Legislative Preview: On the calendar for New Hampshire lawmakers this week

Cannabis legalization, vaccines bills up for votes

New Hampshire State House, Nh, UsaLegalization of cannabis, allocating millions for infrastructure and a mixed bag of bills related to vaccines are among on the agenda for New Hampshire lawmakers this week they catch up on many bills they didn’t get a chance to vote on last week.


Tuesday, April 26

On Tuesday, the House Science, Energy and Technology Committee will be voting on Senate Bill 271, which would all but require that the state Public Utilities Commission rule that ratepayers should subsidize the Burgess BioPower facility in Berlin, in order to provide reliable renewable energy to the grid, as well as buy up low-grade wood for the local forest industry.

Meanwhile the House Finance Committee will be voting on a number of off budget funding bills:

  • SB 371, which appropriates $3 million lead paint hazard remediation fund which reimburses landlords who get the lead out of their building
  • SB 445, which would appropriate $122 million of federal broadband funds for a matching grant program for municipalities and broadband providers, that put up 25 percent towards a project
  • SB 412, which would allocate $5 million to increase nursing home reimbursement rates
  • SB 422, which would use most of the $21 million Centene settlement, having to do with pharmacy benefits, to fund dental Medicaid benefits.

The Finance Committee will also continue to vote on spending the next afternoon when it considers SB 401, which would allocate $77 million to towns and cities, for roads and bridges and $1 million for State Police dashboard and body cameras. That would come from the general fund in additional to highway funds.

It also will vote on SB 407, which would allocate $200,000 to expand Medicaid to include postpartum health services, an attempt to sure up hospitals’ maternity programs in rural areas

The House Finance Committee also plans to vote on SB 438, which would require the state only buy American-made steel for big construction projects. Last week, the full House already voted for the bill, 170-151, over objections of protectionism. But the Finance Committee has to weigh in, since the measure could drive up the cost of state contracts.

Wednesday, April 27

On Wednesday morning, the House Municipal and County Government Committee is scheduled to finally vote on SB 400 – perhaps the year’s most significant workforce housing bill – which provides incentives for municipalities that are affordable housing “champions” as well as set stricter timelines to speed up approval of developments. The House rejected a similar bill last year despite the support of the governor, housing advocates and business groups, particularly in the real estate and construction industries.

The House Commerce Committee plans to vote on SB 355 which would require online marketers like Amazon to disclose sales of high volumes of certain merchandise. The bill, strongly supported by the NH Retail Association, would help law enforcement track down criminal operations that buy up stolen merchandise from brick-and-mortar stores and dispose of it online.

And it plans to vote on SB 319, which would allow insurance companies to provide incentives to those who get the Covid vaccine, similar to the incentives provided for weight loss, exercising and smoking cessation. The committee voted on the measure last week, but it ended up in a tie vote, due to a missing committee member. Usually in such cases the committee sends the bill to the full House without recommendation, but its chair – Rep. John Hunt, R-Rindge, decided to hold it so as to reconsider the vote because he felt strongly that few people would be motivated to get the vaccine for money, and thereby the incentives would be wasted and drive up the cost of insurance. Democrats objected, arguing that it was enabling legislation and that insurance companies would offer the incentive because that cost would easily be outweighed by the savings in treating fewer unvaccinated patients for Covid.

Thursday, April 28

The full Senate is expected to vote on the House’s vaccine bills on Thursday: House Bill 1099, which would prohibit the state from requiring vaccine passports and HB 1606, which would make the state vaccine registry an opt-in program. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee backed both bills.

The Senate also plans to take up two cannabis bills. It will probably reject HB 1598, which would have legalized the weed, but only allow the state Liquor Commission to sell it. The Ways and Means Committee voted 5-0 against it, partly because they disagreed with legalization, and partly because they objected to giving a monopoly to the state, rather than let private businesses sell it. But it might pass HB 629, which would legalize possession and limited home cultivation. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 3-2 that it ought to pass.

It also looks like the Senate will turn a bill that would prohibit banks and businesses from discriminating against people for ideological reasons into a study committee. Business groups strongly support killing the bill because they don’t believe the state should be telling them who they can’t do business with.

The Senate will also probably ditch a couple of House renewable energy bills. The Energy and Natural Resources Committee unanimously urged the Senate to reject altogether HB 1599 and HB 1629, which would cut the rate that utilities pay those who participate in the program for any excess energy they send to the grid.

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