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Sen. Jeanie Forrester - Cash assistance reform

Last week Senate Bill 169, relative to the use of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, passed the Senate on a bipartisan basis. This is the same bill that I sponsored last session that the Senate also passed on a bipartisan basis but the bill ultimately failed in the House. SB-169 directs those who receive benefits for food and other essentials, to make responsible choices in how they spend taxpayer dollars. It prohibits spending benefit dollars on alcohol, tobacco, lottery tickets, firearms, adult entertainment and tattoos.

What prompted the legislation to begin with was a September 2013 Legislative Budget Office performance audit on the use of Electronic Benefits Cards in New Hampshire. The audit showed most EBT spending goes towards necessary living expenses, like rent, food, and health care. But it also found that 78 percent of funds were withdrawn as cash at ATMs, with no accounting of how those funds are spent.

The audit made 10 recommendations to the Division of Family Assistance (DFA), the agency that administers the EBT program. Two of the recommendations required legislative action. The first recommendation was to clearly outline the goals of cash assistance in statute and direct the DFA to adopt administrative rules for restrictions on the use of cash assistance and align them with state law. The second recommendation was to consider whether there should be further restrictions on the use of cash assistance.

As background, the DFA is responsible for administering several cash assistance programs that are available to low income individuals and families. To administer these programs, DFA has several options on how to disperse the benefits, one of which is through the EBT card. If a cash assistance recipient also receives food stamps (a federal benefit that may also be provided to low income individuals and families), these benefits are put onto the same card. Unlike food stamps which are subject to significant federal restrictions, there is no state law defining restrictions nor does the DFA clearly define the objectives of the cash assistance programs or the specific types of items for which the assistance is intended to be used.

If Senate Bill 169 becomes law, it will prohibit the purchase of tobacco, alcohol, lottery tickets, firearms, or adult entertainment with EBT funds. Further the EBT card could not be used at business establishments primarily engaged in the practice of body piercing, branding, or tattooing. EBT cards could still be used at gas stations, grocery stores, and anywhere that accepts debit and credit cards.

The bill also directs the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services to report to the Fiscal Committee on the adoption and implementation of restrictions on the use of cash assistance. The report would include an outline of the goals of cash assistance, review applicable state and federal regulations governing restrictions on the use of cash assistance, summarize the department's finding regarding enforcement, and make recommendations relative to the regulation of cash assistance programs. The report would also include an education plan for recipients regarding the permissible and prohibited use of cash assistance.

For some legislators, this bill does not go far enough; for others, they believe it goes too far. Some believe that the state should not be telling recipients of state cash assistance how to spend this benefit nor restrict its use. One legislator testified that by allowing recipients to use the funds for gambling or the purchase of alcohol, that we would be generating revenue for the state. Other legislators believe that there should be photo ID on the card and a total elimination of being able to withdraw cash.

Most folks don't abuse these state benefits that are made possible by taxpayer funding. But when 78 percent of EBT funds are withdrawn in cash with no accounting of how the funds are spent, it is the legislature's responsibility to assure state funds are being used in a responsible fashion. Currently our state law does not clearly address where those cash benefits could or could not be used. By aligning our state laws with federal laws on restricted use and informing recipients about those restrictions, we take a step in the right direction in assuring limited resources are used correctly.

(Meredith Republican Jeanie Forrester represents district 2 in the New Hampshire Senate.)

Last Updated on Friday, 03 April 2015 08:57

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Sanborn — Tiny houses

OK, so there is this thing called the Tiny House Movement that really seems to be taking hold. You know, building and living in really small homes of 100-400 square feet in size. It is amazing how everyone thinks this is something new. Obviously, they haven't driven around the Lakes Region and northern N.H. and seen all the cottage colonies. I remember one called the Seven Dwarfs' Cottages. You didn't have to be a dwarf to stay there but it helped. I'm not sure if they are still there or not as many of these places have been torn down because they were, well, too small. But these were all vacation get-a-way places and not something you'd really want to live in, right?

It turns out that there are a lot of people that want to live in small houses today. I'd have to say it is all about the low cost of building and maintaining a home. According to thetinylife.com website Americans spend a third to one half of their income on keeping a roof over their heads. This site says that the average cost to build a tiny house comes in around $23,000 if you do the work yourself. That's far less than the average 2,100 square foot home costing around $272,000. That's a pretty hefty savings.

