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N.H. Legislature to convene 2014 session today

New Hampshire’s Legislature is convening its 2014 session today, but first it must act on three bills vetoed last year.

The House will vote on whether to override the vetoed bills before gaveling in the new session. The vetoed bills concern absentee ballots, the economic development advisory council and living wills. If any pass the House by a two-thirds vote, the Senate would then vote on whether to override the veto and pass them.

After acting on the vetoes, Democrats – who are in the majority in the House – plan to offer a new bill to expand Medicaid to an estimated 49,000 poor adults. The measure is similar to one the Senate killed during a special session in November and, if it passes, the Senate would next consider it.

The new bill makes one major change from the one killed in November: It would make the poorest adults eligible for the state’s managed care program instead of requiring them to obtain private insurance through the federal marketplace. That would affect up to 37,000 people.

Despite rejecting expansion in November, Republican Senate leaders said they still hope to find a compromise. The key hurdles between the parties are when to use the federal marketplace to buy private coverage and who is covered. Republicans want private coverage sooner than 2017, which Democrats propose.

House Republican leaders oppose the House Democrats’ bill. Regardless of its fate, a new House bill on the issue has been filed and faces a hearing and a vote this winter. And Senate Republicans and Democrats are negotiating over a possible compromise.

The House also plans to vote on bills introduced last year that committees worked on over the summer and fall.

One bill facing a vote today would treat 17-year-olds as delinquents instead of adults when charged with crimes. The House will consider reversing a 1996 law that lowered the juvenile delinquency age from 18 to 17. New Hampshire is considering joining 40 other states and the federal government in treating 17-year-olds accused of crimes as juveniles instead of as adults.

In the coming months, lawmakers also will consider new bills on old issues that include legalizing a casino.

The House killed a casino measure passed by the Senate last year, but gambling supporters are trying again this year. A special commission met over the summer and fall to develop regulations for a casino and voted to recommend that New Hampshire legalize one casino with up to 5,000 video slots and 150 table games.

Gov. Maggie Hassan vetoed the absentee ballot bill because it changed the time the ballots are counted on Election Day from a set time to one set by poll workers with no advance notice to the public. She objected to the economic development advisory council measure because it reduced the membership, including representation by labor. The third bill proposes studying end-of-life decisions such as administering hydration and nutrition. Hassan said a study was unnecessary.

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