Agenda of New Hampshire's governor leaves some people scratching their heads

We suspected that New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu might have an agenda problem, or maybe a hidden agenda, when his first legislative initiative was right-to-work legislation. While right-to-work is a darling of the Koch brothers and kindred spirits, it was difficult to see why it would be a priority in New Hampshire, where unions are hardly on the rise. Sununu's proposal deservedly died in the House. We can only speculate whether the impetus came from New Hampshire — or from sources with a national agenda.

We were momentarily caught off guard when Sununu came to the rescue in May of a Hanover mother bear and her cubs who were going to be euthanized after becoming habituated to human food and environs. Sununu rejected the advice of his own experts, but he gave in to the hearts of online petitioners and Facebook-posting humans when he ordered the bears relocated to New Hampshire's far north. When a politician must choose between cute bears and earnest wildlife biologists, we suppose the bears will win.

We were surprised when he intervened forcefully in the Lake Sunapee boat ramp controversy, shutting down a 20-year effort by the Fish and Game Department to build a new boat ramp on the lake's western shore. Fish and Game commissioners blasted Sununu's intervention, saying "a few wealthy individuals" had influenced him. We can't know who has the governor's ear, but it's not the commissioners, apparently.

And we are mystified, at least a little, now that Sununu says he is considering a proposal to require school districts to start classes after Labor Day. He said he has been talking with parents, educators, students and administrators about the notion. "Every person I have talked to thinks this is a home run of an idea," he said.

The governor might want to hold off on that home run call, however. According to the Concord Monitor, Sununu said a later opening date could boost the state tourism industry, since retaining summer staff could help with the Labor Day rush. But it would do nothing to stop the exodus of college-age students, that being beyond a governor's powers.

And then there's the issue of local control of schools, which Republicans often advocate. Sununu portrays himself as a champion for school choice who would increase funding for private schools and home schooling. How does a preference for decentralized education systems jibe with a state-mandated opening day?

There are arguments for both sides on whether to open schools before Labor Day — or after — and people in different school districts might have different answers. We'd rather it be settled locally, on the basis of what is best for students and families, not the labor needs of ice cream stands and what used to be called tourist traps. On the list of New Hampshire issues, a statewide school opening date isn't in the top 10, 20 or maybe even 50. We have to wonder: How did it get on the governor's agenda, and whoever has he been talking to?

— The Valley News


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