Tiny home owners say they like being debt free with 68 percent of them having no mortgages. They also like the fact that they are simplifying their lives and being more environmentally conscious. They are going to have to simplify things a lot as they aren't going to be have many extras like pool tables, wide screen TVs, or big leather recliners in a one hundred square foot home. It'll be more like cribbage, iPod, and a bean bag chair. But, to each their own.

I took a look around the Lakes Region to see what I could find in the way of year round tiny houses. There are a few seasonal cottages near the lakes that would qualify, but I wanted to see what there was available for a year round residences. Turns out, there isn't a lot, but I did find a few. They are definitely not in the 100-150 square foot range, but we need space in New England to store lots of winter clothes.

On the affordable end of the scale is a property at 41 Carver Street in Laconia. This five room, two bedroom 841 square foot gambrel built in 1900 is cute, cozy and has new paint, refinished floors, a new roof, an oversize one car garage, and a fenced in yard for your miniature Doberman. It is located at the end of a dead end street and is being offered at only $99,900!

You want something smaller? Check out the property at 65 Hemlock Road in Barnstead. This is a 688 square foot, 1988 vintage, three room, one bedroom, a-frame/chalet style home on a half acre lot just a short walk to a shared private beach on Huntress Pond. There's even a large deck for outside dining and barbecuing. It has three heat sources: electric, gas, or wood. Actually, in something this small, you have four sources if you include body heat. This grand estate is offered at $143,000.

Down in Alton at 10 Larry Drive there is a five room, two bedroom, 850 square foot ranch with beach rights to Sunset Lake and Hills Pond that was built in 2006. You'll find a nice kitchen with oak cabinetry, a large living room that has a slider out to a 27' x 10' deck, a master bedroom with not one, but two closets, and an unfinished basement offering expansion potential and a slider out to a brick patio in the level, grassy back yard. This property is offered at $185,000.

So there are a few tiny, but not real tiny houses around currently on the market. I did look to see if there are any honest to goodness tiny houses anywhere in N.H. I did find a 100 square foot, year round, one room, no bathroom, cottage built in 2005 on 7.54 acres available for $39,900 It still needs some finishing. The only problem it is a heck of a commute from Northumberland, N.H.

There were 848 homes on the market as of April 1, 2015 in the twelve Lakes Region communities covered by the report. The average list price was $633,667 with the median price point at $264,900. This inventory level represents a 10.5 month supply of homes on the market. To be honest, that number should be tinier.

P​ease feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others.
​Data compiled using the NNEREN MLS system as of 4/1/15. ​Roy Sanborn is a sales associate at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012​.​

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Bob Meade - My way or the highway . . .

Many years ago, Walt Kelly, creator of the comic strip Pogo, coined the phrase, "We have met the enemy, and he is us." Those words have been true more times than we can count. And, as we start the engines in preparation for the next presidential election, they may be on the verge of coming true again.

A day or so ago, the news reported that media personality Glen Beck announced he is no longer going to be a Republican. Locally, we have had prominent citizens tell us that if Jeb Bush is the Republican's choice to run for president, they will not vote, they will stay home. Others are insisting if the nominee doesn't comport with their absolute view of things, they too, will walk away.

My way or the highway! That message describes the image of a circular firing squad, with everyone pointing inward, and all the targets being other Republicans. That message brings joy to Democrats who are currently struggling to overcome one scandal after another concerning their anointed nominee.

President Ronald Reagan said, "Somebody who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is an 80 percent friend not a 20 percent enemy." He believed in the "big tent", bringing in under that tent as many people as possible and respecting their viewpoints, just as he expected them to respect his. And, as his quote shows, he didn't expect everyone to march in lock step like a bunch of robots. He wanted them to unite as a party in order to win the election. History shows he was right.

Some Republicans, or former Republicans like Glen Beck, seem willing to cede the upcoming election to their Democrat opposition. Staying home and not voting essentially casts a vote for the opposition. Supporting a fringe party or individual that is more closely aligned with one's views, dilutes the process and, again, paves the way for the Democrat to win.

Opportunity knocks . . . but is anyone listening? The presumptive Democrat nominee, Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, has been less than forthcoming concerning her e-mails while Secretary of State. Shannen Coffin, former Assistant Deputy Attorney General and former counsel to Vice President Cheney, has stated on Fox News' Kelly File and in an article in the National Review, that regarding Hillary Clinton's use of a private e-mail system, she broke the law in a number of ways. Judge Andrew Napolitano, currently the senior judicial analyst at Fox News and distinguished professor of Constitutional Law at Brooklyn Law School, and former New Jersey Superior Court judge, has cited a number of violations of the law that have been made by Secretary Clinton.

