Select Lawmakers Back in Concord This Week to Finish Up Bills, Including Cannabis

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Paula Tracy photo

Senators Rebecca Perkins Kwoka, D-Portsmouth, and Keith Murphy, R-Manchester, debate Recovery Housing Legislation in HB 1521 Monday.

From left, Senators Kevin Avard, R-Nashua, Howard Pearl, R-Loudon, and David Watters, D-Dover, chat after coming to an agreement with House conferees on a number of bills Monday in the Legislative Office Building. Paula Tracy photo


CONCORD – With more than 60 bills this session still alive – including legal adult cannabis sales – select lawmakers came to Concord Monday to see if they could make deals across chambers with the clock ticking towards Thursday at 4 p.m., the deadline for a deal.

There was a lot of horse-trading action Monday at the start of the committees of conference process with Senators and House Reps trying to add things that were killed in opposite chambers.

In three of four committees visited, only one had come to consensus while others will need to meet again when the conferees can agree to a time.

The adult cannabis sales bill conference committee begins Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. though it is likely to drag on throughout the week as it is a very complicated bill.

“There is a path forward. It just depends on how much the House brings,” for ‘asks’ from the Senate version, said state Sen. Tim Lang, R-Sanbornton, who has been named as a conferee. He supported passage of the measure in the 14-10 Senate vote which is closer to something Gov. Chris Sununu said he is more willing to sign than the House version which passed by a large margin.

All conference committee meetings are open to the public and can be watched on YouTube with streaming for House numbered bills on the House channel and Senate Live Stream YouTube channel for Senate bills. A link to the House live streaming, is here:

A link to the Senate YouTube channel is here:

What can’t be seen is “caucus” meetings or group huddles of those on one side of a bill or the other.

After a full morning of it in which conferees agreed to agree on a few utility-related bills, state Sen. Howard Pearl, R-Loudon, said he was headed to bale hay in his pastures, making the first cut hay for the summer.

Meanwhile, Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, was debating buying fortune cookies for a bill related to China to add a little levity and nourishment to the process of her committee of conference.

Pearl and Senators Keith Avard, R-Nashua, and David Watters, D-Dover, conferred in the hallway after the meeting acknowledging the good progress made, across party lines and chamber walls.

Passed in the morning were versions of House Bill 1623 relative to involuntary retirement or decommissioning of electricity generators, with the House agreeing to the Senate version; HB 1386 relative to prohibiting the disposal of lithium-ion batteries in solid waste landfill facilities, composting facilities, or incinerators; and House Bill 458 taking the Senate’s position on reestablishing the commission to study the assessing of power generation, with a slight tweak.

Many bills did not make it to this point.

If there is an impasse in committees of conference, a member can be removed by either the Senate President or the House Speaker.

Avard reflected on a lot of work over the session that comes down to this week, and things that just could not get across the finish line, likely to be revisited next year, with a newly elected House and Senate.

“You look at these and think of all the emotion, the time put into some of these bills. You just kind of scratch your head like well ‘at least we got that part done but…I could have been skiing,'” he laughed. “It’s an unusual year,” he said for the high volume of bills and he credited the Senate staff, particularly Clerk Tammy Wright and Calendar Clerk Ann Knapp as “the Navy Seals” of the process.

While the 400-member House Chamber and 24-member Senate Chamber were both silent, except for a few visitors and school children on tours, the committee rooms were busy Monday hammering out language agreements or caucusing to come to try solutions less these bills die.


The big one with lots of eyes expected on the process is House Bill 1633, relative to the legalization and regulation of cannabis. 

That meeting is Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. in Rooms 302-304 of the Legislative Office Building.

The members of the committee are s

State Rep. John Hunt, R-Rindge who advocated the House pass the Senate’s version and is chair of the Commerce Committee, Senate President Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, who heavily edited the House version in amendments meant to make the bill capable of being signed by Gov. Chris Sununu, but opposed the bill; State Rep. Jason Osborne, R-Auburn, who was leader last year of an adult recreational cannabis bill that failed to pass the Senate, state Sen. Tim Lang, R-Sanbornton, one of the Republican senators who voted for the bill last week, Sen. Shannon Chandley, D-Amherst, who also supported the Senate version, Rep. Anita Burroughs, D-Bartlett, and Rep. Jane Beaulieu, D-Manchester, who are both on the Commerce Committee.

Initially, the House Speaker had called for Rep. Keith Ammon, R-Wilton to be on the committee but he was replaced by Osborne.

Supporters of cannabis legislation are hopeful.

“This sounds like folks who want to negotiate,” said Tim Egan, a former state representative from Sugar Hill who represents the NH Cannabis Association in advocating for passage.

Lang said, “We are going to stay pretty tight to the Senate position,” in committee “but we are willing to be open and reasonable.”

He said a “hard stop” for him are things like prohibiting public consumption of cannabis and consumption in vehicles. 

He said he spoke to Rep. Hunt and urged him to “bring me your top five” requests for changes to the Senate version, “but if one of your top five is to go back to the House language that is a non-starter.”

He said that issues which they may haggle over could include the implementation date and whether the Alternative Treatment Centers which have been providing medicinal cannabis in the state for years could be favored for some of the 15 estimated franchises that would be controlled by the liquor commission, among other issues.

He said the Senate has language in its bill that states that the licenses to be issued will go to people with experience in the industry and from his perspective they are covered and already have the leg up.

As of 4 p.m. on Monday only two of the 62 bills were done or “ready for signature” but the full list is here

The House has scheduled a return on June 13 to work on concurrence votes and to eat ice cream.

The Senate has not scheduled a return date.

According to, every bill must be passed in identical form by each of the two bodies, Senate and House, before it is sent to the Governor. If a bill has been amended by the non-originating body, it is sent back to the originating body for concurrence. At this point, there are three options:

  • The originating body concurs, or agrees, and the bill is sent to the Governor.
  • The originating body nonconcurs, or does not agree, and requests a Committee of Conference between the two bodies. In this case, the Senate President and the House Speaker normally appoint a conference committee of members of both houses to work out a compromise.
  • The originating body does not concur, no Committee of Conference is requested, and the bill dies.

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