A massive winter storm is moving along the eastern seaboard on Thursday.
Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Gov. Chris Sununu about how New Hampshire is preparing for the storm and how to access assistance in a case of an emergency.
(Editor's note: this transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.)
[It's] another winter storm, nothing we haven't seen before but we've got to always remind people to play it safe, give themselves a little more time, and we'll get through it. It's about a 12-hour pretty intense stint we're going to go through here. And hopefully we can come on the back end with some sunny skies on Friday, a little cooler this weekend, but another beautiful winter weekend for New England.
Well, I think you're selling it there, but it's going to be cold. It is going to be a cold weekend. And that's, I think, what I'm hearing at least for us here in New Hampshire the big concerns aren't necessarily the snowfall, which like you said we've seen before, but the frigid temperatures that are going to be returning on Friday and Saturday. How is the state dealing with that?
Well, so you have the combination of the storm today. So one of the fears of this storm is when you have the snow combined with the wind, and the cold temperatures we've had over the past week makes everything very brittle. So the fear is that, in talking to many of our emergency responders, is that as the branches start coming down we're going to have the power outages. And if those were to carry into Saturday, now you're dealing with some pretty, potentially dangerous situations. So a couple of things. First off, when you're out on the roads today in the storm be smart, give yourself a little extra time to get from point A to Point B. When you're going slower, you can keep your eyes out whether it's for kids on the road, giving yourself a little extra space going around a snowplow, whatever it might be. That's going to be critical. Also wellness checks, if you have some folks, neighbors out there, loved ones, some of the elderly that might be in your neighborhood, check in on them. Give them a call, whatever you can do just to make sure that if they need a little extra assistance today, that you can be there for them, or someone from your local town or city can come over and help them out. Fuel levels are obviously going to be very important as we hit the cold snap here. So make sure you have fuel.
We did have parts of the state that had a little bit of a backup on fuel, but there are some other resources out there still. Again, if there's an emergency please just let your fire chief know. Let your police know. They know what resources you can get connected to. And then what you brought up Rick, it’s really hitting that Saturday cold snap. I mean it's going to be 20 below come this Saturday in parts of the state. And that brings on its own danger. So again, you've got to watch out for whether it’s freezing pipes, the potential power outages. We have a great emergency infrastructure in the state. We really do. But if you let folks know in those emerging situations what your needs might be, I think we’ll be pretty good about getting people the resources.
So you want residents to call the local fire department or police department first to get in touch with resources? Or should they should they call another number?
No, that's exactly where they should go. Every city and town in the state has a local emergency management coordinator. It's usually the police chief, fire chief or one of the town officials. But that's really the best place to start. And what they do is they know exactly how to move it up the chain to a central point of command in Concord. And that helps us get resources from Rockingham over to Sullivan, or from Coos down to Hillsborough, whatever it might be. The system does work very, very well. If people let us know what the needs are, we can respond very, very quickly.
Well Governor, while I have you on the line here I want to ask you about a couple of things happening. Of course the legislature [is] getting back to work this week in Concord. A bill that would tighten eligibility requirements for voting, HB 372, passed [Wednesday]. You've voice strong opposition. Do you plan to veto that bill?
Well, I don't know what it'll look like when it finally gets here. It still has to go through a couple of steps. In its current form, I'm not a fan. I oppose the bill in its current form. That's for sure.
What would you like to see change as far as the language in the bill?
Well, I think there's some I'll say indirect consequences potentially that could come from the bill. You know when people use the word voter suppression and all this, look at the end of the day we have to make sure that people here in the state that have the right to vote are able to vote. And I think it was a well-intended bill, but I'd like to see some things tightened up. And we'll be working with the committee at conference potentially, and the folks in the House, to see if we can get somewhere where we feel comfortable.
There's been some reporting within the past few months on a culture of sexual harassment at the statehouse. There's no proposed legislation in response. Do you feel that the legislature should respond in some way?
Well, I mean look I'll start with I have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to issues of sexual harassment. I think a lot of people do and should. I haven't seen a piece of legislation. I'm not sure what you would exactly legislate, other than to make sure that we are enforcing a lot of the very strong rules and laws, in terms of workplace harassment that might come about, making sure that those are being enforced. And making sure that again, it really comes up to the culture. This is a kind of a bump in the road, but a very positive bump in the road. Not just for New Hampshire, but for the entire country, where hopefully we're making that change where women are feeling empowered to step up, to step forward, to expose and to talk about things that might be uncomfortable, but that really have to be brought to the forefront when you're dealing with such a serious issue of sexual harassment.
Medicaid expansion [is] going to be an issue within focus this year. What role will you play within your own party regarding the Medicaid expansion debate?
Well, we’ve been working very hard on it for the past couple of months. I think what we want to do is make sure first and foremost we have a New Hampshire plan, as opposed to—look, Obamacare failed. It’s too expensive. People simply can’t afford it. It may be well-intended, but it’s just completely unaffordable. You’re going to see 40-50 percent increases for folks on the healthcare exchange this year. That’s not sustainable in any way. So we need to do it New Hampshire’s way. I’m working with the administration. I’m working with the Senate and the House to help design a plan to give New Hampshire flexibility to deal with our constituency. So for example, we have an opioid crisis. Give us the flexibility to use those funds to attack that crisis and allow folks to have more use of Medicaid-type funds in those types of situations. So, flexibility is really the key. There’s a lot of wasted dollars in this system. Those wasted dollars end up driving costs on every day, private insurers as well. There’s a whole connection here between Medicaid and the private insurance market. So by having that kind of flexibility, and being able to design our own system, that’s going to be critical. We’ve been working very hard to try and come up with not just a plan, but work with the folks in Washington to have—
Well Governor, I’m running out of time here. You definitely see that there’s a solution here at some point?
Yes, there is a solution. It still has to be worked on, but there is a solution.