Legislative Update – June 7, 2019
Just in time
As the clock wound down toward midnight on Thursday, the Senate, in the nick of time, passed their own version of the biennial budget on a 14-10 party line vote. Republican senators offered 21 amendments, all of which were rejected. The GOP continues to object to the inclusion of a mandatory paid family and medical leave program and a rolling back of business tax cuts, among other items. The Senate and House will now confer to see if they can agree on a measure to send to Governor Chris Sununu. The two chambers have their differences, among them the fact that the House budget includes $60 million more than the Senate for education funding.
The answer is blowin’ in the wind
Speculation about whether Governor Chris Sununu will sign or veto the 2020-2021 Biennial Budget has been swirling as wildly as the high winds that hit the state early this week. Just weeks ago, many bets were on a veto. More recently, State House rumors had enquiring minds thinking about compromise and the possibility of a budget the Governor would like. But by this week, to sign or not to sign was once again the question.
The House on Wednesday approved two high-visibility measures. Members gave the nod to a bill to increase the minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2021 and one to ease work requirements that were part of the bi-partisan agreement to extend the Medicaid expansion program last year. Both bills were amended by the House, but the question of whether they will both go to committees of conference has yet to be settled. Governor Sununu has stated his opposition to the Medicaid bill, which did not pass either chamber with a veto-proof majority.
Once more unto the breach
As he did last year, Governor Sununu this week vetoed a bill to raise the limit on net metering, which is the cap on how much solar and hydropower projects can sell back to the energy grid. The bill would increase the cap from the current one megawatt to five megawatts. The Governor said the bill would put more of a burden on residential ratepayers to subsidize large-scale developers. Supporters said the measure would allow larger users and municipalities to self-generate their own power and provide local property tax relief. Last year the Senate voted to override the Governor’s veto, but the House failed to follow suit. The bill had bipartisan support again this year.
High Wire Act
A win is a win, especially in federal court. The state Lottery Commission this week was victorious in U.S. District Court in a lawsuit over the legality of online lottery sales. A loss could have put in jeopardy the almost $5 million the sales bring in annually for education. The decision reverses an earlier federal Department of Justice opinion that such activity violated the 1961 Wire Act.
Tell it to the chief justice
Governor Sununu this week nominated Attorney General Gordon MacDonald to be the state’s next Supreme Court Chief Justice. If confirmed by the Executive Council, MacDonald will replace Chief Justice Robert Lynn, who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 this August. MacDonald, 57, is Governor Sununu’s third nomination to the state’s high court, following current sitting justices Anna Barbara Hantz Marconi and Patrick Donovan.
The House and the Senate will meet in session next Thursday, June 13. The two bodies were not able to address concurrences at this week’s sessions and will be taking them up next week along with forming committees of conference.