It’s that special time of year
No, not Christmas. It’s committee of conference time, when lawmakers either agree, agree to disagree or attempt to reconcile differences between the two versions of a bill that each chamber has passed. Although some committees of conference have already been in action, Thursday was the deadline for the legislature to form them. Both the House and Senate met to address bills that have been acted on thus far, voting to finalize concurrence, non-concurrence or to form the committees that will attempt to reach agreement.
Speaking of Christmas, a House bill that initially had the innocuous goal of creating a state demographer position has become Christmas tree legislation, festively strung with a collection of spending measures that total upwards of $90 million. Among the ornaments are $12.7 million in pay raises for state employees from recently agreed-upon contracts, $20 million in bridge repairs, $10 million for the state’s Rainy Day fund and about $22 million in each of the next two years for additional uncompensated care payment to hospitals, part of the pending resolution of a legal dispute. The bill will be going to a committee of conference.
All it needs is his John Hancock
The Medicaid expansion reauthorization bill that dominated much of the 2018 session needs only Governor Chris Sununu’s signature to become law. The Senate this week concurred with the House on changes to the bill, clearing the way for passage. Several Democrats had suggested earlier this week that the bill may have needed extra review in a committee of conference, but in the end, they agreed to concurrence. Some Republicans remain opposed to the bill based on concerns about the long-term cost to the state.
School’s out for summer
The education savings account bill, hailed by supporters as a boon for school choice and derided by opponents as a voucher bill that would hurt public schools, failed for the final time on Thursday. The bill had already been voted down in the House last week, but the Senate attached the language as an amendment to another bill. Getting the measure into committee of conference may have allowed for differences to be worked out and might possibly have led to passage, given the support of legislative majority leadership and Governor Sununu. But House members rejected the committee of conference by five votes. Shortly after, House members voted 180-163 to non-concur with the Senate, effectively killing the measure.
He solemnly swears
Windham attorney Patrick Donovan was sworn in this week as the newest New Hampshire Supreme Court justice. Donovan, who was in private practice and had previously served with the state Attorney General’s office, was confirmed by the Executive Council last month.
Two weeks remain in the regular 2018 session. Committees of conference will meet during that time, and the legislature will return May 24 to act on the committee reports.