The Legislature is moving towards the halfway point, where legislation that has passed in the originating chamber crosses-over to the other chamber for another round of hearings and voting.
Some good things moving forward from the Senate include Medicaid expansion, broadband expansion, funding for disabilities waitlist, and funding for child welfare investigations and family support services, and foster care. This week we will be considering a state match so children whose family’s income is 85% above the poverty level are provided a free breakfast. This is the single greatest improvement is school outcomes we can make and it will cost the state only $345,000 a year because of federal funding. We’ll also consider assuring the rights of victims of violent crimes, Marsey’s Law.
Repealing the death penalty passed the Senate by a 14-9 margin, which is not veto proof. If the bill gets to the Governor and he vetoes it, there will need to be two more senators to vote in favor to overturn his veto. Many senators, including myself, argued the death penalty is immoral, our justice system is fallible, and life imprisonment is less expensive.
I introduced and won a floor amendment on placing a therapeutic marijuana satellite dispensary in Cheshire Co. I’ve been contacted by constituents stating they drive 2 hours to Lebanon only to find they can’t fill their prescribed amount and they pay too much. They’ve said it’s cheaper to buy the marijuana on the street. Remember, medically prescribed marijuana treats diagnosed illnesses and is an alternative to opioids. By placing the dispensaries so distant to this region, people believe the best option is to illicitly buy medically prescribed marijuana on the street or, in the future, illegally carry the marijuana across state lines from a store in Massachusetts.
Now we need to prepare for testimony in the House of Representatives. This means people in Cheshire County that would gain from a dispensary within an hour of their home need to testify or send written comments to the committee. Please contact me so we can coordinate a presentation for the House of Representatives hearing.
The Senate Education Committee this week recommended against granting local school boards the ability to determine whether or not to prohibit the possession of firearms in a safe school zone. Polarized views (guns keep us safe vs. I don’t feel safe worrying that guns could be carried into the school) blocked serious consideration of how such a ban might be effective. The bill comes to the floor this week and will be defeated by Republicans. I’ve visited with SAU 29 Keene area; SAU 93, Monadnock area; SAU 60, Fall Mountain area schools; and SAU 92, Hinsdale, and each of them has serious concerns and prefer local control. They are all taking steps to hold discussions on school safety and to apply for, and are receiving, grants for school safety improvements (door locks, security glass, alarm systems).
Several Republican Senators joined Democrats in voting against the prohibition on gender reassignment surgery. Gender dysphoria is a medically identifiable condition, signs of which can be observed at birth and can be diagnosed by the time children are 4 years old.
I co-sponsored a bill to increase by five-fold the amount of customer generated electricity that can be sold back to electrical utilities, from 1 megawatt to 5 megawatts. Think back a few years when there was a 4-fold increases to 1 megawatt and the contest that was. No contest this year. We won’t be studying decriminalizing sex work; I got a bunch of email against this, on which I agreed. Only 4 Senators voted for the study; they liked the provisions to study sex trafficking.
I’m sorry to go partisan, but my Senate Republican colleagues seem to be voting sometimes based upon outside influences. Three examples: My bill on temporary licensure of allied health professionals--licensed respiratory, physical, hearing, speech, and occupational therapist in surrounding states wanting to work in NH—has passed the Senate with an amendment. The original bill passed Health and Human Services 5-0, the full senate 24-0, and was routed into the Finance Committee. Despite having no fiscal impact, it was amended to apply to all licensed professions in NH. Amazing. We had researched allied health professional licensing in New England states, solicited the support of the licensure board and the Office of Licensing, done the fiscal analysis and provided testimony from hiring hospitals, nursing homes and state employment security regarding workforce shortages. The Finance Committee’s expansion of the bill to all 361 different licenses and certifications reviewed by 47 different boards occurred with no hearing, no support from licensing boards, no fiscal analysis, no workforce analysis, and no analysis of the requirements of other states. Even the Office of Professional Licensure and Certification was not notified until I sent them the amendment just prior to the Senate having to vote on the final bill. I was appalled and spoke on the floor to return to the original bill. There was absolutely no Republican support. I sought answers for where the push for ending licensure was coming from; the answer was the Heritage Institute and Americans for Prosperity. Imagine that a guardian-ad-litem from out of state could receive temporary licensure in NH and be appointed to take care of children and elderly. The violations that could occur are beyond my comprehension. I’ll try to return the bill to its original narrow focus when it is considered in the House, but the
fix is in.
Another appalling bill is the repeal of the interest and dividends tax. It would reduce the State’s revenue by $100 million a year when fully implemented. I rose to say it was irresponsible to offer this reduction without also telling our taxpayers from where spending reductions would occur. No response was given. In response to the point that this would make the state more attractive, I offered the fact that NH has the 7th most millionaires per capita among the 50 states and the highest median income. Our policies must be working without this senseless bill. Every Republican Senator voted for this bill.
Another crazy vote aimed at prohibiting deferred action for childhood arrivals, DACAs, from enrolling in adult education courses. However, the bill, SB 525, is so poorly written that it prohibits anyone not a legal resident, including those on a legal path to citizenship (green card and asylum seekers), from taking adult ed courses, which include English speaking, literacy, and workforce training courses. These points were made in the committee hearing by the NH Dept. of Education, 3 adult education directors, and Catholic Charities. In total, 85 of 88 people signed in were against the bill. In spite of my reiterating these points and my calling this nothing more than an anti-DACA bill, the bill passed on a straight party vote. It’s unclear who is behind this hateful bill.
The House is considering SB 193, school vouchers, this week. There’ are hundreds of more legislation being considered. Please keep in touch if you have interests to share.