Legislative Update April 15, 2016

By April 15, 2016Advocacy

What Else we got?

With the two year Medicaid expansion extension signed by the governor earlier this month, the legislature this week turned its attention to other issues, chief among them the opioid drug crisis. The House Finance Committee on Thursday held a public hearing on a bill relative to funding for statewide drug courts, one of several pieces of opioid legislation left to be acted on before the session winds down.

Energy Sufficiency

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee this week heard testimony on the only two energy pipeline-related bills that remain alive, out of more than a dozen that were filed. At issue in one bill is jurisdiction over eminent domain. There was support for a potential amendment that would allow for land taken by eminent domain to be valued in excess of one hundred percent. However, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) pointed out that eminent domain takings are argued in court, and federal law would likely be ruled to preempt state law in any such proceedings. The second bill provides for an increased level of examination of energy contracts, which proponent say could help lower energy costs. Opponents argued the bill is unnecessary, as contract review is already within the PUC’s purview.

Get Real, Dudes

The Senate on Thursday passed a bill giving residents a choice as to whether to opt in to the federal Real ID program. New Hampshire is among the states whose current driver’s licenses do not meet federal requirements. Residents have already encountered difficulties accessing federal buildings, and by 2018 would not even have been able to travel on domestic flights with just a driver’s license. The bill will resolve the issue for residents who opt in. Residents who do not accept Real ID will have a choice of an enhanced license, which would only be accepted for travel in North America, or their current, non-compliant license, which would require them to carry a passport for all travel and entrance to federal buildings. Several senators opposed the bill, saying the federal government cannot be trusted to safeguard people’s personal information from hackers. The bill passed by an 18-4 vote.

Le Czar est Mort. Vive le Czar!

The old czar is gone, but state’s new drug czar began his first full week of work, reviving hope that a new face in the role will bring leadership to an important component in the state’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis. Stakeholders are looking to new czar James Vara, formerly of the Attorney General’s Office, to coordinate what many have seen as an unfocused approach to the crisis.

The House will meet in session next Wednesday, April 20. The Senate meets Thursday, April 21. Committees will continue with public hearings all week.