By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD — The Senate voted to remove the prohibition against adult dental care under the Medicaid program and establish a working group to determine how to implement the benefit.
Meeting Thursday for several hours, the Senate also approved increasing the amount of customer-generated electricity owners may sell to utilities and requiring workplace deaths of public employees be investigated and reported by the Department of Labor.
No senator opposed expanding Medicaid dental benefits to adults, but some said the debate over eligibility, cost and the scope of the dental benefit needs to occur before it is put in place.
Sen. Tom Sherman, D-Rye, who is a physician, said a person’s dental health impacts his or her physical and mental health.
“For too long adults have not had access to dental care,” Sherman said. “It is critically important … for adults to get the care they deserve in the most cost-effective manner possible.”
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted unanimously for the bill which in the House only lifted the prohibition on adult dental coverage. Children 18 years old and under do have dental benefits under the state Medicaid program.
“We have a lot of work to do,” said Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, but noted oral health issues can lead to other health issues such as heart disease which is covered under Medicaid.
The benefit not only addresses oral health, he noted, but is a way of developing a better preventative model of health care that could be less costly for the state in the future.
The House included dental care in their proposed budget for the last six months of the next biennium. The House included $2.5 million for the program and budget writers said the six-month period will allow future budget writers to determine what the benefit will cost.
The bill passed by the Senate Thursday. House Bill 692 now goes to the Senate Finance Committee for review before a final vote is taken.
The Senate joined the House Thursday in increasing the amount of electricity solar and other renewable power generators may sell to electric companies, or what is called net metering.
House Bill 365 would raise the cap for renewable generators from one megawatt to less than five megawatts, allowing larger businesses and institutions to join the program.
The generators have to have retail service from an electric utility as their backup source of power to participate.
House Bill 365 allows the customer-generated power to count as load reduction, and supporters say that would help reduce the state’s peak usage.
Under the bill, generators would be eligible to be reimbursed at the default service rate until 2040 or until the Public Utilities Commission sets an alternative rate for the power.
A similar bill was vetoed last year by Gov. Chris Sununu who claimed it would increase the cost of electricity for non-generators. Despite bipartisan support, lawmakers failed to override his veto as they did a bill to have utilities buy power from wood-burning generators at above wholesale market rates.
On Thursday, bill supporters said increasing the cap will help create jobs and jump start the renewable industry which has stalled with the current one megawatt cap.
The Senate approved a bill requiring the Department of Labor to investigate workplace deaths of public employees sending it to the governor’s desk.
Currently in New Hampshire, there is no requirement to investigate deaths of public employees as there is for private employees under Occupational Safety and Health Administration oversight.
House Bill 406 was generated by Samantha Wooten, whose father Tom Wooten of Belmont was killed three years ago when he was trapped between a truck and the trailer it was carrying.
Wooten worked for the Northfield Highway Department, and Samantha Wooten has told lawmakers she has never been told how her father was killed.
Under the bill, the department’s commissioner would have the discretion to determine if an investigation or report would be generated if a public worker is seriously injured in a workplace accident.
The Senate approved a bill allowing the commissioner of Cultural and Natural Resources to develop rules restricting smoking in state forests, parks, lands or buildings operated by the agency.
House Bill 139 would give the commissioner leeway to tailor the restrictions based on each property’s or building’s unique situation.
The bill now goes to the governor’s desk.
Pollyanna of Littleton
The Senate agreed with the House to proclaim the second Saturday in June as Pollyanna in Littleton New Hampshire Recognition Day.
The Senate passed House Bill 572 which recognizes the Pollyanna story written by Littleton native Eleanor Hodgman Porter, whose 1913 children’s classic emphasized optimism and happiness.
Porter left Littleton to attend the New England Conservatory of Music and never returned.
A Pollyanna statue is located on the Littleton library’s front lawn and attracts travelers from around the world, according to Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua.
The bill has to return to the House because of a change the Senate made in the bill.
The Senate approved a bill regulating the use of water heating or agitating devices in public waters.
Some people living on water bodies use the devices to prevent water from freezing around their docks or in some cases boats in the winter.
House Bill 668 would prohibit the effects of the devices from impeding access to or from ice from property other than the owner’s, and requires the device not impact ice in front of neighboring properties.
Someone using the device would also have to post signs warning of thin ice.
The bill goes to the governor’s desk.
Garry Rayno may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org