ban personal income taxes, a proposal to track prescription drugs and several House bills related to abortion.

It's the time of year when the statehouse gets hectic - and, occasionally, foul-tempered.

NHPR's Josh Rogers talks with All Things Considered host Brady Carlson about some of the many bills that lawmakers are taking up this week, and a spat on the House floor between Speaker William O'Brien and Manchester Republican Steve Vaillancourt.

New Hampshire’s highest court has ruled that privileged information divulged at a public meeting is only susceptible to the state’s right to know law if it was first disclosed in the presence of a private citizen.  

The ruling is the latest byproduct of the long legal battle between the Professional firefighters association and the Local Government Center-- or LGC. At issue in this case, were the minutes from a series of Local Government Center board meetings.

 

Exempting broadband and wireless internet connections from the state’s communication tax remains a priority for republican leaders, but the House voted 247-93 to kill the repeal. A big reason way is because the senate-crafted proposal also undid House leaders’ plan to place $16 million in the state’s rainy day fund. Steve Stepanek is chairman of House ways and means.

"The prime purpose of this bill was to put money into the rainy day fund. The senate has no intention of putting any of this money into the rainy day fund."

If history holds, Mitt Romney is still months away from announcing a vice presidential running mate on the Republican ticket. But he continues to make appearances with those who could be on the so-called short list.

Or in Romney's case, it may still be a rather long list.

On Monday, Romney campaigned with freshman Sen. Kelly Ayotte, the 43-year-old former state attorney general, in her home state of New Hampshire.

Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire is the latest politician to appear on the campaign trail with presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. That's fueled speculation that Ayotte is being considered as a running mate.

 

Congressman Charlie Bass's is denying the allegation by the  New Hampshire attorney general's that his campaign violated the state's push polling law.

The attorney general says Charlie Bass’s campaign deliberately avoided identifying itself as being behind a 2010 poll that included negative information about Democrat Ann McLane Kuster. The AG’s suit against the Bass campaign cites 400 calls. Under state law, each one of those calls could trigger a $1000 fine. But Congressman Bass says he doesn’t expect his committee will end up paying up.

It's been a busy week at the statehouse, with high profile votes on issues ranging from redistricting and abortion, to medical marijuana, gambling and school building aid.

NHPR's Josh Rogers has been following the action. He recaps the latest with All Things Considered host Brady Carlson.

The NH house has voted to require women to wait 24 hours before getting an abortion. 

The so-called women’s right to know bill had to be pared back to win final house passage. Penalties for doctors were stripped, as was the  requirements that abortion providers give women seeking an abortion specific information about abortion risks, including a contested claim linking aborts to breast cancer.  According to the final amendments lead author Republican Tammy Simmons of Manchester, limiting the proposal to a simple 24 waiting period is a common sense compromise.

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/panchenks/4918039842/">Panchenks</a> / Flickr

No bill authorizing slot machines or casinos has ever passed the N.H. house, but this plan, which would use the revenue -- projected at 290 million dollars -- to lower business taxes, is seen as having a shot. House ways and means chairman Steve Stepanek (r-Amherst) says N.H. must act.

“The game plan has changed because Massachusetts has expanded gambling passed. And Maine is pushing their expanded gambling. We have got to respond.”

The 211-116 margin was a victory for gay rights advocates. It was also a shock to social conservatives, who thought a 3 to 1 GOP majority combined with a party platform that defines marriage as a between a man and women, would secure the bill’s passage. 

Deep into a debate that lasted 2 hours and included 10 separate votes, Kingston Republican David Welch stated what by then was plain: gay marriage is topic that divides House Republicans.

 A member of the New Hampshire House's criminal justice committee dropped a pistol on the floor of the legislative office building at a hearing on a controversial bill dealing with abortion.

Kyle Tasker, a Northwood Republican, dropped the loaded gun, one of two .45 caliber pistols he wears in shoulder holsters, as he took his seat in a crowded hearing room.

“I just gave blood and I might not have latched it quite properly. All I could think of was, it was bound to happen one of these days, I come here too often for that not to have happened.”

 

About two-dozen members of the pro-gay marriage group Standing Up For New Hampshire Families held a news conference to urged the defeat of the bill slated for a vote in the House Wednesday. State Rep. Mike Ball, chairman of the Manchester Republican Committee, compared the repeal effort to a segregation law, and added he can’t back his party platform’s opposition to gay marriage.

"The Republican platform is wrong on that issue. That’s the bottom line. Much as I’d like to say we are a hundred percent right, on this one we are not right. This is a civil liberties issue."  

 

   

 The New Hampshire House has moved to decriminalize a person’s first two possessions of less than a half ounce of marijuana. 

It passed by a single vote.

 “162 members having voted in the affirmative, 161 in the negative. The chair declines to vote."

 Republican Speaker Bill O'Brien decision to not vote against the bill sends it to the senate, where its prospects are unclear.

