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N.H. Lawmakers Knock Down 7 of Lynch's Vetos, Uphold 6

Amanda Loder

Wednesday the New Hampshire House and Senate overrode seven of Gov. John Lynch’s vetoes and allowed six to stand.

The voting came rapid-fire in the Senate, which made it through seven of its own bills in the morning, and then waited for the House to work through its backlog in the afternoon. The House votes came at a statelier pace at first, but then picked up after lunch. At the end of the day seven of Lynch's vetoes were knocked down, and six allowed to stand.

The governor’s veto of medical marijuana was one of the first to be upheld. Republican Jim Forsythe, who has championed the bill, called it a good bill that has been through the wringer. He argues that some people are already self-medicating with marijuana.

Forsythe: So what do these patients that are doing it do right now. Well it’s a big crime to cultivate marijuana yourself, it’s less of a crime for possession. So they don’t cultivate it themselves they go to the drug-dealers for it.

That argument convinced thirteen of Forsythe’s colleagues, but not the other ten.

Senate Minority Leader Sylvia Larson says concerned police officers swayed her vote.

Larson: I have come to believe that we are challenging our own law enforcement if we push this through now, and I believe we can work on this further through the next session and perhaps craft a more tightly controlled bill.

But Lynch’s victory on medical marijuana was one of only a few on high profile bills. Most of the high visibility proposals – a ban on late term abortions, voter ID laws, and a bill allowing expedited settlement of medical malpractice suits – became law over the governor’s veto.

One keystone of the Republican agenda was passed over democratic opposition, not once, but twice. Lawmakers passed both the House and Senate versions of a bill that creates a new tax credit for businesses that donate to not-for-profit school scholarship organizations. It creates scholarships that can be used by public school students moving to private schools – including religious schools – or an out of district public school.

Democrats like Senator Lou D’Allesandro hammered away on this bill and called it unconstitutional. That’s a concern that has sunk similar proposals.

D’Allesandro: This is a voucher system in disguise, make no mistake about it, this is a voucher system.

And while Republicans labored to distinguish the tax-credit plan from a voucher system, even some Republicans, such as Representative Steve Vaillancourt, were not convinced.

Vaillancourt: I’m not against vouchers. I think it’s a very good thing. Just like I’m not against guns, I don’t have a gun, I don’t want a gun, but I don’t care if you have one. But I don’t think I should have to buy your gun. Just like I don’t think if you want to go to a religious school, I should have to pay for you to do that.

But in the end, most all House and Senate Republicans agreed with Representative Rick Ladd, and overrode the governor’s veto.

Ladd: What are we here for? Are we here to funnel money into public education or are we here to help a child learn. That’s what it’s all about.

The governor did have some small victories.

Vetoes of bills proposing fetal homicide laws, and requiring legislative approval of collective bargaining deals were upheld. Also the veto of  bill regulating the commercial use of a person’s identity, a bill spurred by JD Salinger’s son was upheld.

At the end of the day, Senate Minority leader Sylvia Larson released a statement signaling her disappointment with the day’s actions. But for the Republicans it was a day of record overrides and victories to end a contentious session.

Sam Evans-Brown has been working for New Hampshire Public Radio since 2010, when he began as a freelancer. He shifted gears in 2016 and began producing Outside/In, a podcast and radio show about “the natural world and how we use it.” His work has won him several awards, including two regional Edward R. Murrow awards, one national Murrow, and the Overseas Press Club of America's award for best environmental reporting in any medium. He studied Politics and Spanish at Bates College, and before reporting was variously employed as a Spanish teacher, farmer, bicycle mechanic, ski coach, research assistant, a wilderness trip leader and a technical supporter.

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