House raises I-93 speed limit, rejects 24-hour waiting period for abortions
Get ready to hit the gas: The state House voted yesterday to raise the speed limit on Interstate 93 north of Concord from 65 mph to 70 mph.
The bill, which raises the speed limit on I-93 from Canterbury to the Vermont border, except in Franconia Notch, passed on a 292-65 vote. It now goes to the Senate.
Concord Rep. Christy Bartlett, a Democrat, expressed concern that raising the speed limit could harm the environment, since fuel efficiency is reduced at higher speeds, and create safety problems.
“When someone is sitting in a vehicle after an accident, waiting for help, that person might not feel that the extra five or 10 minutes they might have saved by driving faster would be worth the costs,” she said.
But Rep. Candace Bouchard, another Concord Democrat and the chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee, said the speed limit is just a maximum.
“Citizens concerned with fuel consumption may still drive 65 mph,” Bouchard said.
The House rejected three other attempts yesterday to raise speed limits on additional state roads.
Manchester Republican Rep. Steve Vaillancourt argued most people already drive faster than the posted limits on state highways.
But Nashua Democratic Rep. Michael O’Brien, vice chairman of the Transportation Committee, said the panel looked carefully at the rural stretch of I-93 north of Concord before recommending the speed limit be raised there.
A more general increase, he said, would be “too wide of a paintbrush.”
An amendment by Vaillancourt to raise the speed limit to 70 mph on a section of Interstate 89 was rejected, 187-165. A bill to raise interstate speed limits to 70 mph was killed, 206-148, as was a bill to raise those limits to 75 mph, 252-100; both bills were introduced by Vaillancourt.
Abortion, R&D credit
The House yesterday also voted to kill a bill that would have established a 24-hour waiting period for abortions.
Supporters said the legislation would require doctors to inform patients about risks and alternatives, and give women time to think over a life-changing decision.
“I believe we are all in agreement that abortion is a difficult decision for any woman to contemplate,” said Rep. Jane Cormier, an Alton Republican and the bill’s prime sponsor. “In order for a woman to make an informed decision, it is essential she receive a full disclosure, not only regarding the specific abortion she may undergo, but full disclosure as to alternatives and support services that are available to her with regard to giving birth to her child.”
But opponents said the bill would insert ideology into what should be a personal medical decision.
“This is indeed an anti-abortion bill that would intentionally create ideologically motivated obstacles for women seeking a safe and legal medical procedure, and could in fact be dangerous to women’s health,” said Rep. Sylvia Gale, a Nashua Democrat.
The House voted, 229-121, to kill the bill. Thirty-seven Republicans, including Minority Leader Gene Chandler of Bartlett, joined 192 Democrats to kill the bill, which was supported by 117 Republicans and four Democrats.
The bill was similar to legislation that passed the House last year but was killed by the Senate. The 24-hour waiting period was then attached as an amendment to a bill that would have expanded the state’s research and development tax credit and passed the House again, only to be killed again by the Senate.
Republicans controlled both chambers then. Now, Democrats have a majority in the House, while Republicans have a 13-11 majority in the Senate.
“Today the House sent a powerful message to anti-choice extremists – government interference in private medical decisions is not the New Hampshire way,” said Sara Persechino, the policy and community relations director for NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire, in a statement.
The research and development tax credit, too, made a return appearance yesterday. A bill to double the credit and make it permanent passed the Senate on a 23-0 vote in January, and yesterday the House voted, 342-7, to pass an amended version with stronger reporting requirements.
The Senate can agree with the House version, or the two chambers can appoint negotiators to hammer out a final version for Gov. Maggie Hassan to sign into law.
“I thank the Legislature for making this measure a priority, and I look forward to signing into law this significant step forward in our efforts to build a more innovate economic future,” Hassan said in a statement.
911 calls, voting, wages
The House voted, 245-107, to pass a bill granting immunity from criminal prosecution for anyone who calls 911 seeking medical assistance for alcohol poisoning or a drug overdose.
Advocates say the legislation will encourage people to seek life-saving medical attention without fear of being arrested. But the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police opposed the bill in January, saying it was too broad and could protect drug dealers from prosecution.
The House Judiciary Committee rewrote the bill to tighten the terms of the immunity and limit it to three crimes: possession of a drug or drug paraphernalia, unlawful possession and intoxication, and prohibited sale of alcohol.
The committee voted, 11-7, to endorse the bill as amended, and it was approved by the House yesterday without debate.
The House also voted, 190-149, to eliminate language from voter registration forms stating that by declaring New Hampshire as their place of domicile, the voter must also comply with laws regarding registering motor vehicles and obtaining a state driver’s license.
The language was added last year by the Legislature, but has been challenged in court by the League of Women Voters and New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, who said it would discourage student voters.
And the House voted, 200-133, to pass a bill re-establishing a state minimum wage, which the Legislature eliminated in 2011.
It’s something of a symbolic move: The bill would set the state’s minimum wage at $7.25 an hour, the same as the current federal minimum wage. An amendment from the floor yesterday that would have raised it to $7.75 was rejected, 182-152.
Pierce, ethanol, etc.
In other action yesterday, the House:
∎ tabled a bill that would have established an annual “Franklin Pierce Day” to celebrate the only president from New Hampshire. Critics said Pierce, regarded by historians as one of the worst presidents, didn’t deserve such an honor, but the House voted, 221-129, to table the bill and avoid a debate.
∎ passed, on a voice vote, a bill to replace the three-member New Hampshire Liquor Commission with a single commissioner.
∎ passed, on a voice vote, a bill to ban the addition of corn-based ethanol to gasoline sold in the state. The state ban would only go into effect after four of the six New England states adopt similar bans or an affordable non-ethanol gasoline brand becomes available.
∎ killed, on a 243-108 vote, a bill to ban simulcasts of greyhound races from the three states that don’t require reporting of dog injuries: Alabama, Arizona and Florida. Two facilities in the state offer betting on simulcast dog races: Rockingham Park in Salem and Seabrook Greyhound Park in Seabrook.
(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or
firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)