No Snow, so Let’s Pray for Summer
Momentum toward an early June finish to the 2016 Legislative session was building this week as several House committees finished work on all of their remaining bills. When the House meets again on May 11, they will face a calendar of more than 100 bills, in addition to motions for concurrence, non-concurrence or requests for a committee of conference with the Senate on other bills.
Ski Free or Die
The House Ways and Means Committee amended a bill that would have eliminated free senior skiing on weekdays at Cannon Mountain. The amendment puts free weekday skiing, the current policy, back into the bill, while limiting the amount seniors can be charged on weekends and holidays to two-thirds of the normal lift ticket price. It is unclear how the Senate will view the changes if the bill passes the House on May 11.
In hopes of saving their own energy efficiency bill that is stranded in the House, senators yesterday added the language from that bill to a House measure on gas pipeline eminent domain. The eminent domain provision puts landowners in a stronger position relative to land takings involving pipeline companies. Several senators, however, opposed the bill based on the idea that federal law would pre-empt state law and thus offer only false hope to landowners. The energy efficiency provision would change the formula for distributing proceeds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, raising the amounts given to low-income energy efficiency efforts, municipal projects and other local efficiency projects.
Still Circling the Airfield
The Senate on Thursday passed a House bill regulating the public and privates sector use of drones. To address concerns raised by business and industry, an amendment was adopted to allow for uses that were not in the original bill, provided they comply with Federal Aviation Administration regulations. The Senate Finance Committee will see the bill next, but if it stays as it is, the changes are significant enough that the measure will very likely go to a House-Senate committee of conference. Also needing to be resolved is a potential problem relative to an inadvertent exemption for private investigators. A second bill, dealing with restrictions on flights over correctional facilities, was voted down as unnecessary, since its provisions are included in the bill that passed.
Keno Goes Bust Again
By a 13-10 vote, the Senate killed a bill that would have allowed Keno gaming in establishments that hold a liquor license. Advocates cited projected state revenues of up to $9 million, while opponents said crime, gambling addiction and other social woes were too high a price to pay for the additional revenue.
It’s Raining Money
Governor Maggie Hassan this week announced that better than expected revenues and money coming in from a lawsuit over the gasoline additive MTBE could allow the state to fill the so-called Rainy Day Fund to its legal capacity and also add money to the fight against opioid abuse. In a letter to House Speaker Shawn Jasper and Senate President Chuck Morse, Hassan said the state could fill the Rainy Day Fund to its $140-$150 million limit, and also put an additional $10 million into the war on heroin addiction. Currently revenues are running at about $80 million over plan with just over two months to go in the fiscal year. Republican leaders urged caution and said more information is needed.
The Senate will meet in session on Thursday, May 5. The House will hold a session on Wednesday, May 11.