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Democrats Face Long Odds in Overriding Sununu's Vetoes

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Lawmakers will return to Concord this month to try to salvage more than 50 bills vetoed by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, but the odds don't look good based on a review of past votes.

While Democrats control both the House and Senate, they need some Republican support to reach the two-thirds majority required to override a veto. Only three of the 53 vetoed bills originally passed the House by that margin. One of them — abolishing the death penalty — already has become law after lawmakers overrode the veto in May.

[N.H. Veto Tracker: Sununu Rejecting Record Number of Bills]

Another of the three bills would allow towns and cities to double the maximum surcharge on motor vehicle registration fees to $10. It passed the House with 70% support but fell one vote short of a veto-proof majority in the Senate.

The last would allow medical marijuana patients to get prescriptions even if they haven't had the same doctor or provider for three months. It had the support of three-quarters of House lawmakers, and in an early vote, 70% of senators. The final passage in the Senate, however, was a voice vote, meaning it's unclear how many lawmakers voted yes or no.

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House Speaker Steve Shurtleff, D-Concord, said he sees three vetoed bills as the most likely to be overridden: One bill would subsidize the state's biomass power industry; the second would raise the limit on how much solar and hydropower towns and businesses can generate and sell back to the regional electric grid; and the third would create an independent commission to redraw the state's legislative districts.

Republicans were involved in crafting a compromise on that bill.

"That wasn't a Democratic bill, that truly was bipartisan legislation," Shurtleff said.

Altogether, 19 of the 53 vetoed bills passed the House on voice votes. Of those, four had the backing of at least two-thirds of state senators. Those bills would change the definition of protected wetlands, create a voluntary system for registering docks with the department of environmental services, require state employees to be notified about their right to join labor unions, and modify the definition of political advocacy organizations.

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Five other bills that passed the House on voice votes failed to win two-thirds majorities in the Senate, while the remaining 10 passed both the House and Senate on voice votes.

Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester, agreed with Shurtleff that the redistricting bill might have a shot at passage. He also mentioned three gun-control bills as possibilities. The bills would establish background checks for commercial firearms sales, impose a waiting period between the purchase and delivery of a firearm, and prohibit firearms on school property.

"I honestly thought he would sign a couple of them or let them become law without his signature," he said. "I thought they had enormous public support."

Sununu vetoed just one bill in 2017 and six last year when his party controlled both the House and Senate. But Democrats won majorities in both chambers last fall, sparking a veto spree that has far outpaced the actions of past Democratic governors who faced Republican Legislatures.

Sununu has said he wasn't out to set a record but was left no choice because Democrats have passed "so many extreme bills."

The House is scheduled to meet Sept. 18 and Sept. 19, while the Senate will be in session Sept. 19.

-- Holly Ramer, Associated Press

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