In addition, the former Secretary of State has yet to answer or provide documentation about her role in the Benghazi tragedy, or provided any information concerning the acceptance of millions and millions of dollars from foreign governments into the Clinton Foundation.

We have endured six plus years of President Obama's my way or the highway approach. He has shown a willingness to violate the Constitution and virtually destroy the separation of powers if he doesn't get what he wants. Our founders gave us a system that, if followed, makes essential the cooperation among the elected representatives in the Legislative Branch and, subsequently, the Executive Branch. One thing we don't need is a continuation of the my way or the highway approach as that can only lead to a dictatorship.

Republicans have an opportunity to restore our constitutional form of government and, importantly, to develop laws and/or amendments that will prevent the abuses of Executive Branch power that we have experienced. That opportunity will be lost if Republicans are unwilling to get rid of the my way or the highway approach and replace it with President Reagan's Big Tent. A Glen Beck, or a local citizen, can only bring harm to the Republican Party, and to the nation, by becoming so rigid in their positions that they essentially hand the Presidency to the opposition party.

There are many fine candidates who are seeking to lead the party. A number of them have a history of achievement in public service. Governors Kasich, Perry, and Walker have excellent records, as does former Governor Bush. Senator Cruz is both bold and brilliant and Senator Paul has attracted a group of followers because of his straight talk about putting America first. Former CEO of Hewlett -Packard Carly Fiorina has not been a politician but brings a record of managerial achievement in the business world to her campaign. The various candidates have a variety of issues that stimulate them in their desire to run for the presidency. They all think they can bring an improvement to the office. Give your vote to the one who most closely agrees with your positions. However, Instead of beating up candidates, with whom you don't agree, accept the will of the people when the ultimate candidate is chosen, and work towards his or her election.

Unless, of course, you want Ms. Clinton to continue the policies we have endured for over six years . . .

(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)

Last Updated on Monday, 30 March 2015 09:29

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The Winni Waterfront Report - February 2015

There were six waterfront sales on Lake Winnipesaukee in February 2015. The average sales price came in at $787,667 and the median price point stood at $625,000. That's one sale more than February of last year. This puts our total for the year thus far at eleven sales at an average of $922,636 compared to thirteen for the first two months of 2014 at an average of $1,121,782.

The entry level sale was another island property and not surprisingly it was on Rattlesnake Island. This was actually 158 Rattlesnake Island and I can assure you that if the buyer did a walk through prior to close the chances of getting bit by a Rattlesnake were very low. This cottage was built in 1997 and has 1,215 square feet of living space, three bedrooms, and one bath. It is in like new condition and features nice hard wood flooring, natural woodwork, solid panel doors, cathedral ceilings, screened porch, and open deck. It has 100' of frontage and a new 6' x 30' aluminum dock. This property was listed at $279,000, was reduced to $200,000, and sold for $195,000 after 238 days on the market. The current assessed value is $232,000. It seems like a great home and a great value! Now, if the snow will just melt...

The mid-priced sale was at 43 Leeward Shores Road in Moultonborough. This property is a 1948 vintage, 780 square foot, four room, two bedroom, one bath log cabin on a 1.2 acre lot with 200' of frontage with a sandy bottom. The cabin has that classic knotty pine interior, the requisite stone fireplace, and eat-in kitchen (because there's no place else to eat) and a screened porch. Outside there's lots of open lawn area, an expansive perched beach, u-shaped dock, and crystal clear water. The home has a state approved four bedroom septic system in case the new owners want to expand or build a new castle. This home was listed in June of 2013 at $825,000, listed again in May of 2014 for $799,000, and sold for $765,000 after a total of 348 days on the market. The current tax assessed value is $770,000.

The highest sale on the lake for the month was a classic summer lake house built in 1920 located at 17 Stephenson Lane in Wolfeboro. This 1,706 square foot, four bedroom home offers a rustic but charming open concept living area with field stone fireplace, an updated kitchen, a unique split stairway with birch bark balusters and railings leading up to a second floor balcony, a wonderful front porch, and a deck at the water's edge. It sits on a 1.3 acre lot with 236' of frontage with a 6' x 40' dock. This home was priced at $1.75 million and sold for $1.65 million after just 21 days on the market. It is currently assessed at $818,600. I suspect you might see a new home being constructed here.

There were no sales on Winnisquam in February.

