Legislative Update: April 20, 2018
The end is nigh
Both chambers met in session on Thursday, with the House finishing its work just after the lunch hour and the Senate continuing to deliberate until after 4 pm. All committee work must be finished by April 26. With about a month left in the session, lawmakers now have the May 24 finish line in sight, but there will be much negotiating before the dust settles.
Back to the drawing board
Supporters of family medical leave will have another year to overcome opposition to the bill if the full Senate sustains a Finance Committee vote this week to send the bill for further study. The 4-2 vote was along party lines. Governor Sununu wrote to the Finance Committee after the initial public hearing, announcing his intention to veto the bill if it reached him. The Governor said he has questions about the long-term sustainability of the proposed state-run insurance program. He also favors an opt-in provision over the opt-out in the current bill. The measure had successfully been through several House committees and three votes on the House floor. Some changes were made along the way, including switching from a state-run plan to a private insurer plan, and then back again. Supporters will be offering an amendment in the hopes of addressing opposition and saving the bill. The Senate floor vote will come next week.
he state this week released an update to the 10-Year State Energy Strategy, and the update features changes in direction. The last revision in 2014 highlighted bolstering renewable energy and a tilt toward large-scale mass transit projects. The current revision, reflective of growing public and business sector discontent over electricity rates, which are among the highest in the nation, focuses on trying to lower rates by leaving energy cost reduction efforts more to market forces instead of picking winners and losers. The document recommends that lawmakers take a harder look at the cost of subsidizing projects, and suggests that the state needs to be more realistic in terms of overall needs versus local desires. Natural gas capacity continues to be stressed as a critical need that is more reliable than intermittent renewable sources. Renewal of the Seabrook nuclear plant license is also mentioned as a zero-carbon source.
Marsy’s Law setback
Supporters of the victims’ rights constitutional amendment known as Marsy’s Law are focusing on a House floor vote next week to save the measure. They will have to reverse the joint decision of the House Judiciary and House Criminal Justice committees, which voted to recommend killing the bill. Attorney General Gordon MacDonald went to the session with an amendment designed to address concerns of opponents. However, the amendment was not acted on, and the vote to kill the measure went forward. Governor Sununu expressed his disappointment in the joint committee action and said he hopes the full House will reverse the recommendation and give the bill the three-fifths majority nod it needs to move ahead. If successful, the measure will go before voters in November, where it would need a two-thirds majority vote for adoption.
Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time
After complaints, a lawsuit, construction delays, administrative delays and decades of waiting, the new women’s prison in Concord opened its doors this week and took in the 147 inmates from the now-empty prison in Goffstown. The transfer took place amidst heavy security and heavy rain. The new facility alleviates overcrowding and will provide the necessary social services that had been unavailable in Goffstown, the lack of which had brought on the federal lawsuit that resulted in the approval of the new prison in 2013.
The House and Senate will both meet in session next Thursday, April 26.