House Tackles Gun Rights, Healthcare and Rights of the Undocumented

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Paula Tracy photo

The New Hampshire House of Representatives is pictured at Thursday's session.


On Thursday, the New Hampshire House of Representatives convened for a session that notably addressed key legislation impacting gun rights and healthcare. In addition, several bills were brought to the floor to address undocumented individuals’ rights.

Conflict stirred on the House floor when SB 476 was brought forward. The bill would allocate funds to the Department of Corrections toward the replacement of the New Hampshire state prison for men, but an additional amendment is what sparked controversy among representatives. The amendment, brought forward by Rep. Terry Roy, R-Deerfield, would permit the state to “report mental health data for firearms background check purposes and providing for processes for confiscation of firearms following certain mental health-related court proceedings and for relief from mental health-related firearms disabilities.”

An argument broke out involving Roy and Rep. Cyril Aures following Roy’s presentation of the amendment, resulting in motions to reprimand each representative that were ultimately tabled.

SB 476 was ultimately passed as amended, and will then move back to the Senate which will either agree or disagree with the amended version of the bill.

In a similar vein, SB 503 was passed by the House with two amendments, one of which would modify the penalties for possession or sale of “blackjack, slung shot, or metallic knuckles” possessed by or sold to those under 18, finding them guilty of a violation and forcing them to forfeit such weapons to the state. It will go back to the Senate until a final version of the bill is agreed upon.

One of the more controversial bills, SB 567, would direct the commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services to compile a report on the availability of mifepristone and misoprostol—two abortion pills—was brought forward late in the session. Rep. Alexis Simpson, D-Exeter, motioned to table the bill before discussion could begin, to avoid a long debate about abortion after the legislators had already been in session for quite some time. The motion to table handily passed, meaning action on the bill will be postponed or suspended.

Controversy emerged again with SB 402, which would allow pharmacists to administer influenza, COVID-19, and other FDA approved vaccines without explicit approval from the general court. An amendment that would have restricted noncommunicable vaccines, such as tetanus which does not transmit person-to-person, restricted data sharing through the state immunization registry and removed the immunization requirements for child care agencies; however, this amendment failed.

Representatives Kristine Perez, R-Londonderry, and Alicia Lekas both spoke up against the bill, citing a lack of trust in the judgment of the Centers of Disease Control and potential adverse effects from vaccines. In favor of the bill, Rep. Gary Merchant, D-Claremont, argued that the bill would increase access to vaccines, save patients time and money, and create more competition and patient choice in the vaccine market.

“Pharmacists have safely provided vaccines to tons of patients over many years,” Merchant said.

SB 402 passed the House and its newer version is awaiting approval from the Senate.

Another significant healthcare bill emerged regarding abortion data collection, SB 461, which would require health care providers to report certain information about abortions performed to their medical facility and require those medical facilities to report the information to DHHS. Rep. Mark McLean, R-Manchester, argued in favor of the bill, stating New Hampshire is one of three states that does not collect data about abortions.

“There’s great benefit in understanding drivers to unwanted pregnancy,” McLean said. “We know very little about abortion practice here in this state.”

McLean addressed privacy concerns, stating, “There is a concern that abortion data might be traced back to a patient or provider and used as a weapon against them.” He pointed out an amendment that would address privacy issues; however, the amendment was never voted on, as the bill was voted inexpedient to legislate, or effectively killed.

After nine hours, the session approached its close as two competing bills hit the floor. The first of the two was SB 358, which would invalidate out-of-state driver’s licenses issued to undocumented immigrants. Rep. Thomas Walsh, R-Hooksett, stated that “non-resident aliens from other states with the same status should be held to the same status in New Hampshire,” speaking in favor of the bill.

Rep. Daniel Veilleux, D-Amherst, called the bill “fundamentally flawed.” He argued it “undermines spirit of interstate cooperation” as well.

“It encourages racial profiling and creates a potential roadside nightmare,” Veilleux added. “Imagine an out-of-state visitor legally driving with a license from their home state, is suddenly considered a criminal, not because they’ve committed a criminal act, but because their duly issued driver’s license was not recognized here.”

The House ultimately voted inexpedient to legislate and killed the bill.

Following this bill was SB 501, which would conversely “allow the Director of the DMV to issue a license to a non-citizen who has been issued conditional or permanent residence by the US government, who has been granted an Employment Authorization document, and to a non-citizen who is living in NH on a temporary basis.”

Rep. Ted Gorski, R-Bedford, argued the possession of a license could open the door to undocumented citizens voting, potentially undermining election integrity, with the inclusion of the clause, “once licensed, the individual shall be subject to the same provisions of the law as all other licenses.” Opposition interpreted this clause as permitting voting rights to those with a driver’s license.

Those in favor of the bill perceived it as “housekeeping” and a non-threat to New Hampshire residents. The bill was passed by the House as amended by the Senate and will now move to Governor Sununu’s desk.

Speaker Sherman Packard, R-Londonderry, released the following statement after the conclusion of House Session today:

“Despite distractions today, the House passed 64 bills on Consent and voted on more than 40 bills on the Regular Calendar. Thank you to my colleagues for staying focused and finishing our legislative business on time tonight. The countless hours you give do not get enough mentions.

“As a reminder, the safety and well-being of House Members, staff, press and the visiting public has been my top priority. Under Republican leadership, with the guidance of House and Joint Staff, we have created the position of Director of Safety Services.

“We welcomed Director Christopher Vetter – who brings more than 30 years of invaluable law enforcement experience – in March to expand our existing team of talented Protective Services staff. Since coming on board, he has been working extensively with federal, state and local safety partners to enhance security measures at the State House Complex.

“Most recently, Director Vetter delivered a safety briefing before the full Membership – something that has not been done under prior administrations. This position illustrates the General Court’s unwavering commitment to prioritize safety and preparedness of the State House Complex,” Packard said.

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