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Capital Beat

State House Live: Attempt to add marijuana bills to unrelated Senate legislation fails in N.H. House

An attempt to tack two marijuana bills onto an unrelated Senate bill failed in the House, 99-245.

Rep. Joel Winters, a Manchester Democrat, introduced an amendment that would’ve added a home grow option for medical marijuana and decriminalization of possessing small amounts of marijuana onto a bill about economic revitalization zone tax credits. Since the House passed both bills earlier this session it can add them as amendments to any other bill.

Winters said he chose this bill because it has 16 Senate cosponsors. The senate opposes both marijuana bills, but he thought they might be willing to go to a committee of conference if the amendment passed. But Rep. Susan Almy, a Lebanon Democrat, pointed out the tax credit bill is not time sensitive and the Senate could pass it next year, meaning senators would likely ditch the entire bill is marijuana amendments were attached.

Proponents of the marijuana legislation will likely try to attach it to Senate bills again next week, which is the final week for the House and Senate to work on bills from the other chamber.

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12:30 P.M.: A Senate bill to restrict welfare recipients from using electronic benefit transfer cards for alcohol, cigarettes, lottery tickets and more failed to gather support in the House yesterday. After killing its own version of the bill earlier this year, House members voted yesterday 188-161 to send the Senate bill to interim study.

In the second year of a session, sending something to interim study is usually known as polite death. But Rep. Charlie McMahon, a Windham Republican, said he hopes the committee does study the issue. He said he believes there is some “abuse” of the cards, but lawmakers need meaningful data to understand the card use before restricting it.

“We can attack those we think are misusing (the cards), but we need substantive data and a holistic policy to address it,” he said.

Rep. Timothy Horrigan, a Durham Democrat, said restricting how benefit recipients choose to spend that money is a “draconian” measure.

“I think the cash benefit recipients are adults who should have the power to make their own decisions,” he said.

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11:49 a.m.: New Hampshire billboards won’t be advertising alcohol anytime soon, as the House voted 193-164 to uphold a longtime state law banning it.

A bill passed by the Senate would’ve overturned a state law that bans alcohol companies from advertising on billboards. Substance abuse advocacy groups and beer distributors opposed this bill. Local breweries or wineries can still advertise their businesses on billboards as long as the billboards don’t depict alcohol.

Opponents of the ban said it restricts speech and pointed out that alcohol ads are allowed on television, on the radio and in print.

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11:25 a.m.: An attempt to re-open debate on a two-casino bill failed to pass the House, 172-192.

After House members killed the bill by a single vote last week, Rep. Mario Ratzki, an East Andover Democrat, moved to reconsider the debate this week. If a majority of members had voted for reconsideration, the House could’ve debate the motion again. House members had 11 amendments prepared ranging from increasing the state’s share of casino revenue to tacking on a marijuana decriminalization bill.

Rep. Mary Jane Wallner, a Concord Democrat and casino opponent, reminded her colleagues that the House has already debated expanded gambling three times this session and that adding non-germane amendments on the House floor was not good practice.

“Writing legislation on the House floor never produces good, sound public policy,” Wallner said.

A move to indefinitely postpone the bill, which would’ve prevented the bill coming back in any form, failed, 179-183. The House cannot debate the bill again this session, but the Senate could try to tack gambling on as an amendment to another bill.

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Today the House will tackle bills dealing with alcohol advertising on billboards, the siting of wind turbines and permissible uses of Electronic Benefit Transfer Cards. The House is also set to vote on whether to reopen debate on a two-casino bill it defeated by a single vote last week. It will also decide whether to tack a repeal of the death penalty onto a burglary bill from the Senate.

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