Legislative Update February 17, 2017
The House and Senate both met in session this week. The Senate dealt with more than 20 bills on Thursday, while the House saw over 100 bills during session days on Wednesday and Thursday. This coming week, the House Finance Committee will start more in-depth meetings with agencies on the 2018-2019 budget.
Right to work fails
By 23 votes, the House followed the recommendation of its Labor Committee and voted to kill a bill to make New Hampshire a right to work state by allowing workers to opt out of paying dues at unionized workplaces. Senate Bill 11 was one of the most closely watched bills of the session thus far, and had the backing of Governor Chris Sununu. Nationally, right to work is widely recognized as a partisan issue that is generally supported by Republicans and opposed by Democrats. Historically in New Hampshire, significant enough numbers of Republican legislators have joined Democrats to oppose it. Two parliamentary actions taken by the House directly after Thursday’s vote now mean that right to work measures cannot be considered by that chamber through the end of 2018.
Cleared for takeoff
A bill regulating government and private use of drones passed an initial vote in the House on Thursday and now heads to a second committee in that body. A drone regulation bill made it through the Senate last year, but died late in the session when House and Senate conferees could not agree on a final version.
The House Science, Technology and Energy Committee voted to amend a bill that would have repealed the state’s renewable portfolio standards (RPS). The RPS is a regulation that requires the increased production of energy from renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, biomass and geothermal. The amendment is intended to increase RPS reporting frequency in an effort to provide lawmakers a transparent view of what is and isn’t working with the program. Meanwhile, the Senate this week held a hearing on their own comprehensive RPS bill and will work with stakeholders to try and iron out differences.
Former Republican state Rep. Frank Edelblut was confirmed by the Executive Council on a 3-2 party line vote this week to be the next state Commissioner of Education. The appointment brought strong opposition from the council’s two Democrats and a number of public school advocates, who cited Edelblut’s lack of education experience and his support for alternatives to traditional public school. Supporters said Edelblut’s outsider perspective and experience as a businessman will be just what the department needs. Edelblut gained visibility after giving Governor Chris Sununu a challenge in last fall’s Republican gubernatorial primary.
The House and Senate will continue with committee hearings next week. The Senate will meet in session next Thursday, Feb. 23. The House is expected to meet again in session during the first full week of March.