Legislative Update March 10, 2017

Legislative Update March 10, 2017

The House and Senate each met in session this week, with the House sessions running into the evening on both Wednesday and Thursday. Senate committees, facing deadlines, worked to finish all bills with fiscal notes attached. Those bills must go to the Senate Finance Committee before final Senate action on them.

Wednesday and Thursday in the House: 

Transgender bill: By fewer than ten votes, the House voted to table a bill that would bring transgender individuals under state anti-discrimination laws. The bill attracted large crowds of supporters to the State House, but if the margin of the vote to table is any indication, the measure will not pass this year. The close vote suggests that the two thirds majority now needed for passage is not achievable.

Sit back and enjoy the flight: The House passed a bill regulating government and private drone use. Drone bills have passed the House in recent years, but concerns on the part of business and industry interests have resulted in Senate amendments that have been unacceptable to the House. Supporters hope this year’s version will bring agreement.

’Til death do us part…which may take a while: The House effectively killed a bill to raise the age at which people may marry to age 18. Currently, with court approval, girls can legally marry at age 13, while boys must wait to age 14.

Foreclosure: The House killed a bill that would have required financial institutions to verify that homeowners had received notice of a pending foreclosure.

Not just for Grateful Dead concerts anymore: The House passed a bill decriminalizing the possession and use of small amounts of marijuana by a wide 318-26 margin. Decriminalization bills have passed the House in recent years, only to die in the Senate. But with so many new members in that chamber, it will be interesting to see what happens this year. If the bill passes, it could well become law, as Governor Chris Sununu is the first governor in recent years to support decriminalization.

Laissez les bon temps rouler: The House passed a bill allowing keno gaming in establishments that hold a liquor license. Keno bills have a history of passing the House but failing in the Senate.

Ne laissez pas les bon temps rouler: The Senate Ways and Means Committee voted to recommend killing a bill authorizing two casinos in the state.

Waiting for Washington

With Congress apparently poised to make changes to tax and health care policy, the state legislature is in a holding pattern with regard to some legislation touching those areas.  The Senate this week voted to re-refer to committee several business tax bills, citing a need to see what will be coming down from Washington. Committees followed suit. The Senate Ways and Means Committee held onto a bill that would reduce the Business Profits Tax. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed a bill extending Medicaid expansion by another two years, with the understanding that the full Senate will table the bill pending more information on expected changes to the federal Affordable Care Act.

The minimum is still the minimum

The Senate Commerce Committee voted along Republican-Democratic party lines to recommend killing a bill to establish a state minimum wage of $8.50 per hour. Currently the state does not have a state minimum wage and instead follows the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The House rejected a similar bill during its Thursday session.

The Senate will meet in session next Thursday, March 16. The next House session will be on Thursday, March 23.