P​ease feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others.
​Data compiled using the NNEREN MLS system as of 3/10/15. ​Roy Sanborn is a sales associate at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012​.​

Last Updated on Friday, 13 March 2015 07:06

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Bob Meade - Politics, green energy & Keystone pipeline

Whether we're watching television news, reading newspaper accounts of what's happening in our nation's capital, or just reading the letters to the editor section of our local paper, it's often all the same . . . political gamesmanship.

Gone is respect for our Constitution. Gone is respect for the rule of law. Gone is respect for our nation's sovereignty. Gone is respect for the opinion of others. Gone is the willingness to "selflessly" contribute to our political process. Gone is the free press impartiality. Gone is the strength to be accountable. All these things and more, seem to have been erased from our national character. Political and/or personal gain has taken precedent over what is the right thing to do.

The Constitution is ignored as the president takes actions beyond his prescribed authority. The courts point out he is violating the Constitution, and he petulantly seeks ways to circumvent their rulings. When the House of Representatives, the "people's" house, withholds funding from the budget process for those things the courts have said are not Constitutionally allowed, partisan politics intervene. The president's party filibusters the budget because they want those illegal functions to be funded. A game of politics is played, all designed to make the Republicans look responsible for a mythical government shutdown. The sycophantic press does its best to support the Democrat's strategy.

Somewhat lost in that on-going game of politics is that the president's action not only violates the Constitution, it removes the sovereignty of our nation by allowing non-citizens to freely enter our country. While the president and his party defend their position, little notice is taken by the press to show the strictness of Mexico's immigration policy and how that country treats illegal immigrants to that country as "felons".

It has become evident that too many of those in politics seek both power to control and "purse" enrichment. For example:

In spite of over six years of study by the State Department, which found that the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline would not harm the environment, the president vetoed the legislation that would have allowed the project to proceed. Could it be that the reason for the president doing so is to give a payback to influential donors?

— Tom Steyer, became a billionaire by starting his own "hedge fund", Farallon. According to an article in the 8-7-14 issue of Forbes magazine, as of that date, Steyer had already contributed over $20 million to Democrats for the 2014 off year elections, but that was only a start. The L.A. Times cited Steyer's enthusiasm for going green as evidenced by his incredible total 2014 political donations to the Democrats . . . $74 million dollars.
— Steyer built his fortune by investing in coal, particularly in Asia. It has been estimated that his former investments in coal contributed to a growth of 87.5 percent in coal production by those companies. Steyer claims to be divesting himself of those investments in favor of green energy. And, he vehemently protests the Keystone pipeline project. It is reasonable to assume that his desire to kill Keystone is to enhance his investments in green energy.

Another person of note, Warren Buffett, became the second richest person in this country by making exceedingly wise investments. In just about every case, he invests in companies he deems to have a solid market for their goods or services, are well focused, and have solid, in place management. One such investment has been in the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF). He purchased the company for $36 billion dollars in 2009, and has invested billions more in upgrading the track beds, and is currently investing billions more to upgrade the rail tank cars.

An article in the NY Times indicated that the cost to transport oil via railroad is two to three times more expensive than by pipeline. The estimate shown by the NYT is that pipeline transport per barrel is $5, while the railroad transport per barrel is between $10 and $15. Other estimates have shown the cost per barrel difference to be between $10 for pipeline and upwards of $30 for railroad. What ever the cost, it is subsequently passed on the the consumer

One significant point that needs to be made concerning the volume of barrels each transportation medium can deliver. In an article in the Christian Science Monitor, the Association of American Railroads claimed than in a four month period, railroads transported a total of 97,135 carloads of oil, or roughly 24,284 carloads per month. Each carload carries about 700 barrels of oil so that would equate to 17 million barrels per month. On the other hand, the Keystone pipeline has the capability of transporting 830,000 barrels of oil per day, or roughly 24.9 million barrels per month. Further, countless studies have shown that transport by pipeline is far safer to both the community and the environment than is rail transport. According to a report in McClatchy newspapers, in an analysis of federal data, more crude oil was spilled in 2013 in railroad incidents than in the previous four decades.

Keystone has been studied for over six years and found to be a benefit environmentally. It is a proven less costly and safer method of transport. The project would be a boon to a labor market that currently has the lowest employment rate since 1978. Its completion would ensure our energy independence . . . a goal set for the Department of Energy when it was first established in 1977.

Are the investments of Tom Steyer and Warren Buffet more important than the benefits of Keystone to our economy and our country?

(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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