Josh Rogers / NHPR

 The New Hampshire House voted to allow any employer with a religious objection to deny workers insurance coverage for contraceptives.

Adding an exemption to New Hampshire’s 12-year-old law requiring contraceptives be covered in all drug plans has become a priority for House Speaker William O'Brien. And his leadership team pushed the bill through over strong objection from Democrats and a gallery full of protesters.

House Speaker William O'Brien's bill to allow any employer with a religious objection to exclude contraception coverage from employee health plans draws fire from Democrats and leaves GOP Gubernatorial hopefuls leery.

Democrats’ problems with this bill are by far the more pronounced. Gubernatorial hopeful Jackie Cilley, for instance, has urged supporters to “take to the streets” over the issue. Fellow candidate Maggie Hassan, meanwhile, took to the statehouse for a morning press conference.

 

President Obama will travel to Nashua Thursday to talk about the economy. It will be his first trip to the state since November, when he visited Manchester Central high school to promote extending the payroll tax cut as part of a jobs bill.

The trip come a week after Vice President Joe Biden stumped for the President’s reelection at the New Hampshire Institute for Art. Biden was on a three-state jaunt raising money for Democrats.

Todd Bookman, NHPR

 

The resolution asks the federal government to undo a rule requiring insurance companies to provide contraceptives to employees of religious organizations.

House republican leaders say religious liberty is in jeopardy under the federal rule, even though it no longer requires religious organizations to directly pay for contraceptives. House Speaker William O’Brien says the 227-to-121 vote sends the message that either way, the requirement’s intent is simply wrong.

The New Hampshire House will likely vote next week to ask the federal government to rescind a rule forcing insurers to provide contraceptives to employees of religious organizations. House Speaker William O'Brien says he'll also work to undo a similar state law. 

O’Brien told the house state and federal relations committee it's unconstitutional for governments, federal or state, to tell insurers to offer contraception to workers at religious organizations.

 

Top house and senate republicans are at odds over constitutional amendments designed to keep government small. 

The state senate's proposed constitutional change would require a 60 percent vote by lawmakers to increase state spending beyond the rate of inflation. As passed by the house, the proposal would have required that same super-majority to borrow money or raise taxes.

According to Senate President Peter Bragdon the senate version amounts to common sense -- low taxes, he says, result from low spending.

 

The New Hampshire Senate has approved a constitutional amendment to give the state more leeway in how it distributes school aid. 

The amendment would make it easier for lawmakers to target money to poorer communities but not explicitly undue the Claremont rulings that require the state to fund an adequate education for every child. After the vote Governor Lynch described the proposal as “a significant milestone.”

As several states debate measures to legalize gay marriage, New Hampshire is considering a repeal of its same-sex marriage law. The repeal has the backing of some top leaders in the GOP-controlled Legislature. But rescinding rights is never easy, particularly in a state that takes its liberties seriously.

Josh Rogers, NHPR

 

Former Barrington state Sen. Jackie Cilley stressed her blue collar roots has she kicked off her campaign at the Manchester YWCA. Cilley recalled growing up in a tenement and taking a job at the Waubec mill before heading to college and going on to teach at UNH’s Whittemore School of Business. Cilley said she believes in compromise, but said she won’t stand for what she called attacks on education, workers, women and gays being made by “The Free State/Tea Party/John Birch politicians in Concord.” Cilley also she won’t be taking a pledge to veto a sales or income tax.

Josh Rogers, NHPR

 

About 200 people showed up to hold signs and hear speeches by gay marriage critics. House speaker William O’Brien, GOP gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne and  Republican national committeewoman Phylliss Woods all said its time to undo the two year old law allowing gays to marry.  David Bates, a State Rep. from Windham, wrote the repeal bill and MC'd the rally.

A busy day at the statehouse today - House lawmakers voted to send money to the  "rainy day fund," and on a raft of other bills. The State Senate, meanwhile, passed a redistricting map and unveiled what Senate President Peter Bragdon called a bipartisan education funding constitutional amendment.

NHPR's Josh Rogers joins All Things Considered host Brady Carlson to discuss the day's action.

Governor John Lynch used his final state of the state address to ask GOP lawmakers change the tone in Concord, and to reverse course on cuts to higher education and a reduction to the state tobacco tax. 

 Drawing sharp lines has never been Governor Lynch’s style, but in this speech, Lynch did, repeatedly.

“The cut in the tobacco tax was nonsensical……”

 “We hear from some a lot of anti-government talk, but to me that doesn’t make any sense,

 Sadly, it has become too commonplace to attack state employees, and that needs to stop.”

  

Under the bill, lenders could charge 15 percent monthly interest. 

Governor Lynch’s veto message notes the annual percentage interest rate on these so-called installment loans translates to more than 400%. Lynch says allowing such rates would hurt New Hampshire families, communities and the economy.

Lynch’s message also says the bill limits the state’s regulatory authority.

Lenders would get advance notice before the banking department conduct exams and regulators would have reduced power to levy administrative fines.

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