Legislative Update: February 23, 2018
And so it begins
What is expected to be an intense debate over a bill to extend the Medicaid expansion program, known as the New Hampshire Health Protection Plan, began Tuesday with a public hearing that lasted throughout the afternoon. The heavily-attended hearing was held in Representatives Hall, where supporters made their case for extending the program. The bill, which will likely see revisions, includes a five-year extension, a new name, a work requirement and a provision to move the 50,000 or so covered residents from the current individual insurance market, to coverage by the state’s Medicaid managed care system. Key portions of the proposal still need federal approval. Legislators and Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeff Meyers are continuing to work with federal officials to that end.
The American Dream
The goal of home ownership may become a little easier for some people under a bipartisan bill the Senate passed on Thursday. The bill would temporarily reduce the rate of the real estate transfer tax for first time home buyers purchasing homes valued at $300,000 or less. Facing trouble out of committee due to concerns over cost, the bill got a bipartisan amendment to lower the home price threshold. The break would affect homes purchased in 2018 and 2019. The bill is in keeping with goals the governor and legislature have cited in terms of addressing a dearth of affordable housing and trying to attract and keep younger skilled workers in the state.
The wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round
The House Public Works and Highways Committee this week amended the 10-Year Transportation Improvement Plan, changing a proposed $4 million project development study of passenger rail service up the Capitol Corridor to a project involving commuter bus service. The new proposal would design and develop financial plans for extended bus service from Concord to Nashua and/or other bus connections to Boston. Rail advocates, including many Manchester and Nashua area business leaders, have been pushing for federal funding for the rail development project for the past several years. Opponents maintain passenger rail is unnecessary and has far too high a price tag.
Or you can always drive your EV
The Senate passed a bill that would create a commission to study an electric vehicle charging station infrastructure through the state’s major vehicle travel corridors, and a companion bill that outlines requirements for the charging stations. A portion of the state’s share of the Volkswagen emissions settlement money may be available for EV infrastructure spending. More will be known in the coming weeks when a plan on spending the settlement money is released.
No harm, no foul
The House by a wide margin voted to pass a bill that will allow individuals who were convicted of possessing three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana on or before September 16, 2017 to petition to have their arrest or conviction annulled. The measure will allow people with a conviction for something that is no longer illegal to clear their record and hopefully open up opportunities in employment, student and housing loans and other areas.
The Senate and much of the House will be out on break next week during school vacation, but some House committees, faced with unfinished business on numerous bills, will be meeting. The House faces a March 8 deadline for bills that are not in a second committee, and thus will meet in session on March 6, 7 and 8. The Senate will meet in session on March 8. Both chambers have a March 22 deadline for remaining bills to cross over between the bodies.
NOTE: Due to the legislative break, there will be no reports next Friday, March 2.