By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
MANCHESTER — The House was the firewall for Gov. Chris Sununu’s vetoes, upholding all five they voted on, including one the Senate overrode on a 19-5 vote at Wednesday’s session at the DoubleTree by Hilton.
The House also for the fourth time, voted down a proposed change in its rules to allow remote participation in House sessions and committee meetings.
Senate Bill 38 would have allowed for-profit organizations to own the state’s alternative treatment centers for distribution of medical marijuana.
The Senate voted to override the veto on a 19-4 vote, while the House failed to achieve the two-thirds majority needed to override on a 228-115 vote, falling two votes short.
While bill supporters said it would allow better financing of the alternative treatment centers, opponents said the intent when approving the medical marijuana program was for non-profit centers, so no one would make a profit selling marijuana.
The House sustained the governor’s veto on four house bills by comfortable margins.
The closest vote was House Bill 242, which would have added several provisions to what constitutes an adequate education like financial literacy, and would have provided greater resources for students from property poor communities.
The vote to override failed 165-182 with Democrats backing the measure and Republicans opposed.
The House sustained the governor’s veto of House Bill 98 which would have moved the state’s primary from the first Tuesday in September to the first Tuesday in August.
The vote was 38-313.
The House also failed to override the governor’s veto of House Bill 344, which would have allowed a person to carry a loaded pistol on a snowmobile or other off-road vehicle. The bill also eliminated the State Police gun line for background checks for handgun sales and instead relied on the federal law enforcement database.
Supporters said the state inquiry takes too long and is too cumbersome, but opponents of the change said the problems that surfaced at the beginning of the pandemic have been solved and the state check better protects vulnerable people.
The vote to sustain was 138-212.
And the House sustained the governor’s veto of House Bill 239, which would have extended the statute of limitation on child abuse crimes from six years to six years beginning with a victim’s 18th birthday.
Bill supporters said the objection to the provision came late in the process after the bill had passed the House and Senate unanimously.
The vote was 35-312.
Rep. Lucy Weber, R-Walpole, urged the House to continue its practice from last year of allowing full remote participation of members and the public in committee and subcommittee hearings and meetings.
And the change, she said, would allow members to participate remotely, which would be safer for those with health risks associated with COVID-19 infection.
“If this provision is passed and implemented, not only will it allow safe access for members and the public,” Weber said, “but would increase public participation, observation and comment, rather than decreasing it.”
But House Deputy Speaker Steve Smith, R-Charlestown, said the change does not include a needed plan on how it would be accomplished, and without that, it is premature.
The change was voted down along party lines on a 169-186 vote.
A suit filed before last session in U.S. District Court by a number of disabled Democrats or with medical risks seeking remote access to House sessions was denied by the district court judge, but overturned by the U.S. 1st Circuit Appeals Court.
House Speaker Sherman Packard, has maintained the rule change is needed. He sought a rehearing before the appeals court, which was granted and held, but to date no decision has been issued.
Wednesday was the first of at least two days of sessions at the Exposition Center at the DoubleTree Hotel in Manchester in order to allow social distancing in light of the continuing pandemic.
Garry Rayno may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.