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House passes bill to increase aid to charter schools, sustains Hassan's vetoes

In a surprise vote late yesterday, the House went against a committee recommendation and passed a bill that would increase the amount of state aid given to charter schools.

It was one of many votes the House took yesterday on its first day back in session. The House also gave Gov. Maggie Hassan an early victory by sustaining her vetoes of three bills dealing with absentee ballots, end-of-life decisions and the economic development advisory council.

Charter schools currently get one-third of per-pupil aid given to public schools. The bill that passed yesterday, 177-124, would increase that amount to 50 percent.

The bill now heads to the House Finance Committee, where it’s expected to face a tougher fight. Proponents argued yesterday that charter schools are public schools that deserve the state’s support. Opponents said a change in the aid formula now would upset a state budget already set.

Here’s a roundup of how the House voted on vetoes and other bills:

∎ The first vetoed bill would have let poll workers at each voting location decide when to start counting absentee ballots. The override failed, 176-163, meaning ballots will continue to be counted at 1 p.m.

A veto override requires a two-thirds majority.

∎ The second vetoed bill would have created a committee to study end-of-life decisions. That override failed, 124-218.

∎ The third vetoed bill would have reduced the membership of the economic development advisory council. Members removed would have included a member of the governor’s office and representatives of the chamber of commerce, a workforce organizer, and a real estate developer.

That override failed, 165-175.

∎ House members overwhelmingly passed the bill increasing the age at which juveniles can be charged as an adult, 324-17. The bill now heads to the House Finance Committee for additional consideration.

Rep. Mary Beth Walz, a Bow Democrat, said New Hampshire was one of nine states that have not increased the age threshold to 18.

She also said that if the state does not raise the age, the state’s counties will have to create separate jail space for juveniles age 17 and younger who are charged as adults because of a change in federal law.

∎ The state Fish and Game Department is a step closer to being allowed to sell Hike Safe cards to raise money for its search and rescue missions. Purchasing the $25 card, which would provide safe hiking tips, would be optional for hikers, not mandatory. That bill passed on a voice vote.

∎ A bill allowing inmates to reduce their sentences by pursuing education behind bars passed easily. Inmates would be eligible for a 90-day reduction if they earned a GED, a 120-day reduction for getting a high school diploma and a 180-day reduction for earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. That also passed on a voice vote.

∎ House members defeated a bill that would have created a new position to prosecute internet crimes against children. A House committee lauded the intentions of the bill’s sponsors but concluded the state has no way to pay for the position.

∎ A bill defining push polling passed. A push poll for a major race must involve at least 2,000 connected calls that last less than two minutes. The threshold for lesser races, such as state representatives, is 500 or 200, depending on the race.

∎ And, as it has in the past, the House again voted against allowing deer-baiting in New Hampshire.

The House postponed a vote on a bill that would allow law enforcement to use scanners to read license plates because one of its fiercest opponents, Rep. Neal Kurk, a Weare Republican, could not attend yesterday’s session.

(Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323 or atimmins@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @annmarietimmins.)

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