Viewpoint

Where does Sen. Odell stand on important issues?

Sen. Bob Odell touts himself as representing all the people of District 8, so I sent him an email a few months ago urging him to support Medicaid expansion. I inquired how he could possibly even consider voting against it. I also wondered why he voted against the few additional cents a gallon needed to begin making at least some of our roads and bridges safe for travel. Although Mr. Odell never responded to my email, his August 8 “Viewpoint” article again leaves me scratching my head trying to understand how he believes he is best representing all of the people of District 8 and of New Hampshire.

Thanks in large part to our local House members, the approved budget, as Mr. Odell correctly cites, did include some urgently needed increase in mental health funding, LCHIP restoration, and some improvement in recognizing the importance of affordable quality higher education. Yet while the senator touts the “difficult compromise budget,” he stood in unison with the Senate leadership to kill relief for roads and bridges in retaliation for the House vote against casino gambling.

Mr. Odell cites support for the photo ID law. I suggest that he read Article 11 of the NH Constitution, which clearly states that “All elections are to be free, and any inhabitant of the state of 18 years of age and upwards shall have equal right to vote in any election.” As recently confirmed by the courts, residence, not NH citizenship, is required. The townsfolk running the polls can verify identity by means other than the very specific cards which are required by the overly restrictive law. If concerned with fiscal restraint, does Mr. Odell tacitly approve of the enormous, unnecessary costs associated with providing photographers and equipment at all polling places to address a non-existent problem?

As part of the budget, the senator called for a committee to study Medicaid expansion. At a cost of $2.5 million in the previous biennium, the Lewin Report already did exactly that. Further study will not change the findings that by expanding Medicaid in New Hampshire, the state will be accepting 1 million federal dollars a day for the next 7 years, which will provide medical coverage for an additional 50,000 or more New Hampshire residents, and will lower insurance costs for everyone.

In committee meetings to date, Mr. Odell’s Senate colleagues in the majority have clearly been trying to block implementation. We will see how much compromise actually is in Sen. Odell’s fabric by whether he chooses to stand for the people or stand for his fellow Republican senators on this most important matter. He is likely to be the swing vote.

Ckristopher Wallenstein lives in Bennington. He ran against Odell for the 8th District Senate seat in the 2012 election.

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