Thursday deadline looms for remaining pieces of legislation

  • The State House dome as seen on March 5, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ

New Hampshire Bulletin
Published: 6/14/2021 5:33:34 PM

They started with 773 bills in January. They passed 207, killed 147, retained 189, re-referred 42, and tabled dozens more, many of which were revived in the two-year budget.

But lawmakers in the House and Senate aren’t done yet. Despite finishing a majority of their legislative work, members of the House and Senate still have a handful of bills that the chambers disagree on.

Those 45 bills have a special designation: a committee of conference. Starting Monday, the bills will come before a special committee of House and Senate negotiators to attempt to find agreement to move the legislation forward.

It’s a fast-paced process that’s over in a few days; all bills must be unanimously signed off on by Thursday, June 17. If the negotiators can’t come to an agreement, the bills fall. If certain members of the committee disagree with the concessions, they can be swapped out by the House speaker or Senate president.

Here’s a sample of some of the negotiations on the docket. All negotiations will be livestreamed with links on the New Hampshire General Court website.

State primary date

What: With New Hampshire’s September state primary one of the latest in the nation, lawmakers are hoping this year to move it into the summer months. But they disagree on when. The House wants the new primary to be held on the fourth Tuesday of June. The Senate would rather the second Tuesday of August.

When: HB 98 will be discussed on June 15 at 2:30 p.m.

Increased penalties in sex trafficking cases

What: The House has pushed for a bill that would make it a Class A felony for a person to pay or offer to pay a person under 18 for sexual contact – with a lower sentence for those offenders who are within three years in age. Currently the former offense is a Class B felony.

The Senate, meanwhile, has a different proposal, in which a person of any age could be charged with a Class A felony for the same behavior against a person under 16, and a Class B felony for those under 18.

When: HB 180 will be discussed on June 16 at 9:30 a.m.

Gun Line elimination

What: When the House passed a bill creating an exception to the current ban on carrying pistols in off-road vehicles, the Senate tacked on another bill to eliminate New Hampshire’s background check system for firearms purchases and defer to the FBI. A similar version of that bill has already been rejected on the House floor, setting the stage for a negotiation session to watch.

When: HB 334 will be discussed on June 16 at 11 a.m.

Statute of limitations in assaults against minors

What: Lawmakers disagree over how to expand the current statute of limitations for when minors can pursue charges for assaults when they were children. The House is pressing for the window to extend to six years after the victim’s 18th birthday. The Senate has reduced that window to three years.

When: HB 239 will be discussed on June 16 at 10 a.m.

Curbing the governor’s emergency powers

What: After some representatives expressed strong disagreement last year with Gov. Chris Sununu’s declaration of a state of emergency, which formally ended Friday evening, the House is moving to curb the governor’s powers. The chamber passed a law that would require the governor to get approval from the Legislature to extend a state of emergency beyond 21 days – provided at least 50 percent of the Legislature can convene to do so.

The Senate has changed that period to 30 days, and amended the mechanism so that the Legislature must pass a concurrent resolution to end a governor’s state of emergency with at least 50 percent of the vote.

When: HB 417 will be discussed on June 14 at 11 a.m.

Religious liberty exemptions to state lockdowns

What: Earlier this year, the House passed a bill granting protections to religious institutions against state interventions or lockdowns during states of emergency. The Senate amended it to take out language that critics said could lead to religious discrimination.

When: HB 542 will be discussed on June 14 at 2:30 p.m.

Banning landfills within two miles of state parks

What: The Senate sent the House a bill that would waive business tax liabilities for certain essential businesses during states of emergencies, such as pandemics. The House, meanwhile, replaced the entire bill with a floor amendment. Now, the bill bans the siting of landfills within two miles of state parks. The Senate has requested a committee of conference to negotiate.

When: SB 103 will be discussed on June 14 at 9:30 a.m.

Allowing state grants for town PFAS cleanup

What: Both the House and Senate agree about giving the Department of Environmental Services the ability to set maximum contaminant levels for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. But while the Senate wants to allow the department to issue grants to towns to help them address PFAS cleanup costs, the House disagrees.

Currently, the department can only issue loans that must be repaid.

When: HB 271 will be discussed on June 15 at 2:30 p.m.

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