N.H. House Votes Against Giving Lawmakers Free Ski Passes

The New Hampshire House yesterday killed legislation that would allow state senators and representatives to receive free ski passes at Cannon Mountain.

The House killed the bill on a voice vote without debate.

The state owns the Cannon Mountain ski area in Franconia Notch, and state legislators used to be offered complimentary lift tickets at the facility.

But in January 2012, the Legislative Ethics Committee ruled that the value of free lift tickets exceeded the $25 limit under state law for gifts, and so lawmakers were not allowed to accept them.

“We recognize that complimentary lift tickets at Cannon have been made available to legislators for many years, but this custom cannot overcome the definition and prohibition of gifts enacted into law in 2006,” wrote Chairman Martin Gross in the committee’s advisory opinion.

Rep. Gary Coulombe, a Berlin Democrat, introduced a bill this year to create an exemption under the ethics law for Cannon Mountain passes. The legislation also was sponsored by Grantham Democratic Rep. Andrew Schmidt and Lancaster Republican Rep. Herbert Richardson.

But the House Legislative Administration Committee voted 5-4 to recommend killing the bill, and the full House agreed.

“This is much more substantial than the other perks we receive as legislators,” wrote Rep. Steven Briden, an Exeter Democrat, in the committee’s majority report. “This could also send a poor message to our constituents that we are more worried about personal privileges (than) we are about making laws to help the people of New Hampshire.”

In the committee’s minority report, Litchfield Republican Rep. George Lambert noted legislators already have free access to state parks.

“When legislators go to Cannon Mountain, there is virtually no incremental cost but it creates additional analog revenue for the Cannon facility,” Lambert wrote. “This has been a long standing tradition of (the) Legislature that has encouraged members to experience this part of New Hampshire culture.”