Sununu Vetoes More Bills; Signs Bill Easing Absentee Voting Process Amid Pandemic | New Hampshire Public Radio

Sununu Vetoes More Bills; Signs Bill Easing Absentee Voting Process Amid Pandemic

Jul 17, 2020

Gov. Chris Sununu added to his record number of vetoes this legislative session Friday, rejecting bills dealing with energy policy, unemployment benefits and privacy laws. Here’s a rundown.

Among the vetoed bills was one that outlined a plan to reallocate New Hampshire's revenue from the region's carbon-capping program. It's the third time in as many years that Sununu has blocked this same proposal.

It would have ended the residential rebate from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI. The money would have gone instead toward energy efficiency programs for low- and fixed-income residents.

Sununu said he's happy with the current allocations from RGGI, which include some rebates and some efficiency funding. Supporters of the change say energy efficiency is critical to fighting climate change... and is chronically under-funded in New Hampshire.

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Sununu has vetoed one bill but signed another bill dealing with expanding net energy metering in New Hampshire. Net metering lets customers who generate their own power – usually with solar – sell the excess back to the grid to lower their bills.

The proposal Sununu vetoed Friday would have increased the limit on the size of small energy systems that can take advantage of more net metering benefits.

Sununu has repeatedly blocked a bipartisan plan to expand large-scale net metering for towns and businesses. He endorsed several alternate proposals this year, but advocates said they wouldn't do enough and the Democratic-led Legislature sent them for interim study.

Sununu signed one related bill Friday that extends net metering to customers of municipal aggregators and independent energy suppliers.

Sununu vetoed a bill that would have expanded unemployment benefits in New Hampshire.

Sununu says the proposal, backed by state Senate Democrats, would interfere with current coronavirus aid programs. And he warned it would cause the state to lose millions in aid and jeopardize coronavirus unemployment for people who currently receive it. Supporters of the bill noted that it contained a clause that would have eliminated those provisions if the federal government found the state out of compliance.

In his veto message, Sununu also echoed criticism from businesses, saying the bill would have burdened them with new costs.

The state's unemployment rate stood at 14.5% as of late June - higher than in neighboring Vermont and Maine.

Also meeting with a veto stamp Friday was a bill that would have barred the disclosure of public employees’ home address, email address and telephone numbers.

In his veto message, Sununu said the bill would have created a carve-out to allow workers' private information to be disclosed to labor unions.

“While I fully support providing public employees with more control and privacy over their personal information,” Sununu wrote, “this bill would effectively give one class of private organizations – labor unions –exclusive access to that information.”

Sununu rejected another bill related to nursing homes and child care. The bill would have allocated $25 million in federal funding for long-term care facilities and $10 million for child care.

But Sununu said the measure was well-intentioned but redundant. He said $30 million has already been earmarked for long-term care, with additional money going to weekly stipends for workers. Another $25 million has gone to child care centers, though not to the scholarship program for low-income families that the bill would have funded.

Democrats criticized the veto, noting that the bill also would have created an independent review of long-term care facilities.

The governor on Friday signed into law nearly half a dozen other bills, including one measure that allows temorary modifications to absentee voter registration and ballot applications in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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