Legislative Update – May 24, 2019
Death penalty repeal
By a single vote, the House on Thursday moved to override Governor Chris Sununu’s veto of the death penalty repeal bill. The 247-123 tally was just enough to meet the two-thirds majority requirement. While the outcome was widely expected, the closeness was more of a surprise. The Senate did not take up the veto this week. The House result adds to speculation as to whether the Senate, which initially approved the measure by a veto-proof margin, will override the Governor.
Minimum wage and maximum disagreement
The House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee on Thursday amended the Senate minimum wage bill to keep alive House positions that are part of a bill the Senate is poised to re-refer to committee. The bill divided the Labor committee, resulting in a 12-8 party line vote. It now heads to the full House. The amendment also creates a schism with Democrats in the Senate. It unties the wage rate from a requirement for employer-offered sick leave and sets the wage for tipped employees at 50% of the applicable minimum, as opposed to the $4 per hour the Senate approved.
Depends on your views: safety enhancements or infringements
The Senate on Thursday reversed legislative policy of recent years and approved three restrictions on firearms. All three passed on 13-10 party line votes. The bills were a waiting period of three days before delivery of a purchased firearm (with some exemptions), a bill giving school boards the authority to restrict firearms in school zones and a requirement for background checks at on commercial sales, such as those at gun shows. All three bills have been amended and must go back to the House for consideration of the Senate changes.
A bi-partisan group of senators and representatives gathered to watch Governor Sununu sign a bill aimed at ending the boarding of mental health patients at hospital emergency rooms and relieving overcrowding at New Hampshire Hospital. The measure puts $10 million toward provider rates for involuntary psychiatric admissions, additional Designated Receiving Facility beds and other mental health services. Despite the show of legislative unity, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the bill does not go far enough. The ACLU refused to drop the federal lawsuit it has filed relative to individuals in emergency rooms who are waiting for placement.
Our business now…is North
Governor Sununu this week signed into law a measure it is hoped will help redevelopment efforts at the Balsams resort. The bill allows for creation of tax financing districts in unincorporated areas and will facilitate the issuance of the bonds that will finance the redevelopment. The popularity of ATV recreation in recent years has begun to help revitalize the North Country economy, which was left moribund by the collapse of the mill industry. Many see the prospective reopening of the Balsams, closed since 2011, as another major step forward in rebuilding business opportunity in the North.
Long Train Runnin’
The House Public Works and Highways Committee heard testimony this week on a familiar subject: the expansion of commuter rail service in the southern part of the state. The bill has already passed the Senate this session. The measure would allow the state to use federal funds for the project development phase of rail expansion connecting Massachusetts and the “Capitol Corridor” that would include Nashua, Manchester and Concord. The hearing came on the heels of a St. Anselm College poll that found 75% of residents questioned were in support of rail expansion.
The Senate will meet in session next Thursday, May 30th. The House will meet on Wednesday, June 5th and Thursday, June 6th.