The new legislative year has begun with a day of voting on bills retained from last year. We were able to compromise and pass a few bills with bipartisan support:
1. We voted to restore the stabilization grants for education, starting in 2020. This should give more money to the towns for education, but first it has to go to the Finance Committee.
2. We passed HB 609, to establish a children’s savings account program which would help an individual with school expenses. I don’t think the money to run this program has been put in the budget yet, so we’ll have to stay tuned.
3,We tabled HB 249 which would repeal a law banning taking a picture of your ballot, so that would be legal again if passed.
4. We passed a bill making stronger protections for drinking water and incorporating the testing of air pollution (because the pollutants can end up in water).
5. We passed HB 596 that improves the way a person who is involuntarily admitted to a treatment facility petitions for a discharge.
There were some bills that I disagreed with but they passed anyway, the biggest one being the school voucher bill. It gives parents more school choice but does it by taking public tax dollars away from the public schools and letting the money go to a private school (including religious schools) as well as home schooling. It doesn’t provide the whole tuition for a private school so it may not be helping most parents, while it is definitely hurting the public schools.
Several bills won’t come up until we meet again on Tuesday, Jan. 9th.
1. The marijuana legalization bill.
2. The clean energy bills. Three bills will cut RGGI money for energy efficiency projects, reduce the goal for renewable energy in NH, and mess with the System Benerfits Charge, potentially another source for energy efficiency as well as bill assistance. These are bad bills and there is some bipartisan support for killing them, but most Republicans plan to vote for them and against clean energy.
3. We will also be voting on whether to update the building code from 2009 to 2015, excluding the Energy Conservation Code (which was too controversial because it would add to the cost of building a new house).We at least should update the fire and safety codes. Many Republicans are planning to vote against this bill (HB 92).
4. There will be a bill on conversion therapy.
5. HB 628 would allow family and medical leave insurance.
If you have comments on any of these bills please contact me.
Other news: I am organizing a Marlborough Democratic Committee. If you are interested please join us next Thursday, Jan. 11, at the Marlborough School at 6:30 PM. If you live in Troy you are also welcome to join us since our towns share a Representative and are both part of the Cheshire 10 district.
Rep. Marge Shepardson