The New Hampshire Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the constitutionality of sex offender registry requirements for convicts whose crimes were committed before the legislature imposed more stringent rules. Lawyers for "John Doe'' contend the registry requirements amount to new layers of punishment that weren't in place when Doe was convicted in 1987 of sexually assaulting his 14-year-old stepdaughter. The requirements have been overhauled numerous times since 1998.
The Senate's tax committee is meeting to discuss a recent court ruling that found New Hampshire's tax on hospitals unconstitutional. Senate President Chuck Morse told the Ways and Means Committee last week he hopes negotiations among legislative leaders, the governor and the hospitals produce a short-term fix to avoid a major impact on the budget. The committee is hoping to have a proposal to attach to a House bill when the panel meets Tuesday. The Superior Court ruling applies to the 2014 tax year and future tax years.
Striped bass are starting to arrive in New Hampshire's coastal waters, and the state wants to figure out how many are out there. To help state and federal fisheries biologists assess the status of the population, the state Fish and Game Department is asking anglers to participate in an online survey. Participants are asked to measure each striped bass they catch. The survey is the only method the department currently has to get length measurements on fish that are released. There's been a survey since 1993. It can be found at http://www.fishnh.com/marine/striper_survey.html .
The University of New Hampshire is bringing sports and studying closer together with a new Student-Athlete Center for Excellence. Paid for entirely with private donations, the $1.9 million center opening next fall will be housed at the university's field house and will include a large, comfortable study space staffed by advisers and tutors and smaller rooms where teams and small groups can work together. Heather Barber, the university's faculty representative to the NCAA, says it will be a huge improvement over the current situation.
A report by the New Hampshire attorney general says a tired police officer, poor planning and a series of bad decisions converged eight months ago to turn an attempted drug bust in Weare into a chaotic fatal shooting. Attorney General Joseph Foster ultimately opted not to prosecute Weare police officer Nicholas Nadeau for the death of Alex Cora DeJesus. The decision was made against a backdrop of laws and precedents that are weighted heavily in favor of a police officer's split-second judgment.
New Hampshire's House is voting Wednesday whether to legalize two casinos about a month after representatives said `no' to one casino. The Ways and Means Committee voted 11-9 to recommend that the House reject the bill, which includes $25 million in aid to communities as a sweetener. The House has never approved video slots legislation. The Senate bill proposes legalizing two casinos sharing a total of 5,000 video slot machines and 240 table games. The House killed a bill a month ago that would have legalized one casino licensed to have 5,000 video slot machines.
The Seacoast Science Center in Rye is now handling marine mammal rescue duties in coastal New Hampshire. The center has joined the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's marine mammal stranding network. The partnership began Jan. 1, but the busy season is likely to start this spring as seal pup season begins. Humans are more likely to encounter seals and seal pups on the beach at this time of year. The center reminds residents that most seals they encounter on beaches are not in danger. The center manages a 24-hour hotline for calls about animals that do appear in peril.
After a brief delay, New Hampshire Fish and Game department trucks have been heading out to stock the state's lakes and ponds with trout. Saturday is opening day for the state's designated trout ponds. Fish stocking generally occurs from mid-March to early July, but it didn't start until the last days of March this year because spring conditions were slow to arrive. Inland Fisheries Chief Jason Smith says with cold, high waters from melting snow, it will be a few weeks before rivers and streams are at "fishable'' levels.
A New Hampshire wildlife biologist says that the spring turkey population appears to be robust, despite the record number of zero-degree days this winter. Saturday marks the start of the annual Youth Turkey Hunt Weekend. Turkey biologist Ted Walski says sightings of flocks of wild turkeys suggest they weren't affected by the frequently frigid winter. He expects the spring turkey hunting season to be as good as or better than last spring, when hunters took 4,550 turkeys. Turkey season for adult hunters runs from May 3 to May 31.
Spring is finally here, but at least one New Hampshire ski resort is holding out for another weekend of running the ski lifts. Wildcat Mountain is open this weekend. There's still snow on some trails. The ski area began operating daily for the 2013-2014 season on Nov. 3. It plans to close again on Monday, April 28, through Friday, May 2, with the possibility of opening again next weekend.
A unique forest habitat in Concord that's home to the endangered Karner blue butterfly is getting a face-lift--and over $233,000 in funding --in an effort to increase the butterfly population. The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service is getting the money to help maintain and restore the pine barrens, a mix of small trees, grassy areas and sandy soil, much of which has vanished nationwide to development. The current population on the refuge is just over 1,500 butterflies. The goal is 3,000.
A nonprofit group is raising money to buy a home for veterans who attend Dartmouth College. Project VetCare Inc. has received an anonymous pledge of $375,000 toward the home's $475,000 purchase price and is hoping to raise the rest by May 31. Co-founder Robert Chambers told the Valley News that the group plans to renovate the house with volunteer labor and use the rent that veteran tenants pay to support its programs, which include helping veterans navigate their health care and benefits and preventing foreclosures and evictions.
The House highways and tax committees are holding a joint hearing next week on a proposal to raise the tax on gas and diesel by 4 cents. The hearing will be held Tuesday. The Senate-passed bill would provide more money over the next two years for highway improvements, then take some of the tax proceeds to pay off $200 million in borrowing toward completion of the I-93 project. Once the debt is paid off in roughly 20 years, the tax hike would expire. The bill would also eliminate the Exit 12 ramp toll booths in Merrimack.
