Gregg: Settling Into The Senate  

State Sen. David Pierce, the first-term Hanover Democrat representing the heart of the Upper Valley, wants to restore cuts in state aid to higher education and raise the gas tax to restore New Hampshire’s crumbling roads and bridges.

Pierce, whose newly drawn Senate 5 district stretches from Lyme to Charlestown and includes Hanover, Lebanon, Claremont, Plainfield, Cornish, Enfield and Canaan, said his focus remains what it was during the campaign: jobs and the economy, education and health care.

“Those are three legs on the same stool. You can’t focus on one and ignore the others and expect the stool to stand,” Pierce, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, said in a phone interview yesterday. Restoring aid to higher education, he said, will encourage CEOs to bring better jobs in New Hampshire.

“You cannot attract business to New Hampshire if you dumb down the population,” he said.

Later, he added: “The way I talked about it is I don’t want my kids to be the ones having to sell cigarettes and alcohol to Massachusetts.”

On the transportation front, Pierce is cosponsoring a bill with state Rep. David Campbell, D-Nashua, to raise the gas tax in New Hampshire by 4 cents a gallon for each of the next three years. The 12-cent increase ultimately would generate close to $100 million, and a proposed $15, three-year increase in state registration fees would add another $60 million, Pierce said.

The average annual cost per driver, he said, would be $37 a year, far less than repair costs on cars from potholes and other road problems. The transportation improvements, Pierce added, would also encourage more business investment and create immediate jobs in construction. “It’s a real economic development issue,” Pierce said.

An attorney who specialized in election law issues during his three terms in the House, Pierce will continue in that role on the Senate Public and Municipal Affairs Committee. He has already filed a bill to scale back the Republican-passed voter ID law which later this year will no longer recognize college IDs as valid forms of identification for voting, a huge issue at Dartmouth College and other campuses.

“It’s absurd. On one day the law would recognize the validity of a student ID, and the very next day, it would not,” Pierce said. He plans to hold a series of town hall meetings around the district, starting in Claremont and Lebanon this winter and spring.

Listening Tours

Bruce Lisman, the founder of the pro-business Campaign for Vermont, will hold a public forum next Tuesday at the Bradford, Vt., Academy building as part of a statewide series.

A Burlington native who was co-head of global equities at Bear Stearns Companies and later retired in 2009 as chairman of JP Morgan Chase’s global equities division, Lisman, who now lives in Shelburne, will be joined at the forum by Joan Goldstein, the executive director of Green Mountain Economic Development Corp., Oxbow Union High School Board member Bill Ellithorpe, and other local officials.

“My ultimate goal for these forums is to lead a discussion about advancing nonpartisan policies that will help us build an economy where no one is left behind and everyone can prosper,” Lisman said in a press release. “We think it’s important to engage as many Vermonters as possible in this discussion because achieving real results will require real reform. “

All valid sentiments, but could it possibly be that the forum, which starts at 6:30 p.m., is also part of the building blocks of a future gubernatorial campaign in Vermont?

Meanwhile, across the river, once, and probably future, New Hampshire gubernatorial candidate John Stephen will be speaking Sunday at a meeting sponsored by the Grafton County Republican Committee, at the Enfield Community Center at 2 p.m. Topics include “The Republican path forward.”

Tax Breaks

You no doubt read how the “fiscal cliff” averting-deal approved early this month included an extension of a tax break for NASCAR racetrack owners that has been worth roughly $43 million over the past two years. So would it surprise you to learn that Jerry Gappens, the executive vice president of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H., gave $900 over the past two years to the campaigns of then-U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta, R-N.H.? More to the point, Bruton Smith, the head of NASCAR Speedway Motorsports in North Carolina has been a steady Republican donor over the years. But somehow he saw fit to donate $2,200 to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Nevada, of course, is home to the big Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Briefly Noted

∎ Valley Democrats are chairing three committees in the New Hampshire House: Susan Almy of Lebanon returns as chairwoman of House Ways and Means; Grantham Democrat Ben Lefebvre is chairman of House Fish and Game and Marine Resources; and Lebanon Democrat Andy White is chairman of House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services.

∎ A group of Derry Repulicans have filed a bill to make the white potato the official state vegetable in New Hampshire. Legend has it the first potato in the New World was planted there in 1719. Who knew?

∎ New Hampshire State Police last night reported 67 crashes and 65 vehicles off the road, most of them south of Concord, in yesterday’s snow storm. It doesn’t pay to be in a hurry.