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On The Political Front: June 9th, 2014


On the Political Front this morning, NHPR's Josh Rogers talks about this year's legislative session, which wrapped up last week. 

Lawmakers passed some bills on contentious topics, but failed on others. And some notable names announced they won't seek office again.

The big bills that passed:

  • The expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. This took a great deal of work, with some Senate Republicans breaking with their party's platform, but in the end, about 50,000 New Hampshire residents will get coverage under the expanded program. The law also calls for the state to end the program if the federal government doesn't meet its promises on funding.
  • The gas tax increase. New Hampshire hadn't raised the gas tax since 1991. With the 4.2 cents increase passed this session, New Hampshire will still have the lowest gas tax in New England, but now there is funding for the completion of the widening of I-93.
  • The hand-held cell phone ban. Starting next year, New Hampshire drivers prone to talking on the phone while driving will have to use a hands-free device.

The big bills that failed:

  • Casinos in New Hampshire. Casino legislation was once again rejected by the House, though the margins were closer than ever.
  • Minimum wage increase. A bill to increase the state's minimum wage passed in the House but died in the state Senate
  • Repealing the death penalty. After a bill to repeal the death penalty cruised through the house, no one really knew what would happen in the Senate until the day of the vote. Every Democrat save for Manchester's Lou D'Allesandro voted for repeal, and every Republican save for Sam Caltaldo of Farmington and Bob Odell of New London voted to keep the death penalty. While the state hasn't put anyone to death since 1939, New Hampshire's lone death row inmate, Michael Addison, who killed Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs in 2006,  gave this year's debate a less theoretical quality than it has had in the past. 
  • Decriminalizing or legalizing recreational marijuana. This was another issue that the House agreed upon, with members of both parties expressing their comfort with letting people in N.H. use marijuana without fear of arrest. Not so in the Senate, however. Lawmakers also failed to pass any of the bills aimed at tweaking New Hampshire yet to be rolled out medical marijuana program. 

Lawmakers leaving the legislature:

A number of senior lawmakers announced they are stepping aside this session, including House Speaker Terie Norelli.

In the Senate, four people who have spent a lot of time passing bills in Concord will retire. Former Senate President Peter Bragdon is leaving. Another former Senate President, Sylvia Larsen, who is now minority leader and  represented the Concord area for 20 years, says it’s time to move on. Also retiring are Bob Odell of New London, chair of the ways and means committee, and Jim Rausch, who sponsored the gas tax bill, and who also did a lot of work on transportation and highway issues during his years in the House.  

We can expect the races to choose their successors to be lively, particularly the Democratic primary in Sylvia Larsen’s district, and for the Republican primary in Jim Rausch’s district.

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