Beyond turkey sandwiches, lawmakers face lots of leftovers
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Turkey sandwiches are a post-Thanksgiving staple, but New Hampshire lawmakers will be dealing with leftovers of a different sort when they return to work in January.
Nearly 260 bills became law during the first year of the current Legislature’s two-year term, but lawmakers delayed action on more than 100 additional bills. That means they’ll have to deal with those during the upcoming session in addition to hundreds of new bills.
Though the Senate has longer, Thursday was the deadline for committees to take positions on bills retained in the House.
Some of their recommendations:
The House Education Committee this week narrowly approved an overhauled version of a Senate-passed bill that would allow parents to use public money to send children to private schools.
The bill would provide parents with the state’s basic per-pupil grant of roughly $3,000 to be used for private school tuition or home schooling. To qualify, parents would have to have a household income less than or equal to 300 percent of the federal poverty limit, live in an underperforming school district, have a child with an individual education plan or tried unsuccessfully to enroll a child in a charter school or get an education tax credit.
Opponents argued the program would violate the state Constitution, which says no person shall be compelled to pay to support a religious school.
The House Finance Committee last week recommended passage of a bill that would require health care providers to offer lead testing to all children age 2 and younger. The bill would also lower the threshold necessary to trigger mandatory action by landlords to remove harmful sources of lead.
The Senate-passed version of the bill would have provided $6 million in grants to property owners, but under the version recommended by the House committee, the money would come in the form of a guaranteed loan program with the state covering up to 60 percent of the cost. The change is opposed by some landlords who were counting on the grants.
A new law decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana took effect in September, but the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee is recommending killing a broader bill that would legalize its use at any quantity among adults and create a licensing system to allow it to be sold.
Supporters argue it would bring New Hampshire in line with other states, while opponents said legalization was the wrong move for a state in the midst of a drug crisis.
FOOD STAMPS ELIGIBILITY
The Senate passed a bill in March to tighten eligibility requirements for those applying for food stamps. It had been considerably watered down by the time the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee voted to recommend killing it in September. Under the amended version, parents of children under 18 would have to cooperate with child support enforcement rules in order to get food stamps. Opponents said it would unfairly punish families with delinquent parents.
GAY CONVERSION THERAPY
The House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee recommends nixing two similar bills that would prohibit a widely discredited type of therapy to change a minor’s sexual orientation. The bills would classify the use of “conversation therapy” on children as “unprofessional conduct” that could lead to disciplinary measures against therapists and physicians.
Democrats argued the bills were necessary to protect child safety. Republican committee members said they, too, oppose the practice but said banning it isn’t necessary because there is no evidence that anyone is practicing it.
The House Election Law Committee is recommending the full House reject five bills related to running for office, voter eligibility and voter registration. But members were unable to agree on whether the state should broaden its definition of a political advocacy organization.
Under a bill passed by the Senate, organizations would be required to register with the secretary of state’s office and file financial reports if they spent $5,000 or more per year on communication that refers to a candidate in any way within 60 days of an election. Current law requires registration only when such communication is likely to be interpreted as advocating for or against a candidate or measure.
Supporters argue it would address hate mail from out-of-state groups that hurts Republicans and Democrats alike, but opponents said the bill is too broad.