Legislative Update – March 22, 2019

Legislative Update – March 22, 2019

Senate committees this week worked to finish up their bills and began public hearings on the first House measures to appear in that chamber.  The House, meanwhile, held marathon sessions Tuesday and Wednesday to deal with remaining legislation that was not required to visit a second committee. House Finance Committee divisions held budget work sessions on Thursday and Friday as they head toward an April 4 deadline.

The not so OK Corral

The Democratic majority legislature and Governor Chris Sununu are headed to a high noon showdown over the paid family and medical leave program.  The House on Thursday passed the Senate version of the program, and the bill now goes to Governor Sununu’s desk.  The Governor has said the legislature’s version includes an income tax, and he has promised to veto it. He is pursuing his own voluntary plan in concert with the state of Vermont. Democrats say their measure has bipartisan support and creates a public-private partnership.  As of now, the legislature does not have enough votes to overcome a gubernatorial veto, but they could raise the stakes by adding the program to the budget.

Sue is not just a name.

New Hampshire and the federal government are the respective targets of two recently-filed lawsuits.  On the education front, which has seen its share of lawsuits over the years, the Monadnock School District announced it is joining the ConVal School District’s lawsuit against the state.  At issue is the long-debated topic of adequate education funding.  In other legal action, New Hampshire Legal Assistance joined two national groups representing some low-income residents in a lawsuit against the federal government.  The suit involves the Medicaid work requirement, passed by the New Hampshire legislature last year as part of a deal to continue the expanded Medicaid program.  The plaintiffs claim the work requirement is a burden and rewrites the Medicaid law. Democrats are also working to reverse the work requirement via legislation.  Supporters say the provision is no burden and simply asks recipients of benefits to have skin in the game.

Wrapped in plastic

New Hampshire still has plenty of granite, but plastic straws and single-use plastic bags may go the way of the Old Man of the Mountain if two bills passed by the House this week become law.  One bill allows food service entities to provide a plastic straw only upon customer request.  Wooden, bamboo and paper straws are okay, and licensed health care facilities, such as hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers, are exempt.  The other bill bans stores and food service entities with more than 1,000 square feet of retail space from offering single-use plastic bags.  The ban would begin four months after the bill becomes effective.  Stores would be allowed to sell reusable bags, if they were labeled as such. The bills now go to the Senate.

Like money in the bank

The Senate on Thursday passed its bill raising the minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2022.  The House has already passed a $12 per hour minimum wage bill that is similar to the Senate version. The two differ in that the Senate bill raises the wage for tipped employees to $4 per hour and contains a slightly lower minimum wage for companies that offer paid sick time.  The House version bases the wage for tipped workers on a percentage of the overall minimum wage. It also does not include a provision for sick time and creates a lower training wage for workers under the age of 17. Democrats are likely to reconcile the two and send a minimum wage increase to the Governor, who may well veto it.

The Senate will meet in session next Wednesday, March 27 and Thursday, March 28.  The House will not hold a session next week.