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Capital Beat

State House Live: N.H. House kills bill that bans under-18 tanning

3:46 p.m.: A bill that would’ve stopped teenagers under the age of 18 from tanning couldn’t muster support in the House, which indefinitely postponed it by a vote of 175-154. Indefinitely postponement means that the bill can’t come back in any form this session.

Current New Hampshire laws prevent anyone under 14 from tanning, and requires parental consent for 14 to 18 year olds who want to tan. This bill would’ve disallowed all tanning by anyone under 18 unless recommended by a doctor.

Supporters pointed to evidence on the damage from UV rays and testimony from a former New Hampshire beauty pageant winner who said she got pre-cancerous skin legions after tanning.

But opponents said parents should have the right to choose whether their children can tan and that state laws already on the books require salons to provide information on the dangers of tanning. Other supporters pointed to other things teenagers under 18 can do with parental consent that they saw as more dangerous.

“An abortion would be legal and a tan would not,” noted Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a Manchester Republican.

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2:20 p.m.: The House tabled a bill aimed at creating a committee to study the state’s gun laws, 186-150. The vote came after nearly an hour of debate, mostly centered on House procedure.

Rep. JR Hoell, a Dunbarton Republican, originally introduced a bill to make it easier for people from neighboring states to obtain gun licenses in New Hampshire. But the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee gutted the bill and turned it into a study committee. This study committee was more favorable to Democrats who voted against a study committee on the House floor several weeks ago.

Today’s debate focused on whether the committee legally changed the bill. Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a Manchester Republican, went so far as to call the committee’s actions “dictatorship and tyranny of the majority.”

Democrats argued the amendment was fair game because it would’ve included a study on laws governing non-residents ability to carry guns.

“There is growing public concern about laws related to fire arms. Whether you think they need to be strengthened or loosened, it’s time for the New Hampshire legislature to take a comprehensive look about what we are doing well and areas where we might improve,” said Rep. Geoffrey Hirsch, a Bradford Democrat.

The debate could come up again if the House votes to pull the bill off the table.

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11:43 a.m.: The House voted 185-153 this morning to send $7 million in surplus money to the Department of Health and Human Services, despite calls from some Republicans for that money to go into the state’s rainy day fund. The total surplus from last session is $15.3 million, and under this bill $8.3 would go to the rainy day fund.

This vote was largely a chance for the Democratic-led House to make a statement, as the bill is expected to be dead on arrival in the Republican-led Senate. Already this session, the Senate passed its own version of the bill to send all of the $15.3 million to the rainy day fund.

There is $9 million dollars in the state’s rainy day fund right now, and the state treasurer said earlier this year that fund should be closer to $70 million, which is 5 percent of the general fund budget.

“There’s always a propensity to spend when the money is there, but prudent New Hampshire people know that just because you have money doesn’t mean you should or have to spend it; they understand that you need to save something for a rainy day,” said Rep. Neal Kurk, a Weare Republican.

But Democrats pointed to a $7 million back-of-the-budget cut to the Department of Health and Human Services last year that they say diminishes the department’s ability to provide essential services. The department is facing a $36 million shortfall from where it would like to be, Democrats said.

“Restoring $7 million to Health and Human services to avoid some of the most draconian cuts and adding $8.3 million to the rainy day fund is a responsible thing to do,” Rep. Gary Richardson, a Hopkinton Democrat, told his colleagues.

Rep. Stephen Spratt, a Greenville Democrat, also said putting an additional $15 million into the rainy day fund was unlikely to change the state’s bond rating, which he said is the best measure of a state’s financial health.

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11:08 a.m.: A bill to ban New Hampshire communities from obtaining BearCats and other military-style vehicles failed to gain support from the House today.

Rep. JR Hoell, a Dunbarton Republican, wrote the bill to prevent communities from obtaining any military-style equipment not available on a commercial market. He thinks the police are become increasingly militarized and therefore creating intimidation in local communities.

“Where do you draw the line to say, ‘This is too much,’ in terms of military equipment in the hands of the police?” Hoell asked.

An amendment added to the bill would’ve allowed communities to obtain this type of equipment – including BearCats – only with voter approval. But the House voted 195-138 to kill the entire bill.

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It’s supposed to be a busy day at the State House today as the House will consider bills on fetal homicide, gun laws, and domestic violence incidents involving pets and more.

Stay tuned to concordmonitor.com for updates on the day’s action as it unfolds.

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