Legislative Update – March 8, 2019
School vacation a week ago was no day at the beach for House members. The beginning of the week saw full slates of committee hearings, while Wednesday and Thursday’s full sessions lasted until late afternoon. Among the measures the House approved were a reversal of business tax cuts back to last year’s levels, a House version of the paid family and medical leave act, a tax on capital gains, a ban on firearms in safe school zones and legalization of recreational marijuana. This week was just as busy, with committee meetings for the House and Senate and full sessions for both bodies on Thursday. The deadline to report bills is less than a week away, and Crossover of all non-budget bills is at the end of this month.
It’s officially official
Governor Sununu had already delivered his Budget Address and presented the budget to a joint meeting of House and Senate Finance Committees, but last week the document itself was released to the public. State agencies have begun appearing before the House Finance Committee to discuss their operating budget requests. Every two years the biennial budget seems to take most of the air out of the room during the legislative session, and come June, this budget will, too. For now, lawmakers have almost 1,000 bills to deal with. A good number of those bills also have financial ramifications, some of them significant, which may complicate matters this spring. The House version of the budget is due to be handed over to the Senate on April 11.
Will the pen run dry?
After one term with his own party in the legislative majority, Governor Chris Sununu faces a second term that features the Democratic Party in control of the House and the Senate. Democrats have used the opportunity to offer legislation on a wide range of issues that they had advocated for while Republicans held control of the legislature in recent years. But Governor Sununu has said publicly that he will be reaching for his veto pen much more often than in the past. He has already promised to veto recreational marijuana and the death penalty repeal, both of which stand a good chance of reaching his desk. He wants paid family and medical leave, but he sees the payroll deductions in the House and Senate versions as an income tax, and he has vowed to veto such a measure if it comes to him. Additionally, the proposed capital gains tax and the roll backs of business tax cuts appear to conflict with Governor Sununu’s stated positions.
All in a day’s work
The House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee this week selected $12 per hour from a menu of choices offered in three bills that would create and set a state minimum wage. The committee combined language from the $12 per hour bill with some from a $15 per hour bill, and then voted to recommend killing a bill that set the wage at $10 per hour. The state currently uses the federal minimum of $7.75 per hour. The bill, which passed on a party-line vote, would raise the minimum to $9.50 per hour next year, and then follow with two increments to reach $12 in 2022. The committee also passed the Senate version of a paid family and medical leave act. The House version has already passed the full body once and is now in the Finance Committee. The two versions are similar but will still have to be reconciled. Committee members also approved a bill that would prevent employers from using credit history in hiring decisions.
Drive my car
The Senate Transportation Committee gave the green light to a bill that would establish an autonomous vehicle testing pilot program. The measure lays a roadmap for eventually allowing fully-autonomous vehicles in the future. The bill now heads to the full Senate for a vote.
Back to the future
The House yesterday voted to reverse voter restrictions put in place by the legislature last session. House members once again voted to repeal the state’s death penalty, which faces a certain veto from Governor Sununu. The margin of the vote, as it stands now, was not enough to overcome a veto. Right to Work legislation, which has failed several times in recent years, met the same fate this week in the House.
The House and Senate will meet in session next Thursday, March 14.