City/town of residence: Peterborough
How long have you lived in your Senate district?: 36 years, so far!
Family: My amazing husband, business partner and chef extraordinaire, “Dr. Bill” Kennedy; our son Ethan, power lifter and popular man about town; our beautiful and distinguished daughter Eva, her entrepreneurial husband Justin and their uncountable menagerie of pets.
Education: Master of Public Administration, HKS
Occupation: State Senator, District 9
Organizations to which you belong/have belonged: NH Rotary, Norway Pond Singers, Community Conversations, MAxT Makerspace
Public/government service: NH Business Finance Authority member; Monadnock Valley Patriots Special Olympics coach; Conval School Board member; Greenerborough Sustainability Fair committee; Zoning Board of Adjustment, chair; Economic Development Authority, member; Sapiens Plurum board
1. If you could pass one piece of legislation to help New Hampshire’s post-pandemic economic recovery, what would it be?
If I could only choose one action for economic recovery, it would be broadband infrastructure investment. My communications district bill, along with Sen. Kahn’s bill to expand access to broadband funding, passed and were signed into law this year. These set the stage. Now we need to move forward in public-private partnerships, to build out our infrastructure.
We could increase our viable housing stock by 15 percent just by connecting rural homes. Doing so would attract more employees for our companies and families to our rural schools. Entrepreneurs could move back into the rural towns that have suffered population flight; they could grow their businesses there. Medical and mental health professionals could treat their most distant clients more comfortably and efficiently. Our educators could reach all children and fully use connected learning options. Those in towns beset by overdevelopment would feel less pressure once new residents had other options for good schooling and connected housing.
Of course, no single bill will solve all the state’s problems, but providing matching funds to promote public-private partnerships to expand broadband would address much of what underlies economic disparity and distress in our state.
2. New Hampshire’s school-funding formula is once again before the N.H. Supreme Court. Whose responsibility is it to fix this problem and how?
Cheshire County Superior Court has declared our current methods of raising and distributing educational funds to be unconstitutional. The Supreme Court might overturn those rulings, or it might declare the legislature negligent for not fixing the problem. It could then specify a formula that would meet constitutional requirements.
More likely, though, it will ask the legislature to do so. The legislature already hired a firm specializing in school funding research to study the options. After intensive research, the funding committee has that company’s models. These keep the overall funding level for education in the state the same, but make those now overpaying, pay less, and those underpaying, pay their share. Funds would be distributed according to need; schools with students needing free lunch, ESL, and special education would receive more per student. I think that this is a good starting point for a discussion on school funding reform since it is backed by extensive data.
As Vice Chair of Senate Education and Workforce, I look forward to participating in solving this problem fairly and effectively, to stop this shirking of our constitutional responsibility to educate our children with a fairly funded system.
3. What more should the Statehouse be doing to incentivize clean energy?
There is no more time to waste in addressing energy conservation and carbon reduction. Four bills would have 1) raised the solar net metering cap from 1MW to 5MWs; 2) raised our renewable energy goals; 3) allocated 100% of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative funds toward conservation to help the thousands awaiting help to permanently reduce their energy use; and 4) studied ways to increase reliability and capacity through the distributed grid. All these bills were vetoed by the governor. Every one of them needs to come back, be passed and signed into law, and voters must insist that this happens. These vetoes not only harm the future of the planet, but are the reason that NH residents’ distribution costs now exceed the cost of their electricity on their electric bills.
In addition, I support the Business Finance Authority’s hiring of an Offshore Wind Consultant to move forward New Hampshire’s participation in that multi-state energy generation effort so that we can position ourselves as the crucial service arm for that industry. Offshore Wind, along with battery technologies, will offset solar installations to ensure resilience so that we do not end up with brownouts, like California.
4. What can the N.H. Senate do to make health care more accessible and affordable for Granite Staters?
Already this year we passed bills to allow reverse auctions for prescription drugs to lower prices. We capped insulin costs at $30 per month, and required insurance to cover epipens. Earlier, we bipartisanly brought 63,000 people onto expanded Medicaid.
Yet healthcare costs are harming our economy as much as lack of broadband. People become sicker and more costly to treat because they delay care. Fewer people start companies because they fear the risk without healthcare coverage. Businesses cannot give their employees raises because of healthcare cost increases. As a result, families struggle to get by. Those who become sick may end up losing their homes. Those who lose their jobs and are sick would not be covered if pre-existing condition coverage were not required.
Healthcare needs to be fixed at the federal level, but New Hampshire can put in place protections to require insurance companies that do business here to cover pre-existing conditions. We can ensure that uninsured patients do not lose their credit, cars, and homes by being grossly overcharged for medical costs obtained for far less by insured patients. We can set up such state protections in case Washington fails us.