Hot Topic: What are local legislators thinking about? Education, marijuana, veterans and more
With bill-drafting season upon us, we asked some local state lawmakers to tell us about the legislation they’re hoping to introduce in the upcoming session at the State House. Quite a variety! Here are a some responses. You’ll find more on Page B1.
House Bill 660 will require the labeling of genetically engineered or genetically modified organisms sold in New Hampshire. GE or GMO are plants or animals that have been genetically engineered with DNA from bacteria, viruses or other plants and animals. These experimental combinations of genes from different species cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding.
HB 660 does not ban GE or GM products; it is a labeling bill. This will bring New Hampshire in line with other New England states that have passed, or are working on, similar legislation. (Connecticut and Maine have passed labeling bills, as has the Vermont House. Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as well as more than 20 other states, are working on similar legislation. More than 60 other countries already require labeling.
Passage of HB 660 will:
∎ Reduce and prevent consumer confusion and inadvertent deception and promote the disclosure of factual information on food labels;
∎ Create additional market opportunities for New Hampshire producers who are not certified organic producers and whose products are not produced using genetic engineering;
∎ Ensure consumers are provided with data from which they may make informed decisions for personal, health, environmental, religious, cultural or ethical reasons; and
∎ Serve as a risk management tool enabling consumers, physicians and scientists to identify unintended health effects resulting from the consumption of genetically engineered foods.
e_STnSRestaurants, alcoholic beverages and medical food are exempt from the disclosure requirement. Also exempt are foods derived from an animal if the animal was not genetically engineered but was fed GE feed.
Also, GE or GMO foods may not be labeled at “natural”.
Rockingham County District 32 (Candia, Deerfield, Northwood, Nottingham)
As chairman of the new Palliative Care Commission, I will be filing legislation to support the advancement of palliative care in New Hampshire. The Granite State is not a leader in the recommendation of palliative care by physicians. Many persons suffer unremitting pain from a great range of diseases or trauma. Some of these may be terminal conditions. Changes to the surrogacy statutes and improvements in palliative care education will increase opportunities for all residents and patients in our state to find relief from pain and improvement of quality of life when conditions are most bleak.
I have also queried all town boards in District 17 about needed legislation. Many have responded, and specific statutory changes will be requested. The Charter School and Open Enrollment Committee will be establishing the number of slots for those students wishing a different education setting outside of the public schools. As chairman I will seek sponsors for more alternative student positions.
The Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules approves all the rules written by the state agencies to direct the agency operations in compliance with the statutes. Members of JLCAR meet twice a month, and as chairman I conduct a pre-meeting before each regular meeting making for four trips to Concord every month. There is often legislation sponsored by JLCAR members to remedy conflicts and shortcomings with rules formulated by the departments. Typical of any senator, I sit on 12 statutory or standing committees.
(Allenstown, Chichester, Epsom, Loudon, Pembroke, Pittsfield, Strafford, Deerfield, Northwood, Nottingham, Raymond)
Paint recycling program makes sense
I will be inducing legislation called the Paint Stewardship Program. This legislation was passed in Maine this summer. Seven other states have passed it, including Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Minnesota. This legislation was also passed in California and Oregon, with Oregon being the pilot program for two years.
This legislation will allow a nonprofit to administer a paint recycling program. Instead of going one day to your household hazardous waste day, you can go to your waste collection facility when it is open or go to your local paint store that is in the program. This prevents unwanted oil-based and latex paint being left for years in an attic or basement. The unused paint gets mixed, sold or given out for free. This program will also include primers, sealers, stains varnishes and more. This program will save up to millions of dollars statewide for all communities combined. And it will allow the nonprofit to provide the training, education and transportation of the paint. This program has no cost to the state of New Hampshire.
For more information, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the websitepaintcare.org.
SCOTT A. BURNS
Merrimack County District 2 (Franklin Wards 1 and 2, Hill)
Focus on bus service
I am on the House Transportation Committee and just finished serving on a subcommittee regarding a bill to establish bus service between Claremont and Lebanon. I am also a member of the Emergency Management Services Statutory Committee and the Joint Legislative Historical Committee,which has been meeting this summer to discuss several projects. One project is how to maintain historical flags in the Hall of Flags at the State House. I am on a sub-committee to study a proposal to have an audio tour available for anyone in the State House. I have been invited to read the Gettysburg Address during the rededication of the sundial on the State House lawn in mid-November. I will be following two bills that I submitted and passed and await their next action involving reopening rest areas around the state and the State House and making Representatives Hall handicapped accessible.
Merrimack County District 17 (Concord Ward 8)
Don’t discriminate against veterans
I and several other representatives (including Rep. Lorrie Carey from Boscawen) are concerned about the new “Smoke-Free Campus” policy at the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton, which effectively means that veterans who smoke (and are unable or unprepared to give up smoking) will be turned away from admission to the Veterans Home, even if they are otherwise qualified for admission as residents.
We just don’t think that’s the way to treat men and women who have risked their lives for the rest of us. No veteran should be discriminated against in admission to the home based on a personal habit that in many instances has been encouraged by the military (through, for example, distribution of cigarettes to combat troops), if a reasonable accommodation can be found that would allow them to smoke in designated areas if they just can’t bring themselves to quit.
Our bill would prohibit discrimination in admissions to the home against veterans who smoke and require the staff of the home to do a comprehensive study that looks at policies adopted by other states’ veterans homes and lays out the costs, risks and benefits of various approaches.
It’s a bi-partisan bill: So far we have two Democrats (myself and Carey) and two Republicans (Rep. Jeanine Notter of Merrimack and Rep. Skip Rollins of Newport).
Merrimack County District 9 (Loudon and Canterbury)
Focus on schools
I am the prime sponsor on three pieces of legislation and am co-sponsoring two proposals.
One proposal would create a study committee on special education services and funding to public charter schools. There is a concern regarding the relationship between the resident school district and charter school regarding the funding and resource services available to special education students attending a charter school.
A second proposal would allow school districts to generate additional revenue through advertisements. School districts are looking for ways to obtain additional revenue for their budget. This legislation would allow public schools to seek additional revenue through advertisements on school property (e.g., school buses, athletic fields, gyms, team sports, etc.)
A third proposal would require police departments to remove from their websites the names of persons arrested who are then acquitted from their arrest, or not charged with a crime. It would also prohibit any website from using information from a police department website once an arrested person is acquitted from a charge.
I am co-sponsoring legislation requiring full funding of catastrophic aid for special education students. There is a significant cost to school districts for providing an adequate education for some special education students. This legislation would demand that the state allocate funds at 100 percent of the state mandate.
I am also co-sponsoring legislation on home-schooling accountability. Four years ago the accountability of home school students was removed. Local school districts are responsible for the education and the accountability of student progress. This legislation put into place those standards that were removed by previous legislative action and would require home schooled students to meet annually similar accountability standards as their public school counterparts.
Merrimack County District 10 (Hopkinton and Concord Ward 5)