NH Week in Review for June 18: Pared budget heads to House and Senate for vote

Jun 18, 2017

The proposed state budget started at $12.1 billion when it was offered by Gov. Christopher Sununu back in February. It now stands at $11.7 billion with this week’s action by a conference committee of the House and Senate.

The two-year spending plan, set to go into effect July 1, goes first to the House then the Senate for votes on Thursday.

It is basically a Republican budget that will need full Republican support since Democrats -- a minority in both the House and Senate -- aren’t likely to offer much support for its passage.

“Democrats have made it very clear: We will not support a budget that asks working people to dig further into their wallets while the elite get more handouts,” said state Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Whitefield, the Senate Democratic Leader. “Unfortunately, our efforts to stand up for everyday people have been rejected at every turn. The reality is that this Trump-like, Republican budget agreement caves to the wealthy elite and ignores those who are most in need.”

The challenge among Republicans is with members of the Freedom Caucus, who don’t think the cuts in state spending have gone deep enough. “It fails to get anywhere near the numbers we were looking for,” said state Rep. Jim McConnell, R-North Swanzey, a leader of the House Freedom Caucus, in a Concord Monitor story here.

Among the highlights, the proposed budget lowers the Business Enterprise Tax to 0.50 percent by 2021, while the Business Profits Tax would decrease to 7.5 percent by that time. That compares to a BPT of 8.5 percent and a BET of 0.72 percent a year ago.

Funding for full-day kindergarten would come from revenue generated by the legalization of Keno in the state. Democratic leadership called the Keno-garten idea “a shell game.” Executive Council member Andru Volinsky questioned whether the use of Keno money violates the state Supreme Court mandate on school funding -- the so-called Claremont decision. See a WMUR story here.

The budget also includes an amendment that requires the state to seek a waiver from federal rules regarding Medicaid so that New Hampshire can impose a work or job training requirement on newly eligible adults.

See a Union Leader story on the budget here.

Bills signed by the governor

Forgive the governor if he complained of writer's cramp after he signed almost 50 bills into law this week.

He signed HB 400, which he said requires the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to develop a new comprehensive 10 year plan to improve mental health programs in the Granite State. The bill also addresses needed improvements within the state Division of Youth, Children, and Families (DCYF). See a Union Leader story here.

Needle exchange becomes legal in the Granite State as a result of Sununu signing SB 234. “The drug crisis is the most serious public health and safety issue facing New Hampshire and it remains critical that we continue supporting investments and resources in law enforcement, but also in prevention, treatment and recovery programs, which is why I am proud to sign SB 234 into law today, establishing a statewide needle exchange program. There is no doubt that this bill will save lives,” Sununu said. See an NHPR story here.

The governor also signed a bill - HB 437 -- that allows local police departments to release accident reports to people involved in those accidents. Interpretation of existing law as it relates to privacy led the state Department of Motor Vehicles to say all those reports had to come from it. See an NHPR story here.


A conference committee of representatives and senators failed to agree on a final version of a bill to set stricter limits on the amount of PFCs in water. Communities affected by contaminated water are disappointed, even angry. "No compromises, no discussion, just killed the bill," Laurene Allen, of Merrimack Citizens for Clean Water, said in a WMUR story. "So I'm really appalled at this."

The Safe Station program, started in Manchester and picked up in Nashua, gives drug users the opportunity to walk into any fire station and get immediate help to overcome their addiction. The program has been so successful that in Nashua aldermen have had to raise more funds out of the city’s contingency budget to pay for ambulance service and initial treatment at a recovery center. See an NH1 story here.

With the start of the boating season, state officials are reminding reminding boaters of a new law that went into effect this year that prohibits the transport of aquatic plants on their trailers and other measures aimed at combating the spread of invasive species. Violators could face fines up to $200. See an NHPR story here.

Gov. Sununu was in Washington, D.C., to speak with members of the cabinet of President Donald Trump, and he commented that members of the New Hampshire congressional delegation aren’t doing their jobs. Sununu is a Republican. U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, and U.S. Rep. Ann McClane Kuster are all Democrats. “My frustration with the federal delegation is that (in their view) everything about this administration is negative. Everything is about what can’t be done and what isn’t being done. I want to focus on what we can do,” Sununu said in a WMUR report.

Pieces are already falling into place for some upcoming political races in 2018. State Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, announced he will run for the U.S. House seat currently held by Shea-Porter. A Republican primary is shaping up now between Sanborn and  former law enforcement official Eddie Edwards of Dover. Other Republicans are likely to jump in. See a WMUR story here. And with her husband Andy running for Congress, his wife, state Rep. Laurie Sanborn, R-Bedford, said this week she will run for his state Senate seat. See a WMUR story here.

A Stoddard couple, charged with illegally feeding bears, argues that state Fish and Game policy needs to change. Richard Whitney and his wife Sandra Sherman have been warned by officials in the past about feeding bears. Whitney said his actions of “diversionary feeding” keep bears away from populated areas where they can be a nuisance. See a Union Leader story here.

Should New Hampshire's congressional delegation support statehood for Puerto Rico? Do you think the rights of gun owners should be expanded to allow the carrying of loaded long guns in vehicles? Those are some of the questions we’re posing for discussion on our Facebook page. Come join the conversation.


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