Legislative Update: February 9, 2018
A snow day, then a long day
The House cancelled its session day on Wednesday in anticipation of the snowstorm, but representatives were back to work Thursday, trying to meet a deadline for finishing bills that must go to a second committee. The deadline had to be extended for four of those bills during a day that was otherwise filled with extended debate over wide-ranging issues such as family leave, conversion therapy and highway maintenance. The House voted to send to study a bill that would extend the expanded Medicaid program, also known as the New Hampshire Health Protection Plan, for five more years. The plan will expire on Dec. 31 if it is not reauthorized, but the Senate is known to be working on its own bill to extend the program. In other action, the House killed a bill that would have established a state single-payer health care system, and voted to table a bill on animal cruelty. By a one-vote margin, members declined to reconsider a measure that proposed to increase the state contribution to political subdivision retirement plans. The bill had earlier failed its initial test by six votes.
proposed family and medical leave bill will move on to the House Finance Committee after representatives on the House floor, by a mere ten votes, overturned a Commerce Committee recommendation to kill the bill. The idea has bipartisan support, but there are concerns about costs. Finance is the third House committee for the bill, and supporters have an amendment in mind that they say will address the cost issues.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee heard testimony on a bill that supporters say would help establish a regenerative manufacturing industry here. The legislation is being proposed as a way to attract new companies, jobs and skilled workers to the state. ARMI (Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute) is the latest initiative from well-known Manchester entrepreneur and industrialist Dean Kamen, who built his businesses on health care inventions but is perhaps most famous for the Segway. The bill would offer a tax exemption for any entity that starts a business here with a 75% focus on regenerative manufacturing. It would also offer a loan reimbursement program for people who work in the industry for a minimum of five years. The project received high praise from some lawmakers, but the bill has a number of details that will require additional consideration and attention from the committee.
EV like Sunday morning
The House passed a bill that creates a system that supporters contend would bring more fairness to paying for highway maintenance by establishing a road usage fee. The fee would capture some revenue from higher mile-per-gallon and alternative fuel vehicles, which are now paying less in gasoline taxes, but still using the highways. Opponents say the bill would punish them for helping the environment by using less gasoline and emitting fewer pollutants. Road toll revenues have been dropping in recent years as alternative fuel vehicles have become more popular. The bill now heads to the Finance Committee.
A number of business and industry interests testified in opposition to a Senate bill that would require employers to provide employees with 14 days advance notice of work schedules. The bill’s sponsors and the AFL-CIO labor union said the bill would help employees plan their lives better. Opponents, such as retailers, service industry and restaurant and lodging interests, said such advance notice is unworkable in certain industries and would open the door to a flood of disputes. The House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee heard testimony last week on a similar bill that would require a week’s notice of work schedules.
Hit me again
The Senate once again heard testimony on a bill that would allow for two full-service casinos in the state. Some version of the casino gaming bill has been before the legislature many times in recent years. The history of gaming bills has been they often win in the Senate, but lose against the House.
All rise…and raise the age?
Governor Chris Sununu this week nominated Associate Justice Robert J. Lynn of Windham to become Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. Lynn would replace retiring Chief Justice Linda Dalianis, who is stepping down in April. Dalianis will reach the mandatory retirement age for judges, 70, this fall. Lynn, who has served on the Supreme Court for seven years, will himself be forced to retire for the same reason in the summer of 2019, unless the state constitution is changed. The recent forced retirement of Justice Carol Ann Conboy, and now Dalianis, has resulted in some conversation about raising the mandatory retirement age, despite the difficulty of passing a constitutional amendment. That difficulty was evident in the Senate, which was recently forced to table a proposal to raise the retirement age for judges and some other offices to 75. In an initial vote, the measure failed to garner the 3/5 majority needed for a constitutional amendment.
Governor Sununu will give his State-of-the-State address to a joint session of the legislature next Thursday, February 15. The House and Senate will meet in session following the Governor’s address.