With more than 1,000 bills to sift through at the start of this legislative session, New Hampshire lawmakers wrapped up its last full session day of the year this Wednesday.
And after having to work on a compromise state budget when the Governor vetoed the two-year spending bill last summer, and then being called back for special session to address the state’s drug crisis in the fall, state lawmakers are looking forward to a light summer workload.
“It was an interminable session – I thought it would never end,” Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley says jokingly.
But despite some setbacks – overall - Bradley called the session a success. “From passing Medicaid expansion, combating the heroin crisis and then closed off today with more business tax relief, so I feel we have had a very productive, largely bipartisan session,” Bradley said after Wednesday’s session.
And Wednesday’s final session day followed suit with this year's overall legislative session – in length that is. With just under 30 bills left to weigh in on, lawmakers had a full day of debate before closing out the session.
Remaining bills that cleared both chambers include a proposal to add $120,000 to the state's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, a bill adding $5 million extra dollars for substance abuse prevention and treatment and a measure to ban bestiality. These bills will now head to the Governor’s desk.
Other measures such as a bill to give local law enforcement officers more money to help combat the state’s ongoing drug problem fell flat in the House by a single vote.
The measure would have set aside $1.5 million to help police target low-level dealers in an effort to arrest larger dealers. This approach was piloted in Manchester through a program known as “Operation Granite Hammer.”
Manchester Rep. Amanda Bouldin, D., told her colleagues on the House floor that the state can’t arrest its way out of the drug crisis.
“We all know that the war on drugs is a failure and if you know that people use drugs because they are a victim of trauma – then you know that we can’t cure trauma with yet more trauma,” Bouldin said.
But Gov. Maggie Hassan was disappointed by the vote, arguing in a statement that “our law enforcement and first responders need help urgently,” and that by tacking on a controversial and unrelated measure [state employee retirement health benefits] to the bill, “the legislature put political games ahead of the health and safety of the people of New Hampshire.”
The House also rejected a motion to weigh in on a bill that was killed last week in Committee of Conference. The measure would have banned so-called conversion therapy for minors. This controversial practice aims to convert people from being gay.
After the day’s agenda wrapped up in both chambers, Senate President Chuck Morse closed out this year’s legislative session with kind remarks for his fellow colleagues as well as those leaving.
“A thousand pieces of legislation this year alone since January, and I got to tell you, it has been an impressive effort on all your parts to make sure we get through it,” Morse told his colleagues on the Senate floor. “I’d like to thank you for what you’ve done and what you’ve contributed to our body as a whole over the past two years, but also to each of you individually for what you’ve taught me. You have all truly made being a Senate President an honor and a privilege.” Morse will run for his position next term.
Meanwhile a third of New Hampshire’s current state senators have announced they will not seek re-election.