Legislative Update – March 29, 2019
The Senate this week met a self-imposed deadline to act on all their legislation. House committees used the week to vote out all remaining measures other than budget bills. The House Finance Committee divisions worked to finalize their budget recommendations and the full Finance Committee will report them out this coming Wednesday. Other House committees finished with remaining legislation that will be acted on this week.
A billion here
The Executive Council this week approved almost $1 billion in contracts to fund services within the Medicaid managed care program. The vote was 4-1. The council added a third managed care company to the Medicaid mix, which provides about 180,000 low-income residents with health care. Governor Chris Sununu supported approval of the contracts.
A couple million there
The Senate voted to pass and then lay on the table several appropriation bills. Tabling the bills was a strategic move that establishes the Senate position and gives a blueprint for likely amendments that can be introduced once the body has control of the budget. The appropriations include millions for an assistance program for grandparents caring for children, upgrades to substance use disorder treatment facilities, deployment of a statewide threat notification system for schools, juvenile diversion programs and the construction of new mental health facilities.
Where there’s smoke, there’s tax revenue
The House Ways and Means Committee voted to revise the methods that would be used to tax legalized recreational marijuana, should it become law. The committee proposed taxing cannabis at 5% at the cultivation or wholesale level, and 9% at retail. The committee estimates the new proposed tax structure could produce even more than the $20 million to $31 million that was in the original forecast. The method of taxation is also consistent with other existing taxes. The bill itself would legalize possession of up to an ounce of cannabis, but Governor Sununu has promised to veto the measure. Meanwhile, the House Ways and Means and Finance committees worked to reconcile proposed new taxes on e-cigarettes and other tobacco products with language in Governor Sununu’s budget that would do the same. The Ways and Means committee voted to hold one such bill in order to work on taxation issues and see what other states are doing. Meanwhile, the Finance Committee recommended implementing the licensing of vape shops but delaying implementation of the tax until July 1, 2020, to give the Ways and Means committee the summer to work on taxation.
I’ll follow the sun
The Senate passed several pieces of legislation to encourage continued growth in the state’s renewable energy industries, particularly solar. Net metering legislation that passed would increase the number of low to moderate community solar projects and allow larger producers to take advantage of net metering. Proponents said this would encourage net metering and thereby reduce peak demand and allow projects to sell excess power back into the electric grid. Opponents said the bills may increase ratepayer costs. The Senate also passed several bills modifying the Renewable Portfolio Standards. The changes increase the solar obligations through 2025 and both solar and wind obligations beyond 2025, in hopes of improving the future for renewable industries.
We can work it out…we hope
The Senate passed legislation along party lines that makes changes to New Hampshire’s expanded Medicaid work requirement. The work requirement has been at the heart of negotiations over the Medicaid program, and its inclusion last session won Republican support and led to the fragile bi-partisan compromise that allowed Medicaid expansion to go forward. Citing two court cases from this past week in which other states’ work requirements were struck down, Democrats said the changes improve the existing provisions. The new bill creates exemptions for parents of young children and a contingent repeal of the requirement if 500 beneficiaries become ineligible for failing to meet the requirement. Republicans continued to say the existing law is best for the state and the other states’ work provisions were struck down by the courts for technical reasons. The debate will now move to the House.
The Senate will not meet in session this week in order to give committees an extra day to work on the many House bills coming over. The House will meet in session on Thursday, April 4th and must act on all House bills except the budget bills. The House has until April 11 to act on budget bills.