Legislative Update: January 12, 2018
He wants what he wants
Governor Chris Sununu, along with the House and Senate Republican leadership, released a list of legislative priorities this week. On the business front, one priority is a desire to make New Hampshire more competitive. The governor continued a theme from his first year in office by pledging to reduce what he termed needless and burdensome business regulations. He also proposed a commission to study workforce and job training. On education, the Republicans expressed support for bills that would expand school choice and promote student interest in the robotics and computer science fields. The governor also addressed energy and environmental issues, making a commitment to finding ways to reduce energy costs and expressing support for bills that would further regulate air and water pollution.
The natives were restless
On any given day, almost as surely as the sun rises in the east, the full House normally votes to follow committee recommendations to either pass or kill a particular bill. This week the sun rose in the west four times, as the full body overturned committee recommendations, including a recommendation to kill a proposed comprehensive study of the Fish and Game Department. Last week the House also overturned four committee recommendations.
Spreading the money around
Among the committee reports the House overturned on the floor were two from the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee. The moves could significantly change direction on the use of Renewable Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) funds for energy efficiency programs. The original recommendation would have had all RGGI auction proceeds rebated back to retail electric customers, instead of sending the first dollar of any auction sales toward core energy efficiency programs. The House voted to kill that proposal, and then passed another bill that will send additional money to low-income residential and municipal energy efficiency programs, while still rebating the commercial and industrial portion of the proceeds back to those businesses.
All in the family
By 32 votes, the House gave initial approval to a bill that would create a state-administered family and medical leave program. Employees would pay a capped premium and be eligible for up to 12 weeks of leave. The bill has already been scheduled for a hearing in House Commerce next week. It will have to successfully go through two or three more committees and floor votes in the House, and probably two committees in the Senate before reaching Governor Sununu’s desk. The governor supports family and medical leave, but has concerns about this version of the bill.
Where there’s smoke, there might not be fire
The House voted to move forward on a bill that would legalize the growing, possession and use of small amounts of recreational marijuana. Supporters were pleased, but the bill faces more votes in the House, not to mention a trip through the Senate, where prospects for passage appear to be low. Governor Chris Sununu has also already stated his opposition.
The Senate will meet in session on Thursday, Jan. 18. The House has not scheduled its next session, but has asked members to hold Feb. 7 and possibly Feb. 8 open for possible session days.