Legislative Update February 10, 2017
We’ve only just begun
Governor Chris Sununu’s proposed 2018-2019 Biennial Budget is now official. The budget calls for $12 billion in state spending over the next two years. In his address on Thursday, the governor called his budget “a true balanced budget” that does not rely on “accounting tactics” used by past administrations. Sununu’s budget contains bipartisan elements, such as the largest increase for developmentally disabled funding in many years, increased staffing for the Division of Children Youth and Families, increased infrastructure funding, as well as funds for a targeted, full-day kindergarten. The budget train now leaves the station. The first stop is the House, and with that may come the first disagreement: House leadership has already expressed concerns about the Governor’s full-day kindergarten plan.
Fear not. There’s nothing to DRED anymore
True to his campaign promises of a focus on business development, Governor Sununu’s budget has much to say on the topic. He announced a reorganization of state departments that will move economic development activity from the Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) to a newly-created Department of Business and Economic Affairs. The number of departments stays at 43 by combining the remaining natural resources duties of DRED with the current Department of Cultural Resources to create – you guessed it − the Department of Resources and Cultural Affairs. Other business-friendly elements of the budget are creation of a $5 million Workforce Initiative Program for health care workers, the addition of a Small Business Advocate position and a new Taxpayer Services division at the Department of Revenue, with the goal of improving taxpayer services and efficiency.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow
The snowstorm Thursday caused the House and Senate to hold abbreviated sessions prior to Governor Sununu’s Budget Address. The House passed a concealed carry weapons bill, which, after the promised signature by Governor Sununu, will end the requirement for a permit to carry a concealed weapon. The Senate passed a bill that would provide $2 million in relief for New Hampshire dairy farmers.
Right to work sets up a major floor fight
The House Labor Committee voted to recommend killing two bills that would make New Hampshire a right to work state. The bills, one already passed by the Senate and the other originating in the House, were rejected by identical 14-7 votes. The committee recommendation is not the end, as both sides of the issue prepare for significant debate on the House floor next week.
The House and Senate will continue with committee hearings next week. The House will hold two sessions, on Wednesday and Thursday, February 15 and 16, to catch up on bills requiring action before looming deadlines. The Senate will meet in session on Thursday, February 16.