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Parole board reform bill to become law; driverless car bill veto sustained



Monitor staff
Thursday, September 13, 2018

Two closely fought bills received split outcomes in the Legislature Thursday, with Senate lawmakers voting to uphold a veto on a driverless car bill and overturn one on parole board reform.

In a 23-1 vote, senators voted to override Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto of House Bill 143, allowing the state parole board to reduce the sentences for parole violators if they enter into substance abuse treatment. That bill, which Sununu vetoed after opposition from the parole officers’ union, will now become law.

Parole officers had argued that the new powers for the board – which don’t apply to those convicted of violent crimes – could nonetheless lead to irresponsible releases. But advocates were adamant that the bill would help parole violators get proper treatment, allowing them to break the cycle.

“The Legislature has really changed tack, and we have said it’s important that we get people treatment, rather than incarcerating them,” said Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, in support of the override. “We know that currently right now in our prisons we really don’t have drug treatment programs to help folks.”

In a separate vote, the Senate voted to sustain the governor’s veto of HB 314, which would establish a licensing system allowing companies to test driverless cars on New Hampshire roads. Rep. Steven Smith, R-Charlestown, the prime sponsor, said establishing guidelines is necessary given that nothing exists in state law to prevent companies from engaging in testing already. But Sununu and others had argued that the system was too loosely constructed and would encourage companies to launch test vehicles before the state was ready.

Both bills came to the Senate after the House overwhelmingly voted to overturn the vetoes earlier in the day. HB 143 was overturned 255-89 and HB 314 in a 279-66 vote.