Legislative Update: May 18, 2018
Talk to me
Committees of conference met up until the 4 pm Thursday deadline in their efforts to work out differences between versions of each bill passed by the respective chambers. Some measures, such as a bill revising animal cruelty statutes that stemmed from the mistreatment of great danes in Wolfeboro last year, died when conferees from the House and Senate could not agree on changes. Others, such as the so-called Christmas tree spending bill, were amended and adopted, although some changes did not please everyone. The full chambers will meet next week to affirm conference committee actions.
Trimming that tree
The committee of conference that met on the $100 million Christmas tree measure took some ornaments off the tree before reaching agreement on Thursday. House conferees had expressed objection to some of the Senate’s additions, leading to the elimination of sections relative to a tax credit for first-time homebuyers and congregate housing. In the end, the biggest items were all approved. They included $45 million in uncompensated care payments to hospitals as the result of a settlement, $30 million to repair red-listed highway bridges, $13 million for state employee pay raises and $10 million for the Rainy Day Fund.
You can bet on the Patriots, the Celtics or anybody else you want, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that the 1992 law banning sports betting everywhere except Nevada is unconstitutional. You’ll have to wait a bit, as New Hampshire must pass legislation to allow sports betting. New Jersey, which brought the Supreme Court case, will be ready to go within weeks, and several New England states are already on a fast track. Last year, lawmakers here approved legislation allowing Keno gaming in licensed restaurants and pubs, purchasing lottery tickets on mobile devices and home poker. It remains to be seen what path the state will take after the high court ruling, but legislation next session is a sure bet.
Help! I need somebody. Not just anybody
Governor Chris Sununu is asking the New Hampshire Supreme Court for assistance relative to the constitutionality of a voter residency bill that was passed by the legislature and is heading to his desk. The Executive Council on Wednesday voted 3-2 to approve the governor’s request to seek an advisory opinion, and the court has responded that it will examine the Governor’s questions. The fundamental issue is whether the state can draw a distinction for voting purposes between those who are deemed bona fide residents of the state, and those who are considered inhabitants or only maintain a part-time domicile here, such as students. Opponents contend the bill creates an illegal poll tax by requiring people to spend money to purchase a driver’s license and register their vehicle here. Governor Sununu stated he has concerns about the bill, but also said this week that if the court were to find the bill constitutional, he would find it hard not to sign it into law.
It’s all over but the shouting
Next week will mark the end of the regular 2018 legislative session. The House and Senate will meet next Wednesday, May 23, with the possibility of a session day on Thursday, May 24, if action on the committee of conference bills has not been not completed.