Poison pill ends up killing State School bill

CONCORD — Legislation to repeal the rider attached to the 2012-2013 state budget prescribing the process for selling the former Laconia State School property died last week when conferees failed to reconcile the different versions of the bill adopted by House of Representatives and Senate.
In 2011, the Legislature, at the initiative of the Senate, circumvented the statutory process for disposing of state property by directing the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) to offer the property to the city for $10-million and, if the city declined, to offer it to Belknap County at "fair market value." If neither the city nor the county accepted the offer, the department was instructed to contract with a broker and sell the property on the open market by May 1, 2013. The law stipulated that the governor and Executive Council must approve any sale.
Senate Bill 19, sponsored by Sen. Jim Rausch (R-Derry) would have cut short this process and reverted to the procedure prescribed by statute (RSA 4:40). which requires review by the Council of Resources and Development, consisting of officials of major state agencies, and the approval of the Long Range Capital Planning and Utilization Committee, composed primarily of legislators. The committee must find a property is "no longer needed by the state" before recommending its sale to the governor and Executive Council, which must approve any transaction.
However, Sen. Peter Bragdon (R-Milford), the president of the Senate, attached an amendment to the bill that would eliminate of one of three toll booths on the Everett Turnpike in Merrimack, one of the four towns in his Senate district. While residents of Merrimack have clamored for scuttling the toll booths for years, the Legislature has steadfastly refused.
The House stripped Bragdon's "poison pill" amendment and adopted the original bill, prompting the House and Senate to convene a committee of conference. The Senate conferees insisted on eliminating the toll booth, their House counterparts refused and the bill failed.
Mike Connor, Deputy Commissioner of Administrative Services, said yesterday that the contract with the broker has expired and the agency is not actively marketing the property. But, he said that the DAS would "entertain legitimate offers for the property," just as it would for any other parcel owned by the state.
City Councilor Matt Lahey (Ward 2), who has been at the forefront of the city's effort to acquire the property, said that the failure of the legislation has left a window of opportunity to strike a deal under the original streamlined process. He said that the city has a variety of options and should consider structuring a package to propose to the state.