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Full Day At The State House Underscores Tensions of Divided Government


Lawmakers voted on some major bills Thursday, involving guns, election law and, in the House, to override Governor Sununu's veto of the bill to repeal the death penalty. NHPR's Senior Political Reporter Josh Rogers kept tabs on all of the activity, and he joined Peter Biello to talk about the full day on All Things Considered.

So the death penalty override vote was the most anticipated item on the agenda today. In March, the House voted by a wide margin to get rid of capital punishment. Today backers for repeal got the two thirds margin that they needed to override, but by the slimmest of margins.

Very slim -- precisely one vote, and that was with House Speaker Steve Shurtleff casting a vote in favor of override. I was looking back at the vote and 28 Republicans who voted yes to the repeal in March flipped and voted no today. There were another three who backed repeal then and simply didn't vote today while they were in attendance. And you know the realities of people in the House [is] some show and some don't on any given days. But it couldn't have been closer.

Republicans, House leaders, and Governor Sununu were working this. The Governor made a big deal vetoing this -- when he did he went to the Michael Briggs Community Center in Manchester, flanked by about 40 law enforcement officials and people from police unions. He says this is a deterrent and something that protects police. The specter of Michael Addison's killing of Officer Briggs in 2006 in Manchester certainly always hangs over this debate in New Hampshire, but it didn't really come up much today on the floor. The effort to sway people really came down to seemingly stand with with the governor and stand with how we do things in New Hampshire. Hudson Republican Kimberly Rice spoke about her discernment process.

Well I voted in support of the repeal in the last vote. I found myself asking myself many questions. Mostly, I asked myself, 'Is this really a New Hampshire issue? Is this a problem in our state?' - Rep. Kimberly Rice

The Senate will take its vote next week on whether to upend the Governor's veto. What are you expecting from that Josh?

The bill passed the Senate in April 17 to 6. It had been thought the override would take place today, but a senator was out. It's been postponed. The variables in the Senate are a bit different than in the House. There's certainly less anonymity. It's hard to move folks on an issue as stark as capital punishment. There are two Democrats there, Kevin Cavanaugh Lou D'Allesandro both from Manchester, who favor the retention of capital punishment and the five Republicans who voted with the Democratic majority to get rid of capital punishment in April, some are quite staunch on this. John Reagan, Bob Giuda, Ruth Ward, Harold French -- they're gonna be hard to move based on their past remarks. David Starr who's the newest Republican in the Senate -- he voted for repeal in April. It's a little harder to know if he's movable, but we could know soon.

And in other votes today, some big gun bills did go to the Senate floor. Those passed along party lines. What do they do?

Yeah that's not a shock. One would create a waiting period on gun sales [for] three days, another would limit guns in schools, and another would create universal background checks. As is the case elsewhere, this is a real partisan issue where Democrats see policies such as these as what they like to refer to as quote common sense measures to keep people safe. Republicans see these as unneeded, as something that just will get in the way of law abiding citizens exercising their constitutional rights and that criminals won't follow them anyway. The Governor has said he favors gun laws as they are. It will be interesting to see what he does.

Speaking of partisan issues, there was some action on state election law.

Well in the House, Democrats passed a bill that would essentially create a carve out for college students and members of the military who meet residency requirements for voting to no longer have to meet residency requirements for motor vehicles. Republicans have sought to link motor vehicle laws to voting laws for some time and the idea that would you have to register your car, would you have to get a driver's license if you voted here. This law would exempt that. And again this is going to be interesting to watch the Governor. He has indicated comfort with voting laws as they are, Democrats certainly want this on the books, the Secretary of State Bill Gardner has said that he has concerns about you know creating carve outs for classes of citizens. But this debate over do you have to register your car here if your vote here has been going on for years and Democrats see this as something that amounts to a poll tax on college students. Republicans say this is simply making everyone play by the same rules.

So overall you know with these bills on guns, election law, the repeal of the death penalty in New Hampshire, these are big ticket issues for Democrats and they seem to be having some success so far.

Certainly, Democrats want to get these bills through. For Republicans, it's a sign that Democrats control the legislature. The Governor controls the corner office. How he chooses to play these issues is going to be interesting. But this is definitely a day that demonstrates that divided government is what we've got here in New Hampshire.

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