Legislative Update – May 31, 2019
Massaging the numbers
The Senate Finance Committee voted 4-2 Friday to approve a total of about $13 billion in both bills comprising their version of the 2020-2021 Biennial Budget. The full Senate will vote on the measure next week, followed by negotiations with the House over changes that were made. The House and Senate will wrestle to come up with a final document, and it will be left to Governor Chris Sununu to act on the budget measure in late June. Republican members of the Finance Committee voted against the budget primarily due to an almost $76 million structural deficit for 2021. The state constitution requires a balanced budget, and Republicans contend this one is not.
The death penalty is repealed
On a 16-8 vote that exactly met the two-thirds requirement, the Senate on Thursday joined the House, which last week voted to overturn Governor Sununu’s veto of a repeal of the state’s death penalty. Limited in applicability and unused for almost 80 years, capital punishment was still the subject of intense disagreement over the past years. Emblematic of the long and wrenching debate itself, there was both disappointment and celebration Thursday in the State House. Two governors, Republican Sununu this year and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, in 2000, had vetoed repeal efforts. New Hampshire now becomes the 21st state to end the death penalty.
Funding the fix
Governor Sununu and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald announced Thursday that the state will be suing several manufacturers of PFAS chemicals that have been found in drinking water and groundwater around the state. Other states are doing the same. The state hopes to capitalize on the precedent set by a previous lawsuit involving the gasoline additive MTBE. If successful, New Hampshire could see hundreds of millions of dollars to help with cleanup
The “other” budget
On Thursday the Senate on a voice vote approved $125 million in Capital Budget expenditures for the 2020-2021 biennium. The Capital Budget includes longer-term, capital investment projects that include infrastructure, information technology and facilities repairs and replacements. The Senate amended the bill, meaning it will go back to the House for consideration.
Ground control to Major Tom
A bill to establish state regulatory authority over drones may be grounded until next session. This year’s bill navigated the Senate but encountered flak in the House Transportation Committee. In past years, business and industry interests had concerns about regulation that could not be rectified. This year, the committee struggled with differences between the wording of the proposed bill and existing Federal Aviation Administration rules. The committee vote was an unusual 8-8 tie, meaning the bill will go to the House floor without any recommendation.
The House will meet next Wednesday, June 5, and possibly Thursday, June 6. The Senate will meet Thursday, June 6.