Published DateLACONIA — Last month, with the New Hampshire Senate split along party lines over Governor Maggie Hassan's proposal to expand Medicaid, Andrew Hosmer, the freshman Democratic senator from Laconia, found himself in the spotlight. Appearing opposite Republican Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro, a veteran lawmaker, former congressman, and Senate majority leader on "Close-Up," the Sunday talk show on WMUR-TV, he offered an informed and spirited defense of the governor's proposal.
More recently, while reflecting on his first term in the Senate, Hosmer singled out a bill revising the corporate code, which he co-sponsored with Bradley, among the most significant achievements of the session. "Jeb and I can see across the partisan divide and work together," he remarked.
Fellow Democrat Senator Sylvia Larsen of Concord, the Senate minority leader serving her tenth term, described Hosmer as "likable and remarkable," stressing that "he worked very well with his colleagues on both sides of the aisle."
In a Senate where Republicans held the majority, Hosmer not surprisingly traced what success he achieved to bipartisan collaboration.The first refinement of the corporate code in two decades, he said was a major step toward attracting and retaining business that could only be taken with bipartisan support. He also joined with Bradley and Senator Bob Odell, a Republican from Lempster, to scuttle an effort of the Department of Revenue Administration to increase burdens on business by adding tips to the base of the Business Enterprise Tax, a move hotly opposed by the hospitality industry. Hosmer said that he was especially troubled that ploy was so clearly contrary to the intent of the Legislature. Hosmer and Odell also co-sponsored legislation that established an integrated process for land development for applicants seeking one or more permits.
Hosmer said that with Bradley's help he was able to amend a measure, introduced by Rep. David Huot, a fellow Laconia Democrat, to forestall the halving of the boat registration fee that funds the operations of Marine Patrol. The amendment provided for the agency to retain any balance at the end of the fiscal year, which it could apply to toward capital needs, chiefly the renovation of its headquarters at Glendale. Hosmer said that the building is subsiding into Lake Winnipesaukee and requires renovation estimated to cost $9.5-million. "If the revenue from the boat fees had not been diverted to the general fund," Hosmer said, "we might not be facing this expense."
"Bipartisanship," Hosmer acknowledged, "broke down over the expansion of Medicaid." He speculated that a separate bill authorizing expansion of the program might have carried the Senate, but said that the Republicans adamantly opposed including it in the budget. Instead, a commission was convened to study the issue and report in October. "I'm hopeful we will have a special session in the fall to address the expansion of Medicaid," he said.
Hosmer admitted to "frustration" with the Democratic majority in the House, which rejected the legislation authorizing casino gambling supported by the governor and nine of the eleven Democratic senators. He said that without the revenue projected from gambling "we failed to restore all the funding for those with disabilities, mental health centers and higher education. Apart from the additional revenue stream, Hosmer said that gambling would stabilize proceeds from the Rooms and Meals Tax, which are lost when New Hampshire residents gamble at venues in other states.
"No budget is perfect," Hosmer said, "but with three weeks to go the Senate, House and governor were very far apart. $100 million. We adjusted some revenues, cut some spending and closed the gap," he said. "It was a compromise."
Hosmer confessed he felt the heat from some Democrats, particularly over his refusal to support the repeal of the controversial "stand your ground" law enacted in the last session.
His support for legislation that would have permitted permitting employers to pay wages by electronic fund transfer without offering the option of paychecks or by payroll cards after offering the option of direct deposit also ruffled Democratic feathers. "As a business person I understand this issue," said Hosmer, the general manager of AutoServ. "We can talk about being business friendly, but what are we going to do?"
"The demands on my time were much greater than I anticipated," said Hosmer, who added "juggling time between work, family and the Senate is a challenge. But, I enjoyed it immensely." He served on the Commerce and Ways and Means committees and Larsen noted, "worked on the toughest bills."
Along with the outstanding issues surrounding health care, Hosmer said he looks forward to addressing infrastructure next year. He said that when the Senate rejected raising the gas tax to fund improvements to roads and bridges, Senator Jim Rausch (R-Derry), who chairs the Transportation Committee, asked that it put infrastructure on its agenda for the 2014 session. "We have to look long-term and find a way to fund infrastructure improvements," Hosmer said.
Hosmer represents District 7, which was redrawn in 2010 to include the cities of Laconia and Franklin and towns of Andover, Belmont, Boscawen, Canterbury, Gilford, Northfield, Salisbury and Webster.