NH Senate approves lead remediation bill

Governor says he’ll sign ‘bipartisan, commonsense compromise’

On an 18-6 roll call vote, and without debate, the NH Senate on Thursday sent a bill to address lead hazards to Governor Sununu, who said he would sign the measure into law.

Senate Bill 247 calls for testing the blood levels of almost every child, unless families choose to opt out. It would also lower the standards that could trigger an investigation, and possibly an order for landlords to undertake an expensive mitigation.

But it would give landlords an early warning and let them know when levels are under that trigger. It would limit mitigation to apartments with young children and pregnant mothers and common areas. Previously, a landlord had to clean up all units.

It also would provide limited loan guarantees, though not the grants that landlords had expected when most of them backed the bill. Both landlords and bankers testified that the guarantees wouldn’t loosen up much financing and said the $6 million provided for guarantees falls way short of the expected cost of mediation.

Nevertheless, Sununu promised to sign the measure.

“SB 247 will allow every child in New Hampshire proper and prompt access to lead testing, and I applaud the New Hampshire Senate for concurring with the House on this bipartisan, commonsense compromise,” said Sununu. “I look forward to signing this significant legislation into law.”

“This is the most significant and comprehensive effort to date in New Hampshire to address the public health problem of childhood lead poisoning from paint and from water,” said Sen. Dan Feltes, D-Concord, prime sponsor of the bill.

Earlier, the House passed it, 266-87, after House Finance Committee Chair Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare, called it a “balance of our children and the interests of those who provide housing for them.” Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley motioned to accept the House changes and only six Republicans voted against it, although they included Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, and Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, who is running for Congress.

“This bill, while well intentioned, has several significant problems, including having no way to identify the source of the lead poisoning and no medical health response if lead levels are elevated,” said Sanborn in a statement. He also said that, “by putting this huge remediation expense directly and solely on landlords, which may not be the place where an individual ingested lead, will lead to significantly higher rents, negatively affecting the most economically vulnerable."

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