NH Reps want to ski for free

By Grant Bosse on February 5, 2013
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(CONCORD) Some New Hampshire Representatives want their free lift ticket back. After getting free passes to state-owned Cannon Mountain Ski Area for years, a Legislative Ethics Committee letter last winter found that the freebies violated the Legislature’s ban on gifts over $25. But a trio of lawmakers have introduced a bill that would exempt Cannon Mountain from the gift ban.

Representatives Gary Coulombe (D-Berlin), Andrew Schimdt (D-Grantham), and Herb Richardson (R-Lancaster) are sponsoring HB 514, which adds an exemption to the ethic guidelines for House and Senate members to receive passes to Cannon Mountain. The House Legislative Administration Committee takes up the bill with a public hearing Thursday morning at the Legislative Office Building in Concord.

Cannon Mountain, which is run though the state Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED), is one of two state-owned ski areas in New Hampshire. The Legislature privatized operations at Mount Sunapee Ski Area over a decade ago, and profits from Sunapee have been subsidizes capital improvements at Cannon ever since. A recent New Hampshire Watchdog investigation found that taxpayer subsidies of Cannon have totalled more than $9.2 million since 1999.

In January 2012, Legislative Ethics Committee Chairman Martin L. Gross responded to an inquiry from Representative Edmond Gionet (R-Lincoln) about whether he and his colleagues could accept the Cannon Mountain passes despite the long-standing ban on gifts to lawmakers. Gross responded in an Advisory Opinion from the Committee:

It appears from the facts presented that the value of the lift tickets in question is $25.00 or more, which would classify them as gifts that RSA 15-B:3 would prohibit legislators from receiving unless the tickets were exempted from that classification by applicable provision of law. We find no provision of law that would provide such an exemption.

HB 514 would carve out just such an exemption. Officials at Cannon Mountain say that they haven’t tracked how many free passes they’ve given away to lawmakers over the years, and that they don’t write down when a Legislator and guest show up on the slopes.

The Legislative Ethics Committee issued a similar ruling last year, finding that the House of Representatives could not accept 400 free circus tickets for each of its members, even though the value of each individual tickets was well below the $25 threshold.

The House Legislative Administration Committee takes up HB 514, and three other bills dealing with ethics requirements, Thursday morning at 9am in Room 104 of the Legislative Office Building in Concord. HB 410 would allow gifts like the disputed circus tickets and allow outside parties to pay for lawmakers to transportation to and from events. HB 415 would prohibit solicitation of gifts, even under the $25 limit, and bar the acceptance of multiple gifts totalling more than $100 from a single source. HB 548 would rewrite and expand the gift ban for lawmakers, legislative employees, and their family members.

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10 Comments For This Post So Far

  1. Doug
    3:00 pm on February 5th, 2013

    Grant, this is a great story but I think that the headline needs some work. After reading what these state reps are asking for I see this issue totally different. Here is what I mean. We know that economically speaking there is no way to give anything of value away for free. Sure, one party may not pay anything for the item they receive but there is a cost. Say, a person owns a entertainment venue and they a local band give a concert at the facility at no charge. Is the cost really nothing? No, the owner bears the cost which, in this case, is the value of the next best alternative use for the facility. So, with that in mind , what the reps are really asking for is for the NH tax payers to bear the cost of lift tickets for themselves and their guests. If you really want to give away taxpayer money at least give it back to the taxpayers. Maybe take the number of passes given away last year and hold drawing for NH residents to get free passes. Or offer them to the underprivileged NH kids whose parents can not afford to take their kids skiing. Personally, I do not like any of those options and would prefer that they simply did not give out free passes however, at least the last two send the money back to the taxpayers.

  2. Chris
    5:04 pm on February 5th, 2013

    This isn’t the huge deal that the article implies. If you look at the price of lift tickets you’ll see that seniors can ski free on weekdays. Any guess how ,many state Reps or Senators are seniors? In addition, while the Martin Gross decision doesn’t mention it,, there is a procedure for accepting certain items as long as there is a financial disclosure form filed. This is a similar thought process as when Reps and Senators file statements about financial interests and then vote on bills where they might have a special interest such as being part of the state retirement system, or a particular industry. As long as you are only paying somebody $100 per year (before taxes and the cost of plates) I’m happy to let them ski and take a guest. Better they should ski at Cannon than be the guest of someone else.

  3. Kevin
    10:51 am on February 6th, 2013

    What? You guys are to broke to buy your own tickets, you may be able to get welfare if you need it that bad, we can put in a good word for ya.

  4. Kevin
    10:54 am on February 6th, 2013

    What? Are you guys to broke to buy your own tickets? You can apply for welfare if you the money that bad, let us know and we can put in a good word for ya.

  5. Doug
    1:02 pm on February 7th, 2013

    Chris,

    So by your logic the reps don’t really need it anyway since most of them are seniors. Why then introduce the subject in HB 514? Furthermore, please explain to us why state reps should get any such benefit? What has a State rep earned that entitles them to free lift tickets at a ski resort at the cost of the taxpayer? Sounds like the answer is being voted into office.

  6. Dana
    10:07 pm on February 18th, 2013

    Let me see if I’ve got this right…as a NH taxpayer, I’ve helped subsidize operations at Cannon Mtn to the tune of $9.2 million since ’99. A bit more, actually, since I’m a regular at Sunapee. So where’s my free pass to Cannon Mtn? I’ll be calling my legislators in the Upper Valley this week…

  7. Karl
    7:18 am on February 20th, 2013

    3 reps for sure and anyone that votes for it don’t deserve to be in public office.
    Parasites.

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