Bill to tackle lead hazards passes N.H. House overwhelmingly

  • Gov. Chris Sununu speaks in support of SB 247, a bill to address lead hazards in New Hampshire homes, on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018. Ethan DeWitt / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 1/3/2018 6:13:54 PM

A bill to help tackle household lead hazards in New Hampshire passed the House with overwhelming support Wednesday in a 266-87 vote that brings a yearlong process near to a close.

Senate Bill 247 would establish universal blood testing for 1- and 2-year-olds, mandating that all providers offer the tests to parents. The bill would also broaden the requirements for landlords to carry out repairs on houses that have lead hazards that may harm children. Lead paint – which was banned in 1978 – contains neurotoxins that can cause developmental problems for children who ingest it; New Hampshire has a high proportion of older homes that may contain paint hazards.

The House’s version of the bill will now head back to the Senate for review.

In a statement praising the vote, Tom Irwin, director of the New Hampshire office of the Conservation Law Foundation, said that lead poisoning disproportionately affects low-income families who have fewer affordable choices for housing, and he said lead hazards are a “barrier for families trying to break the cycle of poverty.”

“Today, the House took an important step towards better protecting New Hampshire’s children and families,” Irwin said.

Some landlord groups were less ecstatic. Gerry O’Connell, president of the New Hampshire Association of Realtors, said that while the group applauds the overall effort, it has concerns with a change to the funding structure to help landlords remove the lead hazards. The Senate version included a $6 million grant program; the House turned that into a guaranteed loan program. O’Connell said that change could make the repairs costlier for landlords, which could be passed on to tenants.

“While the finish line is in sight, we hope the Senate takes its time to ensure the intent behind the bill is fulfilled and that tenants are protected from not only lead paint hazards, but rising rental costs as well,” O’Connell said in a statement.

But legislators who had stuck with the bill’s negotiations from the start said they were pleased with its passage in the Senate.

“This is a bipartisan, bicameral priority to finally deal in a comprehensive and significant way with the problem of both childhood lead poisoning from both paint and from water,” said Sen. Dan Feltes, who sponsored the bill from the start.

Gov. Chris Sununu also lauded the bill, urging the Senate in a statement to “work with the House to get this measure on my desk.”

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)

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