Molly Howard and Donovan Fenton talk issues at Hancock Town Library

Hancock Town Library Director Amy Markus introduces state Rep. Molly Howard and state Sen. Donovan Fenton (right) Wednesday night.

Hancock Town Library Director Amy Markus introduces state Rep. Molly Howard and state Sen. Donovan Fenton (right) Wednesday night. STAFF PHOTO BY CAMERON CASHMAN

Hancock Town Library Director Amy Markus introduces state Rep. Molly Howard (left) and state Sen. Donovan Fenton Wednesday night.

Hancock Town Library Director Amy Markus introduces state Rep. Molly Howard (left) and state Sen. Donovan Fenton Wednesday night. STAFF PHOTO BY CAMERON CASHMAN

State Rep. Molly Howard, left, and state Sen. Donovan Fenton address the audience at the Hancock Town Library on Wednesday night.

State Rep. Molly Howard, left, and state Sen. Donovan Fenton address the audience at the Hancock Town Library on Wednesday night. STAFF PHOTO BY CAMERON CASHMAN

Hancock Town Library Director Amy Markus introduces state Rep. Molly Howard and state Sen. Donovan Fenton on Wednesday night.

Hancock Town Library Director Amy Markus introduces state Rep. Molly Howard and state Sen. Donovan Fenton on Wednesday night. STAFF PHOTO BY CAMERON CASHMAN

State Sen. Donovan Fenton speaks about his time serving in the State House.

State Sen. Donovan Fenton speaks about his time serving in the State House. STAFF PHOTO BY CAMERON CASHMAN

By CAMERON CASHMAN

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 04-22-2024 12:44 PM

Modified: 04-22-2024 2:30 PM


New Hampshire state representatives sent 1,400 bills to the Senate for deliberation this year, according to state Rep. Molly Howard of Hancock, who was joined by state Sen. Donovan Fenton of Keene at Hancock Town Library Wednesday evening to discuss issues with residents.

Howard, whose district includes Hancock and Greenfield, serves on the House Environmental Committee, and said that the state’s landfills are currently a hot-button topic.

“We have enough landfills in New Hampshire to take us out to 2034,” she said. “Yet Casella has an application in for [a landfill in] the north country, up by a town called Dalton.”

Howard said the committee had tried to pass a bill to slow down or stop the proposed landfill, but “lobbyists came in and shut us down.” In this case, she said a lobbyist claimed Gov. Chris Sununu would veto any effort to block the landfill. Casella’s application is currently being in court.

Fenton -- whose district includes Dublin, Hancock and Peterborough – added some context, saying that 50% of all trash going into New Hampshire landfills is coming from surrounding states, who have been more progressive in their waste-management process.

“Massachusetts’ solid waste plan is to ship it to us,” he said. “Same with other states around us – and we’re just accepting their trash.”

Fenton said that limiting out-of-state waste would go a long way in ensuring the longevity of our existing landfills, but New Hampshire’s Interstate Commerce Clause prevents the state from denying business from other states.

“We have a very business-friendly administration,” Howard said. “And [Casella is] a business.”

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Howard and Fenton said there were several bills under deliberation that would help mitigate this issue, including the establishment state-owned landfills, so New Hampshire would have more control over whose waste they accept.

There was a discussion, prompted by a question from the audience, about the role of lobbyists in the state’s legislative process. Howard expressed frustration over lobbyists’ influence, but said, “We’re fighting the good fight, there are just some things that are pretty entrenched.”

Fenton added that hearings are public, so they couldn’t deny lobbyists’ presence, and that lobbyists were actually a heavily respected, and therefore regulated, part of the state’s legislative process. He explained they are identified in hearings by orange name tags, and that they bring important representation and input from their respective industries.

Fenton also touched on bills he had introduced to help farmers after excessive flooding damaged their farmland last summer. He said extreme weather patterns would continue to impact the state’s farmers, which would ultimately effect agricultural tourism and therefore the state’s revenues.

As a result of decreased revenues and tax cuts, such as the reduction of the state’s interest and dividends tax, which previously sent around $160 million into the state’s budget, New Hampshire was headed for a “fiscal cliff,” Fenton said, and property tax-payers would be increasingly responsible for supporting things like public education.

Fenton and Howard also discussed the issue of housing, and singled out a bill that would incentivize landlords to accept Section 8 housing vouchers from low-income individuals. Currently, a landlord who accepts a Section 8 voucher has a two-week review period where the state approves the voucher, but is unable to accept payment until after the review process. The bill would have the state compensate the landlord for this period so they do not lose income during those two weeks.