RAYMOND - Some of the House bills of interest the past couple weeks include:
HB-247-FN - increasing compensation for wrongful incarceration. Bill provides that a person who is wrongfully incarcerated shall be eligible for compensation of $20K per year of incarceration, rather than the current limit of $20K total. Surprisingly, this bill came out of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety on a 10-9 vote, but was voted on the House floor OTP VV (OTP Ought to Pass VV- voice vote), without a floor debate.
HB-161 - relative to school district policies on health and sex education. Bill allows parents to opt-out of sex education lessons in the health curriculum for religious objections and personal beliefs. Bill passed OTP-A D 246-106 (-A amended D division vote).
HB-118 - providing legal immunity for 911 calls for drug or alcohol related emergencies. Bill provides civil and criminal immunity for any person who in good faith places a call through the enhanced 911 system to report a suspected drug or alcohol related emergency. Immunity would only be for a few enumerated crimes; possession, control, or transportation, but not for any other charges, such as distribution or DWI. Bill passed OTP-A D 245-107. I voted no as I believe that it would give “A Get Out of Jail Free” card to drug dealers.
HB-483-FN - relative to information regarding abortion. This bill would have required abortion providers to provide females seeking an abortion with information to assist them in their decision making. The patient would have to sign a written statement that they received the information. Bill also required a 24 hour waiting period, prior to having the abortion. Bill failed ITL RC 229-121 (ITL inexpedient to legislate). I voted against killing the bill as it was a pro-educational/ pro-choice bill.
HB-362 - banning corn-based ethanol as an additive to gasoline sold in New Hampshire. It also bans the sale of gasoline containing corn-based ethanol as an additive in NH. Bill passed OTP VV.
HB-599-FN - relative to establishing a single liquor commissioner. Bill replaces the members of the liquor commission from the current three to one, bringing the commission into line with the structure of most other departments. It also would broaden the experience requirement of the commissioner to “significant business and retail experience”, and clarifying the existing language barring any interest in the liquor or beverage business, if it meant any financial interest. Bill passed OTP-A VV.
HB-501-FN - relative to the minimum wage. Bill establishes a state minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, or that set forth in the federal minimum wage law. Bill passed OTP-A RC 200-133.
HB-271 - stating that New Hampshire will not accept expanded Medicaid. This was a good bill that the Democrats pushed to kill. It would have: (1) prohibited the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services from expanding Medicaid pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009, Public Law 111-148. (2) by not passing, Medicare will cost our State $85M to implement. (3) The federal government has indicated that it will fully fund the expanded coverage for 3 years, then drop to 90%, which means we are on the hook for the other 10%. (4) for the past 10 years, the federal government hasn’t been able to commit, at any level, to expanding coverage. Funding now, to me, is questionable. Testimony at hearings showed the state budget will require at least $15M annually from 2014-19 and subsequently an additional $50-100M annually to service the Medicaid pretense. Democrats killed the bill ITL RC 206-155. In Rockingham County, all the Democrats, and Republican Charles McMahon voted to kill the bill. All other Rockingham Republicans voted against the ITL.
HB-630-FN - repealing the New Hampshire regional greenhouse gas initiative program (RGGI). We really need to get out of this multi-state regional joke to tax ratepayers on their electric bill, to buy carbon allowances, so they can use the money elsewhere. As amended, this bill requires the PUC to allocate at least 20%, from the energy efficiency to the low-income core energy efficiency program, from tax money you paid in on your electric bill. After Republicans failed to kill amendment, bill then passed OTP-A RC 204-153.
HB-659-FN-A - increasing the tobacco tax. This bill, as amended: (1) increases the tax on cigarettes by 20 cents, the 10 cents we took away last term, and 10 cents more, which will increase the tax to $1.88 per pack. (2) increases the tax on tobacco products, other than cigarettes, from a rate of 48% to 53.7% of the wholesale price. These increases will not only be a real competitive disadvantage in attracting cross border sales, but because of those not traveling to NH for tobacco, will effect: retail, restaurants, lottery sales, and more. Democrats pushed the bill, passing it OTP-A RC 193-167. Along with the Democrats, Rockingham Cty Republican representatives; Copeland, Grace, Khan, St. James, and Danais also voted for passage. We also had 11 Republicans, plus the Speaker, who were non-voting.
HB-390 - allowing companion dogs in the outdoor areas of restaurants. This enabling legislation permits restaurant owners to allow customers to have companion dogs on an outdoor patio, as long as customer service dogs have priority. Bill passed RC 307-25.
HB-575 - relative to hours of sales of on-premises liquor licenses. This bill aligns the closing hours of NH on-premises licensees with the 2:00 a.m. closing hours in bordering states. As amended, it allows cities and towns local control to decide if they wish to allow the extra hour of operation. Business owners that were in violation of RSA179:5, within the past 3 years, will not be allowed to remain open for the extra hour. Bill passed OTP-A RC 208-123. I supported the bill as it will give 2nd shift workers a little more time to relax, thus, it’s good for business.
(Editor’s Note: NH State Representative Mike Kappler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)