Sununu appointments to shape judicial, education policy
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Republican Gov.-elect Chris Sununu will have a chance to shape New Hampshire’s judicial, education, criminal justice and environmental policy.
Sununu will make key appointments in the departments that focus on those and other areas of governance during his two-year term. The decisions won’t be his alone; the five-member executive council must approve all gubernatorial appointments. But Republicans will control the council, making it more likely Sununu’s appointments will get through.
Sununu takes office in January and has not yet announced nominees.
Democratic Attorney General Joe Foster’s appointment is up in early 2017.
As the head of the Department of Justice, the attorney general is the state’s chief defender and prosecutor. Sometimes the decisions are political. Foster, for example, chose not to defend a state law around education funding to the ire of many lawmakers. He also attempted to make the courts send mental health records to the national gun background check system, a move the courts rejected.
Foster helped set the state’s response to the opioid crisis. Under his leadership, the state sued Purdue Pharma over its marketing of prescription pain killers and began approaching drug overdoses as crimes with potential murder charges for dealers.
Sununu’s attorney general could continue any of these policies or change them.
Sununu will make three appointments to the State Board of Education and an opportunity to appoint a new education commissioner.
The seven-member board is an advisory body of sorts to the department, with say over setting state education standards and approving charter school applications. The board adopted standards in language arts and math that line up with Common Core, a set of standards developed by the states that are opposed by many Republicans. More recently, the board approved new science standards.
Education Commissioner Virginia Barry’s term ends in early 2017. On the campaign trail, Sununu said he wants to end the Common Core standards and focus more on “local control” in schools — priorities that are likely to shape his picks.
Two of New Hampshire’s five Supreme Court justices will retire soon — Associate Justice Carol Ann Conboy and Chief Justice Linda Dalianis — giving Sununu an opportunity to reshape the court through his appointments.
The past three Democratic governors have appointed a bipartisan judicial review commission to suggest nominees. The last Republican governor, Craig Benson, appointed his own partisan commission. Sununu told the Concord Monitor in October he would “absolutely” use a bipartisan selection commission.
The Supreme Court is the state’s last stop for judicial decisions. In recent years, the court has voted to uphold the death penalty for convicted cop killer Michael Addison and to keep the sexual history of a murdered college student private during her killer’s appeal. The court also made the Claremont education decision that established the state’s school funding formula.
ENVIRONMENT AND ENERGY
Department of Environmental Services Commissioner Thomas Burack recently announced his intention to resign after about 10 years in the post. The department works to keep New Hampshire’s air, land and water clean, and deals with issues such as the drought and the contamination of drinking water by the chemical PFOA.
The Public Utilities Commission regulates electric, natural gas and telecommunications utilities in the state. One of its duties is approving the utilities’ rate requests. One of three commissioners’ terms is expiring soon.
The commissioner of environmental services and Public Utilities Commission members serve on the Site Evaluation Committee, which approves large-scale energy projects, such as the Northern Pass transmission line project.
Other appointments Sununu will make include commissioners of labor, corrections, liquor, cultural resources, agriculture, insurance, and resources and economic development.