Continuing Coverage: State Lawmakers Fail To Override Sununu Vetoes on Voting, Biomass Bills

1 hour ago

Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

(This is a developing story. Check back during the day for updates.)

11:20 AM:

State lawmakers have narrowly upheld the governor's veto of a new subsidy plan for New Hampshire's small biomass power plants. The proposal was attached to a bill that would have set up a study committee on microgrids.

The 251 to 132 vote fell about four votes short of the two-thirds majority needed for an override. It shows wood-fired energy remains a tightly contested, bipartisan sticking point in New Hampshire politics.

Last year, House lawmakers succeeded in overturning a veto of a similar proposal by just one vote. But the law quickly stalled amid a federal challenge. After months of delay, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is scheduled to take up that case tomorrow

11:06 AM:

State lawmakers have upheld Governor Sununu's vetoes on three contentious bills, including two focusing on voter registration.

In a statement, Dick Hinch, the House Republican leader, said the votes to sustain voting bills HB105 and HB106 that Sununu's vetoes showed New Hampshire residents that "Governor Sununu is committed to ensuring election integrity in our state."

Click here for NHPR's coverage of voting laws and the politics around them since Sununu's election in 2016.

10:00 AM:

New Hampshire House lawmakers begin voting today on whether to overturn a record number of vetoes handed down this year by Governor Chris Sununu.

Click here to see NHPR's veto tracker.

The legislature is considering more than 50 vetoes – they’ll need a two-thirds majority vote to override any of them.

Senate President Donna Soucy thinks her Democratic majority can get the Republican support it needs to push through at least a few bills – including two dealing with renewable energy.

One would subsidize six economically strapped biomass power plants through a small fee utilities would be required to charge ratepayers. The plan is attached to a bill that proposes a study committee on microgrids.

The biomass subsidy is a version of a proposal that passed last year after a narrow veto override fight. But that law is hung up on a federal regulatory challenge.

The other energy-related veto Soucy hopes to override this year is also a repeat. It would raise the limit on net metering by towns and businesses.

This practice lets energy customers reduce their bills by generating their own power, such as with solar panels and hydro dams.

Governor Sununu has argued without clear evidence that more net metering by big customers will raise rates for residents. Utilities say net metering can contribute to rate hikes, but it’s far from the main driver.

Several towns and businesses say they’d like to take advantage of the increase, if it goes through, by installing more solar power or making more use of existing facilities.

In the bill’s fiscal note, the Public Utilities Commission says it can’t determine what effect the increase would have on electric rates – but it says at least 25 projects would be newly eligible to net meter if the veto is overridden.

The net metering and biomass bills, Soucy says, “had very broad bipartisan support and are really geographically very important for certain senators and House members. So I think those have a real possibility.”

She’s also optimistic about a bill allowing medical marijuana facilities, which must currently register as nonprofits, to become for-profit businesses.

The House will take up its own bills first today, then it will vote on Senate bills. The Senate begins meeting to consider its overrides tomorrow.