Legislative Update – June 14, 2019
The House and Senate both met in session on Thursday to hear recommendations from their own committees and to respond to messages on concurrence and requests for committees of conference from the chamber on the other side of the wall. Among other bills, the two bodies concurred on the $125 million capital budget, which will now go to the Governor.
He has spoken
Governor Chris Sununu this week laid out what he says he will and will not accept when the biennial budget arrives at his desk at the end of the month. Clear: if the budget contains a mandatory (i.e., funded by payroll deductions) paid family and medical leave act, he will use his veto pen. If the budget also contains additional rollbacks of scheduled business tax cuts, he will veto it. Both the House and Senate budgets currently contain those provisions. Less clear: what will happen with issues where Sununu has hinted at possible compromise, such as education funding, stabilization grants, a new secure psychiatric hospital, infrastructure spending and Medicaid reimbursement rates. Last week the Governor vetoed a $3 million Senate bill that provided for a short-term increase in certain Medicaid provider reimbursement rates, saying it should have been a budget item, not a bill, and the Senate sustained the veto on Thursday.
The two legislative chambers will get down to brass tacks next week with committee of conference meetings to see if differences in bills they each amended, some slight and some significant, can be reconciled. The budget tops the priority list. The House budget contains an extension of the interest and dividends tax into capital gains taxes, while the Senate version does not. The Governor says it is a new tax and he opposes it. The House will likely go along with Senate changes to a tobacco tax proposal in the Governor’s original budget and proposed changes to the Communications Services tax, but they have retained bills on both those issues if they decide to take further action.
Box ban fans
The House and Senate agreed to concur on a bill banning employers from using a check box or otherwise asking job applicants about criminal history in the opening round of the application process. The question can still be asked later. Some business interests have raised concerns about the bill and possible unintended consequences. Supporters say the bill will give deserving applicants a fair chance to find productive work.
Carbon: good in diamonds, bad in the air
The House Science, Technology and Energy Committee met this week to begin discussing retained bills, and carbon emissions pricing emerged as the issue the committee felt will present the biggest challenge. Given the difficulties of a regional cross-border program, the subcommittee will deliberate on turning the bill into a resolution asking Congress to create a national pricing system. The committee is holding other bills, including one on net metering and another on renewable portfolio standards, in the event the Governor vetoes similar legislation. Vetoes will likely be considered in September and the committee has until November 14 to make recommendations on the bills for next session.
Up in the air?
For the first time in many takeoff attempts over the past several years, a bill on drone regulation will be landing on a Governor’s desk. After an unenthusiastic 8-8 vote in committee, the full House somewhat surprisingly passed a bill that will allow the state to apply Federal Aviation Administration rules to drones. Some House Transportation Committee members felt the bill was not ready for prime time, some business interests are concerned about regulation and Governor Sununu’s position is unknown.
The House and Senate will meet in session on Thursday, June 27, to take final action on committee of conference reports.