Legislative Update: March 9, 2018
Both the House and Senate held long sessions this week as they approach a March 22 deadline to trade remaining legislation between the two chambers. The House met on Tuesday and Wednesday, but postponed the Thursday session due to the snowstorm and will take up the remaining bills next week. The Senate met Thursday in a session that began late due to the snow and ran late as they dealt with a long docket and several major measures.
Medicaid moves ahead
The Senate passed a bill reauthorizing the Medicaid expansion program for five years. The bill is widely seen as perhaps the most important measure of the session. Supporters say a five-year extension, as opposed to the previous two-year extensions, is needed to create better predictability and to provide continuity of care, particularly with regard to opioid treatment. They noted that the state estimates future cost savings of several hundred million dollars over the coming years by moving the expansion population to the state’s managed care program. The new program includes some changes, such as a new name and a work requirement that includes some exemptions, making it more palatable to some members. The federal government has rejected work requirements in the past, but has recently shown some signs of flexibility with regard to other states’ proposals. The work requirement and some other provisions still need federal approval, which could come as early as the next few weeks. The bill now goes to the House, where significant debate is expected.
Senators join the ARMI
The Senate passed a bill that would provide a ten-year exemption from business taxes for companies that participate in the burgeoning regenerative manufacturing industry, and student loan forgiveness for workers in that industry. The Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute, an initiative of Manchester industrialist Dean Kamen, has a goal of developing and commercializing tissue and organ regeneration. The Defense Department, envisioning the project as an important advance for wounded service members, has provided an initial $80 million grant. ARMI hopes to continue to attract an array of new companies and employees to the Manchester area. Supporters believe the program will ultimately pay for itself as regenerating manufacturing companies become more profitable and contribute more to New Hampshire’s economy. The bill now goes to the Senate Finance Committee for further review.
On the clock
After extended debate, the Senate tabled a bill that would have required employers to give at least two weeks notice to employees for work schedules. Supporters said employees need additional notice to accommodate family responsibilities. Opponents said the requirement is unworkable for many businesses and micromanages the way employers run their businesses. The bill will likely remain tabled.
Two hellos and one goodbye
The Executive Council voted unanimously to confirm Associate Justice Robert Lynn as chief justice of the state Supreme Court. Justice Lynn will replace retiring Chief Justice Linda Dalianis. The council also voted unanimously to approve hanging the portrait of former councilor Dudley Dudley, the first female to serve on the executive council, in a spot yet to be selected in the State House. Councilor Dudley, now 81, served as a state representative and executive councilor in the 1970s. Commissioner Jeffrey Rose of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources announced this week that he will not seek reappointment. Rose served for five years, the first four as commissioner of the what had been known, until last year, as the Department of Resources and Economic Development. His term expires April 1.
The Senate will meet in session next Wednesday, March 14, and Thursday, March 15. The House will meet Thursday, March 15.