Communities that carry HealthTrust insurance for public workers could split $13.9 million following a vote by the program’s board of directors. In an announcement late Tuesday afternoon, HealthTrust noted that the refund was bigger than expected. The money comes from another risk pool, Property-Liability Trust.
A free workshop covering the basics of hunting wild turkeys is being held by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department next month in Holderness. Dave Priebe, a hunter education instructor and Quaker Boy Turkey Calls pro staff member, will cover the basics of turkey hunting, turkey calling and turkey hunting safety at the event on Saturday, April 19. The workshop takes place from 9 a.m. to noon at the Owl Brook Hunter Education Center. Fish and Game wildlife biologist Ted Walski will talk about the natural history and behavior of wild turkeys.
New Hampshire's Insurance Department will hear a complaint about the exclusion of a hospital from the network of providers covered under the Affordable Care Act. A patient at Frisbie Memorial Hospital in Rochester says Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield's network is inadequate because it does not include Frisbie. Sixteen hospitals are in the network; 10 are not. Anthem has said the "narrow'' network keeps costs down and the state insurance department determined the network meets adequacy standards. The department previously denied a petition by Frisbie and patient Margaret McCarthy.
New Hampshire lawmakers are considering whether to bar municipalities from limiting where the state's more than 2,500 registered sex offenders can live after recent court rulings said the restrictions are unconstitutional. The House passed a proposed ban by a vote of 231-97 in February. The bill now moves to the Republican-controlled Senate, where it faces an uphill battle. The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union successfully challenged sex offender residency restrictions first in Dover, then in Franklin.
A New Hampshire Senate panel is holding a hearing next week on a measure to ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. The House-passed bill also bans all cell phone use by minors behind the wheel. The bill doesn't apply in an emergency. The ban would apply while drivers are stopped temporarily, such as at a red light, but not if they have pulled over and stopped off the road. The bill allows the use of hands-free electronic devices, devices that are integrated into the vehicle, and non-cellular 2-way radio devices.
The Memorial Bridge that connects New Hampshire and Maine is closing overnights for an additional five days for adjustments. The bridge that runs between Kittery, Maine and Portsmouth, N.H., will be closed to all traffic --vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian --from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. beginning Sunday. The closures are necessary to make adjustments to the guide rail on the towers. The work is slated to wrap up and the closures to end by 5 a.m. March 21. The new, $81 million Memorial Bridge opened last August.
A Bedford, N.H., man charged with possessing 49 stolen lobster traps, including some owned by a fisherman who died last summer, has pleaded guilty to several crimes and more than 100 violations.
The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department says Kyle Basoukas pleaded guilty Monday to receiving stolen property and disturbing lobster gear, as well as 133 violations regarding his own equipment. He was given a suspended sentence of 90 days, fined more than $11,000 and had his lobster license revoked for five years.
Italian railway police say a college student from New Hampshire who was missing for two days in Rome had been hit by a train. Police didn't release the identity of the student whose body was found in a rail tunnel Thursday. But Trinity College Rome Campus officials said Saturday the student was Bates College junior John Durkin. The 21-year-old from Rye, N.H., was in a study abroad program. Durkin had last been seen around 2:30 a.m. Thursday in Campo de' Fiori, a historic square lined with pubs popular with students.
The New Hampshire Film and Television Office is accepting submissions for this year's high school short film festival. Created in 2007, the New Hampshire High School Short Film Festival is open to students enrolled in grades 9-12 at New Hampshire public or private high schools; homeschooled students ages 14-18 are also eligible. To be considered, a film cannot be longer than seven minutes, including titles and credits. All submissions must be postmarked on or before March 31 or arrive at the Film and Television Office in Concord by 4 p.m. on that date.
A national report says New Hampshire has made progress toward building and strengthening its abilities to prepare for a public health emergency. Being prepared to prevent, respond to, and recover from all types of public health threats, such as disease outbreaks, chemical releases, or natural disasters, requires that public health departments improve and maintain their capabilities in surveillance and epidemiology, laboratories, and response readiness.
A bill that would add the option of choosing "none of the above'' on New Hampshire ballots seems like a quintessential proposal for the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state that prides itself on having discerning voters. But the measure's sponsors say it's probably doomed, with one acknowledging it would be humiliating for a candidate to be defeated by no one rather than an actual opponent. But Keene Rep. Charles Weed says real choice means giving voters the chance to withhold their consent and express dissatisfaction with all the candidates.
The University of New Hampshire is getting ready to celebrate the Chinese New Year: the Year of the Horse. The UNH Confucius Institute is holding two nights of performances starting at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday Jan. 29 and 30. Members of the Jilin National Orchestra, Shanghai Theatre Academy, Foremost Art Troupe, and the Central Music Conservatory of China are performing. Established in October 2010, the Confucius Institute is a nonprofit educational institution housed in UNH's College of Liberal Arts.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says New Hampshire has scored well overall in 10 areas of prevention, such as food safety and reporting infections, but it has room for improvement. A report rates the states on each of them with a green, yellow or red mark. The state got green ratings for food safety, preventing health care-associated infections, HIV testing laws and data reporting.
U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte says New Hampshire is getting shortchanged by a program that is supposed to help expand broadband access in rural communities.
Ayotte has introduced legislation that would ensure that rural states get at least 75 cents for every dollar they contribute to the Universal Service Fund. The money is collected through telephone bills, but Ayotte says New Hampshire gets back only 37 cents for every dollar it sends.