Legislative Update – February 22, 2019
Baby steps on the budget
Governor Sununu presented his 2020-2021 Biennial Budget to a joint session of the House and Senate Finance committees this week. The House will now take the first legislative look and make additions and subtractions. Members must finish their version by April 11, when the budget crosses over to the Senate.
The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 11-6 to recommend repeal of the state’s death penalty law. There was some bi-partisan support for the measure, which now goes to the House floor. Last year, Governor Chris Sununu vetoed a Senate bill repealing capital punishment, and that veto was sustained. The Governor has promised to veto the bill again, should it reach his desk. The bill would have to pass both chambers by a fairly wide margin to meet the two-thirds majority necessary to override his veto.
I work hard for my money
The House Labor Committee this week juggled three bills on raising the minimum wage. The Senate also has their version of a minimum wage bill in the hopper. The House bills offer choices of $10, $12 and $15 per hour to replace the $7.25 per hour federal minimum wage the state currently uses. New Hampshire is one of six states that employ the federal level. Supporters maintain the current minimum wage is not enough for people to live on and is hardest on lower income groups. There was opposition based on the potential cost to employers and on the issue of tipped workers, such as food servers, whose primary income is from tips. Raising the tip minimum, opponents said, would likely prevent employers from giving raises to other staff. The issue of tying future minimum wage increases to the Consumer Price Index was also debated. The expectation is that some version of a minimum wage bill will be adopted by the committee.
The Senate adopted a bill that would allow the state to use toll credits as a match for federal money to help fund the project development phase of the Capitol Corridor passenger rail project. The vote was 14-10 along Democrat-Republican party lines. The project has been stuck in the legislative train station for several years but has been gaining steam of late.
Two for the road
The House Public Works and Highways Committee retained two bills relating to highway infrastructure. One bill would establish a road usage fee based on miles per gallon as a way of having fuel-efficient vehicles contribute more to highway maintenance. The other bill would increase the gasoline tax, also known as the road toll, by six cents per gallon, with the amount collected from the increase going to state road and bridge projects.
Loose change for climate change?
The House Science Energy and Technology Committee voted unanimously to retain a bill on carbon pricing. The decision to retain came after the committee recognized they needed additional time to address numerous deficiencies.
The House will hold session days on Wednesday and Thursday to take up 159 bills. The Senate will be in recess next week and will meet again on March 7.