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Jim Kenyon: From Fowl to Seaweed

  • Valley News columnist Jim Kenyon in West Lebanon, N.H., on September 15, 2016. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

If certain New Hampshire legislators have their way, you will soon be allowed to gather seaweed at night, carry a loaded handgun while riding a snowmobile and celebrate “tabletop gaming day” in April.

You won’t, however, be able to play Keno or use your car’s windshield wipers without turning on the headlights.

With lawmakers due back in Concord on Jan. 3, New Hampshire’s annual silly season is just around the corner.  At last count, lawmakers had filed 1,031 requests for bills and resolutions to be drafted. 

That’s a lot of paperwork. Then again, the 400-member New Hampshire House of Representatives is the third largest governmental body in the English-speaking world. Throw in 24 state senators, and you’ve got a lot of people ready to foist their bright ideas on the state.

Not that every idea is ridiculous on its face. Establishing a single payer health care system and abolishing the death penalty are worth considering. 

On the other hand…

Rep. Brandon Phinney, of Rochester, wants to end the statewide ban on harvesting seaweed after dark. Anything that could lead people to eating more seaweed — the poor man’s kale — is OK, as long as it’s not me. 

The House rejected a similar proposal last year. (Apparently, the seaweed lobbying industry is a force not to be messed with in Concord.) But Phinney, a first-term Libertarian, is undeterred.

It’s one of the state’s “nonsensical laws that should be taken off the books,” he said. The bill is part of his campaign to “reduce the amount of government in our lives.” Or at least in New Hampshire’s seaweed beds.

Rep. Michael Moffett, a Loudon Republican, apparently doesn’t share Phinney’s commitment to shrinking the role of government. At least not when it comes to “trespassing fowl.”

Moffett wants to give the state the power to fine owners of chickens, ducks and the like that wander onto someone else’s property.

Rep. Werner Horn, a Franklin Republican, isn’t asking for any new laws. He just hopes his colleagues will support making April 7 “Tabletop Gaming Day in New Hampshire.”

At first, I thought Horn was doing the bidding of the casino gambling industry, but he’s talking more along the lines of  Chutes and Ladders, Monopoly and checkers.

“I’m an avid tabletop gamer,” he said.

Horn picked April 7 because it coincides with International Tabletop Day. 

While on the subject of games, I noticed several legislators  are determined to shut down Keno throughout the state. It seems a bit sudden. The electronic bingo game has only been up and running since last Friday. So far, bars and restaurants in only seven cities, including Claremont, have received approval to add Keno to the list of state-sanctioned vices. 

Lawmakers also seem to have a fondness for study committees. Among the topics being proposed for review are crop theft and “level dollar amortization of retirement system unfunded accrued liability.” Anyone who can explain what that means gets all the night-harvested seaweed she can eat.

And here’s a shocker: There’s a bill to establish a commission to study legislative compensation. 

A good idea, for sure. At $100 a year, I’ve long thought that many New Hampshire legislators are grossly overpaid.

Proof that lawmakers aren’t thinking only about their own wallets is a bill that would give hazardous-duty pay to some state highway workers. I’m just not sure how many people will be lining up to plow snow at 3 in the morning for an extra $20 a week.

A dozen senators want to establish the Meldrim Thomson Jr. Memorial Commission. It would raise private money to build a memorial on the lawn of the Legislative Office Building to honor the former Republican governor from Orford.

For newcomers unfamiliar with state history, Thomson was the 1970s governor who suggested arming the state National Guard with nuclear weapons.

Rep. Tim Josephson, a Canaan Democrat, has his own idea for a study committee. It would look at redesigning the state flag. Out with the old flag, with its state seal and blue background, Josephson favors a more modern design. A flag that “reflects who we are as a state,” he said. 

Might I suggest a rendering of the state liquor stores on I-93?

In keeping with the state’s Live Free or Die tradition, Rep. John Burt, a Goffstown Republican, wants to repeal the prohibition against carrying a loaded handgun on snowmobiles and other off-road vehicles. 

Burt, an ardent supporter of the Second Amendment, considers it a “housekeeping” measure. Loaded handguns are already allowed in other types of vehicles. For instance, Burt let me know that he’s packin’ when he drives his antique tractor in local parades.

Just because New Hampshire doesn’t require motorcyclists to wear helmets or adults to buckle up doesn’t mean that some legislators aren’t concerned about traffic safety.

Rep. Herbert Richardson, a Lancaster Republican, has proposed a bill requiring motorists to have their headlights on when using windshield wipers in inclement weather.

I’ve run out space to give details of a bill regarding state troopers and tattoos. Or a proposal to permit the sale of bottle rockets. 

 Besides, some things just can’t be explained. As Josephson, the Canaan Democrat, told me, “When you have a citizen legislature these things are bound to happen.”