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home : news : regional February 27, 2015

9/3/2013
NH Senate picks Morse as new president

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- The state Senate elected Chuck Morse as its president Tuesday to replace fellow Republican Peter Bragdon, who stepped down after critics complained his new job was a conflict of interest.

Morse, who heads the Senate's budget committee, won 23 of the Senate's 24 votes. He is a 52-year-old nursery owner from Salem and is in his fourth term in the Senate. Bragdon, of Milford, is becoming executive director of the Local Government Center but is not leaving his Senate seat.

Morse pledged to run the Senate in an open-door, honest and collegial manner.

"We all come from varying backgrounds and different corners of New Hampshire. Whatever path or areas of interest have brought us here individually, as a Senate, we are all charged with working to improve this state and make it the best place in the country to call home," he said.

Hanover Democrat David Pierce was the only senator to vote against Morse. Pierce said his vote was in protest over a Senate rule against considering resolutions and not Morse's ability to administer the Senate fairly. Pierce said Morse would not commit to rescinding the rule.

"I think he's going to do a good job," said Pierce.

Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen of Concord seconded Morse's nomination in a bipartisan move she said was made in the hope he would treat each member as an equal.




"Just because one political party holds a majority does not mean the other political party is irrelevant -- in fact each of our votes matter just as much," she said.

Republicans hold a 13-11 edge over Democrats in the Senate.

Larsen also made a pitch for Morse and Republicans to come into special session this fall to authorize the state to expand Medicaid under the federal health care overhaul law. A special commission, charged with making a recommendation by Oct. 15, has been meeting weekly to decide whether New Hampshire should expand Medicaid to cover an estimated 49,000 poor adults and, if so, how. One alternative would be to provide coverage through the private insurance market for some who qualify for Medicaid rather than simply expanding the state's existing Medicaid program.

The commission was established as a compromise in the budget debate. Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan and the Democratic-led House wanted to authorize Medicaid expansion in the budget bill, but the Republican-led Senate under Bragdon's leadership insisted on establishing a commission to study the issue first.

Morse has said any expansion of Medicaid must be a New Hampshire solution and so far nothing is ready for lawmakers to consider. Senators can begin filing bills for next year's session at the end of September. Hassan and Democrats argue New Hampshire won't fully cash in on available federal Medicaid aid if it delays implementing the expansion to next year.

States can choose to expand Medicaid starting Jan. 1. That's when an estimated $2.4 billion in federal funding the state would get over seven years would kick in.







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