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House passes bill allowing keno, rejects moratorium on wind turbines

Keno is one step closer to being played in New Hampshire after the House passed a bill yesterday to allow the electronic lottery game in establishments that serve liquor. The bill passed, 202-141, and will now go to the Senate.

An amendment added by Rep. Leigh Webb, a Franklin Democrat, gives towns and cities the power to decide whether they want keno in their communities. Under the bill, 8 percent of the proceeds from the games would go to the businesses offering keno. Of the rest, 1 percent would go to research and support for problem gambling and the rest, aside from administrative costs, would go to the state’s education trust fund. Rep. Patrick Abrami, a Stratham Republican, estimated that would put $9 million in the trust fund.

“What’s wagered in New Hampshire will stay in New Hampshire,” he said.

Abrami, who opposes expanded casino gambling, said this bill is a lottery bill, not a casino bill. The House has traditionally opposed expanded gambling in the form of casinos, while the Senate and Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, are more supportive.

Rep. Mary Cooney, a Plymouth Democrat, said allowing keno is a slippery slope that would soon turn into the addition of slot machines and other gambling. “It never seems to end with one location or one type of game,” she said.

The bill estimates each machine would take in $175,000 a year. Keno is unlikely to draw people to New Hampshire, Cooney said, and studies in Massachusetts show communities with lower average incomes often spend more on gambling.

“New Hampshire should not depend on revenue which is too often taken from those who can least afford it,” she said.

Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a Manchester Republican, asked why the bill limits keno to establishments that serve liquor. In Massachusetts, for example, the game is allowed in places that sell lottery tickets such as grocery and convenience stores.

“Are we saying you’ve got to get drunk before you play keno?” Vaillancourt asked.

Members of the House Ways and Means Committee didn’t think having keno in convenience stores fits New Hampshire’s image, and also thought the bill would be more likely to pass the House with some limits, Abrami said.

No moratorium on wind

The House defeated a bill, 194-148, that would put a temporary moratorium on wind turbine plants and electric transmission line projects.

Speakers opposed to wind power said it’s an inefficient energy source, and the turbines would damage the state’s and individual communities’ tourism industries.

“Please don’t forget our small towns, don’t forget the people who live in our small towns and don’t forget the thousands of visitors who visit New Hampshire each year,” said Rep. Herbert Vadney, a Meredith Republican.

But the majority of members ultimately agreed with the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee, which recommended killing the bill.

The state is developing an energy plan and reviewing the process for approving wind and other energy projects under two laws passed last year. Those are two appropriate venues to discuss the state’s energy policies, and enacting the moratorium would send a bad message to businesses, committee members said.

Rep. Marjorie Shepardson, a Marlborough Democrat and energy committee member, said the Site Evaluation Committee that reviews energy projects recently rejected a wind farm in Antrim because of the adverse effect it would have on the area. This shows the Site Evaluation Committee takes its approval process seriously, she said, and that process will likely be improved as a result of the current review.

“We have a strong and robust” site evaluation procedure, added Rep. Robert Backus, a Manchester Democrat.

Environment New Hampshire, an environmental advocacy group that promotes alternative energy, praised the House’s vote in a statement from Madeline Page, the group’s federal field associate. New Hampshire’s current wind farms provide the energy equivalent of taking 32,000 cars off the road and saves 70 million gallons of water per year, Page said. She also called for a renewal of wind energy tax incentives.

“Wind energy is already delivering significant environmental benefits to New Hampshire, and properly sited future projects will only add to those benefits,” Page said.

Limited driving after DWI

First-time DWI offenders could soon have a chance to drive for work, school, rehabilitation or medical treatment, if a bill passed in the House yesterday makes it through the Senate.

The bill says that after 14 days of license revocation, first-time offenders could get a limited license to travel to these activities. They would need to apply for the exception, pay a $50 fee and install an enhanced technology ignition interlock device in their car at their own expense.

Rep. Mark Warden, a Manchester Republican, tried to amend the bill to disallow the “enhanced technology” for the devices, which means a GPS can be used to track where the cars are driving to ensure the rules are being followed. He said it would allow “full-time surveillance” of drivers, including other family members who might use the same vehicle as the offender.

But Rep. Robert Cushing, a Hampton Democrat, said the bill is voluntary, and offenders who don’t want to subject themselves to the potential tracking do not have to request a limited license.

The House defeated the amendment, then easily passed the bill.

Other action

∎ A bill requiring students to take math for all four years of high school passed the House, 209-125. Under the bill, three of those years would be in traditional math courses, as already required, and the fourth course could be in a different subject that uses applied math. Local school boards would have control over which courses fit that description.

∎ In response to the hepatitis C outbreak at Exeter Hospital, the House passed a bill, 228-92, to create a board to register medical technicians. It will now go to the House Ways and Means Committee.

∎ The House passed a bill, 164-127, to increase the boater registration fee by $2 to raise money for the control of exotic weeds. Lawmakers who opposed the bill wanted to collect the fees from out-of-state boaters. This bill will now go to the House Ways and Means Committee.

∎ A bill allowing towns and cities to help finance energy efficiency improvements at local businesses passed the House, 167-140, after significant debate.

∎ The House voted, 170-156, not to extend last call for alcohol sales from 11:45 p.m. to 1 a.m. in grocery and convenience stores.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3390 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

"New Hampshire should not depend on revenue which is too often taken from those who can least afford it" - Not one penny of the proposed Keno, Lottery or any other NH gambling in NH is "taken". It is all voluntarily gambled. The same cannot be said of the Property tax that truly penalizes lower income or retired people. The less you make in NH the higher the percentage of your income goes to paying property tax. How about fixing a real problem instead of worrying about a "voluntary problem".

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