Senators Hear Casino Bill on Tuesday
NH legislative week: tobacco tax bills, gun law debate, and a moratorium on wind turbines?
Winner, winner, chicken dinner?
A proposed expanded gambling bill is in the spotlight after Gov. Maggie Hassan gave it her blessing, and included $80 million in licensing fees from a proposed high-end casino in her budget. Senate Ways and Means holds a public hearing on the bill Tuesday at 9 a.m. It's to be in Room 100 of the Statehouse, a rather small venue for such a big bill. Anyone have an over/under on the chance this hearing gets moved to Representatives Hall?
What else is on tap among legislative bills this week? Tobacco taxes, bed bugs, guns, making the potato the state vegetable, free skiing for state lawmakers, renaming a pond called Blood, and oh so much more.
The House of Representatives is in session Wednesday, Feb. 20, at 10 a.m. Gov. Maggie Hassan and the Executive Council are also scheduled to meet Wednesday at 10 a.m. in council chambers.
Hassan is scheduled to give a budget presentation Tuesday morning before a joint meeting of Senate and House Finance Committees.
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Free WiFi and a chicken in every pot. Not so fast. A bill designed to give the Department of Resources and Economic Development authority to enter into contracts to provide free Wi-Fi access at Hampton Beach State Park is currently heading to defeat in the House on Wednesday. Why? Because DRED already has that ability. Also, the state's Office of IT waved a few flags at this bill, as it was drafted. Still, those tourists hitting the beach may also be able to surf the web via free WiFi at some point. It'll be discussed and worked on.
Do the Mash Potato. Or do however you like your starch. A House committee voted 14-1 to recommend the House pass a bill to establish the white potato as the state vegetable. This bill was a request of fourth-graders at Derry's village School.
Death with Dignity, or "state-sponsored suicide?" The state would study "death with dignity" for people suffering from a terminal condition under House Bill 403. Rep. Rick Watrous (D-Concord) writing for a majority report of "out to pass with amendment": "As New Hampshire is rapidly aging, and modern medicine becomes both more expensive and intrusive, end of life care should be periodically examined by the legislature so that our citizens maintain control over what medicine and procedures they wish to receive." Robert Rowe (R-Amherst), in the minority report against the bill, concluded in part: "the minority believes is euphemism for state sponsored suicide.
Storage of firearms. A bill before the House on Wednesday would grant immunity in civil cases to a firearm owner in the event the stolen firearm is used in a crime. House Judiciary recommends the full House reject the bill, on the basis that there's a lack of a demonstrated need. However, Rep. Lenette Peterson (R-Merrimack), in the committee's minority report, contends gun owners should not be victimized twice. She describes the bill as protection for law-abiding gun owners.
Free skiing. Some state lawmakers want to end past practice of allowing legislators to ski for free at state-owned and operated Cannon Mountain. A House committee is recommending the full House defeat a bill permitting legislators ski passes at Cannon. Committee was split, 5-4, on this one. Minority concluded: "When legislators go to Cannon Mountain, there is virtually no incremental cost but it creates additional analog revenue for the Cannon facility. This has been a long standing tradition of (the) Legislature that has encouraged members to experience this part of New Hampshire culture."
Cigarette taxes. The governor proposed a 20-cent increase in the tobacco tax, as part of her recommended budget, and reversing a prior cut. On Wednesday, the House will consider a bill to block a 10-cent increase in the tax, by repealing a sunset policy previously set in law. The tax is currently $1.68 a pack.
Cigarette taxes, Part II: House Ways and Means hears House Bill 659 on Thursday morning that proposes increasing the cigarette tax 20 cents, from $1.68 to $1.88 a pack. Rep. Cindy Rosenwald is the prime sponsor.
Liquor Commissioner(s). Here is another notable policy reflected in the governor's proposed budget. A bill up for a hearing Tuesday would reform the New Hampshire State Liquor Commission from a three-commissioner model to one commissioner. Sponsors of this bill include Rep. Marilinda Garcia (R-Salem) and Sen. Sharon Carson (R-Londonderry).
Bed Bugs. There could be a floor fight in Representatives Hall over bed bugs on Wednesday. House Bill 482, the result of the New Hampshire bed bug action committee, aims to provide remedies and a framework for "comprehensive response to the amelioration of these troublesome insects," according to the House Judiciary Committee members recommending the bill. Opponents said it should be dealt with on the local level.
What's in a name? The full House is expected to pass a bill Wednesday to rename Blood Pond in Lancaster as Evans Pond. The original bill proposed Mountain Lake Pond.
Gun bills. House Criminal Justice and Public Safety meets in Representatives Hall on Thursday, starting at 10 a.m, for the first of four hearings on firearms-related bills.
- The first would prohibit unlicensed persons from openly carrying a pistol or revolver in a public building (HB 290).
- There's one relative to possession of a firearm on school property (HB 609). It would require a school policies and procedures "relative to licensed school employees carrying a firearm while on school property."
- Another one proposes the repeal of the license requirement for carrying a concealed pistol or revolver (HB 451).
- A fourth bill would establish a committee to study safety training or instruction prior to the purchase or acquisition of a firearm (HB 396).
Not a breeze? Representatives Hall is the scene Tuesday at 1 p.m. for a bill that would establish moratoriums on wind turbine plants and electric transmission line projects. Sponsors include House Republican Leader Gene Chandler, Rep. Pamela Tucker (R-Greenland), Rep. Al Baldasaro (R-Londonderry).