Legislative Update April 1, 2016

By April 1, 2016Advocacy

It Ain’t Over ‘til it’s Over…and it’s Almost Over

The Senate on Thursday passed a bill extending the Medicaid expansion program until 2018. The measure passed by a 16-8 vote, with six Republicans joining all ten Senate Democrats in the final tally. Governor Maggie Hassan has said she will sign the measure, ending what has been the most important debate of the 2016 session. The Senate Finance Committee had voted in favor of the bill on Monday, setting the stage for yesterday’s deliberations. Most of the disagreement centered on a work requirement and severability clause added by the House. The severability clause would allow the federal government to strip out the work requirement, which the federal government has rejected in other states’ Medicaid proposals, but still allow the program to continue here. Several Republican senators who have strongly supported the work requirement offered amendments that would have removed or weakened the severability clause, but the amendments were rejected.

The Net Effect

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee this week voted unanimously to recommend passing a bill to raise the state’s net metering cap to 100 Megawatts. The full Senate will vote on the bill next Thursday. The House has already passed the measure. The higher cap will allow energy consumers to take advantage of the benefits of generation from alternative energy sources. The committee heard testimony from a multitude of supporters, including the public, privately-owned small energy companies and public utilities. Governor Hassan has said she will sign the bill.

Pay Now or Pay Later

The Senate Ways and Means Committee heard testimony this week on a revised version of a controversial business tax bill from last session. The bill has to do with the way businesses calculate their taxes when owners sell or exchange ownership interests in or assets of the business. Last year’s bill was deeply partisan. Governor Hassan vetoed a Republican-supported version over concerns that too much tax revenue would be lost. The bill heard this week is a House bill that has bi-partisan sponsorship and allows businesses to elect how and when to make certain decisions about the tax. The Senate has a similar bill on the matter, but it does not include an election provision. The Department of Revenue Administration testified that there would not be much difference, and it can live with either version.

Super-Size That Contest

Add two more names to the list of 2016 New Hampshire gubernatorial candidates. As expected, state Senator Jeanie Forrester of Meredith formally announced her candidacy on Wednesday. Forrester, a Republican, chairs the powerful Senate Finance Committee. She joins a crowded GOP primary field that includes Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas and state Rep. Frank Edelblut. On Thursday, former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand threw his hat into the ring on the Democratic side. Marchand will face Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern and former state Securities Bureau regulator Mark Connolly in that party’s primary.

The House will meet in session next Wednesday, April 6. The Senate will meet on Thursday, April 7. Committees will continue with public hearings throughout the week.