Legislative Update – April 12, 2019
What should be the half-way point of the 2019 legislative session passed this week, but halftime may be just an illusion this year. Most people in the know, and even those out of the know, expect Governor Chris Sununu to veto the proposed budget. If so, it means negotiations over spending for the 2020-2021 fiscal years will likely drag on through the dog days of summer and into the fall. Veto Day promises to be long and grueling as well, if the Governor vetoes the legislation he has suggested could feel the wrath of his pen. Add to that the growing number of bills that are being retained for more deliberation, and lawmakers may well be back in Concord to watch the leaves change.
The answer’s in the question
The House on Thursday passed a $12.9 billion budget for fiscal 2020-2021. The vote, which reflected the House’s new Democratic majority, was 225-159. Governor Sununu immediately criticized the action, which saw several of his priorities deleted or altered. Democrats said the budget provides increased aid to cities and towns and to education. Earlier in the week, House Republicans had been content to let their Democratic colleagues pose the tough questions at a House Finance Committee budget briefing. Among the items they questioned were why a $26 million request for a new secure psychiatric unit and another request for $500,000 to combat internet crimes against children were left out of the House proposal. Before Thursday’s budget vote, the House restored the money for the internet crimes provision and added $1.2 million for design costs relative to the secure psychiatric unit.
Help on the way
The state this week submitted its plan for federal supplemental grant funding that could add almost $12 million to the battle against opioid abuse. The Department of Health and Human Services envisions using the money to dismantle existing barriers to treatment and recovery. The department would use the grants to expand access to housing facilities for those being treated and increase the availability of naloxone for use in overdose cases.
Death penalty doomed?
The Senate on Thursday voted to repeal the state’s death penalty. The margin of the recorded vote, 17-6, would be enough to override a gubernatorial veto, which Governor Sununu has promised. The House voted for repeal last month by a margin that would suggest that chamber could also override a veto. If the bill survives, New Hampshire would be the 21st state to repeal capital punishment. The only question is whether enough legislators, if any, in either chamber would change their vote to support the Governor.
The Senate will meet in session next Thursday, April 18. Both chambers will hold committee public hearings and committee voting sessions next week.