House Backs Increasing Settlements for YDC Victims To Save State Money

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Paula Tracy photo

Members of the House of Representatives take a break Thursday for lunch.


CONCORD — The House Thursday initially approved changes to the Youth Detention Center settlement fund that officials believe will make the program more attractive to the victims and increase settlements.

The fund was established two years ago with $100 million in surplus money to address the more than 1,400 victims who claim they were sexually and physically abused by staff when they were held at the facility in Manchester.

The first case to go before a judge is ongoing at this time in Rockingham Superior Court, with David Meehan, the first person to come forward and claim he was sexually and physically abused at the facility.

The changes to the settlement fund are intended to be an alternative to cases going through the court process and ultimately save the state money and provide a more stable draw on state resources.

Under the bill, the caps would be increased for egregious sexual abuse from $1.5 million to $2.5 million and for claims involving other abuse only, from $150,000 to $250,000.

The categories for claims have also been expanded and attorneys for some of the victims said with the expansions, they would urge their clients to go through the settlement process instead of the courts.

Through the first quarter of 2024, claims filed total $460 million and about two-thirds of the initial $100 million has been allocated either through negotiations with the Attorney General’s Office or the formal settlement process administered by former Supreme Court Chief Justice John Broderick.

Lawmakers are expecting a request for another $60 million for the settlement fund this year and for additional money during the budget process in the 2025 legislative session.

Senate Bill 591 was approved on a voice vote without debate late in Thursday’s session and now goes to the House Finance Committee for review before a final vote.

State Primary

The House killed a bill for the rest of the session telling the Senate a state primary on the second Tuesday in June is unacceptable.

Senate Bill 380 would set the primary date in June and not the second Tuesday in August, which the House passed earlier this year by a 70 percent margin.

While supporters said the bill is the only option remaining to change the date of the primary from the second Tuesday in September, which is only 45 days before the general election or “an incumbent protection program, as one representative said.”
But opponents said moving the primary to June would disrupt schools where many towns and cities vote at one of their busiest times, as well as upend local elections in March when filing periods would need to be held while town and school meetings are occurring.

Rep. Ralph Boehm, R-Litchfield, said the House has already spoken while the Senate has refused to act on the House bill.

“We are elected to represent the people of New Hampshire, not some national organization,” he said. He asked for an anonymous vote so “there will be no more reprisals for people voting for the state.”

But Rep. Ross Berry, R-Manchester, said he has voted for an August primary and a June primary, but the current bill is the only way to end the madness of holding a primary just 45 days before the general election.

The Senate will send the House bill back with the June date, he noted, and negotiations are ongoing.

“Right now we have the incumbents’ protection program,”

Berry said.

After several votes to pass and then kill the bill, the House eventually voted 189-178 to indefinitely postpone the bill, meaning it cannot come before the House this term or similar bills.

Abortion Pills 

The House gave initial approval to having the Department of Health and Human Services compile a report on the availability of mifepristone and misoprostol, two drugs used in medical abortions.

House Bill 567 would require the report to include actions to protect and expand access to the two pills used up until the 11th week of pregnancy.

Rep. Alexis Simpson, D-Exeter, noted the pills have been taken by millions of women and have been found to be safe, but are now under “a dire threat in our country as we see state after state ban abortion earlier and earlier.”
“An individual (deserves the) freedom to control their own body, life and future,” she said.

But Rep. Lisa Mazur, R-Goffstown, said the bill is unnecessary as there is no data that such a study is needed.

She said there is also a financial cost to the department as it will need new staff to conduct the study of drug accessibility, something the Federal Drug Administration already oversees.

The bill passed on a 184-182 vote after an attempt to kill it failed by two votes.

The bill goes to the House Finance Committee for review before a final vote on the bill.


The House killed a bill that supporters said would help to address the state’s housing crisis with studies showing the state is about 24,000 units short of what is needed.

The bill would have provided a tax credit for converting commercial, industrial or office space into residential units for up to 15 years.

The bill would also allow changes in zoning ordinances more than once a year with a vote at town meetings. Instead the planning board may hold a public hearing and the selectmen or governing body approve the changes.

And the bill would allow for alternative parking plans for housing units.

Opponents said the bill would shift the tax burden from developers to other property taxpayers, businesses would lose their spaces, people and planning boards would lose their right to decide proposed zoning changes.

But supporters said the bill would encourage the development of more housing units, which are gravely needed or people will not be able to find service providers because they cannot afford to live in the state. 

The vote to kill the bill was 188-173.

“It’s hard to fathom that the House voted down the HOMEnibus bill in the midst of New Hampshire’s housing crisis,” said Elissa Margolin, director of Housing Action NH. “However, housing advocates must remain energized, expand our coalitions, and continue to educate policy makers. Our ongoing advocacy is critical so we can build the affordable housing Granite Staters so urgently need.”

The House also killed Senate Bill 454, which would have raised the amount of the Real Estate Transfer Tax going into the Affordable Housing Fund from $5 million to $10 million annually.

The 603 

The House wants to maintain its brand with the 603 area code as long as it can with its vote Thursday on Senate Bill 603.

The bill would have the Department of Energy explore avenues similar to what has been done in Maine to extend the 207 area code for another decade.

Without the same procedures such as recalling unused numbers assigned to providers, as well as changes to business telecommunications practices, the New Hampshire 603 area code is expected to be exhausted in two to three years.

Rep. Thomas Cormen, D-Lebanon, told the House “if you like your 603 area code you can keep it,” noting any new area code would be an overlay district for new numbers and would not change what is in place.

“If we do nothing, we run out of numbers in the 603 area code,” Cormen said, “and if we pass this bill, we will run out of numbers in the 603 area code.”

But he noted, the bill approves $300,000 for a consultant, which is a lot of money to delay the inevitable.

Rep. Douglas Thomas, R-Londonderry, said he is proud of the 603 as are many small businesses which depend on it for marketing their business.

“I see nothing wrong trying to claim New Hampshire’s identity,” he said. “We see it out there on hats (and other clothing and we should do) whatever we can do to extend our marketing of New Hampshire’s identity.”

The bill was approved on a 257-103 vote and now goes to the House Finance Committee for review before a final vote.

Prison Money

The House gave initial approval to Senate Bill 476 to bond $40 million for design and engineering for a new men’s prison.

Last session the House approved $50 million for the work, but the senate removed $40 million for other uses.

Because the request will now have to be bonded, it will cost the state an additional $21 million in interest over the life of the bonds.

The added cost was a concern to several representatives.

The new prison is expected to cost about $600 million up from the $400 million when the new prison was first on lawmakers’ radar.

The bill passed on a 217-144 vote and now goes to the House Finance Committee for review before a final vote.

Garry Rayno may be reached at

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