Legislative victories and defeats, through the eyes of two top N.H. senators

  • State Sen. Dan Feltes, a Democrat, and Jeb Bradley, a Republican speak at the State House about this year’s legislative session. Paul Steinhauser / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Sunday, May 27, 2018

To state Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley and Senate Democratic Policy Leader Dan Feltes, the question of the most important bill passed by the state Legislature this year was a no-brainer.

The answer is simple – Medicaid expansion, they said.

That’s the blockbuster bill that extends health care coverage to lower-income Granite Staters, which would have expired at the end of this year without action by state lawmakers. The measure passed by both the Senate and House tightens eligibility, introduces a work requirement and transitions the program into a managed-care model in order to reduce costs.

Bradley listed the bill “first and foremost” as he touted a number of achievements in this year’s session, which wrapped up Wednesday.

“It means 50,000 people will continue to have access to health insurance, will lower uncompensated care, have a healthier workforce,” the Republican from Wolfeboro told the Monitor.

Bradley teamed up with Feltes to formulate the Medicaid expansion bill and fought to make sure the measure reached Gov. Chris Sununu’s desk.

Feltes touted his and Bradley’s cooperation on the bill.

“We worked together on Medicaid expansion long and hard – hundreds of hours working on it,” he said.

The Democrat from Concord also highlighted how the bill will reduce “uncompensated care in the system, which is a hidden tax in the system, including the business community.”

“And it’s the single most effective way to combat the opioid and mental health crisis. So it’s really important that we got that done,” he added.

Beyond that crown jewel, both senators listed bills that boost resources for child protection as another achievement.

Bradley stressed that the “child protection initiatives that we passed are great and long overdue to correct some of the issues at DCYF (The Department of Health and Human Services’s Division for Children, Youth and Families).

And Bradley highlighted a measure that gives tax breaks to businesses working to regenerate human organs. The push for the bill came after the U.S. Defense Department gave an $80 million grant to the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute – a Manchester nonprofit headed up by inventor Dean Kamen which focuses on manufacturing tissues and organs.

Bradley said he believes the tax credit will help “to hopefully revolutionize biotech and the process of creating tissue replenishment for human organs.”

“It’s not a question of when it happens, not a question of if or how it happens. It’s a question of where. And by passing that, I think that sends a strong signal,” he said.

He also touted a trio of renewable energy bills that he said “protect the jobs and to protect reliable energy.”

Feltes highlighted “meaningful commonsense bail reform and annulment reform” as another success.

And he touted a bill which he said is “really going to help with bolstering our behavioral health workforce.”

Both senators pointed toward a measure that Feltes said is the “most comprehensive effort to combat childhood lead poisoning in both paint and water ever in the state of New Hampshire. Gov. Sununu supported that, and his support was very helpful in getting that over the finish line.”

Biggest disappointments

Bradley pointed to his animal cruelty bill, which was dramatically weakened in the House, as a defeat. A conference of committee could not reach a compromise.

“My biggest disappointment – my animal cruelty bill hitting the rocks of entrenched opposition,” Bradley said. “We have very weak laws in New Hampshire dealing with animal cruelty. I think it’s a question of when, not if, we upgrade our laws. But that was very disappointing to me.”

When asked his biggest disappointment, Feltes quickly answered, “paid family leave, without a doubt,” referring to a bill that sought to create a state-run family and medical leave insurance program for public- and private-sector workers.

“We need to do better at attracting and retaining young families,” he said. “We need to do better at making sure people don’t have to choose between work and family. That’s what family and medical leave insurance is all about.”

Feltes added that the measure “started out with broad bipartisan support,” but bemoaned that the fight soon turned partisan.

Feltes said family leave is at the top of his legislative to-do list for 2019.

“We’re going to come back at it next year. No doubt about it. We’ve got to get paid family and medical leave insurance done and through,” he vowed.

As for Bradley, he cited a much more personal item as his most pressing priority.

“I’m getting married in August. That’s on top of my ‘to-do’ list,” he said with a grin.