Legislative Update: March 23, 2018
No snow in the forecast
A threatened snowstorm did not materialize this week, allowing legislators in both chambers to meet in session Wednesday and Thursday. Lawmakers finished their work in time for Crossover, the deadline to exchange all remaining bills, which came at the end of the day Thursday. Crossover marks the unofficial halftime of the legislative session.
All in the family
In an action that surprised some, the House on Thursday reversed a Finance Committee majority recommendation on the family medical leave bill. Members rejected a proposed amendment that would have mandated an employer-run family medical leave program for all employees. The amendment failed by 19 votes, leading to the adoption of the underlying bill. As passed, HB 628 allows for six weeks of paid family medical leave insurance for qualified employees through a program run by the state Department of Employment Security. Governor Chris Sununu, a supporter of a paid medical leave program, has voiced concerns about the long-term solvency of the program as currently proposed. The measure now goes to the Senate.
Fish gotta swim, drones gotta fly
The House killed a bill that would have put regulations on drone use, despite an offer by the sponsor to amend the bill on the floor and fix objections that had been raised in committee. Similar drone legislation has been offered repeatedly in recent years. It has passed the House several times, only to be shot down in the Senate. Business and industry interests have opposed the bill out of concerns that it might hamper some of their operations by way of excessive requirements.
Just say no
The House voted to reject a bill that would have required property sellers and agents to identify all potential contamination sources and environmental hazards on or within a mile of the property, as well as provide test results. The bill was viewed as unrealistic and overly burdensome. For similar reasons, the House sustained a committee recommendation and killed a measure that would have required bottled water to be labeled with the results of testing for 24 chemicals. Committee testimony revealed that significant testing is already done by water companies, and that companies would balk at creating a New Hampshire-specific label.
The House picked between two proposals to deal with declining gas tax revenues, passing a measure that charges a road usage fee at registration time based on the MPG of the vehicle. The plan, which supporters say is a fair way of ensuring that drivers of higher mileage and alternative fuel vehicles contribute to road maintenance, is expected to bring an additional $21 million into the Highway Fund.
ARMI coming ashore in the House
For a second time, the full Senate passed a bill that supporters say will open doors in the Millyard section of Manchester to new companies and employees involved in the regenerative manufacturing industry. The bill had previously gone through a policy committee, the full Senate, and most recently the Senate Finance Committee before getting a final nod from the full Senate on Thursday. The measure now goes to the House. Industrialist Dean Kamen initiated the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI) with the goal of commercializing organ and tissue regeneration. The Defense Department has provided a seed grant based on expectations of benefits for wounded military personnel, and expanded possibilities are foreseen for society as a whole as the industry develops. From a local perspective, the project is seen as furthering the ongoing renaissance in the Millyard district and having the potential for enormous benefits for New Hampshire’s economy.
And the nominees are…
Governor Sununu this week nominated former state prosecutor Patrick Donovan of Salem to join the New Hampshire Supreme Court as an associate justice. Donovan has been in private practice running his own law firm for almost ten years. Additionally, he had served as legal counsel to the New Hampshire House of Representatives. Governor Sununu also nominated political and public affairs consultant Sarah Stewart of Manchester to be the next commissioner of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Stewart is a founder of a full-service project management and public relations consulting firm. She would replace Commissioner Jeff Rose, whose term ends June 1.
The House and Senate will meet in session on Thursday, April 5.